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.
What was said in Toronto:
Reporter Lawrence Solomon presented his side by pointing out that Dr. Wakefield’s article was published in the Lancet in1998 and drew immediate criticism, but it wasn’t until twelve years later that it was finally retracted. Following the ruling against Wakefield and his thirteen co-authors, one of them, noted pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. John Walker-Smith, appealed the decision and was fully exonerated. The General Medical Council decision against the authors of the Lancet study was repudiated by the British High Court.
Solomon: “This was a total victory for Walker-Smith and a total victory for the study. It was a total repudiation for the regulator.”
Solomon said that “the media has a blackout on stories that question vaccines,” and he’s been unable to write on the subject anymore. He went on to name experts who also questioned vaccine safety, including the late Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and the late Dr. Walter Spitzer Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at McGill University and Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.
He compared the treatment of Walker-Smith to the treatment of Andrew Wakefield by the British government. He said that Wakefield was made “a sacrificial lamb” by the General Medical Council as a warning to any other doctor who might be thinking of researching this. What’s been ignored in all this controversy is the fact that the Lancet study didn’t find that vaccines cause autism. The authors simply called for more research.
He cited vaccine researcher Gregory Poland from the Mayo Clinic, who has said that the vaccine simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t provide herd immunity. Furthermore, he pointed out that there were almost no measles death reported by 1963, the year the vaccine was first introduced.
He brought up Dr. William Thompson, the vaccine researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who claims his agency ordered him to destroy study evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
He also talked about Danish vaccine research used by the CDC and charges that the “statistics were manipulated.”
He said that the researcher who worked on the HPV vaccine for both Merck and Glaxo Smith Kline, Dr. Diane Harper, now calls this vaccine unnecessary and dangerous.
He revealed that the U.S. government indemnified the vaccine makers in 1986 and removed any real incentive to them to produce a truly safe product. Furthermore, they created an unending market by mandating vaccines in order to attend school.
Solomon ended his comments by predicting that a presidential panel looking into vaccine safety and scientific integrity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. could seriously challenge the claims being made about vaccines by officials.
In his arguments Dr. Zaretsky said that Wakefield had falsified his findings, resulting in the retraction of the original Lancet article. He made repeated references to “many, many studies” that failed to find a link between vaccines and autism, and was adamant that vaccines are well-tested. He said Wakefield’s study had never been replicated. Children may develop autism around the time of the MMR vaccine, but that’s a coincidental relationship, not a causal one.
Zaretsky cited better diagnosing and a broader definition as reasons for the explosion in autism diagnoses. He also said there was a “gene-environment” connection.
Zaretsky said some things that we don’t often hear from doctors. He acknowledged that the flu shot is often ineffective. Despite his strong defense of the safety of the MMR, he did suggest having a comparison study of children who did and who didn’t get the vaccine to see what their autism rates were like. He fully expects there would be “no lower incidence of autism” in the unvaxxed group. In addition, Zaretsky defended the right of a parent not to vaccinate, although he felt it was a “misinformed” decision. At the end he even said that there might be an impact from vaccines on a child’s immune system, resulting in the increase in asthma we’re currently seeing.
Zaretsky pointed to the need for herd immunity and not putting everyone else’s child at risk by not vaccinating. He trusts the doctors and scientists who say there is no link between vaccines and autism. He promoted the benefits of the HPV vaccine and denied that the pertussis vaccine can cause SIDS.
During the Q and A, Zaretsky did agree that vaccines cause rare side effects, just not autism. He said that since the measles vaccine has been around since the 60s, we should have seen a dramatic increase fifty years ago, not just in the last two decades. Solomon pointed out that the combined MMR vaccine came later.
Personally speaking, I found nothings new in Dr. Zaretsky’s arguments. He retreated to the universal vaccine defense: studies show no link. As usual, autism wasn’t talked about as a medical emergency, but more like a mystery we just can’t explain. Zaretsky said that a vaxxed/unvaxxed study could prove “interesting,” but there was no urgency that it be done. Calling it a genetic disorder, as doctors often do, leaves one asking why parents can’t be tested to see who’s carrying the autism gene responsible. No one can do that either. The genetics of autism is just more of the mystery.
Zaretsky is convinced vaccines have no role in autism. The live virus MMR is safe and so is the mercury used in vaccines. Other toxins in the environment might however be responsible. Even though this controversy affects him personally, he continues to be a true believer in the safety of vaccination.
What I noticed was the total lack of response from Zaretsky when Solomon talked about how co-author John Walker-Smith was exonerated of all charges involving the Lancet study, or the serious questions raised by top experts like Bernadine Healy, Walter Spitzer, and Diane Harper. He had no response when told that Greg Poland, a leading vaccine researcher, calls for the replacement of the MMR, because it fails to protect children. He said nothing when Solomon told him about charges of vaccine science fraud at the CDC.
The most troubling moment for me was during the Q and A when a woman who described herself as a researcher with a PhD in genetics said, ‘One in two Canadians is going to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.’
That was a stunning statement. Her position seemed to be that she is afraid that there might be resistance to a cancer vaccine, given the present atmosphere.
So we’re just supposed to accept the fact that we’re going to sicker and sicker without asking why. That’s probably what will happen. There is absolutely no panic over the current autism rate. Even if the numbers get worse, it’ll be written off, as Zaretsky said, as better diagnosing and maybe something bad in the environment. The prediction is out there that in fifteen years, half our children will have autism. If half of us also have cancer, I figure that we’ll have no future. How can a country filled with the sick and disabled possibly survive?