By Anne Dachel
On Sept 17 I wrote about the immediate reaction of the media to what was said about vaccines during the Republican candidates debate.
It's all over the news right now and I have literally dozens of stories to look at. CNN's medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was quick to go on the attack.
Does Dr. Sanjay Gupta or CNN have any real credibility left when it comes to vaccines and autism?
It is simply nonsense to keep saying what Gupta does, "There is no connection between vaccines and autism." In 2008 Dr. Gupta and CNN told the world that the U.S. government said there is a link. Now he pretends it never happened.
CNN Sept 18, 2015, Medical experts slam Carson and Paul's view on vaccines
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: "There is no connection between vaccines and autism. And I'll just pause there for a second because I don't want anybody to think there are any strings attached to that statement. There just is no connection. There hasn't been. There was a study done earlier this year, one of the largest, 96,000 children. They looked at their history of vaccinations, looked for any correlation with autism. It simply doesn't exist.
"The issue that they raise as well with regard to spreading the vaccines out over time, really doesn't have merit as well. And I think this is really an important point. First of all, you realize this can potentially be dangerous to potentially spread out these vaccines. When you spread out these vaccines you're leaving children essentially unvaccinated for a period of time. You're defeated that very purpose that you've given the vaccines in the first place. So that's a huge issue.
"We used to give a much larger sort of inoculation of vaccines some time ago. When we gave vaccines for small pox, for example, that was a much larger amount of antigen or vaccine to the child's system. At that time, we had a much lower rate of autism. So in fact the amount of vaccine over all has gone down and the rates of autism have gone up, so in fact, it's the exact opposite collation. There's no reason not to get kids vaccinated on schedule."
Gupta was asked if he was surprised by what Dr. Carson said and that he didn't correct Donald Trump. He said he was. "This is one of those fascinating topics to me because I think the science is so clear. And yet this a real collision of science and just social opinion on this particular topic. I think it's impetrative actually for Dr. Carson, Dr. Paul, who's also a doctor, an ophthalmologist, to just be very clear on this, because I think it borders on being dangerous to suggest in any way that there is a problem with autism--Dr. Carson did not suggest that, others have--so to suggest that spacing out the vaccines are a good idea.
"Look, if you have small children in your house, a child who is not vaccinated, another child who potentially is exposed to some potentially problematic disease, that child could get sick. That child could spread that illness to other children at his or her school. These are preventable diseases. And as far as, again, the link to autism, that's just not true. I think people just need to say it, be clear about it, and not equivocate."
Dr. Gupta is adamant. If the question is autism and vaccines--THERE IS NO LINK. There just isn't. Gupta offers his "proof," another population study.
According to Gupta, there also isn't any reason to spread out vaccines in the childhood schedule; it leaves too many kids vulnerable to disease. He offers no evidence to back up this claim.
Gupta does note that there are fewer antigens in vaccines today and says that despite fewer antigens, the autism rate continues to increase.
(Actually Gupta used that argument two years ago and I wrote about it for Age of Autism.)
Surely as a doctor Gupta knows the issue of vaccines and autism is about things like mercury, aluminum, combined live viruses, human DNA and a massively expanded vaccination schedule. Pretending that this is a controversy over antigens in individual vaccines is disingenuous to say the least.
After being so ardent in his endorsement of vaccination for all children and critical of the fact that Republican candidates dared to discuss the topic during their debate, Dr. Gupta needs to answer questions to clarify his position. It's his responsibility as a journalist to defend his statements.
This is my open letter to Dr. Gupta at CNN.
Your blanket advocacy of the ever-increasing vaccine schedule as safe for all children is troubling to say the least. This is the most heated topic in pediatric medicine, yet you dismiss it out-of hand and cite a "study done this year" as proof as safety. What you're talking about is yet another epidemiological study. We've have years of them and they haven't settled anything. As a physician, I'm sure you're aware that population studies can only show associations, not what causes or does not a disease.
Also in 2008 the late Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of NIH, was on CBS News. She talked about looking for "the susceptible children"--ones who might be injured by a vaccine. "I think we have the tools today that we didn't have 10 years ago, the we didn't have 20 years ago, to try and tease that out, to find out if indeed there is that susceptible group. . . . Maybe there is a group of individuals or a group of children that shouldn't have a particular vaccine or shouldn't have vaccines on the same schedule. . . .
"It is the job of public health officials and of physicians to be out there and to say, 'Yes, we can make it safer. . . . '"
Dr. Healy challenged the claim of health officials that vaccines do not cause autism. "I think you can't say that, and part of the--you can't say that. . . .
"I think the government or certain public health officials in the government have been too quick to dismiss the concerns of these families without studying the population that got sick. I haven't seen major studies that focus on 300 kids who got autistic symptoms within a period of few weeks of getting a vaccine. . . . I think they often have been to quick to dismiss studies in the animal laboratory, either in mice, in primates that do show some concerns with regard to certain vaccines and also to the mercury preservative in vaccines.
"The government has said, in a report by the Institute of Medicine. . . in 2004 that basically said, 'Do not pursue susceptibility groups, don't look for those children who may be vulnerable. I really take issue with that conclusion. . . . "
CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson reiterated Healy's comment saying that officials refuse to honestly look into this controversy "largely because they're afraid of what might be found." Healy said yes, they essentially are.
Healy also addressed the use of population studies to dismiss any link between vaccines and autism. "Populations do not test causality. They test associations. You have to go into the laboratory and you have to do designed research studies in animals."
Dr. Gupta, Dr. Healy said that when she first heard of a link between vaccines and autism, she thought it was "silly," but after actually looking into the topic, she changed her mind. "The more you delve into it, if you look at the basic science, if you look at the research that's been done in animals, if you also look at some of these individual cases, and if you look at the evidence that there is no link, what I come away with is, the question has not been answered."
Every one of her concerns is still a valid concern today, seven years later. (The only real difference today is that the autism rate in now one in every 68 kids and in 2008, it was one in every 150.) Experts still rely on easily flawed and manipulated population studies. The mounting independent research showing serious concerns about vaccine safety is still ignored by mainstream medicine, health officials and the media. No one has ever looked into which children may be vulnerable to vaccine injury. You yourself seem to imply there is no risk of a vaccine reaction.
Seven years ago you also made public statements which seem to contradict everything you're saying today about the link between vaccines and autism. In 2008, the big news was the case of Hannah Poling, the young Georgia girl whose case of vaccine induced autism was settled before it ever was heard by the Federal Court of Claims. Medical experts at HHS investigated her claim that the vaccines for nine different diseases she received in one doctor's vaccine resulted in her autism and other health problems. You're familiar with this story because you actually interviewed her father, Dr. Jon Poling, a neurologist. This was part of your interview with Dr. Poling on CNN.
Gupta: "We are here with Dr. Jon Poling, .he's the father of Hannah Poling. Her case of autism diagnosis was conceded by the federal government as having been contributed to by vaccines. That was a pretty startling thing, I think, for a lot of people to hear. We talked to a lot of experts about this. They say vaccines in no way cause autism. You're a neurologist. You're also the father of Hannah. What do you say?"
Poling: "I think you bring up a really important point. The government, actually the Dept. of Health and Human Services, conceded that my daughter's medical problems, which are autism encephalopathy, seizures, were brought on by vaccination."
Gupta: "That's startling for a lot of people to hear that because we've been taught for so long-I'm a doctor, you're a doctor, we go to medical school. There's so many good things about vaccines. They prevent life-threatening illnesses. But in your daughter's case, it turned out to be a problem."
Nothing you said in the rest of the interview challenged what Dr. Poling claimed. I wrote about it in 2011.
You didn't tell Poling that it was dangerous talking about this. You didn't say that his daughter's autism couldn't possibly have been the result of her vaccinations. Both you and CNN have given viewers two opposing positions on this critical topic. It's time you did more than just tell parents they should vaccinate without any real evidence that vaccines are truly safe for all children.
We don't know which children may be vulnerable to vaccine injury. No one has ever done what Dr. Healy called for, determine what children may be susceptible to a side effect.
Dr. Gupta, can you name any other medical procedure or product that you would recommend for every child, regardless of any predisposition for a reaction? I can't think of anything that would qualify, yet you do so when it comes to vaccines.
There are serious concern over your past and present coverage of this debate. I think it's time you followed the advice of Dr. Bernadine Healy instead of attacking those who raise legitimate concerns.
Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism