TCS Daily


Time to Vaccinate a Panic

By John Luik - May 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Ever since Robert F. Kennedy Jr. alleged a government cover-up in his controversial Salon article "Deadly Immunity" last June, and New York Times writer David Kirby alleged a connection between autism and childhood vaccination in his book Evidence of Harm, the controversy over whether thimerosal causes autism has returned to both talk radio, news stories and the nation's editorial pages.

Seven states, including California, have acted to virtually ban thimerosal. Legislation in Tennessee would have banned kids receiving flu shots because of fears of thimerosal. Lawmakers in 20 states are pursuing restrictions, despite the protests of American Academy of Pediatrics and opposition by the Food and Drug Administration and most health experts.

Why all the fear and panic in the face of health professionals saying, don't worry? Perhaps, because this seven-year-old junk science is different. It is one without the "usual suspects."

With most junk science alarms there is usually some purveyor of corrupted science who is trying to peddle his wares under the banner of real science. Sometimes it's a "public interest group" whose only real interest is scaring people into conforming to someone else's agenda. Often it's some government agency eager to further its own power through harnessing the agency of the state to shape people's lives through scientific misinformation.

In the matter of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines, and whether it causes childhood autism, that is not the case. There are, to be sure, the usual trial lawyers hovering in the background, plus a headline seeking crusader, in this case one with the Kennedy name. And several church groups have launched campaigns to rid all vaccines, including the flu vaccines, of thimerosal. But for the most part, the campaign to convince government and the public that vaccinating young children leads to autism is the product of hundreds of heartsick parents whose children have autism.

The debate and worries about vaccines and autism has simmered around the edges of the scientific community for some time. But it hit the front page in 1998 when one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, The Lancet, published an article, replete with obscure terms -- "Ileal-Lymphoid-Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-specific Colitis, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children" -- by a young British specialist in pediatric gastroenterology, Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield had looked at a group of young children who had suddenly lost a range of skills, including language abilities, and who suffered from abdominal pain and diarrhea. He suggested that the source of the problem might be the childhood vaccine MMR (Measles-mumps-rubella).

Wakefield's study, which was quickly picked up by the press, set off a panic, first in the UK and latter in North America. Some researchers and reporters claimed that there was a silent autism epidemic, with large, but hidden increases in the number of autistic children worldwide due to vaccinations containing the mercury preservative. Additionally, several parent groups, such as Safe Minds and Moms Against Mercury, launched national campaigns claiming the pharmaceutical industry, the scientific community and governments had been systematically suppressing the truth about the risks of thimerosal.

The stories led worried parents to believe that childhood immunizations were likely to cause autism. A 2000 survey in Pediatrics reported that 25% of parents had serious concerns about the vaccines given to their children. And significant numbers refused to vaccinate their children, with predictably unfortunate consequences.

In 2000, Ireland, reported 1,603 cases of measles -- 10 times more than the year before. Another surge to 572 cases occurred in 2003. By comparison, the US, with a population 75 times greater, had 86 measles cases in 2000 and 116 in 2003. In Colorado and Oregon where parents concerned about autism are allowed to decline immunization for their children, diseases like whooping cough are already returning. For instance, in 2004, Colorado, a state with just under a 70th of the population, had more than a 10th of the total number of cases of pertussis -- whooping cough -- 1,210 cases.

Autism is a terrible diagnosis for any parent to receive, but however much one sympathizes with parents and their children, the question still is: What is the scientific evidence that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism?

In 2004, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, which had been commissioned by the U.S. government to examine the epidemiological data, along with the idea of whether a connection between thimerosal and vaccines was biologically plausible, concluded that the majority of the evidence "favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal and autism." The evidence that the Institute relied upon consisted of five major epidemiological studies from the US, the UK and Sweden, all completed since 2001, which looked at the links between various vaccines containing thimerosal and autism, and 14 other epidemiological studies that focused on the MMR vaccine and autism.

Two of these studies, both published in 2003, are particularly important since they highlight how weak the case against thimerosal is. The first (Stehr-Green et al "Autism and Thimerosal Containing Vaccines: lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association," AJPM, 2003) compared thimerosal exposure and autism rates in children in Denmark, Sweden and California.

In each jurisdiction, the study found autism rates started to increase from 1985. In Sweden and Denmark the increase continued into the 1990s even though thimerosal was eliminated from vaccines in 1992. Indeed, in Denmark the increases were substantial. Where before 1992 there were about 10 new autism cases per year, by 2000, eight years after all thimerosal had been removed from vaccines, there were 181 cases a year. Similarly, in Sweden, autism rates continued to increase even after thimerosal was removed from vaccines. Because of this lack of a consistent connection between thimerosal and autism, the researchers concluded that the hypothesis that thimerosal caused autism was inconsistent with the scientific evidence.

The second study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Hviid et al., "Association between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism," October, 2003), and its results were even more dramatic. Led by Anders Hviid of the Danish Epidemiology Science Center, the researchers examined the medical histories of all children who were born in Denmark from 1990-1996, almost 500,000 children. Thimerosal vaccines had been eliminated in Denmark in mid-1992, so the study was able to examine two groups of children, those who received vaccines with thimerosal from 1990-1992 and those from 1993 onward who did not.

The children who had received vaccines with thimerosal had a non-statistically significant relative risk for autism of 0.85, compared with the thimerosal-free group, which meant that they were 15% less likely to get autism. There was also no dose-response link -- where risk increases with exposure level -- leading the research group to conclude that "the results do not support a causal relationship between childhood vaccination with thimerosal-containing vaccines and development of autistic-spectrum disorders."

More recent studies, including one in Pediatrics (September 2004) support these conclusions. The Pediatrics article looked at 12 different studies on thimerosal vaccines and autism published from 1966-2004 and concluded: "Studies do no demonstrate a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autistic spectrum disorders." Equally interesting, the authors looked at the blood mercury levels found in children after receiving vaccinations and concluded that they did not fall within the toxic range.

Moreover, autism researchers consistently caution that autism is not a single condition but a highly complex group of developmental disorders. There is no agreement on the rate of autism, though two recent reviews have placed it at one case for every 1,000 children. Indeed, it is not even clear whether autism is increasing or whether it is simply being more accurately diagnosed.

Meanwhile a new study released in May 2005 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found the causes of autism in a variety of factors unrelated to thimerosal. According to researchers from Denmark, the CDC and Johns Hopkins, "[H]eredity and early fetal development play a causal role in autism." They suggest that autism might be associated with a parental psychiatric history of schizophrenia; affective disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder; breech presentation of the baby, and early birth.

None of this science can lessen the tragedy of autism. But perhaps it can provide some measure of comfort to all parents by reminding them both that childhood vaccinations are crucially important for the health of their children and reassuring them that the vaccination system is safe.

John Luik is writing a book on health policy.

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28 Comments

Time to Vaccinate a Panic
Dear Mr. Luik,
It is so comforting to know that vaccination had nothing to do with my son's autism! I'm so relieved! I was really convinced for awhile there that my previous happy, healthy, bright curious toddler had a bad reaction to his MMR vaccine. Maybe it was just coincidental that withing weeks of this shot he stopped talking, stopped sleeping, and starting screaming round the clock, spinning in circles, arm flapping, and development was completely stopped in it's tracks. Oh, and he developed severe diarrhea (8-10 times per day) for about a year and a half. But maybe that doesn't have anything to do with the Ileal Lymphoid Hyperplasia that Dr. Wakefield was talking about. No other doctor (and my son has six) has ever offered an alternate explanation for any of this. So, perhaps it just "appeared" and the physical symptoms were something my son just "developed", with no known cause?
Oh, there is another coincidence. Out of my five children, this child is the one with mercury poisoning, but I'm sure this had nothing to do with it either. You cite all of these wonderful studies that state that the mercury is not responsible for neurological damage. I'm so relieved again, because, for a minute there I thought mercury was hazardous to our health! What was I thinking?
Now that vaccinations have been ruled out, I look forward to science (oh, definitely not "junk science"!) to present to me a logical, concrete explanation for what happened to my son, and 1.5 million others like him.

Enjoy your day,

Mrs. Janet Sheehan

Review of 'Time to Vaccinate a Panic' by John Luick
Mr. John Luick's remarks clearly identify him as a vaccine apologist whose post is mostly a regurgitation of the views of his fellow vaccine apologists.

If anyone is interested in a detailed rebuttal of any of the distortions and/or misstatements made in this piece, they need only visit the documents page:
http://www.Mercury-freeDrugs.org/docs/
and read the evidence-based rebuttals of the same positions that others of his ilk have made about the link between Thimerosal and the mercury poisoning of children that is labeled (diagnosed) as autism.

Not being a parent and having researched the facts concerning the poisoning effects of Thimerosal at the low parts-per-billion level (> 1,000 times lower than the 30 to 100 parts-per-million levels found in Thimerosal-preserved vaccines) for more than 6 years, I know that there is NO PROOF that the use of Thimerosal, a known severe poison, teratogen, immunogen and autoimmunogen in mammals and humans at levels below 1 ppm, as a preservative in vaccines is, as required by law, "sufficiently nontoxic" (21 CFR 610.15(a) and an ever-increasing body of published evidence that Thimerosal is NOT safe for use in either the making of vaccine formulations or as a preservative for a given vaccine formulation.

Hopefully, after visiting:
http://www.Mercury-freeDrugs.org/docs/
and reading the applicable posts there and verifying my credentials (http://www.dr-king.com), the editors of this site will stop posting such articles unless they are supported by published toxicological studies which can PROVE SAFETY INSTEAD of epidemiological studies which CANNOT prove safety.

As a scientist, who has no damaged child, grandchild, cousin, niece or nephew who has "autism" but as one continually recovering from haven been sub-clinically mercury-poisoned by Thimerosal-preserved vaccines and subject to continual mercury-poisoning by mercury from the remaining "silver" amalgam dental fillings, and a student of the evidence for the effects of sub-clinical mercury-poisoning, I find Mr. Luick's remarks to be at odds with scientific reality.

Furthermore, since there is no "panic" vis-a-vis vaccination in the U.S. -- only a demand that all vaccines be mercury-free -- and no evidence that removing Thimerosal from ALL vaccines as the government and the vaccine makers promised in 1999 will do anything but increase vaccine acceptance, it seems as if the only "panic" is that of the vaccine apologists and vaccine makers who know the harm that Thimerosal has done and are in a "panic" lest those responsible be held criminally liable for their failure to follow, comply with, or enforce the applicable laws that, in general, require vaccines given to the healthy to be proven safer over each recipient's lifetime (because they non-reversibly affect each recipient's immune systems) than those medicines given to the ill and, in specific require vaccine preservatives to be proven "sufficiently nontoxic" and the government to do all it can to reduce adverse reactions to vaccines.

Respectfully,

Dr. King

Autism and it cause
Hello, You are misinformed. Mercury piosioning has 94 different symptoms and 91 or so of them are symptoms of autism exactly: and the other 3 or so are not worded the exact same way but do mean the same thing.
http://www.autismwebsite.com/ari/vaccine/mercurylong.htm
This mess the biggest in the history of mankind has to do with money and control.
http://www.lotusbirth.com/doc/FEB2003Lotusbirth-536.htm
Anncrow

I'm sorry for what you are going through
But in this big world, coincidences do happen.
The scientific evidence shows conclusively that there is no link.

Could 60's and 70's drug abuse be the cause of a rise in autism?
I wonder if there's ever been a study. Sure would be disapointing to many if our own actions were responsible. Who would we sue?

22 Vaccines in 2 Years is Too Many
My suspicion is that the rapidly increasing rate of autism since the 1980s is not caused by "a single bullet theory" like thimerosal, but by detrimental interaction of the 22 multiple vaccines that babies are pumped with during the extremely rapid development of their brains, minds, and bodies during the first 24 months of life. The continuance of the autism outbreak even after thimerosal removal from the vaccines surely reduces it to at best a contributing factor that should be eliminated. Initial data in the following Newsmax article on autism slowdown

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/3/2/213632.shtml?s=ic

shows that thimerosal removal has helped a little, but much future research on cause and effect is needed.

Spacing out vaccinations over a longer period of time or separating mixed vaccines should be carefully studied. However, first a cognitive function test for autism, Asbergers, and ADD needs to be validated to test the effects of these separated vaccine injections vs. a control group of babies given the 22 vaccine standard practice.

This is a Shame
Years ago, some idiot jury ruled against a manufacturer of a DTP vaccine in a case where a baby wound up retarded and the retardation was attributed to the vaccine. When that happened, the cost of the vaccine dose went from $0.19/dose to almost $3.00/dose. Why? Insurance. And the fact of the matter is, the company did everything it could to ensure a safe product and provided a safe product. It is simply impossible to predict how any one individual will react to a given vaccine/drug. NOTHING is 100%.

Now, these idiot public SELF-INTEREST groups want to take thimerosal, a biostatic preservative, out of vaccines. And this based on garbage science. Have you any idea of what will happen to the price of vaccines without thimerosal? It will jump again because either the spoilage rate will be so high that manufacturers will have to make smaller lots more frequently, or they will have to take more expensive measures to increase sterility in the manufacturing process --- no guarantee that the spoilage rate will not increase anyway.

Moreover, there are very few, if any, biostatic agents that can be used in vaccine --- most in quantities much higher than in which thimerosal is used. The amount of thimerosal in vaccines is unbelievably small and the amount administered per dose is irrelevent.

Will it cause a problem? One never knows because, as I said before, NOTHING is 100%. But it is safe for use in the general population.

I have years of experience with thimerosal. All the way back in the 1970s people were on the case of thimerosal --- and the only thing they could come up with was junk science.

The company I worked for at that time had a manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Environmental Quality Board (EQB) got on our case because we were using thimerosal and, when washing our equipment, a certain amount was discharged into the sewage system. Now, we were talking a few milligrams (if that much) in hundreds of gallons of water. So, I took an environmental consultant to the plant and we collected samples from the tanks, the drainage pipes, the neutralization pit, the line to the sewer and from the downstream sewer itself.

When we went to lunch, there as one more sample bottle left in the kit, so I suggested that the consultant sample the drinking fountain in the town square.

When the test results came back, the drining fountain tested for significantly higher mercury levels than at any point in our plant operations --- probably due to plating and other businesses (mirrors?) on the island. Evenso, we installed a mercury reduction unit at our plant.

So,thimerosal has a history of unwarranted bad press. Unfortunatley, in every case like this, the American public thinks black-and-white. It doesn't work that way, but the SELF-INETEREST groups promote that kind of mindset.

undoubtedly
Now that the scare mongering has caused the price of vaccines to rise, a different interest group will start shouting that the price rise proves that the vaccine companies are gouging the public, and that the govt needs to take over the making of vaccines.

Your Observation
You're right. However, it will probably be the sme people who create the second self-ineterst group because they will have lost the basis for their first group.

Sort of like the March of Dimes. After polio was conquered, they had no reason or existence. So they changed their focus to birth defects --- something that will never be eradicated and, for which, causes are not understood and probably never will be totally grasped.

Personally, I'm thinking of starting a self-interest group to battle the biggest killer of them all --- natural causes.

Vaccines
When you watch your Grandchild get a vaccine and within hours have trouble walking and the next day quit speaking - common sense tells you that the vaccine in all probability was the cause.

Money and control indeed
The crazy part is that a safer, equally effective preservative can readily be substituted. It adds about a dollar to the cost of an individual dose. One buck is what the whole thing is about.

That, and of course issues of liability, for allowing it to go on for so long. Once it is withdrawn from the market we can conduct the rest of our experiment, and see whether the incidence of autism goes back down again.

Baseless speculation
During the sixties researchers looked extensively at drug abusers, particularly LSD users, to find evidence of genetic damage or anything else they could transmit to their offspring. They came up with zip.

On the other hand there are mountains of evidence linking mercury poisoning and autistic symptoms.

Simplistic
A. Not necessarily. What about that interesting tidbit the child picked up on the floor --- like that piece of nice green mouse poison, or the moldy grape, or ....

Don't jump to conclusions without evidence. Common sense is very uncommon and you don't prove such issues by "common sense."

B. Even if was the vaccine, that doesn't mean the vaccine is bad. It may be (and usually is) that the child's individual reaction to it was adverse --- and considering the infrequency of such reactions, that is generally the case.

And, please, lay off the motional "grandchild" bullshit. It has nothing to do with the argument.

The Danish Epidemilogical studies
The epidemiolgical studies on which Mr Luik bases so much of his argument have long been discredited. They have fatal design flaws, were written by authors with fatal (and undisclosed) conflicts of interest, and commissioned by a commentator (Dr. Shih) as one of a number of attempts to disprove the thimerosal-mercury link. To use these studies is either fraudulent or ignorant. Is Mr. Luik a knave or a fool - a liar or stupid?

Try this link, among many: http://www.safeminds.org/research/docs/Blaxill-DenmarkAutismThimerosalPediatrics.pdf

An irrelevant reference
Mark Blaxill is not a scientist, much less an expert on vaccines or autism. The cited paper makes unreferenced assertions. The most significant accusations it makes regarding vaccines are ad hominems.

By your reference to "fatal conflicts of interest" you too show that you have nothing of substance to add to the discussion.

It takes one to know one, naa-na-na-naa-nah.
ColinH's only reference in this discussion seems to be Adolf Hitler.
He is unable to address or disprove any of the points in Blaxill's paper, and so resorts to 'unreferenced assertions' and 'ad hominems' of his very own, the only person to do so here.
Hitler, in Mein Kampf, advised the use of the 'Big Lie' in debate as most people would be unable to believe anyone could be deliberately dishonest. I note however that ColinH does not reference Mr Hitler, which seems a bit unfair.
I believe this is known as 'Mirror Imaging', accusing your enemy of what you intend to do yourself, so as to give you an excuse to do it.
Blaxill's paper, which is a brief overview, actually contains 14 references in its two and a half pages.
Readers requiring more references can find them in a number of places. There'a whole bunch here: http://www.safeminds.org/research/library.html
some here: http://www.safeminds.org/research/commentary.html
or you could just go:
http://www.safeminds.org/research/ and follow up the references yourself. Lots of references there.
You could try http://www.nsasa.org/TobaccoScience.pdf which has lots of references. Or there's some stuff on http://www.nomercury.org/ while
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/7395411/deadly_immunity/ is a bit shorter.
I don't actually know what letters Blaxill has after his name, but he seems up to getting his stuff published in these peer-reviewed journal thingies where the people all have them, so I guess he must know some stuff. Seems to know quite a bit of stuff.
His stuff seems to have the advantage of being true.
Don't know about Hitler though.

paul thoroughly discredits himself
It's interesting how the guy engaging in his own big lie, is so quick to use the Hitler reference on others.

I watched it too
Some years ago my son had a bad reaction from his DPT shot. He ended up in the emergency room. (Our pediatrician had given us clear descriptions of the possible side effects so we knew what was happening.)

The emergency room personnel, however, were on their own jihad, this time against child abuse. He was diagnosed as having "chronic untreated pneumonia" and we had family services sic'd on us. The next day he was running around the Dr's office, fully recovered. But we went round and round with family services for a long time.

Since then, i've had a deep distrust of all SIF's (Single Issue Fanatics.) Even MD's (or especially MD's,) can have their judgement clouded by passions.

Since th

Worthless trash
as most of your so-called references are all from safeminds, and their principal criticisms, after reviewing, are simple ad hominems. No substance. I have no problem finding worth in material produced by advocacy organizations, but not when it boils down to irrelevance.

As for you, you are an even bigger fraud than the non-scientist Blaxill. You cannot of course document any reference to Hitler or his methods in any post I wrote in response to your abject stupidity. Hence you smear presumably indicating that the level of your intelligence and debating skill is insufficient for anything else.

Go away and do all of us, who are attempting to conduct a debate with some intelligence, a favor.

Take Aim
I've worked with MDs my entire career. They have their good points and their bad. One thing, however, is that they are under a lot of pressure from SELF-INETEREST groups and the political fallout from these morons.

MDs, psychologists, teachers and others are required by law in most (if not all) states to report even SUSPECTED cases of child abuse. The liability imposed on them is horrendous. They can lose their licenses --- be sued for big $$$ --- have their insurance rates go through the ceiling --- be fired from hospitals and other institutions --- and just the social stigma is enough to ruin their careers. So, they go over-board. They are safer reporting something very marginal and non-existent than being wrong about it. If somewhere down the road this kid does come in with real abuse, the professionals who ignored it before are toast. Thank you SELF-INTEREST groups.

BTW: If you ever go into therapy and have a fight with your wife before the session, never say something like, "I think I'll go home and strangle my wife," even if it is just an exaggeration and venting. The therapist is required to report this to the police --- and if it is a by-the-book therapist, they will.

Do I get to say
"I win" now? Somewhere there's a principle; whoever mentions Hitler or the ***** first loses.

Simplistic
What an arrogant jerk!!! Do the math you idiot - 1 in 166 is not infrequent.

It may be
nothing but a post hoc fallacy, but there is an observed trend that the incidence of autism rises with the increase in age of a woman's first pregnancy. The increasing age at which women on average have their first child is universal among all OECD nations.

no that is not true
The scientific evidence does NOT conclusively say there is no link.
According to the IOM's web site
"The committee also concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism."
The clinical studies, however, do show a stronger causality.
The Autism Research Institute's web site
http://www.autismwebsite.com/ari/vaccine/thimerosalreferences.htm has 2 lists of scientific studies related to thimerosal and the MMR.

Lisa

thimerosal and vaccines
I have been doing reference research for a chemist researching thimerosal. There is far too much research supporting plausible explanations of a link between thimerosal and neurobehavioral disorders. Time has come to ban thimerosal. My own company's MSDS states "Avoid all contact with the human body." The list of hazardous side effects from exposure to thimerosal only supports the need to ban thimerosal.

thimerosal never proven as safe
Thimerosal was grandfathered in by the FDA. The only study resulted in all the patients dying of meningitis within a short time (they already had meningitis before the vaccination) in 1929. That has been our proof all these years that this preservative is safe.
The Soviets even figured out that thimerosal was dangerous and removed it from their vaccines in the 1980s.
Why would you want to inject the second most toxic substance known to man into an infant, child, or even yourself (flu vaccine).
Yes, the time is right to ban it.

I notice you've not actually attempted to discuss the evidence...
Presumably because you can't. If you'd like to try, I think everyone who wrote here would be interested.
And to be accused of ad hominem attacks by you deary, well, who'd have thought it.

The evidence was discussed
and dismissed, because it was evidence of nothing. If the sources you cited are all you've got, you've got nothing.

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