By Anne Dachel
On Jan 31, 2017 National Post journalist Lawrence Solomon and Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Ari Zaretsky met at a Toronto coffee shop to discuss the 1998 Lancet study linking the MMR vaccine to autism and bowel disease in children. Below is a Youtube video of the event. Their conversation is transcribed.
Dr. Zaretsky is to be commended for participating. It is unheard of for a member of medical profession to do this. It’s also a personal issue for him because he has a twenty year old son with severe autism.
Debating the Wakefield study: Solomon vs. Zaretsky
The Youtube is entitled, “The Wakefield Vaccine Scandal,” and it’s about an hour and forty minutes.
Here’s a partial transcript of what was said:
Dr. Zaretsky explained that while he’s not really involved in the vaccine controversy, “I responded to this because of Larry’s article in the National Post and felt that I needed to take a stand as a physician.”
Solomon was introduced as a journalist for The National Post in Canada and editor of a website called Vaccine Fact Check, “which provides information about vaccines.”
Moderator David Cayley described the controversy over Andrew Wakefield as “a scandal, whatever view you take of it probably.”
David Cayley: “Wakefield was one of thirteen authors of a paper that was published in The Lancet in 1998 that investigated, but did not claim to have proved—in fact explicably said it had not proved—a link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and also bowel disease, which they also investigated.
“This article was described by the editor of The Lancet later as having been the starting pistol for this whole discussion, which has now probably involved millions on autism and vaccines.
“Twelve years after it was published, in 2010, The Lancet withdrew the article…
“Since the controversy started there have been numerous studies done on the subject, none of which have really claimed to show a decisive link between vaccines and autism, but the discussion has continued. And we’re going to continue it here. …”
Lawrence Solomon: “…The Wakefield study was torn to shreds by the General Medical Council… [in Britain]. The discrediting of this study started in 2004 and lasted until 2010, with a mountain of submissions lambasting the authors. This was the most extensive hearing by far in the history of that regulator.
“The government regulator found that the Wakefield study had been conducted improperly, and unethically, and detailed dozens of egregious transgressions. The regulator then stripped Dr. Andrew Wakefield and one other prominent author of their right to practice medicine, citing serious professional misconduct. That was 2010. Soon after, Wakefield threw in the towel. After fighting for more than a decade, he didn’t have the funds to carry on, but his co-author, who lost his license on essentially the same grounds as Wakefield, appealed the government regulators’ ruling to the British High Court…
“The co-author was actually better known at the time than Wakefield. The co-author’s name was Dr. John Walker-Smith, a legendary figure in the field. He is known as the ‘father of pediatric gastroenterology.’ He was then 73 years old and retired, so he didn’t need his license to practice medicine, he just wanted his reputation back.
“In the appeal, the High Court examined all the evidence before it, and it threw out every last charge of misconduct, every last charge.
“It didn’t just throw out the charges, it made clear that it considered the charges to have been an abomination. The Court called the government’s reasoning ‘odd, untenable, unsustainable, and on any view, inadequate.’ …
“The Court went further; it expressed amazement at the ‘serious weakness in the government’s reasoning.’ It said, ‘The government regulator failed in its duty to do justice, ignoring awkward facts that didn’t support its case, and making a finding based on distorted summary of Professor Walker-Smith’s evidence.’ The government’s finding was ‘factually unsound.’
“But the Court went even further, it not only told the government regulator to reinstate Walker-Smith’s license to practice medicine, it told the government regulator to clean up its own act, so that such an abomination could never happen again.
“Walker-Smith’s license was reinstated, and the Wakefield study was in effect, totally exonerated. The regulator was chasten…
“This was a total victory for Walker-Smith and a total victory for the study. It was a total repudiation for the regulator.
“Let me briefly describe the essence of the charges against the thirteen authors. The charges were Kafkaesque. In the UK as elsewhere, studies must be conducted ethically, based on criteria specific to each study. The Wakefield study was going to be followed up with a second study which would have used some of the results from the first study. Let’s call these two studies: Study A and Study B. The researchers obtained separate ethics approval for each of the two studies. The researchers then completed Study A. This is the infamous study that we’re discussing tonight. The researchers never undertook Study B, but to the astonishment of the researchers, the government regulator claimed they hadn’t been working on Study A at all. The government regulator claimed they were working on Study B, which required different ethical guidelines. On that bizarre basis, they were judged guilty of serious professional misconduct. As the High Court stated, this was an absurd position for the government regulator to take, since Wakefield and the other researchers acted in a manner fully consistent with the plan for Study A. Their research would have made no sense if they were conducting Study B.
“Almost no one knows about that British High Court’s repudiation of the government regulator. If you do a Google News search on the British High Court decision, you’ll find just a handful of articles, almost none of them in the mainstream media. If you do a Google News search of Wakefield, along with terms such as ‘debunked’ or ‘fraudulent’ or ‘retracted,’ you’ll find 6,000 in the news media and over 400,000 articles if you include blogs and other sites.
“So why didn’t the mainstream media report this?
“I can tell you why from personal experience. I wrote about the British High Court decision for my column in the National Post [Canada], but the management at the Post, not the editor, the management pulled it at the last minute, and also stopped me from writing other vaccine columns. In my twenty years as a columnist at the Post, vaccines have been the only taboo subject.
I used to be a columnist at the Globe and Mail, and at times I continue to write for the Globe, but it won’t accept any questioning of vaccines. Huffington Post will take anything I submit, but not on vaccines. I’m a contributor to The Hill, a U.S. media site that specializes in politics. It won’t take my vaccine pieces even if it involves a hearing before the U.S. Congress, before The Hill.
“The media has a blackout on stories that question vaccines. It is terrified to run anything hinting that vaccines may not always be perfect. As a result of this taboo, the general public and the medical profession itself has been kept in the dark about the Wakefield study and almost any other study that challenges the conventional wisdom.
“Here’s some information that will be news to you. Wakefield has support from top scientists who believe that the safety of vaccines is in question, including their potential role in autism. I mention that John Walker-Smith supports Wakefield. He’s not alone. Peter Fletcher, the former Chief Scientific Officer at the UK’s Department of Health, also supports Wakefield. He is the very person who determined for the UK government whether vaccines are safe. There’s [the late Dr.] Bernadine Healy. She led a task force under three U.S. Presidents, three White House task forces, she was also president of the National Institutes of Health. She was also the president of the American Red Cross. The National Institutes of Health is the largest funder of health in the world. She has stated several times that the research that is needed to be done is not being done to establish that vaccines don’t cause autism. Then there’s [the late] Professor Walter Spitzer of McGill University, and McMaster and Stanford. He testified that vaccines probably do cause harm, they probably do cause autism, … Spitzer is considered Canada’s dean of epidemiology, and he’s one of three founders of evidence-based medicine. The list of those who think that vaccines could be causing autism is long. The list of those who think vaccines could be causing other problems is even longer.
“The science is not settled on vaccines.”
Dr. Zaretsky: “As a psychiatrist, we often think about our motives, and I was thinking about my motives in coming down this evening to debate with Larry. …I will actually have a debate about the issue of vaccines and autism because I don’t think it’s exactly the same thing, although there are elements of the two in terms of playing on people’s paranoia, misinformation, and general distrust of big government from example.
“I’m here as an educator, because I believe that it is important to educate the public about facts and insure that they make decisions that are based on facts. You should know that fifty percent or so of the Canadian public have poor health literacy. That is that they don’t understand basic facts about health, epidemiology, and they can’t make informed decisions. That’s why we discharge patients from hospitals and they don’t get better because they don’t the nature of illness, they don’t take their medication, and they relapse. So health literacy is important. …
“I’m also here as a psychiatrist because autism is a devastating condition, and as the father of a twenty year old son who has autism, severe autism, who’s non-verbal, I know first-hand how serious this illness can be. And I also understand a little bit about the nature of human beings trying to attribute causality to something that they experience in a temporal kind of relationship with.
“Autism is diagnosed typically at around one year of age or a little bit later. My son was diagnosed at fourteen months. We started to notice things at about thirteen months. People get the MMR vaccine at twelve months. That’s the biology of autism, is that it is diagnosed when people are starting to acquire language, and they don’t acquire language generally. So it is understandable that parents will try to attribute their child’s condition, like autism, to something that’s happening in the environment like vaccinations, like the MMR vaccine.
“I think it’s very important to understand the science behind vaccinations. I’m not an expert on vaccinations. I’m a psychiatrist, I’m not a pediatrician, but I have consulted with colleagues who are pediatricians, and I can tell you that it goes without saying that immunizations have extended the life of human beings on our planet. They have prevented serious, serious illnesses.
“Now what about the relationship with autism? …I can tell you as a physician who has read the literature, it’s my understanding that Wakefield conducted a study in which there was data that was falsified to some extent, and it was retracted. It was retracted for a reason.
“And he may talk about the big pharmaceutical-industrial complex and the tyranny of big government; it was retracted because of poor quality experimental methodology.
“More importantly, let’s go back to then MMR and the safety of MMR vaccinations and autism. There are many, many studies that have tried to investigate this, many epidemiologists. Larry can hand pick a few, as he tends to do when he wants to make arguments like about climate change…. We’re talking about many, many studies conducted that have looked at this relationship and have not found a relationship. Temporal relationship does not mean that there’s causality. There’s more to it than that. You also have to see the strength of the relationship. You have to see all kinds of things before you come to a conclusion that MMR vaccines that are given at twelve months generally, are leading to autism, which is a condition that is diagnosed later on. I can tell you that again it is important to recognize that in Canada we have a process to insure the safety of vaccines, pre licensure review and approval, good manufacturing procedures, lot assessment before release, post marketing surveillance, causality assessment review, process for action if the vaccine performance is an issue, vaccine recommendations based on epidemiology, vaccine effectiveness and efficacy, and international collaboration.
“Again autism has taken off in the last fifteen years. Why is that? Is it the MMR vaccine or is it possibly the way we diagnose autism. There is a change in the last fifteen years in terms of how we diagnose autism. Many of you are familiar with the fact that the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is used as kind of the bible of psychiatrists in terms of diagnosis, with all its flaws, changed the criteria. So that what we see now is increase in the diagnoses of autism and a decrease in the diagnoses of other developmental disabilities. You can see that kind of relationship.
“If MMR vaccines were the cause of autism, why would we see this takeoff in the last fifteen years? MMR vaccines have been around for a long, long time, much longer than fifteen years. It doesn’t make any sense. All of this is misinformation, and again it plays on a lack of health literacy. So again, I would say that there are certain basic facts, the Holocaust happened, 9-11 was not an inside job, and vaccines are generally safe, especially when it comes to autism.”
Cayley to Dr. Zaretsky: “Is it your view that the entire increase in autism, which is now, I think, one in 42 boys will be diagnosed with something on the autism spectrum, …that that is entirely explained by …a shifting of diagnostic categories?”
Zaretsky: “As the parent of a child with autism, I personally don’t think that can explain it itself. I do believe it’s a gene-environment interaction. It’s important to recognize and respect the genetics. If my son had an identical twin, the likelihood that that identical twin would have autism is eighty percent. …If he has a fraternal twin, the risk goes down to about thirty percent.
“…If they all get vaccinations, why would it be that you see this difference? Genetics counts for something here. I believe it’s a gene-environment interaction, just like schizophrenia and other conditions.
“I don’t have a simple answer. I think we have to investigate what’s happening in the environment and try to understand it, but to blame it on vaccines is just not based on fact. We have to use scientific approach to make decisions. There are serious implications when people don’t vaccinate their children with MMR vaccine. …
“There are reasons to be concerned about vaccinating everyone for every single thing. For example, right now in my hospital, …there is a mass policy for influenza [vaccine]. And it’s based on a kind of calculus that we’re probably better off in terms of vaccinating for influenza in terms of protecting vulnerable people… But the truth of the matter is that many times, many years, that vaccine isn’t that effective, so it’s important to be honest about the limitations of vaccines and making decisions based on the truth, based on what we know. It’s important not to kind of say that everyone should be vaccinated all the time, that vaccines are perfect, that they work perfectly. Vaccines are associated with seizures sometimes. One in a hundred thousand people who get vaccinated, a baby who gets vaccinated, will have a seizure, a febrile seizure. That’s not a trivial thing, but I think that if you look at the entire picture and you look at the epidemiology and you look at the research and the science, I think that vaccines like MMR do not appear to cause autism, and they do a lot of good and much more good than bad.”
The question of an increase in autism was raised.
Solomon: “One of the reasons that scientists have looked at MMR is because there has been a coincidence of the rise in autism with the introduction of the MMR vaccine. Walter Spitzer, he’s …Canada’s dean of epidemiology, that’s one of the reasons that he thinks it’s likely that vaccines are a risk factor in autism.
“I’d also like to comment on Ari’s view that the fact that the Lancet retracted it is somehow damning. The Lancet published it in 1998. Almost immediately there was a huge controversy. The Lancet’s publisher stayed with the study throughout the controversy right through to 2010, and only when the government’s regulator removed the licenses from the two leading investigators of the study, only then did the Lancet feel that it had no choice but to retract the study. It stayed through it through thick and thin for twelve years. …
“I also don’t think it’s quite right to say I’m cherry picking scientists who hold this view. If I am cherry picking, it’s the scientists at the very top of their field. This is the president of the National Institutes of Health, it’s the father of pediatric gastroenterology, it’s the dean of epidemiology. But also I correspond with literally hundreds of physicians in the field, researchers and physicians in the field who have these kinds of concerns. It’s a very long list, but people aren’t aware of that list because it’s very hard to go public.
“When the General Medical Council stripped John Walker-Smith of his right to practice medicine, it did so very reluctantly. They said he was such an icon in the field, they really felt it was awful that they had to do it. But they said they had to do it to create an example because they didn’t want other physicians to challenge the orthodoxy in vaccines. So they made him a sacrificial lamb. They made Andrew Wakefield a sacrificial lamb, and it worked because you will find very few physicians now, very few researchers daring to publicly express dissent, because they know that they may be stripped of their right to practice medicine if they do.”
Zaretsky: “We should recognize that Wakefield’s study hasn’t been replicated. We make decisions based on multiple studies being done pointing a certain direction. This study was flawed, poorly executed, and …the data wasn’t even acquired in an accurate way. …There’s the allegation that the data was falsified. This was not replicated. Even if it was accurate, it wasn’t replicated. You have to have many studies before you come to a conclusion that there’s a causal relationship. There’s a more parsimonious way to understand the fact that autism has increased over the last decade and a half, and that a large component of it is the spectrum way of diagnosing things. We use a spectrum diagnosis, so the people are along a spectrum, and so you have much milder conditions being looped into this autism concept.
“In my view, that’s a problem because if everyone’s a long a spectrum, then you lose the true meaning of the diagnosis. My son has autism. He doesn’t have Asperger’s. He’s non-verbal. That’s a serious condition. And if we can have people who are also lumped into that autism spectrum that are just a little bit odd, don’t make eye contact etc., then you lose the meaning of the diagnosis. Then you can come to the conclusion that autism has taken off. So again, we have to be careful about the science, and we have to be careful about the whole process of doing research in this area.”
Solomon: “I agree that we have to be careful with the science. I should point that the High Court threw out the allegations that the data was collected improperly. And also the General Medical Council had the option of appealing, but did not appeal it. They knew that an appeal would fail, so it accepted the reprimand from the High Court, and it reformed itself.
“The other question is, where should the onus be? Wakefield, Walker-Smith, all the experts that I’ve cited, none of them say autism is caused by vaccines. They all say we need more research because there is no way to establish, based on what we know so far, that vaccines are not implicated in autism. Where the medical profession has failed is in refusing to do the research necessary to establish whether vaccines are or are not implicated. All that the so-called vaccine skeptics are asking for is research.”
Zaretsky: “I’m happy to support the idea of research. If you don’t vaccinate your children with MMR, you can look at whether there is a higher or lower incidence of autism in those children. I think it will be very interesting to find out in the future if there’s a difference. One would assume that there would be a causal relationship if you would see a lower incidence of autism in those that haven’t been vaccinated. At this point in time there is no evidence to suggest that at all.”
Solomon: “I would like to commend you for endorsing the idea of that study. There has a study comparing the health of vaccinated children with the health of unvaccinated children. You would think …There has never been a large scale study. The one study (speaking to someone in the audience) you’re referring to actually was suppressed, it was very hard to get it published, despite the credentials of the people doing it. It was actually retracted after the publisher agreed to publish it. The publisher retracted it because of pressure from the medical establishment.
“But the study, Ari, that you suggested, would be determinative. Is exactly what the vaccine skeptic community is asking for. They’re saying, give us a study that compares the health of vaccinated children to the health of unvaccinated children. That would satisfy everyone.
“If that study showed that vaccines improve the health, or even if it doesn’t harm the health, that would satisfy everyone, and it would end the controversy. But the medical establishment refuses to perform that study. That is something that’s inexplicable. If you would like to join the cause, demand that this study be performed, you’d be doing a great service.”
Zaretsky: “I think it’s important to empathic for why it hasn’t been promulgated. If you actually asked everyone to not vaccinate their children, then what happens to herd immunity? That’s the problem. …
(Responding to someone in the audience) “That’s right, the control group could be in Hollywood and we could study them to see if in fact what Larry is saying is true. My hope would be that in fact people would actually listen to the facts because if they found that there was no lower incidence of autism, one would assume that the people who haven’t been vaccinated, would have a lower incidence of autism. If you don’t find that, will people change their mind about this relationship between autism and vaccination? Personally, I doubt it.”
Dr. Zaretsky explained the concept of herd immunity and how mass vaccination protects a population.
Then Larry Solomon responded: “One way to take up the herd immunity issue is to refer to Dr. Gregory Poland. Dr. Poland is the head of the Mayo Clinic’s vaccine research group. This is one of the world’s largest…vaccine research groups. …Dr. Poland is not only the head of this, he also works for the pharmaceutical industry, he also is associated with the Centers for Disease Control. …What he says is that the MMR vaccine is a failure. It needs to be replaced. It cannot [provide] herd immunity, in fact, you’re likely to get a measles outbreak in a fully vaccinated population than in an unvaccinated population— ”
Zaretsky: “That’s not the general consensus of scientists throughout the world….”
Solomon: “When the concept of herd immunity came about many decades ago, it was thought that you would need fifty percent of the population vaccinated to acquire it. Then when that didn’t work, they thought that okay, it’s sixty percent. Then it was sixty-five, then it went up to eighty, then eighty-five. These are studies, one study after another saying it needs to be a bit higher. Then it went to be ninety percent, then ninety-five, then a hundred. And a Canadian agency said actually it has to be more a hundred percent. …
“But the other thing that’s so interesting about MMR is the myth that it has done a lot to save lives. A century ago, in 1900, measles killed millions of people, literally millions of people. Then over time, the rate dropped, and it dropped, dropped, dropped, dropped, and by the 60’s, ninety-eight percent of those measles deaths in the U.S. were eliminated. In the U.K. by the 60s, 99.96 percent, virtually all the measles deaths were eliminated by 1963. So you have this huge drop in measles deaths to 1963. 1963 is when the measles vaccine was first introduced. So in other words, after all the deaths were eliminated, that’s when the measles vaccine was introduced, and people now say, look, the vaccine has eliminated measles deaths. Well, it had nothing to do with the vast majority of those measles deaths.
“Not only that, but the measles vaccine creates lots of problems, because in the past, [measles] was considered benign. If you look at the pediatric journals in the 50s and 60s, they described measles as benign, in fact it was common. You wanted to get measles because then you had lifetime immunity, and once you had lifetime immunity, you were set. …
“What happened when the vaccine came in—and Canadian scientists predicted this would happen—measles would be inflicted on us, on our population, not as children but as adults. And when you get measles as an adult, then it is serious.
“So you have a large percentage, something between a quarter and a half of all measles cases are in adults. And when adults get it, there a high incidence of pneumonia, something like fifty percent, and something a twenty-five percent incidence of people needing hospitalization.
“So you end up [where] the measles vaccine has transferred measles from a benign situation, where children got it safely, to where adults are getting it unsafely. It’s also a great threat to fetuses, because when expectant mothers, if they haven’t had measles, they are not able to pass antibodies on to their newborns. That makes their newborns very vulnerable because in the first year you can’t get a shot, an MMR shot. So in that first year, the babies become much more vulnerable. …”
Zaretsky: “I’m not going to even respond because I would like to know if you have vaccinated your children. Do you have children?”
Solomon: “I have children, but I don’t want to—I don’t see why it’s necessary to get personal. I am not opposed to vaccination, but I am opposed to forced vaccination, and I’m opposed to vaccinating anyone who is not informed of the risks. There are clearly so many risks associated with so many vaccines, that I think we have to distinguish between vaccines that prevent very serious harm, such as the polio vaccine… but to take a risk to prevent something as benign as measles makes no sense to me. To take a vaccine to prevent chicken pox… has created great harm because the chicken pox, because we’re now vaccinating for chicken pox, we have created an epidemic of shingles. Shingles was not a problem before, now one third of adults are going to get shingles. …”
Zaretsky: “I think you have to think about the vaccine for the whole population.
Zaretsky explained that for some people chicken pox, measles, and mumps are very serious diseases, and “that’s the rationale for having vaccinations in general. …”
Zaretsky: “I have faith in the science of the experts, like pediatricians. …There are no good studies that show that MMR vaccines cause autism.”
Solomon: “Let me give you one. It’s on the website for the Centers for Disease Control. It was a major study done, it came out around 2004, and because it showed no problems with the MMR vaccine—it was a study done of children in the Atlanta area. It was an influential study and it led to various decisions being made by the medical authorities promoting the idea that vaccines were fine.
“The study was done by a senior scientist, several people at the Centers for Disease Control, including one person called William Thompson. He was a senior scientist with the CDC, one of their very top scientists.
“Thompson, just a year or two ago, went public. He became a whistleblower because he couldn’t live with himself anymore. Because what the CDC had done was it suppressed data that showed that black children in the Atlanta area had a much higher incidence of autism. And because he was so guilt racked by it, he actually went public. It led to a big brouhaha, he’s seeking whistleblower protection. It may be that he gets to testify about this soon.
“But he is on tape with his explanation that he has been guilt racked all these years because all these children, he feels now, have suffered autism because he didn’t blow the whistle ten years ago. He was also concerned about being sued because all the parents of these children now have a claim…
“The study that’s on the CDC website has been in effect repudiated by one of the scientist who performed that study. That scientist, at the time, he tried to persuade his colleagues to reveal the truth. …
“Now there’s another major study on the CDC website that’s cited everywhere. It’s called the Danish Population. That study was one of the ones critiqued by Walter Spitzer. He was called before the U.S. Congress to ask about this study, because this study showed that vaccines do not cause autism. It was considered a very, very reliable study because it looked at the entire Danish population. And Spitzer was called because he had done a similar study for the entire Saskatchewan population, so he was familiar with the methodology, and also he was a top expert in that field.
“He explained that the study was actually done extremely well, this was the Danish study on the CDC website. …He went through all the steps that were taken, and then he said, but they didn’t make the last step. …for some reason that he said was totally inexplicable. [It] would have been determinative. It would have shown whether there was a real problem or not.
“He said, as it is, the only inference he can draw is that that study hid at least 50,000 autism cases …because of the way statistics were manipulated.
“So two of the four major studies on the CDC site have questions about them. One, we don’t know why the last step wasn’t taken. Maybe that last step should be taken. That would allay a lot of concerns if that last step was taken. And the other one is, is this whistleblower accurate in saying that the data is suppressed? He has the data. Maybe we should look at that data. We cannot always assume that governments act with integrity.”
Zaretsky: “I can see that the audience very much believes in what you’re saying, and that’s a concern for me because the belief that pertussis causes SIDS… these are all completely not based on fact, and yet people continue to believe them. This is what science is up against….”
Solomon: “You referred to the HPV vaccine among others. One of the scientists who points to a problem—her name is Diane Harper—she was the lead investigator producing that vaccine at both Merck and Glaxo Smith Kline. She is the expert in that field. What she says is, this vaccine makes sense in the third world …but it makes no sense in North America where women do have access [to pap smears.]…
“It was her research that led to the vaccine being put on the market, and she says it does damage. It will harm. It will kill some girls. …”
Cayley asked Dr. Zaretsky about the role of the pharmaceutical industry.
Zaretsky: “…We have oversight through evaluation and constant testing. …That’s like arguing that the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in many things and therefore we shouldn’t take medications. …
“Now can data be distorted? Yes. Do we have to be careful about taking at face value a study that’s done by the pharmaceutical industry? Yes. Do we have to have arm’s length ways of evaluating the research so that it is actually conducted by researchers who aren’t necessarily directly funded by the pharmaceutical industry? Do we have to have independent, peer-reviewed research? Absolutely. Do we have to distrust research that’s conducted by only by the pharmaceutical industry? Yes. …”
Solomon: “Ironically, initially it wasn’t the pharmaceutical industry that was pushing vaccines. In the 1980s the major manufacturers decided to get out of vaccines because they weren’t making money on it. It accounted only for one percent of their revenue, and they were losing money on it because they were continually being sued because of damage that the vaccines were doing. …
“It was the government that didn’t want them to leave because the government had seen the effectiveness of polio [vaccine], and they thought they had a magic bullet in vaccines, and that would help them save healthcare costs.
“So the government went to the vaccine industry… Here’s what we’ll do: we’ll eliminate liability for you. We’ll prevent anybody from suing you …We’ll do more than that. We’ll also mandate vaccines. We’ll make it mandatory that everyone take vaccines, so now you have a guaranteed market. So you don’t have to worry about selling it. You don’t have to worry about people being reluctant to take vaccines, they’ll be forced to. And more than that, we will do the marketing for you. We will buy the vaccines from you and we will distribute them. So you don’t even have to market the vaccines
“So the pharmaceutical industry said, what do we have to lose? We can’t be sued, we have a guaranteed market, and we don’t have to go through any effort. …As a result, the vaccine industry which was a money loser, is now the most profitable segment of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s the fastest growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s the one where the most lobbyists are because what the industry wants is to force more mandates on more and more vaccines so that everyone gets vaccinated for everything. …”
Cayley asked Dr. Zaretsky about vaccine choice.
Zaretsky: “People should be free …to vaccinate or not vaccinate. I don’t think we can force people to vaccinate. I think it’s misinformed not to vaccinate for most conditions. …From my perspective, the damage that we do by misinforming the public that there’s conspiracy... It’s very problematic. It plays on people’s paranoia of big government and leads to situations where people not vaccinate, and we’ll have outbreaks of different diseases. And it won’t be based on anything that’s scientific, and people will be harmed, and little children will be harmed. … To me that’s tragic, when people have a belief of a kind of alternative medicine to treat their children and they don’t use evidence-based medicine, and then there’s a bad outcome. From my perspective, there’s freedom, but then people also have to recognize the risk and the accountability that goes with that.
1: 00 Question and answer segment:
The first member of the audience to speak said she’s come with an open mind, wanting to hear a discussion, but she said that the points Lawrence Solomon raised about the questionable official science used to support vaccines were ignored by Dr. Zaretsky. She was furthermore disappointed that Wakefield’s actual research wasn’t discussed.
Zaretsky: “The Wakefield study was a study that was done by a pediatric gastroenterologist who was interested in the effect of the MMR vaccine on the immune system in the gut. And his belief was when young children are exposed to this vaccine, it alters their immune system in a way that certain antigens pass through from the intestine into the blood stream and ultimately into the brain and lead to some type of autoimmune reaction that then damages the brain. That’s the theory behind Wakefield’s study. He had this interest in ‘a leaky gut,’ and the fact that he observed in a few cases of children with autism, that they had different types of GI symptoms—diarrhea for example and so on, not recognizing of course that there are more parsimonious ways to explain the fact that there are lots of GI symptoms with kids with developmental disability and autism, like their diet being very morbid and abnormal actually. These kinds of ideas are interesting, but they have not been replicated. So this idea that there’s some immune abnormality in autism---study after study has been done, and they’re not replicated.
“Again, it’s important to recognize that this was a handful of patients he observed and this is [being] used as a kind of raison d’etre that MMR vaccines are dangerous. Again, you need to have lots of well-conducted research studies ideally randomized control trials that would look at this in a larger population. Again, we don’t have those studies to suggest that.”
Solomon: “It was a very small sample as Ari said, but there shouldn’t be an implication that there was anything improper. That study went through all the vetting procedures, and it found something unusual. Walker-Smith thought it was a new syndrome that had been discovered. All that they asked for… We need more research. They did not say that the MMR caused autism. They simply said, based on what this study shows, there’s reason to do more research. …”
The next audience member brought up the NVICP (the compensation program in the U.S.) He said that over $3 billion had been paid for vaccine damage. He mentioned the government’s concession in the Hannah Poling case.
Zaretsky: “Your point is well-taken. Vaccines carry risk. Everything that is a chemical carries risk. All drugs carry risks. …Influenza vaccine can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome. It’s a rare outcome. Influenza vaccine can also protect thousands and thousands of deaths in individuals that are immuno-compromised and elderly people. So it’s a risk/benefit analysis that you have to do. I’m not suggesting that vaccines are perfect… What I’m suggesting is that the idea that vaccines like MMR cause autism are not based on good scientific evidence….
Zaretsky said he was very concerned that 30 percent of the American public believes in a link between vaccines and autism. Someone added that only 1 percent of vaccine injuries are ever reported, so we can’t base our arguments on the number of reports that are made.
Zaretsky argued that since we’ve been vaccinating for measles since the 1960s, we should have seen this increase in autism starting then, not in recent decades.
Solomon countered that by saying that the MMR was invented only 20 years ago, before that it was just a measles vaccine, something he said that Wakefield advocated for. And that measles vaccine has been eliminated, so parents have no single shot choice.
The next question involved having a vaccinated/unvaccinated study. The speaker noted that there are many thousands of unvaccinated children to use in a study. Surprisingly, Dr. Zaretsky agreed that this study could be done.
Next someone in the audience (who said she had a PhD in genetics) asked about Wakefield’s study group. She criticized the fact that all of his subjects had been vaccinated. She said it wasn’t a valid study for that reason. She compared the MMR vaccine to problems with cancer research, which is her field. The point she made was that “one in two Canadians is going to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. … Researchers are trying to figure out what can we do to solve this present social problem. I imagine that was the situation when people died of measles in the 50s and 60s, before the vaccine was invented. After that, there was a huge decrease in the number of people that died of measles”
Regarding a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, she said, “These have been done many, many times…” and there is no associated risk for autism. She said that studies have also disproved a GI/autism link exists.
Dr. Zaretsky agreed and noted, “We haven’t done the randomized control trials, but we have done studies that looked at thousands and thousands of individuals, both those that have been exposed to the vaccine, those that haven’t, and when you compare the two, you don’t see an increased risk of autism that have been exposed. … The science doesn’t change the hearts and minds of people, and it should. It really should.”
Solomon disagreed with Zaretsky. He stated, “Walter Spitzer has found those signals. For that reason, he thinks there’s a high likelihood of the MMR vaccine being a risk factor with autism.”
Solomon mentioned a top expert, Dr. Bernadine Healy (on CBS News), former head of the National Institutes of Health in America, pushed for more research, and that doing research wouldn’t necessarily scare parents away from vaccines. He said what we’re doing is pretending that all the science is settled and we don’t need more research “because the public is dumb, we can’t trust the public to make decisions on their own.”
Solomon again noted that a vaccine expert, Dr. Greg Poland at the Mayo Clinic, has said that the MMR vaccine doesn’t work, “and if you fully vaccinate the public, you’re going to end up with more measles outbreaks. He criticizes the idea of one-size-fits-all vaccines. He thinks that vaccines should be based on one’s own genome. …”
The next person from the audience brought up a paper that she had with a list of 46 doctors entitled, So you want to hear it from a doctor: Doctors explain clearly why vaccines are not safe. http://circleofdocs.com/46-doctors-explain-clearly-why-vaccines-are-not-safe/
The person quoted a doctor who said she hadn’t been taught about vaccines or vaccine ingredients in medical school. She continued, “I’ve heard doctor after doctor now admit they’re really not taught about vaccines in medical school. It’s just an article of faith. It’s like a religion. ‘Vaccines are good. Use them.’
She talked about vaccine combination and about package inserts. She asked, “Have you read the inserts to the vaccines? They’re terrifying. They’re going to give my granddaughter like eight vaccines at once. …”
She cited an article by Neil Miller from the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2016. It was entitled, Combining Childhood Vaccines at One Visit is Not Safe.
Zaretsky countered by saying that despite the risks from vaccinating, it is better to vaccinate. “Many of the adverse reactions that are serious are very rare reactions. Whereas the illnesses themselves, if you’re not immune, they’re very serious. …These are serious, serious illnesses that can damage individuals. Even something as simple as mumps can cause sterility. …”
The next questioner suggested that “all forms of medical intervention, such as vaccinations, may have differential results in various parts of the world. …”
Solomon agreed and said that the Mayo Clinic was following that exact course of logic. Zaretsky said that it was possible, “but that for our North American population right now, what does the epidemiology say about the MMR vaccine and autism?”
At the end Zaretsky did acknowledge, in response to one woman in the audience, that vaccines might be impacting children’s immune systems and that’s why we have high rates of asthma, at the same time they “do good things like prevent serious illnesses…”
As far as autism is concerned, Zaretsky said, “I also believe there’s a gene-environment interaction. That’s my suspicion. With autism, maybe there’s a diagnostic change, and that’s the reason. There’s certainly genetics at play. But I suspect also that there’s something going on in the environment. It’s just that I don’t feel that the science supports the MMR vaccine as the offender. I don’t think that the epidemiology supports that.
“Does that mean that there isn’t something else toxic in the environment, pollutants, other things? Well it’s not mercury, because we’ve been looking at that. Again, this is what I mean. Thimerosal is not the cause of autism. The studies have been done. The epidemiology has been done, and it’s not that. But it may be something else.
“I do think there’s been an increase in autism. Some of it is diagnostic….”
Zaretsky called for more research on the environmental factors.
Solomon compared how the press represses dissent in the vaccine controversy in North America with places like Japan and Scandinavia, where they discuss problems with vaccines. He cited France. He also noted that Dr. Andrew Wakefield would be addressing a meeting involving the European Parliament shortly.
“Here he is vilified. There his opinion is worthwhile.”
Solomon predicted that Wakefield position would be respected in North America because, as Solomon said, “It looks like the U.S. is going to have a commission headed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who is an environmentalist very concerned about mercury, very knowledgeable in mercury. …
“I think if this commission goes ahead in the United States, I believe it’s going to totally wipe out the myth that vaccines are, for the most part, safe.”
*Special thank you to Lawrence Solomon for pursuing journalistic truth and fair and balanced coverage on the issue of vaccine safety.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.