The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is lying about Thimerosal in vaccines and the autism epidemic. This is something that many parents, researchers and advocates in the autism community have known for years. More importantly, there is not just one lie but a string of many falsehoods, starting as early as 1999.
I am the proud parent of a wonderful 14-year-old young man with autism. I also am a PhD Biochemical Engineering researcher. As such I am trained to design, initiate, complete and evaluate research studies. The studies used to exonerate the use of Thimerosal in vaccines and other medicines are just plain bad science, and worse - they are riddled with out-and-out lies.
To explain the totality of scientific and policy malfeasance in the CDC around Thimerosal and autism would take on the size of a PhD dissertation. I personally have obtained many stacks of documents from the CDC via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing a consistent pattern of deception. To give the AOA readers a taste of the blatant nature of the deception, I thought we could revisit Denmark…
In 2003, Dr. Kreesten Madsen and his coworkers out of Aarhus University in Denmark published a scientific paper in the journal Pediatrics claiming that after Thimerosal was phased out from infant vaccines in Denmark, starting in 1992, the incidence of autism, based on the Danish National Center for Registry-Based Research, actually increased significantly, rather than decreasing.
This paper, completed in close collaboration with the CDC, was lauded as a “strong piece of evidence” to claim that exposure to Thimerosal in infant vaccines is safe and not causally related to autism.
Subsequently, the publication was used in May 2004 by the Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review (IOM ISR) Committee, along with 4 other fatally flawed epidemiological studies, to proclaim that “The body of epidemiological evidence favors the rejection of a causal relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism” and further recommend that “the committee recommends that available funding for autism research be channeled to the most promising areas,” inferring that further research on the link between Thimerosal exposure and autism should NOT be completed.
Now, for most of you who have followed The Age of Autism (AOA) on a regular basis, including the Thimerosal-autism debate, this is OLD news. Each of the 5 studies cited by the 2004 IOM report has been soundly thrashed on a scientific basis due to numerous methodological flaws and inconsistencies, which appear to “stack the deck” towards dismissing any causal relationship.
In fact, if you visit the website Fourteen Studies, the scientific problems with these research publications are laid out in black and white. Even my own brother-in-law (Jeff Trelka) and I wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, way back in 2004, in which we “dismantled” the Madsen, et al, 2003 paper due to gross methodological flaws. But it gets much worse.
Back in 2004, I had the distinct fortune of meeting Dr. Mark and David Geier of the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD, Inc.). With their encouragement and assistance, I started to submit a large number of FOIA requests to the CDC, including one that dealt with the Madsen et al. 2003 paper. After waiting for two years, finally on September 8, 2006, the CDC released some heavily redacted email correspondences between the “Denmark group” from Aarhus University and employees of the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) of the CDC. Within these correspondences was a Nov. 13, 2002 email from Dr. Marlene Lauritsen (a co-author) to Dr. Poul Thorsen (another co-author), Kreesten Madsen (the lead author) and Dr. Diana Schendel (of the NCBDDD of the CDC) which stated:
“Attached I send you the short and long manuscript about Thimerosal and autism in Denmark. <REDACTED> I need to tell you that the figures in the manuscript do not include the latest data from 2001. I only have these figures as a paper version and they are at work <REDACTED> But the incidence and prevalence are still decreasing in 2001.”
At the time, I went back and checked the final published paper that appeared in Pediatrics just to find out that the 2001 data discussed in the email had been omitted and, sure enough, if the email was correct, would show a downward trend in autism prevalence in Denmark from 1999 to 2001. Properly including these data would have nullified the paper’s assertion that the “rates went up.” The appearance: These data were withheld with the full knowledge of the CDC to cover-up a downward trend in autism rates in Denmark since the phase out of Thimerosal.
Although there was no CDC employee listed as a coauthor on this article, the same FOIA request revealed that NCBDDD employees took an active editorial role in the publication. In fact, Dr. Jose Cordero, then Director of the NCBDDD, wrote the cover letter accompanying the manuscript when it was submitted to the journal Pediatrics requesting an “expedited review”. In the letter to the editor of the journal, he stated:
“Contrary to what would be expected if [T]himerosal was linked to autism, the authors did not observe a decline in the rate of autism with the removal of [T]himerosal containing vaccines.”
Now, wait a minute! This statement is false! The 1999 to 2001 incidence data show a clear downward trend according to co-author Marlene Lauritsen. This disparity bugged me for some time as did the heavily redacted nature of the material that it took the CDC 2 years to produce via FOIA.
Fortunately, through the assistance of Lyn Redwood at Safeminds, I was very recently fully able to view the unredacted email traffic between the Madsen et al. 2003 paper coauthors and CDC AND especially the redacted portions of the Lauritsen email above. It turns out that Dr. David Weldon, the former congressional representative from Florida who had fought hard to understand the vaccine-autism link during his tenure in Congress, requested and had received the “unredacted” version of the same email traffic that I obtained via my FOIA request. When it was fully “revealed”, this key portion of the Lauritsen email stated:
“Attached I send you the short and long manuscript about Thimerosal and autism in Denmark. The long manuscript has been submitted to JAMA and includes data on both the incidence and prevalence of autism. The shorter version includes only incidence data and has been submitted to Lancet. Unfortunately, both manuscript (sic) have been rejected. I need to tell you that the figures in the manuscript do not include the latest data from 2001. I only have these figures as a paper version and they are at work while I am working at home these days. But the incidence and prevalence are still decreasing in 2001.” (emphasis added)
Wow! The paper had been rejected by two front-line journals (the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet) prior to publication in Pediatrics. As I stated before, the final version was riddled with serious methodological flaws so this was not that much of a surprise. Despite these rejections, Dr. Cordero again in his cover letter for the manuscript makes two key statements:
“The Danish study is a powerful epidmeiologic (sic) study of this issue” (i.e., [T]himerosal and autism)
“I feel this is a very important study that deserves thoughtful consideration by the Journal. Its findings provide one strong piece of evidence that [T]himerosal is not causally linked to autism.” (emphasis added)
Hold on, now! How is a paper that got rejected by JAMA and The Lancet a “powerful epidemiologic study” and a “strong piece of evidence”? To quote Dr. Weldon, who on Dec. 6, 2006 wrote to Julie Gerberding, then head of the CDC, “The study is neither. It had just been rejected by two journals. The last thing that it should have been subjected to was an expedited review.”
Incidentally, this is the same Dr. Jose Cordero that was recently appointed to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee by Dr. Thomas Insel. Cordero has absolutely NO experience with autism (he was the Deputy Director of the National Immunization Program of the CDC before he was hastily shuffled over to the NCBDDD in 2001) and shows here that he is clearly committed to indemnifying Thimerosal to the point of lying.
Included in the Weldon information was the peer reviewers’ comments from the original submittal to the journal Pediatrics. One of the reviewers, regarding the 2001 data that was apparently in the manuscript at that time, stated:
“The drop of incidence shown for the most recent years is perhaps the most dramatic feature of the figure, and is seen in the oldest age group as well as the youngest. The authors do not discuss whether incomplete ascertainment in the youngest children or delay in recording of data in the most recent years might play a role in this decline, or the possibility that this decrease might have come about through elimination of Thimerosal.” (emphasis added)
Since the reviewer states the possibility that the data could be construed as supporting a causal relationship between Thimerosal and autism, the authors removed the offending data points in the final published paper.
Problem solved! Rather than letting the data stand as is and allowing the public to know the truth, this group of researchers, with the full knowledge and support of the CDC, buried the information.
Again to quote Dr. Weldon’s letter to Gerberding, “These actions by the CDC call into question the integrity and objectivity of the CDC’s scientific investigations.”
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, each of the 5 epidemiologic studies cited in the 2004 IOM ISR Committee report to exonerate Thimerosal not only has been directly tied to the CDC but also was produced under rather dubious circumstances. Much of the information I’ve obtained via FOIA outlining this is featured on the website putchildrenfirst.org, which was assembled by JB Handley and Generation Rescue back in 2006 (Thanks, JB!).
And it gets worse…
In most instances, the emails that the CDC has released to me in response to my FOIA requests are devoid of any text and look like this:
Dr. Brian Hooker has over 20 years of experience in biotechnology and has advocated for the removal of mercury in vaccinations since 2004. He has a 14 year old son with autism.