By Anne Dachel
There was a stunning story published on October 17, 2016 in The Hill entitled,"The CDC is being being influenced by corporate and political interests," by Carey Gilam.
Concerns about the inner workings of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been mounting in recent months amid disclosures of cozy corporate alliances. Now a group of more than a dozen senior scientists have reportedly lodged an ethics complaint alleging the federal agency is being influenced by corporate and political interests in ways that shortchange taxpayers.
A group calling itself CDC Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research, or (CDC SPIDER), put a list of complaints in writing in a letter to CDC Chief of Staff and provided a copy of the letter to the public watchdog organization U.S. Right to Know (USRTK). The members of the group have elected to file the complaint anonymously for fear of retribution.
“It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests… and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception,” the letter states. “These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health.”…
And the complaint cites as “troubling” the ties between soft drink giant Coca-Cola Co., an advocacy group backed by Coca-Cola, and two high-ranking CDC officials - Dr. Barbara Bowman who directed the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention until retiring in June, and Dr. Michael Pratt, senior Advisor for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) at the CDC.
Bowman, retired after revelations of what the complaint called an “irregular” relationship with Coca-Cola and the nonprofit corporate interest group set up by Coca-Cola called the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Email communications obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by USRTK revealed that in her CDC role, Bowman had been communicating regularly with - and offering guidance to - a leading Coca-Cola advocate seeking to influence world health authorities on sugar and beverage policy matters.
Carey Gillam is a veteran journalist, formerly with Reuters, who directs research for U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer education group focused on food safety and policy matters.
First of all, it’s refreshing that a “veteran journalist, formerly with Reuters” can write like this. When was the last time any experienced reporter openly criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? And if Gilam is troubled by the scientific fraud going on with women’s health and with obesity research, imagine how she’d react to stories on corrupt immunizations practices. Someone needs to talk to her about the one study done on thimerosal in 1930 where all the subjects died from meningitis, and tell her about Thomas Verstraeten, Simpsonwood, Poul Thorson, Julie Gerberding and Merck, Hannah Poling, conflict of interest waivers at the CDC, and most recently, William Thompson.
It is encouraging to learn about the existence of the anonymous group of senior scientists in CDC SPIDER who are working to expose corruption at their agency. (And if corporate influence has the CDC giving soft drinks a free pass, imagine the power and influence of the vaccine makers have when it some to vaccine safety.)
Robert Kennedy Jr and the CDC (Covering up the corruption)
On April 6, 2015 vaccine safety advocate Robert Kennedy, Jr. spoke at the New Jersey state capital in Trenton in opposition to legislation that would remove a parent’s right to exempt their children from required vaccinations. The room was filled with reporters and he focused on the corruption, collusion and malfeasance at the CDC that had been exposed during congressional hearings.
It was a scathing report about the ethics of the agency in charge of vaccine safety.
The second half of his 45 minute talk was a chance for reporters to question Kennedy about his claims. Incredibly, during the question and answer session not a single reporter asked about the serious charges Kennedy had made about top U.S. health officials. Most of them only asked about exemptions and need for herd immunity. It was like they weren't even in the room when Kennedy spoke. When members of the press so willingly close their eyes to charges of fraud and the damage done to a generation of children, they become part of the corruption.
Kennedy: "The trillion dollar pharmaceutical industry is now the largest advertiser on television, radio and newspaper pages, spending from $3 billion to $5.4 billion annually over the past decade. Pharmaceutical companies target network news divisions for their advertising buys partially for message control and partially for the demographic; TV news audiences tend to be older affluent pharmaceutical customers .A network news division president told me two weeks ago he would fire a newscaster or program host whose reporting or programming choice lost his station an advertising pharmaceutical company.
"Of course, it's easy for bean counting network executives to sell this censorship to reporters and on-air employees by parroting the industry/government mantra that allowing debate on vaccine safety will inflame the 'anti-vac' movement and kill babies these factors account ,to some extent ,for the impenetrable Kafkaesque suppression. Journalists are reporting what the government tells them to think instead of doing basic reportorial investigation. The gatekeepers enforce this orthodoxy by avoiding science and facts and instead focus on vilifying and crucifying the heretics.
"In 2005, Dan Shulman wrote a scathing and somewhat bewildered critique of the airtight censorship among media organs of any debate over vaccine safety or CDC corruption. He said that many reporters considered covering this issue to be a potentially 'career ending' hazard. Today that censorship extends not just to the mainstream media but also to the so-called "alternate media" like Salon, Slate, Huff Post and Mother Jones. There is simply no national forum for this debate. We have been forced from the public square."
This is what Carey Gilam is up against.
There is a clear double standard shown by members of media when reporting on vaccine safety issues vs other controversies. A shocking example can be seen in the writing of New York Times reporter Anahad O’Connor. I took a look into the amazing differences in his coverage.
On Sept 28, 2015, the Times published O'Connor's story, "Coke Spends Lavishly on Pediatricians and Dieticians." Like a true investigative reporter, O’Connor revealed just what influence corporations can have over what doctors tell the American public. Like Gilman, he wrote about Coca-Cola, but his focus was the American Academy of Pediatrics and Coca-Cola.
But when O’Connor covered the safety of vaccines, he didn't bring up anything about competing science, industry influence or conflicted research. On March 4, 2004, in the New York Times piece, "Researchers Retract a Study Linking Autism To Vaccination," O’Connor reported on the move by the Lancet to retract Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 article on the link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism. In his story, O’Connor gave readers no substantial information about Wakefield’s research, nor did he mention the fact that Wakefield’s field is gastroenterology.
In Feb 2005, O’Connor and Gardiner Harris wrote a piece for the New York Times called, “Health Agency Splits Program Amid Vaccination Dispute.”
“Responding to growing concerns about its ability to monitor the side effects of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided last week to separate its national immunization program, which advocates vaccination, from its vaccine safety branch, which monitors the potential risks of the vaccines.”
The story explained that critics were saying the CDC was more concerned with promoting their vaccines than making sure they were safe. CDC head Julie Gerberding was quoted saying, ‘We believe the best practice for the safety monitoring program is to keep it in a separate locus from the large-scale program.” While U.S. Rep Dave Weldon, a physician, praised the change as ‘a step in the right direction,’ Dr. Paul Offit expressed his criticism of the move and the charges that the agency had problems. ‘That's not true. They care as much about vaccines being safe as they care about them working. They wouldn't recommend them unless they felt the benefits clearly outweighed the risks.’
Much of the safety concerns that the CDC was involved in had to deal with the use of the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal. O’Connor and Harris ended the piece with the reminder that the use of mercury in vaccines was nothing to worry about. “Numerous epidemiological studies conducted in Europe have also shown no link between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal.” When it was a question of vaccine safety, O’Connor was more than willing to take the word of the CDC and look no further.
On June 25, 2005, in another New York Times story with Gardiner Harris entitled, "On Autism's Cause, It's Parents vs. Research," the public was told that all the science was in and the question has been answered: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all largely dismissed the notion that thimerosal causes or contributes to autism. Five major studies have found no link.”
Is vaccine safety so sacrosanct that the media simply won’t go there? How is it possible that the CDC-Coca-Cola connection can make the news, but the revolving door between the vaccine makers and those who oversee them is never looked at? If health officials can be bought off by a soft drink maker, imagine what pharma can offer when it comes to vaccine approval.
I hope the CDC SPIDER scientists have the courage to back Dr. Thompson and denounce what their agency has done with vaccine research too. What could be more worthy of exposure than what an unchecked, unsafe vaccine schedule has done to a generation of children?
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.