Editor's Note -- This AOA article excerpted from 2014 looks at cases of anencephaly in Washington state and whether pesticides or some other environmental factor might be involved. An update from the Washington health department (consider the source) is here. With the Zika virus now in the news, we thought it was worth reminding readers that anencephaly has been on the radar before.
By Dan Olmsted
Today I'd like to mention further evidence that links pesticides with neurological and developmental mayhem, including but not limited to autism, especially along the "left coast" of the United States, stretching from the San Joaquin and Central Valleys of California up through Napa and the orchard and wine counties of Washington State. This temperate and fertile arc, sometimes referred to as Ecotopia, began blooming with fruits and vegetables when industrial agriculture, pesticides and irrigation started taking hold at the end of the 19th Century. It now accounts for a large percentage of the nation's food supply -- and increasingly, a number of unusual outbreaks that point to toxins.
In our AOA series in 2011, The Age of Polio -- How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic, we demonstrated how the first use of pesticides containing lead and arsenic in the late 19th century triggered the first outbreaks of poliomyelitis. The polio virus up till then had been a benign stomach bug, or enterovirus, but we proposed that the ingestion of lead and arsenic in children with an active polio infection allowed the virus to gain access to the nervous system, where it killed cells at the top of the spinal column (the anterior horn), leading to temporary or permanent paraylsis and, sometimes, death. Early epidemics in the San Joaquin and Napa regions as well as orchard country in Washington State are the kind of associations, overlooked at the time and ever since, that point to the true, manmade nature of polio epidemics.
Earlier this year Mark and I tracked a new outbreak, of two dozen or so cases of partial paralysis in California children, and suggested pesticides could have played a role there. Medical experts suspect an enterovirus, interestingly. We suspect that whatever else was going on, pesticides probably played a role. We reported that the parents of one child owned a vineyard (reminiscent of that Napa polio outbreak more than a century ago), and had also remembered their daughter ate fresh raspberries the morning she got sick. The doctors, she told us, didn't seem interested. (The child also got an IV at the hospital right before her arm suddenly, and permanently, went limp, possibly suggesting provocation polio, in which a needle stick can create an opening for an enterovirus to reach the nervous system). A second child who has been identified lives in an LA exurb built on farmland so intensively farmed it has an apricot named for it. (Moorpark.)
Lately, the arc of mayhem has been migrating further north, where another "mystery outbreak" has baffled researchers. According to NBC, "Mysterious Birth Defects: No Answers, Only Questions, Experts Say":
"Since 2010, at least 30 babies — now 31 — have been diagnosed with anencephaly in a three-county area of central Washington state that includes Yakima and Sunnyside. ... That’s a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 births in the region, far higher than the national rate of 2.1 cases for 10,000 births."
Among the possibilities are a nearby nuclear plant and "pesticides, grain molds, nitrates in water supplies and other concerns previously tied to the problem. ... One factor that’s certain to get attention is the low rate of folic acid use in the region. Low levels of the B vitamin in early pregnancy are known to increase risk of anencephaly, spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Sixty percent of women in the three-county area don’t take folic acid as recommended — a figure that climbed to 80 percent to 90 percent in those whose babies were studied."
Seriously, not enough folic acid? My money is on toxins, particularly pesticides. Another recent article pointed to illnesses caused by a phenomenon known as pesticide drift in the same areas. According to oregonlive.com in May:
If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the suit filed by two whistleblowers against Merck for allegedly hiding the fact that the mumps vaccine doesn’t work – well, so have we.
Now a timeline has emerged, although you might need a telescope to see its further reaches. An Amended Scheduling Order was released this month that extends deadlines even longer: “dispositive motions” to be filed by December 20, 2017 – basically two years from now; “motions involving class certification” by May 3, 2018. That looks like the earliest a trial could start, and it’s not hard to see the whole thing going into 2019, if not a new decade entirely.
This for an allegedly blatant fraud against taxpayers that occurred last decade – in 1999!
A key date appears to be October 31 of next year, when a status report from both sides is due on whether “the parties would consent to alternative dispute resolution” – in other words, I believe, to settling out of court.
Backed by a major California law firm that knows how to write powerful briefs and has a lot of material to work with, the whistleblowers – Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski – haven’t budged. Attempts by Merck to get the suit thrown out on all kinds of grounds (such as, unbelievably, that the FDA knew about it and didn’t care, so why should anyone else!) failed in federal court in Philadelphia.
Discovery of documents must also be completed by that October date. Discovery – the delivery of relevant material that might help make a case – is exactly what private firms of all kinds dread, and one reason you see so many settlements where terms are not disclosed, nobody admits any wrongdoing and the whole thing goes away. The big firms pay millions to defend themselves, so what’s a few more million out of billions in profits to buy someone off? Most people can’t resist the temptation given that they could lose everything in court.
That’s why getting to discovery in this lawsuit is the crux of the matter – it’s so rare, and there’s so much at stake. That includes billions in potential penalties for Merck if it’s found the firm defrauded the government, which pays hundreds of millions a year for the MMR – the mumps, measles, and rubella shot. Merck has the only license to manufacture any of the MMR components in the United States, and in the worst outcome for Merck it could lose that lucrative monopoly entirely.
There is no discovery allowed in the so-called “vaccine court” that has so far thwarted thousands of parents who claimed their child’s autism was due to the MMR, the mercury in some vaccinations, or a combination of both. The judges who threw out all the cases ridiculed the families for having no evidence to that effect, a Catch-22 if ever there was one.
So while it seems like bad news that this case is stretching so far into the future, the fact that it is still headed for daylight is kind of a miracle. If it makes it all the way, you have to wonder what a jury will make of some of the Merck documents already disclosed – such as the one in which a Merck official told subordinates that their job was to show that the mumps vaccine met federal licensing standards, when it clearly did not. To bridge the gap, according to the suit:
“Merck set out to conduct testing of its mumps vaccine that would support its original efficacy finding. In performing this testing, Merck’s objective was to report efficacy of 95 percent or higher regardless of the vaccine’s true efficacy. The only way Merck could accomplish this was through manipulating its testing procedures and falsifying the test results. … Krahling and Wlochowski participated on the Merck team that conducted this testing and witnessed firsthand the fraud in which Merck engaged to reach its desired results. Merck internally referred to the testing as Protocol 007.”
Naming a secret project after a British spy with a license to kill might have seemed amusing inside Merck; perhaps not so much in an American courtroom.
It is also worth pointing out that lawsuits like this are typically long slogs, but sometimes pay off big-time. An example is close at hand: For instance, Merck just paid $830 million to settle a lawsuit with shareholders over the painkiller Vioxx. That drug was pulled from the market 11 years ago, in 2004; since then, the company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for violating drug laws; paid $900 million; and settled 50,000 lawsuits by patients in 2007 for nearly $5 billion.
Before it settled, Merck engaged in a tobacco-style scorched earth policy of fighting every individual claim of harm or death from the drug, denying all, even after it became clear that thousands of people had died from heart attacks and strokes and Merck had been, shall we say, not forthcoming about the implications of its own studies of the drug’s safety. (The master of that approach, its chief lawyer, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the company.)
You may remember the heavy marketing of the drug – skater Peggy Fleming in a TV ad holding her sore ankle, hardly the appropriate audience for a heavy-duty painkiller. That pill-popping approach to a compound not much better, and far more dangerous, than aspirin mirrors the mumps vaccine hype: According to research Mark Blaxill and I have done, the vaccine is unnecessary, given the mildness of most mumps infections in early children. Now, thanks to the vaccine, outbreaks are showing up more and more in adolescents and young adults, in whom it can cause sterility and other complication.
That’s because, according to the whistleblowers, it doesn’t even work.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Why is it that so many writers seem to have an anaphylactic reaction to the fact that the first case of autism in the medical literature recovered remarkably when treated with gold salts?
The short answer is because it suggests that the mainstream has gotten autism very wrong, and from the very first. Neither parent-blaming nor genetic anomalies nor ABA nor Floortime could explain how treating someone with a different diet, or certain kinds of medicine or alternative methods, could trigger a visible improvement in their symptoms, let along the kind of recovery seen in Donald T.
Donald, as you may know, was Case 1 in Leo Kanner’s 1943 description of 11 children with a theretofore-unknown syndrome that Kanner called “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.”
Mark Blaxill and I tracked Donald down in 2005, and in 2007 met him in his hometown of Forest, Mississippi. Meanwhile, others were on the case. John Donvan and Caren Zucker, doubtless in possession of our 2010 book the Age of Autism which outlined our reporting on Donald, made a suspiciously well-timed splash the day before with an article in the Atlantic and a gig on Good Morning America, with the always-eager-to-diminish-autism George Stephanopoulos presiding.
I don’t doubt Donvan and Zucker independently identified Donald; it wasn’t that hard to do. I don’t blame them for publicizing their work at the same time as ours (I suppose they think they “scooped” us by landing one day before, although our book had been out for review for weeks), nor do I object to the fact that their take on Donald was a very pleasant feature story – the lovely people of Forest adopted him as their own little Hobbit (he is very short and suffered from failure to thrive, a sign of what really happened), and now he had found his own little place in the Shire. If only all the townsfolk of the world would be so kind, they implied, we’d have no problem with autism at all. Now they've recapitulated all that and much more in their new book "In a Different Key -- The Story of Autism," which along with the recent "Neurotribes" paints autism as just another part of human diversity that has always been with us.
Yeah, right. Our book laid out an entirely different scenario, in which we showed that Donald really was among the earliest handful of cases that came to be called autism. That the reason was the commercialization of ethyl mercury in seed disinfectants, lumber preservatives and multidose vaccines, and that the march of industrial progress, not for the first or last time, had inadvertently (and carelessly, given the known toxicity of ethyl mercury) launched the Age of Autism (see our book, the video on our home page, and my column last Saturday).
Let’s set that aside for a second and talk about the fact that Donald, according to his brother, Oliver, developed an acute case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in early adolescence and was near death by the time his parents got him the right diagnosis and treatment at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis. That treatment was intravenous gold salts over several months, during which time his JRA lifted, with the exception of one fused finger bone.
During that time, his brother told me, Donald’s autism symptoms also cleared up to the point that he was able to take his place in the community, go to college, work at the family bank and become president of the Kiwanis.
Interesting, no? Well, no, not interesting, nothing to see here according to Donvan and Zucker’s account. In a footnote, where pesky ideas that threaten the main narrative go to die, Donvan tells a different story, one that acknowledges ours but finds every reason you could think of, and a few you couldn’t, to dismiss it out of hand.
You see, the fact that Case 1 had not just autism but (another) autoimmune disease – rheumatoid arthritis -- interests them not at all as any kind of clue to causation or treatment. What they want to do is tear down any association between the gold salts (biomed) and the improvement in Donald’s autism.
Donvan reports that Donald’s mother, long dead, believed that the fevers induced by JRA, when they weren’t nearly killing him, improved his symptoms. Now, fevers do sometimes seem to have some effect on autism – usually temporary, alas, as I understand it.
But to Donvan, that’s the ticket out of having to consider a sustained anti-inflammatory treatment as anything to do with Donald’s recovery, which he also disputes, saying Donald is clearly still autistic. (Many parents would be thrilled with that kind of “autism” in their adult children.)
Donvan attributes the fever cure concept to Donald’s brother, and makes it sound like our description of gold salts as the source of his improvement is rampant, self-interested speculation by anti-vaccine kooks. "In his initial reporting, Olmsted went so far as to suggest gold salts had cured Donald's autism," they write.
Except, that’s what Donald’s brother told me in his law office above the square in Forest back in 2005! He said a Dr. Hamilton in Memphis “began to treat my brother with gold salts – two or three months. He just had a miraculous response to the medicine. The pain in his joints went away.”
And then Oliver dropped the bomb I wasn’t expecting: “When he was finally released the nervous condition he was formerly afflicted with was gone. The proclivity toward excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up, and after that he went to school and had one more little flare-up when he was in junior college they treated with cortisone.”
Later in the interview, still processing this unexpected idea, I came back to the gold salts and asked Oliver again if it really seemed like the decisive event: “It sure did,” he said. “He became more sociable.” Oliver added, “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Donvan also criticizes me for suggesting Donald had moved off the autism spectrum, but when I asked Oliver if Donald had autism he said, “No, he doesn’t. It’s just in certain areas.” Again, some peculiarities, some traits, but c’mon John, the first guy ever reported in the literature got so much better that, if he’d started out like that, he’d never have been in the medical literature in the first place. This is where the diagnostic category itself, as opposed to a concept like auto-immune environmental injury, serves the status quo. The medical establishment controls the category, and you'd best not tamper with it.
Two years later, in 2007, Mark and I met Donald and, sitting around his kitchen table in Mississippi, talked (on tape) about his early life. We ran it in our book in Q and A form.
“Q: There was a mention in some of the medical papers that when you had the gold salts therapy, all of a sudden some of the behaviors and some of the other problems got better. Do you remember that?
A: No, I don’t really remember that.
Q: Did your parents say, though, that you seemed to get a lot better in terms of your relationship with the rest of the world and that sort of thing at that point?
A: Yes, as I got older, things got a whole lot better.
Q: And did they think that had something to do with it, those gold salts treatments?
A: I have a feeling it might.
Q: And the behaviors they were calling autistic, did those change most after the first one?
A: Yes, it seems like they changed.
Q: But you don’t remember that kind of change taking place?
A: No, I don’t remember, really.”
Unlike this conversation, my earlier interview with his brother was not on tape. Reporters don’t like to share their notes, but here are two pages of mine. They show Donald’s brother, not me, musing about his amazing recovery from gold salts.
Now, maybe gold salts were not what helped Donald, although I think they did; it is at least an idea worth taking seriously and keeping on the table as the number of injured kids soars. The meta-point here is that folks like Donvan can’t stand the idea and its implications, and toss in everything they can think of to discredit it. Maybe he was already getting better. Maybe he didn't really get that much better. Maybe it was the fevers. Maybe it's the lovely people of Forest. JRA has nothing to do with autism. Autism is not autoimmune, dammit! Etc. ... Just like parents who report that removing certain items from the diet, or using chelation, or supplements, are treated like kooks. Yes, if you always ignore the evidence, people who insist on paying attention to it will remain kooks!
What can I say? I report what people tell me, and Oliver told me his brother’s JRA and his autism – in my view, a couple of co-morbid autoimmune afflictions triggered by early exposure to ethyl mercury – both cleared up with history's first biomedical intervention. Donald thought so, too, but was too young and too sick to know for sure. What a missed opportunity for the world to begin to understand what created this new disorder and what might help alleviate, and even stop, it. If the doctors who saw those early cases suspected the environmental clues that were there to see, we'd be living in a very different world today. One such clue to causation is biomedical recovery from both JRA and autism in Case 1.
But with causation comes culprits, both the compounds that triggered it and the powers that be who let it happen and allow it continue to this day.
And that, I think, is why so many have anaphylactic reactions to Donald T. and gold salts.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at some of the bad ideas that combine to cause the ongoing autism epidemic – including the very bad one that there is no epidemic.
In fact, that is the worst idea of all, because it stops discussion before it starts. If there’s no epidemic, then there’s no environmental factor in play. Autism is part of life, one might even say part of God’s plan. Ergo, we should put all our efforts into helping the affected while ignoring the causes and the calamity, as Hillary Clinton’s feckless proposal this week manages nicely.
You can see that play out in a recent spate of books by authors who want to normalize autism and make it seem, in the Church Lady’s word, so very special, as opposed to so very disastrous.
Thus in the new Smithsonian, John Donvan and Caren Zucker find a few pre-Civil War case descriptions that might include autistic features and conclude, “Still, the dominant narrative has been that real rates are going up, and the United States is in the midst of an autism ‘epidemic,’ even though most experts see that as a highly debatable proposition. Moreover, the 'epidemic' story has helped crystallize the notion that 'something must have happened' in the near past to cause autism in the first place. Most famously, some activists blamed modern vaccines—a now discredited theory.”
That paragraph shows the potency of the "no epidemic" premise -- no epidemic, no vaccine link to autism, no need to worry your pretty little head.
So much for bad ideas. Now for the best one: Listen to the parents. After pondering the trajectory of autism and thinking about reader comments, I realized this is really the universal antidote to the “autism awareness” and “no epidemic” idiocy.
First of all, most parents don’t think autism is any kind of blessing. Discussing the book Neurotribes, “Greg” commented on AOA:
“Bad Idea number 15, the neuro-diversity movement and autism as a gift: It's a gift to be a non-verbal kid, past early childhood and still in diapers. And, if you're high functioning autistic adolescent, sitting at home on your butt, unemployed and waiting for your aging folks to look after you, your autism is also most definitely a gift.”
And “Reader” said:
“Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in Neurotribes. Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.”
But the main reason to listen to parents is that they know what happened to their children. As The New York Times famously wrote: “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents Versus Research.” Yes, it is, and the steady drumbeat of parental testimony about vaccination, illness, regression and autism trumps the conflicted, contorted “research.”
As Sarah Bridges wrote in Spectrum magazine about RFK Jr.: “In 2006, Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine called Deadly Immunity. The response to his piece was overwhelming: following the publication, Kennedy received thousands of letters and emails from all over the world. 'The astounding thing was how alike all of them were and that people from Mississippi to New Delhi shared such identical experiences. Here is the typical scenario I heard: A mother took her toddler to the doctor where he received a spate of vaccines, became ill that night, often with a fever, sometimes with seizures, then lost the language he had, developed stereotyped behavior and regressed into a looking-glass world of debilitated relationships and social isolation. Essentially,' Kennedy adds, 'their lives were plunged into unimaginable agony.' It seemed imperative to Kennedy to keep getting the story out to prevent the catastrophe from damaging other children.”
Not listening to parents unites mainstream media and medicine. Listening to them unites RFK Jr., this humble blog, Andy Wakefield and many others. In no other universe but Autism Denial would this kind of evidence be dismissed as mere "anecdote" and relegated to the dust bin, while CDC studies exonerating the MMR and thimerosal are treated as gospel.
Last week I wrote about my adventures in the 1970s as a young investigative reporter. I’m convinced, on the basis of long experience, that if journalists were as deaf to other concerns as they are to the reality of vaccine-driven autism epidemic, Richard Nixon would still be president (or something like that). The idea that we needed to listen to our readers was drummed into us. The idea that doctors need to listen to their patients – and, as Andy puts it, “listen to the mother” when the patient is an infant – is still the best idea in medicine.
As commenter Ottoschnaut put it: “Bad Idea: 'Ignore the hundreds of thousands of first hand, eyewitness reports of parents who witnessed vaccine injury unfold in real time.'”
That, of course, is why the “discredited” vaccine-autism debate rolls on, because thousands of parents know exactly what happened, way too credible and way too many to silence with appeals to conflicted, self-interested, shoddy “research” that suggest ordinary people can’t be trusted, that wisdom belongs to the priestly class, in this case the medical, legal, and journalism establishments.
This can’t last forever, especially when the damage keeps rising at the rates we are seeing now -- at epidemic rates. Our main task is to find the most effective and direct and immediate ways to blast through this denial of the age of autism, help sick kids and share the truth with anyone willing to listen. More and more people are.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Back in the 1970s when I started as a full-time journalist, I covered the usual beats – police, fire, the courts, city hall, in my hometown on Danville, Ill. (That's me in a contemporary rendering from, gosh, 40 years ago this new year.)
I’d show up at what we called “the cop shop” at about a quarter to seven in the morning, copy down arrest reports, make the other rounds and then go back and write them up for that afternoon’s paper. If I had time and the cops were in the mood, I’d check in with them on what was going on. There was one detective who always seemed to know. On his office wall, although I didn’t focus on it at the time, was a dollar bill that had been cut up in small pieces and reassembled in the shape of a question mark.
One day, someone came to us and told an amazing story, one that was kind of hard to believe. He said that earlier in the decade, a number of police officers, some of who were still there, had been involved in a burglary ring. They would break in somewhere – backing their cruiser through the bay of an auto body shop, say, or busting out the glass in the door of a drugstore. They’d take what they wanted, and then they’d call in the incident. So not only would they get the dough, or the bottle of Scotch, or the new car battery, they’d get the credit for discovering the break-in.
This was interesting -- in fact, it was sensational -- but how would you prove it, especially at this late date? That’s when “the source” said something that really made me pay attention: One detective who knew about the burglary ring found a way to remind everyone of it, he said. That detective took a dollar that he suspected had been stolen in one of the break-ins, cut it into small pieces, made it into a question mark, framed it and put it on his office wall. Suddenly, I realized he was telling the truth.
I went back and looked at what, if anything, had been written at the time about suspicions that the cops were crooks. The only thing I found was an editorial – from my own paper! – saying that murmurs that some cops were doing bad things were scurrilous, and if anyone had information to the contrary, they should come forward.
It’s a long story, but based on information we developed from this new source, a grand jury convened, called witnesses including the cops under oath, and issued a report. The report named officers who participated in the burglaries – one category – or who knew and had a duty to report it – a second category. The statute of limitations had expired, but the naming and shaming was a necessary purgative, since some of these names were still police officers. It needed to be known.
The upshot: Sometimes, “conspiracy theories” are true. Sometimes, the bad guys get away with it, abetted by the idea that such a claim seems so unlikely and so unfair to those who put their lives on the line every day.
Now let’s talk about autism. We’ve been publishing articles and comments lately about bad ideas that perpetuate the autism epidemic, and one of them is that a vaccines-autism link is a “conspiracy theory,” end of discussion. Daily Kos, as I’ve written, called it a CT and won’t let in any such comments. The idea that vaccine safety concerns are just a fancy name for "anti-vaccine" and are kooky has really become a meme.
This meme links vaccine-autism concerns, 9/11 trutherism and Sandy-Hook-never-happened into one big lump and expect those of us concerned about vaccine safety to try to explain how we got such a crazy collection of counter-factual ideas.
My column this week on six bad ideas that triggered the autism epidemic (and how to fix them) led to some thoughtful responses, as well as the usual defense of all things vaccine, this time led by Vincent Iannelli, MD and Eindeker, useful foils of whom I will speak no more (but our commenters will!).
Here are a few of the best "bad ideas" you proposed, with more to come:
Reader: Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in "Neurotribes." Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.
Kapoore: It's a bad idea to say the "science is in," the science can never be in and be science. Scientific thinking began in the Renaissance with the idea of measuring the known but with a clear understanding that precision was impossible. Modern scientists forget about the unknowable part and so they claim that they have a precise science, a precise vaccine...and when it turns out that they were wrong--like big time wrong--they shove it under the rug and repeat "the science is in."
Every day I read an article on some aspect of the real science, that is the science that is ongoing and based not on hubris but respect for the evidence--so how could the "science be in" if scientific research is ongoing. However, the worst idea goes to science as dictatorship... now that the science is in we have a new religion and if you don't follow what we say you don't get an education... so taxpaying parents have their children banned from school for some flawed idea such as "vaccine acquired immunity" when in reality what we have is "leaky vaccine acquired immunity" with so much breakthrough disease they have to find someone to blame, and those are the unvaccinated. Put them in jail shout the so-called "scientists" So the worst idea is scientists as inquisitors.
Betty Bona: Dr. Iannelli,
The problem with your "no worries" position about the new vaccines in the pipeline is that money is more powerful than the best interests of the American citizens. The lack of liability of industry and doctors for harms caused by their vaccine products creates a situation where the safety and efficacy of these products no longer carries as much weight as it should.
In fact, it sets up a situation where products that are truly cancer treatments (or treatments for some other non-infectious condition) will be called vaccines so that the product will enjoy the lack of liability. We're no longer just talking about infectious diseases. Aside from the lack of liability, safety and efficacy standards can be so easily manipulated in the vaccine arena.
Just look at the HPV vaccine. Everyone knows that we won't know if it is efficacious until the recipients reach the age when they might be expected to contract cervical cancer. Really, is that a vaccine against an infectious disease, or is it a cancer prevention strategy? Didn't we already have a cancer prevention strategy that worked quite well - the pap smear?
As for safety, you need look no further than the newly approved, fast-tracked flu shot for the elderly. I don't know if you are 65 yet, but if you are, do you plan on being one of the guinea pigs for this new flu shot for the elderly? I say guinea pigs because it is fast-tracked and not fully tested. The last shot for the elderly included a larger amount of virus per shot. That was unsuccessful, so they are approaching the problem from the adjuvant side, adding squalene and polysorbate 80 to the shot in hopes that it will work better in the elderly.
That adjuvant does not have a great safety profile given the incidence of narcolepsy in children receiving the H1N1 squalene/polysorbate 80 adjuvanted vaccine in Europe in 2009. The young and the elderly are vulnerable. Does it make sense to fast-track this vaccine? After the failure of last year's high antigen flu shot for the elderly, I think loss of sales that might have occurred in flu shots for the elderly this year prompted the fast-tracking.
In other words, I think they abandoned safety considerations for profit. What do you think? Have you received your MF59 adjuvanted flu shot this year? If you feel so comfortable with the ever increasing creep of vaccines, maybe you should get that shot even if you are not 65 just to show your complete trust in the vaccine program. I won't touch it with a ten-foot pole, and I sincerely hope I am never mandated to act as a guinea pig like the elderly are doing this year. At least they can still refuse (though that right is somewhat meaningless in some of the elderly).
Linda1: One of the first things that I noticed years ago about allopathic medicine is what is called cascading intervention. The patient presents with a problem, oftentimes caused by a medical misstep, a drug taken or a natural biological rhythm or balance disturbed that needs restoring.
To solve the problem, the physician doesn't recognize the cause of the problem, but orders one or more interventions that causes other problems which lead to other interventions which do not solve anything but that cause other problems which lead to other interventions which lead to...and on and on and on until the patient is worse than ever and is tethered to and hooked on a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs.
We probably all know the saying that Ideas Matter. Lately I’ve been mulling a handful of ideas – very bad ideas, I’d say – that have come together to trigger, expand, and perpetuate the autism epidemic and a host of allied disorders that constitute The Age of Autism.
Today I’m going to lay them out in brief, and in coming days I’ll say more about each one, and end with the counter-ideas that could really bring us a happy new year.
Please add your own!
Bad Idea Number One. Vaccines are the Eric Clapton of Medicine; they are God. Vaccines are the number one medical accomplishment of all time, and every day in every way they make our world safer and safer. Bow down!
Bad Idea Number Two. The evidence for Number One is clear. “Study after study” has shown that vaccines work wonderfully and that the so-called “risks” are effectively zero – a one-in-a-million chance of anything serious happening. (“One in a million” is pharma speak for zip, zilch, nada, roll up your sleeve.)
Bad Idea Number Three. Disagreeing with Numbers One and Two is Unacceptable Speech. Claims that vaccines are more dangerous than advertised are bogus and should be suppressed. You need to be a conspiracy theorist, a purveyor of junk science, a pathetically gullible parent looking for someone to blame for your damaged kid, or out-and-out anti-vaccine to harbor such ideas.
Bad Idea Number Four. Conflicts Don’t Count. Drugmakers, doctors, legislators, bureaucrats, TV programs buoyed by pharma money are immune to the usual concerns that conflicts of interest -- profits, incentives, campaign contributions, ad dollars, liability worries -- require extra vigilance by the press and public. The drug companies may be caught red-handed in corrupt dealing, Congress bought off, the media lazy and desperate for drug dollars, but when it comes to vaccines (see Number One), they have only our health at heart!
Bad Idea Number Five. Because the first four are true, we must trust The Experts who are working hard every day to help us stay happy and healthy. They are god’s messengers on earth.
Trust. The. Experts.
These recent comments by Albert Enayati, an early vaccine safety advocate, to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee are worth everyone's attention. "I think it may be beneficial to the other parents who say their children regressed to autism through childhood immunization," he says. We agree. The list of studies at the end is terrific.
“Vaccines Caused Payam’s Autism” --Testimony Presented By Albert Enayati, MSME, Research Scientist, Senior System Engineer. Father of Payam, who regressed into autism after his childhood vaccinations, Board Member of SafeMinds and APRC
E-mail: albert_enayati @msn.com
Before the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). November 17, 2015. Bethesda MD.
My name is Albert Enayati. I am a board member of SafeMinds and APRC, both volunteer organizations focused on identifying and removing the harmful environmental agents contributing to the severe disability that frequently accompanies autism. Sadly, despite my 20 years of autism advocacy, we are still ignoring environmental risk factors, with no safe and effective medications or prevention strategy in sight. No conclusive biomarkers have been identified and no new treatments validated. Over the past seven years of IACC coordination, Federal agencies have spent 1.6 billion dollars in many fields of autism research, but environmental research has been underfunded and autism prevalence continues unabated, including severely disabling cases.
It is time to dedicate resources to a more fruitful path; environmental causation of autism. Within this field, a topic in need of funding is the role of vaccines in autism etiology.. Please take note that a recent study among parents by the Simons Foundation found that 42% of parents felt vaccines contributed to their child's autism.1, The IACC should not ignore this large segment of the community and observations by so many parents regarding their children's developmental history.
In 2009 the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) 2, 3, 4 recommended to this committee a number of feasible research proposals on vaccines and autism. Not a single one has been implemented.
My son Payam regressed after his vaccinations. He is suffering from his autism and breaks my heart piece by piece. He has serious self-injurious behavior. He has run away, ended up in the emergency room, and been tased by law enforcement. His finger was nearly amputated because he cannot communicate his pain from infection. His medications don't help. Meanwhile, the main decision-makers on autism research, here at the IACC – the NIH, CDC, Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation - have been discriminating against children like my son and many children across the country whose parents report regressions after their childhood immunizations. Even if it is “unpopular”, it is ethically imperative that we investigate these reports and study these children. Public health is not simply freedom from infectious disease. Autism is not always a gift or alternate way of being. It often comes with a great cost. My son deserves to have attention paid to him and research done to help him have a better quality of life.
On many occasions Dr. Insel informed me that “science does not support my point of view”. In fact, very little meaningful science has been done on vaccines and autism, only a small fraction of possibilities have even been looked at, and the studies that have been published are riddled with conflicts of interest, data manipulation and in the case of Dr. Thorsen, indictment for financial research fraud. In addition, Dr. William Thompson, a senior researcher at the CDC who has whistleblower status, has reported dumping inconvenient data in a garbage can, along with colleagues, to avoid reporting an increased risk of autism in African American boys who received MMR vaccine.
A 2011 study by the Institute of Medicine's Immunization Safety Review Committee5 evaluated the evidence on possible causal associations between immunizations and certain adverse outcomes. In 135 of 158 pairs evaluated, they found that “evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship”. They found no relationship between MMR and autism, but given that their evaluation included studies like the one where data was dumped, the safety of our children demands that we allow for future research to inform the questions.
Even the package insert for DTaP6 vaccine suggests that we need further study. Here’s a quote from 2005: [emphasis added]
“Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting.”
Yet, there are no studies looking specifically at autism and receipt of DTaP vaccines.
In 2002, a furniture salesman named Jason Padgett was viciously attacked outside a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Washington. As a result, he became a math genius and was able to visualize complex geometric and physics concepts.
"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life" — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain, Padgett told her. "It's just really beautiful."
It may be beautiful, but how many of us would choose being beaten within an inch of our life in order to gain what, in another context, could be called savant skills? (Padgett says it's worth it, even though he developed, interestingly enough, PTSD, OCD and social anxiety. I'd rather skip the whole thing, and I'd certainly like a vote before the hammer came down on me.)
I’ve been collecting stories like this for a while, in which being a savant is associated with damage of one kind or another, and now seems a useful time to put a few together. With the rise of Neurotribes and the overall normalization of autism in which Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang theory – a physics whiz with obvious autistic traits – is supposed to be funny, you would think that the modern world of computers and phones and flying machines essentially depended on autistic savants who just love calculating things in seconds so the rest of us can gape.
And yet, what a truncated world they so often end up inhabiting – if autism is a brain injury, which I believe it is, then savant skills are a rare side effect that are hardly worth the trouble. I believe we, and they, would get along just fine without this kind of collateral damage masquerading as a gift. I mean, in the context of a raging epidemic of human-induced suffering, who really cares if cows have a calmer trip to the slaughterhouse?
It’s wild the number of times that I come across metal, and not the kind you get clobbered with outside a karaoke club, in connection with savant skills and autism. Exposure to toxic metals, both from without in the form of family or workplace exposure, and within in the form of vaccine ingredients, just about cry out “Guilty!”
Back in 2010, Mark Blaxill and I were invited to talk about our book at the Brown University bookstore. It was a good event. A few days later, a student named David Sheffield wrote a column for The Brown Daily Herald that said:
“While Brown should welcome a broad range of viewpoints, we should not allow ourselves to be used as a soapbox for whomever would like to come speak. There is a point at which the damage done by hosting a speaker outweighs the benefits.
“Last Friday, the Brown Bookstore hosted Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill, the authors of ‘The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic,’ for ‘a reading and [discussion] of their research.” Research is a highly generous word to use to describe what the authors have done. Essentially, they repackaged the last decade’s worth of claims that mercury causes autism, disregarding the actual research that shows those claims to be utterly false. Study after study has shown that autism is not caused by mercury in vaccines.’”
Ergo, we shouldn’t have been allowed to speak. Now – and it’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude over it – Brown is mired in a much broader, but not much different, debate over free speech. Many Brown students, it seems, are against it when it doesn’t suit their purposes. In a long and thoughtful piece on the Daily Beast – “Brown University Professor Denounces ‘McCarthy’ Witch Hunts” – the threat to free expression becomes clear.
Outrage over minority oppression has morphed into the idea that certain kinds of speech are unwelcome on campus. She quotes an anonymous professor:
“More disconcerting than the nature and tone of recent protests to this professor is the lack of concern over freedom of speech—or what he referred to as ‘freedom of expression’—on campus.
“‘’Freedom of speech’ is a little tough,’ he said. ‘It’s not the perfect phrase to use, partly because we’re a private institution and we’re not talking about government action. I like to use ‘freedom of expression.’ Universities are supposed to be places of freedom of expression."
It’s worth reading the whole piece -- “I think freedom of speech in general has a lot of problems because of power dynamics, just racially and otherwise, so you have to be cautious,” sophomore Sierra Edd said” -- to get the flavor of what’s going on. It appears that students there, and across the country, are both both infantilizing themselves – help protect us from upsetting words! – and becoming the arbiters of the parameters of acceptable speech.
I’m not passing judgment on the validity of their substantive concerns – although the stifling of a discussion of Halloween costumes at Yale, my alma meter, was both spooky and goofy. Rather, it’s worth seeing how little value seems to be placed on free speech and free expression these days, especially by younger people. Did they miss Civics? Have helicopter parents made them feel like the center of the universe? Are they vaccine damaged?
It’s a topic we’re all familiar with from the vaccines and autism debate, which vaccine injury deniers have been trying to shut down any way they can. As I’ve said, the premise that ideas are too dangerous to discuss has no place in a democracy.
Yet the online site Jurist, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, last month argued exactly that. In an article “Legally Limiting Lies About Vaccines,” the authors – both law professors – asked: “Can messengers of openly false statements that contravene the public's health be stopped?
The article offers all kinds of remedies such as this: “For example, if governmental health officials publicize false statements linking child vaccines and autism, they could lawfully be censored or fired from their positions. They have no constitutional right to spread false statements antithetical to the mission of their agency or office.”
So censor or fire them – and, the article suggest, sue politicians if they suggest vaccines cause autism, just as the beef industry sued Oprah (note to Jurist: she won).
This all came together in one lovely package recently. AOA reader Judy Ritchie sent me a piece from the Concord Monitor that began: “NHTI professor Nathan Strong knew that inviting a prominent opponent of vaccination to speak to a class about the science of vaccines would be a little controversial.
“That turned out to be a good prediction, as long as ‘a little’ is translated as ‘very.’ Maybe even ‘very, very.’
“’I was not expecting the reaction,’ admitted Strong, who has taught in the biology department at NHTI for 21 years, including a stint as department head.
Strong had invited Laura Condon of the NVIC to talk about vaccine safety issues. In the article, everyone was backpedaling as fast as possible.
I’m sure that when most of our readers first heard about a shooting this week at a regional center in California for developmentally disabled people, they had the same chilling thought – oh lord, please let this not involve anyone in the autism world. It turned out that the victims happened to be from the county health department (although I heard a woman say on TV that one person had worked with autistic kids), but that of course did nothing to diminish the fear, sadness, and sense of vulnerability.
Chris Christie put it this way: “If a center for the developmentally disabled can be the target of a terrorist attack, then any place in American can be the target of a terrorist attack.
Marie Simonton wrote in a comment: “My son receives services from Inland Regional Center. We have been praying that his former and current caseworkers were not among the victims. They just released the names of the victims and are relieved that they were not among them. Our hearts break for those who were lost and for their families who are left behind to grieve. May God fill their hearts with peace and solace.”
One thing that does no one any good is to confabulate conspiracies out of heartbreak. As soon as the shooting happened, my Facebook news feed got clogged with posts about how there was a SWAT drill going on at the same time nearby and that this whole tragedy was somehow a setup for something or other.
We saw this with Sandy Hook, too, which was supposedly a “false flag” operation, whatever that means. In that case, our Managing Editor’s husband was friends with the family of a victim. And we heard it about 9.11, in particular that it wasn’t a plane that hit the Pentagon. I live just a few miles from there, and people I know saw the plane. What’s more, a friend was a first responder, and part of the plane was intact inside the building.
We have enough real conspiracies on our hands that we ought to make an extra effort to avoid ones that lack good evidence.
Another thread that I really don’t like is that Islam is an inherently violent religion. I won’t run those comments and people who think I should and say that’s censorship are welcome to read other blogs. I think those comments go way beyond the purview of a Web site on autism. Remember, the Somalis in Minneapolis, dealing with a terrible autism rate, are part of our community. Telling them the religion they rely on for support and strength is an evil sham is not part of our mission, to say the least.
Before this happened I was already planning to republish Contributing Editor Kent Heckenlively’s wise words about the season:
“Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season ... It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.”
Amen, Kent. And congrats that Plague is the Number One best seller in Virology on Amazon – there’s something to celebrate!
Also worth celebrating is that AOA has just completed another successful annual fund-drive, thanks to Anonymous Donor who put up $5,000 and the dozens of readers who more than matched it. We rely on the kindness of our friends. (Friends who know we are tax-deductible!)
OK, one last holiday reference: What to my wondering eyes did appear this week but an article on Daily Kos, the reliably progressive and pro-vaccine Web site, titled “The Pharma Bulls Are Loose, and It’s the End of American Democracy.”
This headline does not overhype the article, which is a spectacularly – spectacularly! -- good look at how pharma has taken over medicine, government and mainstream media. Embedded within, and all the more powerful for it, is a look at the vaccine disaster. Sample:
“I’ll say it first: we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a fascist Pharmatopic Republic.
“The saddest part about living in this fascist state is that most people in America are not even aware of this new reality. In fact, in the public shaming of those who want safe vaccines, the American public is an unwitting victim of mass propaganda – and those doing the shaming are analogous to jack-booted thugs. Those in the blogosphere resort immediately to ad-hominem attacks at the first hint of logic and rational discourse. Even asking a question on vaccine safety makes one suddenly ‘anti-vax.’ (Disclosure: Both of my sons are fully vaccinated. I draw the line at HPV.)”
Yikes, that’s freaking brilliant. The author is listed as lifebiomedguru but Anne Dachel says that’s Dr. James Lyons-Weller, who she interviewed on AOA in October. http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/10/dachel-asks-doctors-thoughts-on-the-cdc-whistleblower.html
This seems like quite a turnaround for Kos, which I wrote about in March when one of our own astute commenters, Twyla, tried to leave a comment there. Here’s what she got back.
“The vaccine-autism link has been debunked by many careful studies, and here at Daily Kos we consider it conspiracy theory. CT postings are not permitted here. Postings that advocate this theory can get you banned at Daily Kos.”
I once wrote a piece called “Why Progressives Don’t Get Autism” (Kos actually mentioned it as a point at least worth considering.) I may have to amend that to Why All Progresssives Except Dr. James Lyon-Weller (and Bobby Kennedy Jr.) Don’t Get Autism. As I’ve tried, sometimes vainly, to argue, protecting citizens from rampant domination by business (the end result of which is in fact the textbook definition of fascism) is actually a progressive issue. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
“If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
How nice for Pfizer, which has hitched itself to a foreign company in one of those reverse mortgages – or tax inversions or whatever those things are called that allow you to pay lower U.S. taxes if you get a P.O. box in, say, Ireland. The economics and ethics of this are beyond me – Hillary Clinton complained about it, but the WSJ says it will return more profits to the U.S. – but it does offer a moment to remind ourselves what big, big business we’re talking about here.
This $150 billion deal, according to the Journal, “will create a pharmaceutical behemoth, with top-selling products including Pfizer’s Prevnar pneumonia vaccine and Allergan’s antiwrinkle treatment Botox, and an industry-topping R&D budget.”
Let’s remember that hiding in there is the former Wyeth, whose salesman once tried to hide the relationship between DTaP and sudden infant deaths in Tennessee, and won the Bruesewitz case which slammed the door on any liability for vaccines that caused autism.
Oh, and Prevnar, the world’s best-selling vaccine and no doubt a real bauble to dangle in the merger talks. As Mark Blaxill and I wrote earlier this year in Vaccines 2.0:
Prevnar 13, a vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis and other illnesses, is recommended at 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months.
(In August 2014, the CDC’s advisory committee recommended Prevnar 13 for adults over 65, setting off a predictable wave of lucrative TV advertising aimed at older adults.)
In commercial terms, the Prevnar brand, which was introduced by Wyeth (now Pfizer) in 2000, is the most successful vaccine ever launched, generating $31 billion since its inception. In its tenth year, it reached roughly $3 billion in worldwide revenues and has been generating about $4 billion a year since 2011. Its blockbuster status was a major reason Pfizer decided to buy the whole company that made it.
For any vaccine developer looking to maximize profits, Prevnar 13 sets the standard. It was adopted rapidly, both in the United States and globally; it has no competitors in its category; with the exception of one episode of supply problems in 2003, its growth has been continuous; and its history has been remarkably free of any reputation problems due to safety concerns. The cloud hovering above this cheerful vista is a rather large
I've spent the last five days on a mountaintop in the very approximate location (GPS doesn't work here) of Hot Springs, North Carolina, attending a meditation retreat at the end of the most ungodly, one lane, bumping, sharp-dropoff road I have ever bounced up. On the first night, we were asked to give our names and tell one surprising thing about ourselves. One young man said, "I am a very good parallel parker." I had to admire this as the least revealing personal anecdote I had ever heard. Someone else said they had attended seven of the first eight Bonnaroo music festivals -- more informative, although it was hard not to wonder what happened to the eighth. Someone had been to Iceland.
When it was my turn, I said, "I'm a journalist, and there are a lot of people who don't like me."
This got some laughs. Since the retreat was conducted in silence, nobody asked me why a lot of people didn't like me until Friday. I explained the usual -- my reporting has convinced me that autism is new, environmental, and epidemic, that vaccines are a large factor in it and other iatrogenic disorders, and that a lot of us are trying to tell the truth about it, which a lot of people don't like. That we have a Web site called Age of Autism that a surprising number of people read and respond to with insightful comments, that we are out on Google doing battle daily against Death Star avatars like the CDC, the Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks, that are trying to drown us out. (See last Saturday's post.)
When I got home last night and logged into my (423 new) e-mails and checked the snail mail, I was reminded how much I don't care that a lot of people don't like us. While I was off the grid, our readers had pushed us near the top of our own personal mountain -- the $5,000 matching fund drive that Anonymous Donor set in motion at the start of the month.
We are now at $4,600, and I have a feeling we are going to make or exceed our goal. And that is fabulous, so please, before the holidays consume us, consider pitching in tax-deductably and money-doublingly to get us the rest of way up. (Last year we raised $7,000 from readers, so please don't let the matching limit stop you.) And thanks for sending so many kind words along the way. Julia Whiting of Charlottesville sent hers with a Christmas card of her wonderful family, and V. Ward of Santa Barbara, I blush to say, wrote that "I visit your website all the time, and The Age of Autism is one of my all time favorite books." Thanks, V., we will try to keep both coming and with help like yours, we wlll.
One note was addressed, "Dear Dan and Dan's Crew, Thank you for what you do. Luis and Luis Jr." To Luis Tijero and Luis Jr. of Spring, Texas, and all of you, Kim, Mark, myself and the rest of the crew say thanks.
Editor, Age of Autism
(checks via mail: Make out to Autism Age, c/o Olmsted, 102 Whittier Circle, Falls Church VA 22046)
Greetings, all, and happy birthday to all of us. Age of Autism turned eight this week. We’re coming up, conveniently, on 8,000 posts (7,720), 125,000 comments, and 20 million page views. And we’re "out there" every day in every possible way telling the truth that vaccines cause autism, recovery is possible, and the autism epidemic is real.
When I say we’re out there, I include Google. It’s important to consider how valuable that is. If you type Do Vaccines Cause Autism into the search engine, the first page has 10 results, all but one of them claiming they don’t.
First up is Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism Concerns, from the CDC; followed by How My Daughter Taught Me Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, from Voices For Vaccines; and Autism-Vaccine Link: Evidence Doesn’t Dispel Doubts, from WebMD; and Autism and Vaccines, by the Autism Science Foundation; and the classic Do Vaccines Cause Autism. If you click on that last, you will learn one thing: "They F------ Don’t!"
Then – ta da – comes Vaccines Cause Autism, from Age of Autism. You’ve got to dig pretty deep into Google to find another listing like that. That's because we have the status of a news outlet. We are independent, we are reality-based, and we can't be bought or muffled.
Now, we are not solely focused on vaccinations. We are focused on autism and its allied disabilities -- the "Age" of iatrogenic damage that must be stopped -- and we try to be a broad-based forum for people who share this overall view of the world but may disagree on tactics, timing and emphasis. The fact that not everyone on "our side" likes every story we run is a sign we are living up to our mission to be journalists, not a house organ for any particular agenda.
And as you can see from the Google results, a lot of people are not on "our side". Our formal motto is “Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic,” but I think our informal one is “Pirate Radio Station of the Rebel Alliance.”
We know we have a fight on our hands with the Death Star, and like most rebels we go at it every day with a certain reckless disregard for our bubble reputations and short-term results. ("Orac" would have little to do if he weren’t attacking us, which just shows that what we publish gets the attention of the folks who call themselves “skeptics” but are more like apologists for the ongoing harm to America’s kids. As FDR once said of his opponents, "I welcome their hatred.")
Now, the pitch: The Empire is well-armed, well-fortified and filthy rich. We are not, nor are we looking to be. But a certain amount of financial solidity helps us keep going, both with the daily blog and the books we publish. They all take time and, as the adage puts it, time is money. Right now is the perfect time to help out – we have a special, November-only deal where Anonymous Donor has once again pledged to match any gift up to $5,000.
You can donate through PayPal - use the button on the right side bar of this site, or you can mail a check made out to "Autism Age" to:
102 Whittier Circle
Falls Church, VA 22046
And now it’s tax deductible. You’ll get a letter from me in January with our IRS non-profit number.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I’m fortunate to be included on some e-mail threads where people go back and forth on important issues around autism advocacy. I mostly just listen in, and often get a sense of topics that are bubbling up or events that are in the planning stage.
Sometimes the discussions are so good that they are worth sharing verbatim. Such is the case this week. The topic was the title of a book published this year, “The Autistic Holocaust – The Reason Our Children Keep Getting Sick,” by Jon E. Mica, an autism dad from Auburn, N.Y.
I haven’t read it yet, but it looks very much like the view shared by most of our readers and myself – corruption at the CDC and big pharma leading to a vaccine-induced catastrophe – a holocaust, in Mica’s word. I’ll try to say more about it later.
Meanwhile, the discussion it provoked centered on whether calling autism a holocaust, capital H or lower h, in a book title or anywhere else, is simply out of bounds. I asked three of the participants -- Bob Krakow, Lou Conte and John Gilmore -- if I could share their extended comments, and happily they all said yes.
This is the argument against the use of the word in regards to autism. What do you think?
Bob Krakow -- I have a strong view that the choice of the word “Holocaust” is not appropriate and does not serve the interests of our children.
What is happening to our children - has happened and has continued - is devastating but differs in substantive ways from what is known as "the Holocaust” or in Hebrew “Shoah”, which literally means the “destruction” or “catastrophe” (the word Holocaust, is from the Greek “sacrifice by fire") - the deliberate, organized, state sponsored, systematic murder of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Communists, some Slavic ethnic groups (Poles and Russians), and others from approximately 1939 to 1945. It was overt government policy. The burning aspect comes from the gassing and literal burning of corpses in the camps, such as Auschwitz. The imagery is powerful as is the word used to describe it.
Naming what has happened to our children a ”Holocaust" calls for a comparison that diminishes what happened to the children, but distorts the sense of what has happened. It is a facile comparison and unhelpful. What happened to our kids is something new, devastating and horrible. The response to the devastation - in many levels - warrants extreme moral outrage. But there is no Fuhrer orchestrating a systematic exercise of killing against one or more groups based on ethnicity or belief. In fact, what is happening here today is more insidious and less obviously evil, so it is more challenging to identify and counter. “Autism” - a word I equate to a slave name because it is, in a sense, a medical euphemism, which means little and signifies ignorance about cause -- is also not a good word for what afflicts our children.
Choice of language is important. Using the word “Holocaust” is use of a word that is a sort of blunt linguistic instrument that fails to describe what has happened. It will also offend certain groups and elicit resistance to our narratives - although that is not my primary concern. We have to use our own language, new language, not use comparisons that are inapt.
The book may be great, but “The Autistic Holocaust” is a title that I find offensive and ill-conceived.
John Gilmore: "Holocaust" is a word with too powerful associations to be of much use describing anything other than the crimes of the Nazis. But in your thorough enumerating of the Nazis’ preferred targets you left out an important group, the first group targeted for elimination by the Nazis: developmentally disabled children.
I think we might be dealing with something potentially worse than National Socialism; as a society our prevailing guiding principle is what I would describe as nihilistic careerism, nothing matters beyond personal material and status advancement, nothing. If your own career, material well-being and status are advanced, the consequences of what happens to others simply isn't a consideration.
Bob Krakow: Absolutely correct and thank you for pointing out that omission - disabled children were the early target of the eugenics movement in the US, the promoters of which were the progenitor of the Nazi movement in Germany. That is right - the Nazi movement, especially in its ideas of ethnic cleansing and extermination started in the US with eugenics. The Nazis refined and amplified, making it their overarching public policy and practice.
Editor's Note -- Some of you will know Tim Bolen as the California writer who savages just about everyone in the autism advocacy community and tells them how they could and should have done things right. In his latest newsletter, he takes on the Democrats in the California legislature with a, shall we say, vivid, detailed fantasy about what they were doing instead of helping the parents of vaccine-damaged children:
"Right in the middle of the hearings, with all of these parents there in Sacramento, the Democratic legislature took the day off, I kid you not, to celebrate Gay Pride Week. Instead of looking, carefully, I guess, at what vaccines do to children, the Dems, instead, shaved off their body hair, oiled themselves up, slipped into their Speedos, and pranced down to Sacramento Gay Bars, where they could dance around the Gay Pole with their REAL constituents - the ones they understand, and serve the needs of..."
I wouldn't touch that with a proverbial 10-foot pole.
When I was a kid and set up a lemonade stand, the price was one safety pin. I’m not sure why my mother settled on that – maybe she needed safety pins or didn’t want me getting too avaricious too young – but the idea of making real money was not on my radar.
Now, however, it is, thanks to a very cool girl named Elizabeth Mazer, who recently sent the following letter:
“Dear Age of Autism, Today in Annapolis, Maryland, there was a street festival called ‘Crafty Kids.’ In this event, kids set up tables and sell goods on Maryland Avenue, and get to give 50% profits to a charity of the kids’ choice.
“I have an autistic 14-year-old brother named Max. To raise money, I set up a lemonade booth for 50 cents a cup, which was successful. In the end, I wanted to donate 100% of my profits to autism.
“In total of the checks, there is $48.50. Thank you for opening an autism charity to raise awareness!”
“Sincerely, Elizabeth Mazer, Age 10.”
Thank you, Elizabeth! We survive and thrive on individual donations – yours is sufficient to purchase our domain name – ageofautism.com – for another year. (Our annual fund drive is coming up next month – tax deductible! More later on all that.)
Regular readers may recognize Elizabeth’s last name. Her dad, Josh, is a loyal AOA reader and writer. We recently posted his letter to the editor of the Annapolis Capital Gazette, in which he called out the school board for recommending FluMist vaccine to students -- a live-virus vaccines that can shed.
“The introduction of FluMist into county schools makes some kids get flu like symptoms, or flu, and then have to stay home,” he wrote. “Further, no in school provision exists for parents who do not want their children exposed to the viral shedding.
“The board defers to CDC recommendations on vaccine policy. Both share a complete lack of accountability if your child gets sick, misses school, or suffers a more serious adverse reaction. One wonders if there is a financial incentive in the form of state and federal grants tied to FluMist. What other explanation is there for this backward and contradictory policy?”
Well, we have an update: “County schools cancel nasal flu vaccines,” the Capital Gazette now reports.
“The FluMist vaccine, a nasal spray, will not be given to Anne Arundel County Public School students this year due to a manufacturing delay, according the county Health Department and the school system.
“The Health Department has no FluMist vaccines available and don't expect them to arrive in time for flu season.”
How convenient, as the Church Lady would say. The article does note, “The cancellation in Anne Arundel schools comes at a time when the effectiveness of FluMist is being questioned by health organizations.”
And by concerned parents like Josh Mazer. If this vaccine is being pushed on kids in your area, he suggests you might forward his letter and the newspaper’s follow-up to school officials: “Watch them scramble for a cover story as they frantically unwind their FluMist program! It's fun, it's easy, and it works!"
One lemon at a time.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I don’t like using question marks in headlines, as in the kind of story you see in some national publications along the lines of, Can Congress Be Fixed? I figure that if someone plunks down a quarter for my newspaper (I’m going back to the old days) they want answers, not questions. A recent example is the CNN headline: Can Starbucks Be Stopped? Please, stop click-baiting and just tell me whether Starbucks Can Be Stopped. Take a stand, for heaven’s sake!
So for example, at AOA we don’t ask, Do Vaccines Cause Autism? We put in the time and effort (and often the tragic personal experience) to be able to say yes, they do. We don’t ask, Did Mercury Cause the First Reported Cases of Autism? We can say yes, it did, based on years of research, travel, interviews and analysis (see The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic for the 500-page version, or check out the video link on this page, How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism, for the 10-minute tale. We aim to answer the question, to tell the truth, in as many ways as possible).
There are, however, a few topics that have been stewing in my mind that, as yet, lack clear answers but raise all kinds of questions. Darwin wrote, “Without speculation there is no good and original observation.” This seems kind of turned around doesn’t it? What I take him to mean is that, given a set of interesting facts, trying to figure out how they fit together can lead to a new way of looking at things. Implicit in the idea of speculation – of wondering how a set of dots might connect -- is trial and error and a willingness to look ridiculous.
In that spirit, here are a few things I’ve been speculating on. Confirmatory or counter-speculation, even ridicule, is most welcome.
Is HPV vaccine bringing down the birth rate?
This idea was first proposed to me by an Australian vaccine safety advocate who was visiting the States. According to my notes from 2014:
“she said the teen birth rate in south australia took a dive in 2008, the year after the vaccine was introduced there. also something similar in europe. she said the vaccine might be killing off the eggs in the ovaries. something to this effect was pubbed in sept 2012 by deirdre little, she thinks in bmj or lancet.”
Checking today, I see a report from 2013:
(LifeSiteNews.com) - The British Medical Journal (BMJ) Case Reports journal has reported that a healthy 16-year-old Australian girl lost all ovarian function and went into menopause after being injected with the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil.
“Dr. Deirdre Little, the Australian physician who treated the girl, provides solid evidence that Gardasil caused the destruction of the girl's fertility.
“She also pointed out that Merck Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of Gardasil, has no supporting information on the effects of the vaccine on ovaries, suggesting that Merck had either done no safety testing on Gardasil in relation to its effects on women's reproductive systems, or had suppressed the information.”
My notes from 2014 continue:
“Wonder if this could explain sharp drop in u.s.
The population of the world is approaching 7.4 billion. The population of the U.S. (318 million) and New Zealand (around 5 million) combined is less than .4 billion, which means there are about seven billion people who don’t live in either country.
I envy every single one of them, at least when it comes to the fact that they are not bombarded by ads for prescription drugs.
I’ve just returned from Japan, where the only ads for medicine are over-the-counter pills and nostrums that, like the elixers, tonics (and snake oil) that predominated in 19th century America, are good for whatever ails you. Bursitis? Try this! Lumbago? Amazingly, this will work for that, too! Dispepsia, dipsomania, low energy, neurasthenia? Ditto. I snapped the accompanying photo on a subway in Tokyo, and the various grimaces on the faces of the actors point to the all-purpose nature of the remedy. It reminded me of Geritol, which some of you may remember from the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and elsewhere.
Compare and contrast those nostrums with the highly targeted, hugely expensive pharma products in the U.S. Good Lord, are they irritating! My current least favorite is for Namzaric, for “mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” The TV ad tries to thread the needle by showing a lovely older woman with her caring, concerned family, Mom looking discombobulated but not disheveled, which in the TV universe would be far worse!
In Tokyo, CNNj – an international version of the U.S.-based network – runs ads, but not pharmaceutical ones. In Kyoto, which simply broadcasts the U.S. version of CNN, during ads the screen goes to weather, stocks and currency data while a relentlessly banal tune plays that soon gets in your head. (It’s not a bad way to drift off, sans medication.) Either way, you’re spared pharma’s version of the world.
There are plenty of those aches and pains ads, and I doubt most of those treatments do much, but at least they probably don’t kill you or cause autism. And there may be a strong placebo effect from taking something with beautiful Japanese characters on it.
The advancing age and declining number of Japanese (the current population of 127 million is expected to fall to 87 million by 2060, with almost 40 percent of them over 65 and in even more need of tonics to relieve their aches and pains) has led to an effort to boost the population.
Recently, according to an account I read in the Japan Times, a government health agency got a little overzealous. It put out sex ed material suggesting that the age of 22 was the best year for a woman to give birth. Turns out, as you might imagine, there is no “best year” for a woman to give birth, and the government has now backtracked.
But that kind of manipulation in the service of state and corporate interests is nothing compared to the relentless bombardment of prescription drug ads back home. It creates an environment in which drugs are presumed to be the treatment of first resort for everything from erectile dysfunction to needing to pee too much (now conveniently treated in one pill!) to getting a new knee. Then come the ads for the defective knee replacements, lawsuits, etcetera, a virtuous circle as far as media revenues are concerned, a vicious one for people with bad knees.
It mutes Big Media when it comes to questioning the effects of these drugs, especially the vaccines that are clearly implicated in the rise of autism.
It quiets Congress, which should be hearing from people like William Thompson about the CDC’s malfeasance in studying the MMR, as well as other drugs.
Once, in a conversation with TV journalist Robert MacNeil, Mark Blaxill said he believed that banning pharma advertising was an important step in restoring sanity. “And cut off their heroin?” MacNeil responded in a tone that suggested the networks would never give up their fix.
Greetings from Kyoto, fellow AOAers. I was last here 22 years ago. The spiritual appeal of the ancient capital is unchanged – there’s a temple on every corner, it seems, such as the one where I snapped this selfie.
But secular times do change – on this visit I’m equipped with a cellphone, a laptop, and WiFi. There's a Starbucks on every corner, too, from which to extract the venti hazelnut Pike that fuels this enterprise. (The sacred and profane are not far apart: My Starbucks, in fact, has a huge wall of glass looking out at the temple pictured.) Speaking of which, the Japan Times had a cartoon showing massive snarling deities on display in a museum, with one visitor saying to the other, “Apparently the Kamakura period didn’t have decaf.”
I found an article in the same newspaper headlined, “Providing patients the latest immunizations.” It begins, “Conveniently located in Harajuku Tokyo in a stylish modern building, The King Clinic has long been treating patients in need of general care and immunizations.”
Dr. Leo A. T. King, the director, inherited the clinic from his father, and it’s been operating for 65 years. “Although King’s father used to administer vaccinations, the younger King was the one who dramatically increased the number of vaccinations. ‘As a U.N. examining physician, I needed to import newly developed vaccines in the West, as they were not available in Japan,’ he said.”
But it turns out you can dramatically increase the number of vaccinations available in Japan and still come nowhere near the Western onslaught.
Most media outlets continually overlook the huge conflicts of interest that help perpetuate the autism epidemic – the studies done by pharma-funded interests, the CDC recommending and tracking the safety of vaccines for children and determining the “autism rate,” the collective obeisance of the media itself to those who buy ad time and space.
When conflicts this large occur in other areas of governance and public health, they get pointed out, making the blind spot when it comes to vaccine safety and scrutiny even more glaring.
For instance, this front-page Washington Post story: "John Roth is the top watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security, a position shielded by law from outside pressure so he can conduct independent inquiries of the government’s sensitive internal workings.
“But during a nearly completed investigation of the Secret Service, Roth’s office has taken the unorthodox step of allowing officials from the service to work alongside his agents as they tried to determine how unflattering information about a congressman was disclosed from the agency’s files, according to half a dozen people familiar with the inquiry.” (The congressman is Jason Chaffetz of the House Government Reform Committee who -- not terribly shockingly -- once applied to be a Secret Service agent!)
So, someone who works at a federal agency is allowed to investigate something that could cast it in an unfavorable light? Reminds me of the CDC’s response to the William Thompson disclosures that the agency hid the truth that the MMR causes autism when given earlier than three years of age:
“CDC shares with parents and others great concern about the number of children with autism spectrum disorder.
It’s the world’s largest company in the category. It’s been caught cheating, putting public health and the planet at risk. Bogus tests gave false results that made everyone think the product was working, but in the real world it was a disaster. Resignations are flooding in, criminal investigations are starting, and the future of the company is at stake.
Obviously, I’m talking about Volkswagen, but I’m thinking about the largest firm in Vaccine World – Merck. At least the first part of the story is the same: Merck ($5.9 billion vaccine revenues in 2014, the world’s biggest haul) has been caught cheating, putting public health at risk by – allegedly – faking data to prove the mumps vaccine works when it doesn’t. It only works when you (Merck) run bogus tests using rabbit blood and you (Merck) alter results by hand, but not in the real world where college kids are now getting mumps and becoming sterile for life.
In Merck’s case, two courageous whistleblowers filed suit in federal court five years ago. Merck has so far failed to get the suit dismissed or (presumably) to buy off the whistleblowers with a few measly millions. Recent rulings by the judge overseeing the case have paved the way for the word they hate most in Vaccine World – discovery, meaning the uncovering of (covered up) documents.
There’s no discovery in vaccine “court,” the liability-free protection racket set up by Congress that has led to the epidemic of excessive vaccination and, with it, the autism epidemic and so many more kinds of vaccine damage. Various independent examinations of its “rulings” over the years show clearly that vaccine-induced encephalopathy (brain damage) results in vaccine-induced brain damage (autism), and they all know it.
In the case of the mumps vaccine, regulatory oversight has failed dramatically, far worse than in the VW case where the government pursued the clues and came down hard. In contrast, he FDA was apprised of what was going on at Merck in real time but let the company ‘splain it all away. (Merck now says, hey, the FDA knew about it, you can’t sue us! So far, that hasn’t worked.) And as we know, the “cesspool of corruption” called the CDC has abetted Merck by hiding MMR study data that showed a higher risk for autism when the shot was given before age three (CDC recommendation: 12 months).
You wonder how long it would have taken the VW fraud to emerge if the EPA was as bought off as the regulatory apparatus for Vaccine World. Forever, is my guess.
Well that was quick! Last week I began my column by asking, “Why isn’t there a huge groundswell in the autism advocacy community for Donald Trump? We seemed to like him better when he was not in a position to do anything. Here we have the first leading major party candidate to say the studies are fudged, the shots are too many too soon, and the result is autism.
“I’ve lived in Washington and covered politics here for three decades, and believe me, it is a big freakin’ deal that the Republican front-runner embraces our issues when we aren’t respected in virtually any other way.”
On Thursday, Trump won a whole lot of love from our community by saying, during the GOP presidential debate, that there is an autism epidemic, that vaccines can and do cause autism, that spacing out the shots would greatly reduce the incidence of autism, and that he had an employee whose healthy, happy child got sick and regressed into autism right after a vaccine.
Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who in the past had defended vaccine mandates and whom CNN had teed up to go after Trump for his vaccine views, agreed, shockingly, that there are now “way too many shots” in too short a period and even questioned the necessity for some of them, and Rand Paul, an M.D. who emphasized choice as a bedrock of health policy, also supported spreading out the shots.
I felt the ghost of my hero Bernie Rimland in the room, who said, “The autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause.” Wish he could have heard the debate!
This is a breakthrough moment, and to pick at what Trump said or to diminish Carson or Paul is not, to my mind, the right response. As our ever-astute John Stone wrote in a comment:
“Trump's technical grasp of the issue - let alone ignoring [CDC whistleblower William] Thompson - is rudimentary to say the least. With half-an-hour's proper briefing he could give a much better account than that. Though when it comes down to it - and this is where he gets the point - he ignores all the official BS and says in effect 'this is what happens and let's stop pretending'. And, of course, it is what happens.”
What to do next remains a matter of debate, for which Age of Autism is a willing forum – see this week’s posts by J.B. Handley and Dan Burns, both of which are superbly reasoned and written, from opposite perspectives. Should we fall in line behind Trump even if we find his manner and policy ideas atrocious? (I’m a self-professed progressive, and there are libertarians, doctrinaire conservatives, classical liberals and apolitical types among us. The person in the debate whose overall views most agreed with mine was Rand Paul. Horrors!)
The Donald has the perfect name for this dilemma, doesn’t he: Do his views on vaccines and autism trump everything else?
Of course, discussion of this topic in any way, shape or form freaks out the mainstream media. Their new go-to word is “dangerous.”
Washington Post: “The GOP’s Dangerous ‘Debate’ on Vaccines and Autism:
Hey Everybody! Catching up from a busy and fun summer or maybe just an obsessive one – along with camping and visiting friends and family, I’ve been immersed in the polio epidemic of 1916 – but that’s another (but related) story:
I wonder: Why isn’t there a huge groundswell in the autism advocacy community for Donald Trump? We seemed to like him better when he was not in a position to do anything. Here we have the first leading major party candidate to say the studies are fudged, the shots are too many too soon, and the result is autism.
I’ve lived in Washington and covered politics here for three decades, and believe me, it is a big freakin’ deal that the Republican front-runner embraces our issues when we aren’t respected in virtually any other way.
Speaking of politics and getting no respect, isn’t it amusing how the left paints us as know-nothing reactionaries and the right paints us as granola-crunching liberals?
As a granola-cruncher myself, I hate when my favorite mellow buddhistic publications dump me into the climate-change-denial wastebasket and stomp all over my sensitive little head. Today’s example is the mag Mindful, whose motto is “Taking Time For What Matters.”
Under the heading of Brain Science and the headline “The Stickiness of Misinformation – Even the most ridiculous rumors can cling in our minds – despite what the proof says. Sharon Begley tells us why,” the article begins:
“Isn’t it scandalous that Barack Obama, whose health-care reform law established death panels, is a Muslim who was born in Kenya? And isn’t it scary that all those scientific studies have shown that childhood vaccines can cause autism?”
That paragraph, of course, is dripping with sarcastic condescension toward the scientifically benighted and goes on to cite pop-brainiac concepts like “the fluency effect.” Now, Sharon Begley, who used to be at Newsweek, which used to be a magazine, has occasionally shown a scintilla of sympathy for the idea that vaccines cause autism, but it clearly no longer serves her professional purposes.
Editor's Note: It's hard to believe it's been 10 years this week since I identified Donald T., autism's Case 1. I remember my shock when I matched his first name and last initial as given in the original 1943 paper by Leo Kanner, popped it into a White Pages directory for the town Kanner said he lived in, and found someone matching all the right details. What was the first person with autism doing with a street address and a published phone number, I wondered. Since then Mark Blaxill and I have visited Donald Triplett (I didn't name him until we wrote our book in 2005) in Forest, Miss., and learned about his amazing recovery after being treated with gold salts. Now, 10 years on, it's worth remembering how much those early cases have to teach us
Editor's Note: Mark Blaxill and I appreciate the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders -- the leading peer-reviewed autism medical journal -- running our commentary in the issue published this week.
Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient.
Here is the abstract: "Leo Kanner begins his landmark 1943 case series on autistic children by stating the condition was first brought to his attention in 1938. Recent letters to JADD have described this reference as 'mysterious' and speculated it refers to papers published that year by Despert or Asperger. In fact, as Kanner goes on to state, 1938 is when he examined the first child in his case series. An exchange of letters with Despert and later writing by Kanner also point to the originality of his observations."
The matter at hand is both seemingly arcane and ultimately overarching -- what did Leo Kanner mean when he said he became aware of autism in 1938? (He first named and wrote about it in 1943.) Commenters in the Journal have speculated it was a reference to earlier papers by other psychiatrists, which would mean autism was not a new entity, just one that Kanner codified by describing more precisely through a case series. Based on a decade of research with primary documents and personal interviews, we argued -- and, I think, we demonstrated -- that 1938 was a reference to the year the first patient was seen at his clinic at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. That patient, Case 1 Donald T., was the first of 11 who displayed the same novel syndrome "markedly and uniquely different from anything reported so far," as Kanner wrote in that landmark 1943 report. As Ginger Taylor (who first called our attention to the recent discussion in the Journal) aptly wrote on Facebook this week: "Olmsted and Blaxill (again) show that Autism had a start date, and it was after Eli Lilly invented and began selling a water soluble form of mercury in fungicide and vaccine preservation." So thanks to Ginger, and to Teresa Conrick, our fellow AOA editor who has made invaluable contributions to this ongoing work of identifying those original cases (we are up to 8 of 11!) and finding patterns that point to causation. You can read all about it in our book The Age of Autism, in our subsequent blog posts here, and now in the prestigious, peer-reviewed Journal. And you can count on more to come. We ended our commentary by writing: "This timing remains the essential clue to the disorder. Something happened to bring a new condition to the attention of child psychiatry." That component can be seen from the beginning -- 1938 -- and it can be seen today, in the damage mercury-laced vaccines, and other vaccine toxins, continue to do to children in the United States and around the world. We feel privileged to have wandered onto this amazingly fruitful pathway, and we intend to keep going until its full implications are recognized and the truth about the condition first observed in 1938 is fully and finally addressed. As Einstein said, "It's not that I'm smarter than anyone else, it's just that I stick with problems longer." Ditto.
(Note -- This article originally ran a year ago under the headline "Pray For the Religious Exemption." Now California is just days away from possibly denying it to the state's families.) A couple of recent court cases have me convinced that the religious exemption from childhood immunizations is in big trouble.
The first case is one I somehow missed when it was decided last month. It’s a bit convoluted, but the gist is that three New York parents said their unvaccinated children were denied their rights by being kept out of school because another child had a vaccine-preventable disease. The judge said no.
To tell you the truth, I am not terribly concerned about that. Most parents I know who forego vaccines say that a better solution to disease control is informal quarantine – keep your kid home when they’re sick, or if you don’t want them to catch a disease they’re not vaccinated against.
But the scary part – especially in a state with no philosophical exemption and a nasty habit of trying to make parents prove the sincerity of their religious convictions -- was this comment in the federal judge’s ruling. “The Supreme Court,” he wrote, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
I couldn’t find a link to the judge’s ruling, but according to the Times, he was pointing to Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which in 1905 (!) found that if Mr. Jacobson wanted to skip being vaccinated during a smallpox epidemic, he had to pay a $5 fine. More broadly, “Jacobson” has been cited as proof that the state’s police powers trump personal choice when it comes to a battle over vaccine mandates.
I don’t see it. He objected, he said, because both he and one of his children had bad reactions to earlier vaccinations. And all he had to do was pay five measly bucks, which even accounting for inflation is not much. How that undercuts religion as a basis for declining vaccination – especially absent a raging, deadly epidemic – is beyond me.
Like you, we read of Dr. Jeff Bradstreet's death and were struck silent. A stalwart leader in treating autism, really helping families, his loss is huge in our community. Dan Olmsted interviewed Dr. Bradstreet 10 years ago for his The Age of Autism series with UPI. Here is the interview; the study he was calling for has finally been done and the results are awaited, a testament to his foresight and persistence. Our condolences to the Bradstreet family and the autism community who relied on his compassion and care.
WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- Where are the unvaccinated homeschooled children with autism? Nowhere to be found, says a doctor who treats autistic children and is knowledgeable about the homeschooled world.
"It's largely nonexistent," Dr. Jeff Bradstreet told UPI's Age of Autism. "It's an extremely rare event.
Bradstreet treats autistic children at his medical practice in Palm Bay, Fla. He has a son whose autism he attributes to a vaccine reaction at 15 months. His daughter has been homeschooled, he describes himself as a "Christian family physician," and he knows many of the leaders in the homeschool movement.
"There was this whole subculture of folks who went into homeschooling so they would never have to vaccinate their kids," he said. "There's this whole cadre who were never vaccinated for religious reasons."
In that subset, he said, "unless they were massively exposed to mercury through lots of amalgams (mercury dental fillings in the mother) and/or big-time fish eating, I've not had a single case."
Bradstreet said his views do not constitute a persuasive argument that low vaccination rates are associated with low rates of autism, but it is worth studying.
"That's not yet science," he said. "It doesn't rise to the level of a powerful observation. It's a place to say, OK, well that's interesting, what does that tell us?"
About 2 million children are being homeschooled in the United States. The number of those unvaccinated is unclear, but judging by the school opt-out rates in some parts of the country where there is more concern about vaccinations, it could be 3 percent or more. For example, in Oregon's Lane County roughly 2,000 students out of a total of 51,000 have exemptions, about 4 percent.
My Facebook friends are over the moon about an event Thursday night at the Scientology Community Center in Los Angeles that featured some of our best friends appearing with Nation of Islam’s Tony Muhammad. “Inspiring to see this community coming together to fight for our right to choose what goes into our bodies,” wrote one Facebooker.
Sorry, but to my mind this is not a kumbaya moment. The Nation of Islam is a racist, bigoted, homophobic, woman-degrading hate group. I mean, isn’t it? It is. For Muhammad to compare the coverage of autism and the Nation of Islam is sickening, and it ought to sit poorly with us. It's also choice to talk about "people of all ages, nations, races all together to fight for our kids" and getting "closer together" when NOI doesn't really want white people around -- they want a separate state. ("Rather than preaching a message of unification, NOI calls for segregation and separatism," according to the Web site the blaze.com. "On the group’s web site, the denomination is clear that it wishes for African Americans to live separately from whites.")
Sometimes it's not the media that's your problem, it's the truth.According to the Extremist Files of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Since its founding in 1930, the Nation of Islam (NOI) has grown into one of the wealthiest and best-known organizations in black America, offering numerous programs and events designed to uplift African Americans. Nonetheless, its bizarre theology of innate black superiority over whites — a belief system vehemently and consistently rejected by mainstream Muslims — and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders, including top minister Louis Farrakhan, have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”
Let’s pick one Farakkhan gem: "T]he Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man.” Taken out of context, I'm sure. Oh, "And don't you forget, when it's God who puts you in the ovens, it's forever!")
He hates Catholics, too. “It is no secret that Farrakhan is anti-Catholic, as well as anti-Jewish,” according to the church’s bigotry watchdog, which noted, “Cardinal Bevilacqua refused to meet with him in Philadelphia. Farrakhan had sought a meeting with the Archbishop of Philadelphia, as well as with local Jewish leaders, and was turned down—for reasons evident to everyone but Farrakhan.”
To continue with the SPLC, “While Jews remain the primary target of Farrakhan's vitriol, he is also well known for bashing gay men and lesbians, Catholics and, of course, the white devils, whom he calls ‘potential humans ... [who] haven't evolved yet.’ All of this has helped make him attractive to certain white supremacist groups who agree that the races must be separated. In its turn, NOI has come to view white supremacists as people who at least understand NOI's program and could therefore become allies.”
I know many in the autism activism community believe there is no problem with this association, that you use what you have to get what you need. Sorry to disagree with that, Friends, but I do. Desperate times call for desperate measures, yes, but not deals with the (small d) devils of racism, bigotry and homophobia.
This brings us to our reducto ad absurdum: Would we go to an Aryan Nation event if they agreed with us? Is "Racists For Vaccine Choice!" a placard we are prepared to get behind?
Not the best week to ask that question.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Medical authorities, as you may have noticed, don’t like to be challenged. The fact that they have been so wrong, so often, so long and so recently does not in the least change their view of the matter. They are angry you would even bring it up! They may have advertised the throat-soothing properties of filter cigarettes, bled patients dry (probably killing the father of our country) and pushed stupid stuff from Viagra to thalidomide to the first deadly rotavirus vaccine because their phrat brothers told them to. But no matter. This time, and forever after, they are exactly, completely, unchallengeably, unconflictedly right.
As Mark Blaxill and I pointed out in our book The Age of Autism, this long history of bad medicine is blithely subsumed -- submerged and suppressed might be better words -- under the medical “march of progress” – as in, OK, getting syphilis patients to drink mercuric chloride may have been misguided, but it was the best practice at the time (even if it did cause the worst form of the disease, general paralysis of the insane, but let’s not dwell on that), and after a few hundred years of that they accidentally came across penicillin, which did cure it, so why are we even bringing this up? And Freud was wrong about hysteria, which got psychiatry off to a catastrophic start (hysteria was actually caused by mercury poisoning), but now the "experts" really do understand the human psyche, so get off their case already! Take two Seroquel and don’t call us in the morning.
I’m bringing this up because realizing how badly and self-righteously medicine has behaved ought to make parents far more cautious than most of them are (although the numbers are growing) about the proven, study-after-study-vouched-for-safety of the current vaccination schedule. This is not just "presentism" -- judging history by the impossibly high standard of what we have learned since then. The medical establishment really messed up with impunity for most of its long history and a lot of people suffered and died for it. Until at least germ theory came along, people would have been much better off with homeopathy, whether it worked or not, because at least it did no harm.
This month my mind is on a very topical example of medical arrogance and iatrogenic harm, the idea that homosexuals were sick, needed to be treated, condemned or just locked away in jail (or, in Iran, killed, and in Russia, bullied and beaten). June is gay pride month, timed to the Stonewall riots that triggered the gay rights movement. And this month may be the most historic and decisive ever, as the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage rights.
We’ve come a long way, baby. Just this week the New York Times – where medical “experts” still reign on all things vaccination – looked back at its own often-sordid history of treating homosexuality as an evil disease. The headline from 1964 (when I turned 12): “Homosexuals Proud of Deviancy, Medical Academy Study Finds.” It would be a medical academy, wouldn't it? And it would be The Times, wouldn't it!
As David W. Dunlop wrote this week: “There it was, to shock anyone whose eye fell on the front page of The Times: news that homosexuals had ‘gone beyond the plane of defensiveness and now argue that their deviancy is ‘a desirable, noble, preferable way of life.’ ” According to the original article, medicine was not going to let the homosexuals get away with having a decent life:
“The report is the first recognized study of homosexuality by a recognized organization representing all branches of medicine, a spokesman for the committee said” – the Committee on Public Health of the New York Academy of Medicine. Homosexuality, the story went on, “is an ‘illness’ that can be treated ‘in some cases’ but is more easily dealt with by early preventative measures, the report concludes.” Maybe a vaccine?
There’s an odd emotion I suspect many AOA readers share with me, a mix of “Holy Cow” and “Tell us something we don't know” when new information clusters around the hypothesis that autism is an environmental disorder and, sorry to say it, vaccines are the main trigger.
Such was the case this week when Coy Barefoot, an autism dad, radio host and all-around great ally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sent an e-mail titled, “In case you hadn’t seen this.” It was a link to a June 1 Science Daily report from the University of Virginia Health System. It begins:
“In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer's disease to multiple sclerosis.”
Autism. Haven’t parents and some professionals been saying for years that autism is an autoimmune and neurological disorder? How is this new study not strong support for the idea that goosing the immune system into dysregulation with vaccines is bad for the developing brain?
This comes on top of evidence we’ve known for years about the role the brain’s own immune cells may play in autism; in The Age of Autism, Mark Blaxill and I characterized the cause of autism as “a rash on the brain” from overstimulation of its immune cells due to, for example, the mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Mark agreed this new piece is of strong interest, but it certainly didn’t “overturn decades” of orthodoxy for us. Coy said it is “something of a smoking gun, don’t you think? A missing link between damage to the immune system and brain injury.”
I do think that. And I was reminded of a comment by Dr. Brian Jepson I came across this week to the effect that calling autism a developmental disorder is like calling a hammer blow to the skull a headache. There are specific processes going on that result in the injury known as autism (and other issues) in vulnerable children, and those processes are pretty clear by now to all but the all genes/no real increase crowd (read: mainstream medicine and media).
So, like wow, that’s interesting. But like, yeah, we already had the basic idea a lot clearer than the experts.
Also this week, the feds fessed up to the full extent of the failure of the flu shot to protect people. “Scientists blue after flu vaccine only 19 percent effective,” USA Today headlined. (Note the focus on the poor scientists, not the poor people who got a worthless flu shot.) So that was another Wow! -- this thing really was worthless. On the other hand, yeah, we knew this year’s was particularly worthless, a subspecies of the overall worthlessness of the whole flu shot enterprise.
I’m making my annual return trip to Illinois, which tends to be not too hot and not too cold right around Memorial Day. This year I’ve noticed how many people seem to have a story to tell about sick kids.
I was talking to a nurse in Decatur, and when someone mentioned I write about autism, she volunteered that she has a 15-year-old son with autism. He was fine until 18 months, and then everything just stopped. I asked if she had any idea why that happened, and she said she didn’t.
She has four younger children, all boys, who seem fine, she said. If you do the math, the one with autism was born when mercury was still being phased out of "most" vaccines. The others, let’s hope, escaped.
A few days earlier, in Champaign, I was talking to someone who has a friend who is pregnant. The expectant mother suffers from depression and is debating whether to get off her meds until the baby is born. (I vote yes, if humanly possible). This mom also has ADHD. The question was posed, did I think a parent with ADHD and depression is more likely to have a child with autism. No, I said, I don't think parents have anything to do with their children having autism. However, the child may inherit vulnerabilities, like auto-immunity, and parents ought to make sure those vulnerabilities aren't triggered by, oh, say, mercury containing flu shots in pregnancy.
I passed along a copy of our book, Vaccines 2.0.
A friend in Chicago has a daughter with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. And another has a son who is teetering into trouble with the law because of issues that sound like they verge on, or topple over into, the autism spectrum.
This adds up to too many kids and young adults with too many problems, problems that didn’t used to be like this, and that too many people either don't notice, or pretend not to. I had lunch at Terzo Piano, the very cool restaurant at the Art Institute, on Friday, and took a selfie with the skyline in the background. You can see the Prudential Building, which when I was a kid (a half-century ago) was the tallest, widest, most skyscraperesque building around.
Now it’s dwarfed by taller ones. Still, if the newer buildings on the Chicago skyline were sized to reflect the rise in autism since the Prudential Building was built in 1955, those other skyscrapers would be 20 or 30 times taller. They would be a visual sign for the damage that still remains too hidden, and that makes too many people feel this is all happening to them but maybe not to anybody -- in fact, everybody -- but them.
Maybe that would get people’s attention.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
Close followers of the autism debate know that George Stephanapoulos is regarded by "our side" like Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Anderson Cooper -- especially nasty avatars of the "no vaccine link" school. So it's hard not to have a bit, or more than a bit, of schadenfraude when he gets tripped up, as happened after his especially nasty interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. Turns out George had donated $50,000 -- wait, make that $75,000 -- to the Clinton Foundation that he never thought to disclose.
As others have pointed out, the original sin in all this was probably hiring him in the first place. Was there no other person in the United States able to become the flagship anchor of a major news network than someone who had been a close adviser (with James Carville, the man who later came up with the stepped-all-over-us line to describe George's treatment of the Clintons in his autobiography) in both the Clinton campaign and presidency?
The answer was clearly no -- there was not no other person, so to speak. Hiring George as a commentator -- as Carville has been -- would be fine, but someone with so prominent a role, so recently, in politics really should have been disqualified. Now some may cite Diane Sawyer, who helped Richard Nixon in his exile, or Tim Russert, who worked for Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But those were earlier and much lesser roles. And frankly, both of them were much better journalists than George.
Inexactitude is the best friend (forever) of lousy ideas. This week, The Wall Street Journal ran an article about a young woman who was diagnosed with autism at 21. The article said: “Autism spectrum disorder has always been difficult to diagnose.”
No, it has always not. One more time, let’s recall that when Leo Kanner first described it, in 11 children, in 1943, he called autism “markedly and uniquely different from anything reported so far.” The idea that “the experts” have gotten so much savvier about spotting it is part of the “better diagnosing” canard that has kept alive the idea that autism hasn’t really exploded in the past quarter century. Of course, it really has.
That’s not to say that someone at the margins of the diagnostic criteria won’t be overlooked. This woman appears to fit the diagnosis formerly known as Asperger’s, and is possibly a savant. She was discussing the life cycle of insects with her parents at age 2 – no language delay, a criteria of full-blown autism, there!
But what really got my attention was the comment in the article that “people with autism generally have difficulties relating to others, but many are happily married with children.”
Really? Many adults with autism are happily married with children? That would be wonderful, but I’m skeptical under any reasonable definition of the word – a large number, a good proportion, of those with autism are happily married with children, the Journal is telling us.
First of all, there are not many adults with autism under any definition of the word! If there were, we would not be hearing about the disaster in the making of children born during the “autism boom” starting in 1988 now aging into the adult world and workplace. The moment when the school bus stops coming would not be the financial and social crisis it is if there were many adults with autism. We’d have the hang of this.
By Dan Olmsted
Hey check it out, fellow innumerants, those who are naive enough to believe that the autism rate has actually gone up, a lot, and it is not just an artifact, as they say, of better diagnosing, better awareness, better do what Paul Offit says, etcetera.
This new study looks at the change between 1990 or so and 2010 in cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disability (including autism) and vision impairment. As you can see, nothing went up much but autism, which went way, way up -- 9.3 percent a year for a total 269 percent increase. (That's Buffett-level compounding!) Let's see, if something goes up 100 percent, that means it doubles. Two hundred percent, it triples. Two hundred and sixty nine percent, it more than triples and a half -- and that's just since 1996. The CDC can never bring itself to look back into ancient history, say 1980.
Even so, the increase is from 4.2 per 1,000 children to 15.5 per 1,000. Now let's see, that would be about 1.6 per 100, or 1 in 62.5 kids. Which is even worse than the 1 in 68 the CDC keeps talking about.
As my colleague Mark Blaxill, who really does understand math and chart-like things, put it: "This plots autism rates against some other disabilities. Uses 8 year olds and the year on the axis is birth year plus 8. So the time series starts in 1988 for ASD. It’s a pretty dramatic picture."
Diagnostic substitution is notably absent. Doctors still know what hearing loss is, and they diagnose it. Ditto for all the others.
I always like to quote the late, great Bernie Rimland, who said, "The autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause." Here we see the truth of the first part of that sentence. Of course, the last part remains verboten in polite company. But it's no wonder that folks like Offit have ventured into territory you'd think they'd have no interest in -- claiming the autism increase isn't real.
Because if it is real -- which it is -- the implications are hard to ignore. Even for innumerants like us.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
ABC is airing interviews Friday and Monday with Taya Kyle, widow of American Sniper Chris Kyle. Taya, who has a new book out, is an impressive person – poised, smart, passionate -- and I got the sense early on that she is going to be a formidable public presence for a long time.
This gives me a moment to bring up a question that’s been in my mind all along -- whether her husband’s killer, Eddie Ray Routh, might have taken the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (brand name Lariam).
“This dude is straight-up nuts. He's right behind me. Watch my six,” Chris Kyle texted to Chad Littlefield as they drove to the shooting range with Routh (who soon killed them both). That’s the kind of thing you hear about soldiers who take Lariam, a CDC-recommended drug that has caused psychosis, depression, paranoia suicide and homicidal violence. Not a great thing to be handing out to people with guns.
My research on Lariam convinced me the CDC was too close to pharma, too willing to overlook side effects in its zeal to prevent disease, and too able to hide the truth. That got me onto vaccines and autism, which has been my focus ever since.
But mefloquine continues to cause harm (its effects can be permanent, the CDC finally acknowledged), and it’s worth keeping on our radar.
Routh didn’t see combat in Iraq, which kind of weakens the claim that his experience caused him to develop PTSD. What apparently really got to him were his experiences in Haiti, where he was deployed as a Marine after the 2010 earthquake. According to ABC, an uncle testified that Routh "didn't seem to find much joy in his life after he came back" from the humanitarian mission in Haiti. Others said he was never the same, and increasingly suicidal.
This reminded me of a couple of other things. You may remember in February President Obama signed a law to improve suicide-prevention services in the military. It’s called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans. "Today we honor a young man who isn't here but should be here," Obama said. "He suffered physical injuries that healed, and he suffered invisible wounds that stayed with him."
"Transparent" seems to be the word of the week, if not the millennium, and when you hear it you just know it's insincere. After saying that the Clinton Foundation is "among the most transparent" foundations, Chelsea Clinton said this week that in the wake of questions about possible conflicts of interest, "We'll be even more transparent."
In the wake of the drone strikes that tragically killed two hostages, President Obama voiced deep regret but "praised what he claimed was his administration’s exceptionally transparent response to the tragedy," according to the Guardian:
"He said he had decided to make the existence of the operation public because Weinstein and Lo Porto’s families 'deserve to know the truth' and 'the United States is a democracy, committed to openness, in good times and in bad.'"
The New York Times, however, called for more, well, transparency: "For years, the Obama administration has kept its drone strikes shrouded in great secrecy, knowing that what have been described as precision attacks on terrorist targets have also killed innocent civilians." (I can't help but mention that I wrote in last week's column: "While we're sending drones over Pakistan and building ill will -- Pakistan officials are talking about charging former CIA agents with murder -- the country just signed a $46 billion infrastructure improvement pact with China. We are not winning the future by fighting everyone else in the world.")
Oh, and the Toronto Star changed the headline on its Gardasil article from "A wonder drug's dark side" to "Families seek more transparency on HPV vaccine" -- before deleting it from their Web site altogether. Not very transparent on the part of the Star.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC used the word or its variations 25 times in a recent report, noting that because the American Academy of Pediatrics saw the need for "transparent evidence-based approach for its policies and endorsement, AAP established a Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management (SCOQIM) in 2001."
Let me tell you something. SCOQIM and ACIP and the BH&CCF and the HPV vaccine makers and the drone program are not about transparency at all. They are about opacity; they are all about what they can do without us knowing about it. Whenever I think of transparency I remember what Bill Clinton said to journalists at the start of the Monica Lewinsky Scandal:
"You and the American people have a right to get answers. We are working very hard to comply and get all the requests for information up here, and we will give you as many answers as we can, as soon as we can, at the appropriate time, consistent with our obligation to also cooperate with the investigations.
"And that's not a dodge, that's really why I've – I've talked with our people. I want to do that. I'd like for you to have more rather than less, sooner rather than later. So we'll work through it as quickly as we can and get all those questions out there to you."
Uh, no. That was a dodge. (Lest you think I'm picking on Democrats, please note that Gov. Chris Christie has something called a Transparency Center, which his aides apparently overlooked when they slowed traffic into Manhattan out of transparent spite.) The people who run government and big business are dodgy by profession, by job description. I just wish they would quit claiming they weren't. In fact, if any one of them took sodium pentathol before their next press availability and were asked a tough question, their answer would be, "That's for us to know and you to find out."
In fact, a maddening lack of transparency is at the heart of the vaccine safety debacle. Transparency about vaccine court settlements, about autism-vaccine research, about drug company trials would have ended this tragedy before it really got going. Instead, behind closed doors the people who were supposedly looking out for the consumer and taxpayer conspired to hide the truth -- at Simpsonwood, in IOM deliberations, in VSD data that was "lost" and sold off to keep it private, in fudged numbers from the studies that Bill Thompson is now telling the truth about. I am sure I can find you quotes from every one of those groups about how transparent they try to be.
It is galling to hear the powers that be talk about how dedicated they are to getting the truth out there and letting the chips fall where they may. Sorry, I don't believe it. As an English major, I've been turning Obama's comment on 60 Minutes about vaccines (in response to the measly measles outbreak) over in my mind for the past few weeks: "There is every reason to get vaccinated -- there aren't reasons to not." There aren't reasons not to? This is the way people talk when they are not being transparent. There are reasons not to, the telling of which would require a transparency up with which the powers that be are not about to put. It gets all tangled, syntactically and otherwise, when you don't just tell the truth. To quote a famous parody of Time magazine, "Backwards ran sentences until reeled the mind. Where it will end, knows God!"
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
The things you have to think about when you get involved in the vaccine safety issue! Lately I’ve been wondering about the state of the global warming debate, prompted by vaccine injury deniers who say ideas like ours are so goofy they are similar to denying that global warming is real.
This week, I was forwarded a release from Voices For Vaccines titled Avoiding False Balance: Vaccines in the Media. It makes the usual Offit-style points about settled science and study after study showing no link between vaccines and autism, etcetera after etcetera, and included this particularly unpleasant complaint:
“Giving scientifically invalid ideas equal weight to established and verifiable scientific facts by including them in the piece without addressing the fact they are false (e.g., allowing an interviewee to say her child’s autism was caused by vaccines without including a correction—by the reporter—that scientific consensus shows this parent's statement is unwarranted based on the evidence).”
So if someone like, say, respected neurologist Jon Poling said that vaccines caused his daughter Hannah to regress into autism in front of his own eyes, as affirmed by the U.S. government, and compensated by $20 million in our taxpayer dollars, it would be the reporter’s duty to say something like, “Correction: Poling’s statement is false, based on the evidence. Hannah did not regress into autism before his own lying eyes and the government was wrong to compensate them for vaccine injury that led to autism.”
What really caught my eye was the claim that the vaccine safety “debate” is just like the climate safety “debate” – i.e., that it doesn’t exist outside of air quotes. To wit:
“For several years, journalists covering the climate change issue saw it as a controversy requiring equal air time for both the climate change scientists and the handful of scientists—most of them funded by oil companies—who felt the climate was not warming. This approach prolonged—and continues to prolong—a period of doubt about climate change. The result of the media’s approach to this issue is that while more than 98% of climate scientists are in agreement that our planet is warming, people in the United States are split on the issue. The result is that we’ve been hindered in addressing pressing issues related to combating climate change and are seeing the very real effects the lag in action caused by this manufactured uncertainty is having.
“Vaccines are a remarkably similar case, in that the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is perhaps even more overwhelming.”
Date/Time: April 3, 7:00 – 7:15 PM Parent Support and Networking
7:15 PM Introduction and Meeting Presentation.|
Location: Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church
3625 Chapel Road
Newtown Square, PA 19073
Coordinators: Contact Honey Rinicella and Pattie Moor
Vaccines – Ask the Experts
Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted will be spending the evening educating parents and professionals on all aspects of this controversial topic. The CDC’s bloated vaccine schedule has doubled since 1988, after the federal government gave pharmaceutical companies immunity from lawsuits. Autism and other childhood disorders like asthma, ADHD, juvenile diabetes and digestive ailments have skyrocketed. And parents are understandably nervous, desperate for objective guidance that takes those concerns seriously.
Vaccines 2.0 looks at the lengthy roster of today’s recommended injections, the documented risks that accompany them, and helps parents choose a schedule based on unbiased, uncensored, unconflicted science. Whether you’re wondering how to space out vaccines, which ones are really necessary, considering not vaccinating at all, or just looking for information, this event will give you the tools you need to make wise choices.
Dan Olmsted is co-author of “Age of Autism” and Editor of the blog of the same name. He was an original staff member of USA Today and Senior Editor for USA Weekend magazine and United Press International. He is a member of the National Press Club.
Spring has sprung, at least theoretically, in daffodil-deprived Washington. Warmer weather will soon favor a resurgence of enterovirus 68, the virus that first appeared in severe and paralytic forms in 2013 as a small cluster in California, popped up unpredictably around the country last year in larger numbers and now – well, now what?
Just this week, the CDC put out a plain English Q&A about the virus. The CDC notes that last year, 1,153 people in 49 states were confirmed to have the virus, and 14 of them died. Most were children. Weirdly, the CDC doesn't mention the frightening and seemingly permanent cases of paralysis almost certainly associated with EV-D68, and regarding the deaths, it mumbles: "State and local officials have the authority to determine and release information about the cause of these deaths."
It would be nice to see the CDC a little more animated on this one, because given the obvious parallels with poliovirus, I think we could be on the brink of big trouble. Both polio and EV-D68 are enteroviruses, meaning they get into the body through the GI tract, although they can manifest as respiratory illness; both appear in warmer weather; both can cause paralysis and death. A big part of the problem is mainstream medical types may once again be blind to what they are really dealing with.
Polio epidemics, as Mark Blaxill and I have proposed, were triggered not just by the virus but also by a necessary co-factor -- exposure to certain pesticides in people, most often non-immune children, who happened to have an active poliovirus infection at the time. The pesticides – lead arsenate starting in the early 1890s, DDT after World War II – opened a pathway to the nervous system that let the otherwise benign virus attack cells that control motion.
The idea that pesticides are implicated in polio has been around for a long time – since the first outbreaks over a century ago, in fact – but roundly sneered at by mainstream scientists, if they noticed at all while hunkered over microscopes in their virology labs. The pesticides-alone theory was easy to dismiss because it was incomplete. The virus, we argued, was a necessary cofactor with the toxin, and when the vaccine came along and took down the virus, the epidemics ended. But the truth -- the ability of toxins to potentiate microbes -- did not.
As the CDC points out, EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses from which the vaccine provides no protection. And since lead arsenate and DDT are no longer used in the United States, we can only guess what toxin, still presumably a pesticide and who knows what else, is potentiating EV-D68. We suspect the collapse of bee colonies and the rise of neurological illnesses point to successor chemicals that are even more toxic in ever-smaller doses.
It would be useful to find out, and quickly. Unfortunately, the idea of a toxic cofactor in the spread of EV-D68 is not on the radar of any current research, as far as I can tell. That’s despite clues in the early EV-D68 cases – the parents of one child run vineyards and a winery in northern California, and the mother told us her daughter had fresh raspberries the morning she got sick (the doctors seemed uninterested); another child is from Moorpark, a Los Angeles exurb built on former (often toxic) farmland that has an apricot named after it.
By now, 1000-plus ED-68 cases on, the clues to the origin have been buried in the breadth of the outbreak, just as they were with polio (and autism); early polio clusters occurred in the San Joaquin and Napa valleys in California (fruit, vegetables, grapes), and in locations where lead arsenate was pioneered – most astonishingly, in 1893 in Boston, which is when and where lead arsenate was invented to battle the coddling moth that was attacking apple orchards. Its use soon spread, and so did epidemics.
Few books published last year won the raves that welcomed On Immunity – An Inoculation by Eula Biss. Its spare 163 pages of text offered a “beautiful shot of insight,” The Los Angeles Times wrote -- a shot that includes our collective duty to vaccinate. “We owe each other our bodies,” Biss concludes.
To which I say, I don’t think so. But it’s a free country and people can agree or disagree, right?
Most agreed with Biss, lauding her “elegant, intelligent and very beautiful book, which occupies a space between research and reflection, investigating our attitudes toward immunity and inoculation through a personal and cultural lens,” according to the Times. Along the way Biss, “a vigorous advocate for inoculation … reveals the rhetoric of the anti-vaccination movement for the sophistry it is.”
Entertainment Weekly gave it an A and put it at Number 2 on its best nonfiction books of the year; it was in the New York Times Top 10; and Mark Zuckerberg recently picked it for his Facebook book club, thereby fighting “fears of vaccination” and showing his “talent for surfing the zeitgeist by selecting On Immunity,” according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
I’ve read it, and lovely as it may be, it is, in my view, to which, as I’ve already said, I’m entitled, dead wrong. It takes its place in the pantheon of work by people who haven’t gone deeply enough into the subject to master it – Biss thinks adolescents get a chickenpox booster, which they don’t, and that seizures after vaccination only happen to kids who would have had them anyway -- but presumes to lecture the rest of us on the roots of our scientific illiteracy and susceptibility to primal but unfounded fears of vaccination and autism. Heck, we don't even understand metaphors right. Here is my favorite bit:
“When I learned of the resulting conference on immuno-semiotics, I was excited by the possibility that it was devoted to the discussion of metaphor, a semiotic device,” Biss writes. I must say I have never heard the parent of an autistic child excited about an upcoming conference on immuno-semiotics (immune deficiencies, yes). I think it’s the kind of book that people think they like because it makes them feel smart, sort of A Brief History of Time for the vaccine debate.
One of the few equivocal responses to the book was a review by Jennifer Margulis that ran last October in the Washington Independent Review of Books (remember the word “independent,” which will soon go belly up). Headlined “This heartfelt ode to inoculations dismisses concerns about vaccines,” it begins:
“On Immunity is an extended nonfiction essay — an impressionistic, metaphor-laden, first-person account of author Eula Biss' fears for her infant son's safety and the questions and concerns she has as she educates herself about vaccines. This slim book combines real-life vignettes with literary criticism, information about the history of vaccines in the United States, informal interviews with scientists, and chats Biss has had with friends and relatives.”
Margulis, a widely published author who wrote The Business of Baby, also notes, correctly: “Biss is not interested in stories of vaccine injury, which she dismisses as exaggerated. Nor is she interested in the devastating fact that one in every 42 boys in America today has autism, or that we are seeing a rise in many other diseases among American children, including Type-1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders. …
“Yet, ironically, Biss' own son may have been vaccine injured. She explains that he suffers from debilitating allergies that sometimes leave him unable to breathe.
“’My son has unusually severe allergies, which he developed at an unusually young age,’ Biss writes. ‘His pediatrician calls him her 'outlier' because he is a statistical anomaly. By the time he turned three, his allergies had led to swelling in his nasal cavity, and this swelling had led to painful sinus infections, which we had cured with antibiotics several times, but which inevitably returned.’”
Read Part 1 HERE.
By Dan Olmsted
A few weeks ago in the midst of measles mania – say, whatever happened to that? -- I was on a Canadian TV show with a crusty but kind of likeable host who wanted to hear how people like me defend the “debunked” claim that vaccines cause autism.
He began: “I’m sure you’re taking a lot of criticism these days but you boldly stay the course?”
Me: “Vaccines are very strongly implicated in the rise of autism since the 1980s, yes.”
Now that is a pretty carefully calibrated statement, based on my own reporting and ten years of research and two books with my colleague Mark Blaxill, and I’m more than happy to stand by it, amplify it, show evidence for it and, in the language of science, provide citations.
The host immediately started talking about how “there is correlation but there is not causation.”
Fine, that’s a good debate to have! There is plenty of evidence that does in fact point to causation. But when I said that, he interrupted by saying that “no scientific study that demonstrates vaccines cause autism” – except the “debunked” Wakefield early report from 1998. So I mentioned William Thompson at the CDC and said Thompson acknowledged a study he was part of hid a link between vaccines and autism.
So, to my mind there’s another concrete piece of evidence. We are having a real debate!
Well, not exactly.
My host: “Well I think people can probably look up more detail on that than you and I can get into and may find that he’s being misquoted in that regard.
“And that’s the problem that I have. It’s conspiracy theory stuff and it’s easy to throw out names and things in a six-minute interview but we’re panicking people into not doing the very thing that has eradicated diseases."
How is directly and accurately citing a sitting CDC senior scientist “conspiracy theory stuff”? Boy, was I ever glad I had in my hand a few loose papers that included the actual statement from William Thompson!
Me: “William Thompson being a case in point, he says, ‘I regret that my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information. The omitted data suggested African-American males who received the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months were at increased risk for autism.’ He said it, I don’t know if you [speaking to my host] want to believe it, but I’m quoting from his statement through his lawyer.”
My host: “Well I’m encouraging people to read further into it.”
“I am too,” I said.
I explained how the root of the problem was not some evil worldwide plot but the fact that Congress gave liability protection to drug makers and doctors in 1986. The result: Big business and big government got in bed and cut the consumer out of the equation and we’ve been paying the price.
“It’s really a public policy debate as much as a public health debate,” I said. Again: It’s a debate that reasonable people can have based on a careful review of the evidence.
But my host came back around – again -- to the conspiracy idea – that if we have a problem with the vaccine schedule as I claimed, it could only be because doctors and public health officials and drug manufacturers concocted a massive conspiracy that defies belief. “What would be the value to any of those people to try and sell the idea that vaccines are safe when they are not?” he asked.
I responded: “I can’t speak for them.”
My host: “No, but I mean if you’re accusing people of this vast conspiracy you have to believe there’s some agenda behind it.”
Me: “I’m not using the word conspiracy, I’m just saying what the outcome is. I think it was unintended. But at this point I think there may be an unwillingness on the part of people who have sort of bet the farm, bet the business, bet their professional reputations on there being no link, they may not be the best people to get an objective answer here, that’s my feeling.” William Thompson sort of points to that, I’d say.
Perhaps having exhausted that avenue, my host changed the subject. “Do you have children?” he asked.
“No.” Pause. “I have a dog.” The crusty guy chuckled, which may be why I kind of liked him.
All this is preamble to what I now wish to briefly note. A regular and astute commenter on AOA, Twyla, forwarded me a note she got last week from The Daily Kos, the progressive site with quite a large readership. I guess her intended comment triggered some algorithm or alert intern. She got this in red type:
A message has been issued from site admin at Tue Feb 03 2015 10:25:09 GMT-0800 (PST):
The vaccine-autism link has been debunked by many careful studies, and here at Daily Kos we consider it conspiracy theory.
CT postings are not permitted here. Postings that advocate this theory can get you banned at Daily Kos.
Last month, the Toronto Star ran a perfectly reasonable article titled “A Wonder Drug’s Dark Side,” about adverse events following the HPV vaccine Gardasil. It wasn’t long before the paper and its editor, Michael Cooke, were set on by the raving pack of hyenas that attacks anyone who dares suggest that vaccines are not pure as the driven snow.
One critic, Julia Belluz, writes for an online publication called Vox, which I first encountered this year when they did a Q&A with me headlined, not very nicely, “Understanding the fear of vaccines: an activist explains why he buys a debunked idea.” They are reflexive, relentless and nasty vaccine zealots – that’s what zealotry is.
The Star’s Cooke didn’t much like Vox’s predictable and unjustified criticism. He sent Ms. Belluz this: "Stop gargling our bathwater and take the energy to run yourself your own, fresh tub." He told another critic via Twitter: “Try not to be an idiot.”
To which I say – you tell her, bro! Editors need a certain Ben Bradlee-style “bite me” attitude toward unjustified critics, rather than cowering in the corner once attacks start. Unfortunately, Cooke’s moxie was short-lived. Under a barrage of criticism, on February 20 the publisher – his boss -- announced that “the Gardasil story package of Feb. 5 will be removed from our website.”
In explaining the article’s removal, the publisher wrote: “The weight of the photographs, video, headlines and anecdotes led many readers to conclude the Star believed its investigation had uncovered a direct connection between a large variety of ailments and the vaccine.”
Well yeah, it kind of did lead readers to conclude that – and the conclusion was more than justified, as readers of our own coverage of the vaccine will know. But “we have concluded that in this case our story treatment led to confusion between anecdotes and evidence,” the publisher said, and so it was pulled. (The Wall Street Journal got it right in a blog post headlined: “A Win for Merck? Paper Removes Investigation of Gardasil Side Effects.”)
This is just the latest example of a disturbing and, frankly, un-American (in the case of the Toronto Star, un-North American) trend: self-censorship and craven caving to criticism. Salon pulling Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s piece on the CDC’s cover-up of thimerosal's damage in vaccines was among the first and foremost.
It’s not just pulling published journalism that is suppressing urgently needed debate. Google is reported to be talking about ranking its search results not just by relevance and popularity but by deciding which sites are most “accurate.” So if you humans don't cause global warming or do cause autism, you can expect to show up lower and later because, as we all know already and need not discuss any further, you are not accurate!
Brian Deer, the British journalist who claimed researcher Andrew Wakefield committed fraud by linking the MMR vaccine to autism, now admits one of his key allegations against Wakefield may be flat-out wrong. Yet he insists it's no big deal -- that it does nothing to undercut his claim that Wakefield is "an elaborate fraud."
“Not one of the children were reported on truthfully. Wakefield lied again and again,” journalist Brian Deer said in his post on Saturday, referring to Wakefield 12-child case series published in the Lancet in 1998. But in the same post, Deer acknowledged that, contrary to his previous reporting, he is now unsure whether Wakefield falsely changed the timing of the MMR shot to put it before the autism symptoms began in a key case.
“Who can say?” Deer wrote Saturday.
The allegation that Wakefield reversed the timing of the shot -- clear evidence of fraud, if true -- was featured in detail as the shocking opening to Deer’s 2012 series in the British Medical Journal titled “How the Case Against the MMR Was Fixed.”
Child 11’s autism symptoms developed "two months earlier than reported in the Lancet, and a month before the boy had MMR," Deer reported, “too soon” to be the cause. That “must have been a disappointment” to Wakefield, who proceeded to switch the sequence to suit his bias, Deer wrote. The father angrily “spotted the anomaly” after Deer identified and interviewed him, but “needn’t have worried” that Wakefield would get away with it: “My investigation of the MMR issue exposed the frauds behind Wakefield’s research.”
But on Saturday, after I showed that Deer is the one who got the sequence wrong – that the shot indisputably did come first, followed by the development of regressive autism -- Deer wrote: “Who can say, years later?” In fact, I can say: The father, whom I also identified and interviewed, wrote Wakefield as early as 1997, and contemporaneous medical records establish, that the child got the MMR at 15 months, became sick for several months, developed autism symptoms by 18 months, and was given a formal autism diagnosis at age 3. The father has always said he believes the shot caused all those consequences -- none of which Deer managed to reflect in his own investigation despite interviewing and e-mailing with Father 11 over an extended period of time.
The fact that a core element of his claim of research fraud is now a matter of uncertainty to Deer, the only man who made it, is a remarkable development under any circumstance, but considering the impact the claim has had on the autism debate in subsequent years, it is extraordinary. The claim has been used by officials around the world to say concerns about autism and vaccines have been "debunked" because they originated from a fraudulent research report. A typical example: Senator Dianne Feinstein of California wrote a constituent last week: “I understand that many parents are also concerned that vaccines may cause autism. This claim was published in 1998, in an article in the Lancet, a British medical journal. The researcher who authored the article was later found to have deliberately falsified data to produce a fraudulent link ..."
Equally striking is how little its accuracy seems to matter to Deer, convinced as he is that Wakefield's status as a charlatan is beyond dispute, even if such a central "fact" no longer supports it.
Deer, a veteran newspaper correspondent who, as he frequently points out, has won numerous prestigious journalism awards including the British equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for his Wakefield investigation, on Saturday offered no convincing reason for how he could have gotten something so central to his fraud claim against Wakefield so wrong. Instead he portrayed the father’s account as a “competing” explanation to the one Deer had independently settled on, based on a couple of unrelated court documents that led him to falsely infer that the autism symptoms preceded the shot in Child 11. Standard journalistic practice would be to check that assumption against the other, far more dispositive evidence that refuted it, and with the child’s father, who subsequently told me: "Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration."
Instead, on Saturday Deer sneered at the messenger – me – as he staged a full-scale retreat from the facts, using Father 11's acknowledged but irrelevant antipathy toward Wakefield as cover. He called me “an undistinguished former journalist” who now runs a website “largely funded by anti-vaccine profiteers,” claiming that I had been “dumped some years ago from his post as a copy editor for a news agency owned by the Rev Sun Myung Moon - himself convicted of fraud … Olmsted has since sought a livelihood from his website, misleading vulnerable parents of children with autism. … He sought to profit with his website by lying to parents whom he disgustingly purports to champion” and followed “British research cheat” Wakefield “into the toilet.”
Whatever. On Saturday Deer also tried to elevate a secondary issue – how long after the shot the autism symptoms occurred in Child 11 – into a replacement for his now-discredited claim that the entire sequence was reversed, an incomparably more serious and black-and-white issue.
Ultimately, Deer suggested, the truth is unknowable.
“The father says one thing, the medical records another,” as Deer put it on Saturday. In fact, the father says one thing, and the medical records back him. (That does not mean the vaccine caused the autism, of course, but it does mean the father believed it did, and that Wakefield got the sequence right.) Only Deer’s idiosyncratic and journalistically unjustified misuse of a couple of stray medical records, unchecked by the reality described by everyone else, says another.
The idea that Andy Wakefield is a fraud is the quick-and-dirty way to dismiss anyone with vaccine safety concerns. I was reminded of that on a couple of fronts this week. An Age of Autism reader who wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to support vaccine choice just received this reply:
“I understand that many parents are also concerned that vaccines may cause autism. This claim was published in 1998, in an article in the Lancet, a British medical journal. The researcher who authored the article was later found to have deliberately falsified data to produce a fraudulent link ..."
The source of the "fraud" claim, the British Medical Journal, decided to remind everyone of that 2012 report this week. In a "Dear Colleagues" letter, BMJ Clinical Director for North America Carolyn Wong Simpkins wrote that in the current measles outbreak, "we are seeing the sad consequences of parents opting out of these [vaccine] benefits. But do you remember the origins of the rumors attempting to connect the MMR vaccine with autism? It began with a research paper—later retracted—from investigators at a London medical school, but soon spread fear, guilt, and now the resurgence of a nearly eradicated infectious disease across the globe.
"In 2011, The BMJ published an in-depth, three-part investigation that described the problems with data corruption and bias in the original paper. As we move forward, and encourage parents to vaccinate their children, I think it’s important to revisit this history and remember the detrimental effects that fraudulent data can have on the health of the global population, and the importance of championing transparency, integrity, and scientific literacy."
May I be permitted to interject a minor quibble here? There was no fraud! I first made that case in a 10-part series in 2012, and am recapitulating it here in the hope that someone of Feinstein's stature might decide to look more closely before they repeat the "fraud" canard yet again.
The BMJ began its 2011 attack on Wakefield's "elaborate fraud" by claiming he altered every single one of 12 children's anonymous case histories to create a phony link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In five cases, it said, signs of autism actually began before the shot was even given.
If true, yep, that's "deliberately falsified data ... a fraudulent link" -- in a word, good old-fashioned fraud. But let's meet the claim at its strongest point and see if it holds together. That is the story of Child 11 in the case series. In the BMJ, author Brian Deer claimed Child 11's symptoms couldn't possibly have been caused by the MMR shot because they appeared “too soon” -- a full two months before the shot. Deer said the father himself spotted the "anomaly" and was deeply upset about Wakefield's deception. Wow. Gotcha! An "elaborate fraud" indeed.
But none of that is true.
Like Deer, I was able to identify the 12 Lancet families, and I set about contacting them in the months after the BMJ series was published; I eventually spoke to more of them than Deer did both in the U.S. and England, where I spent a week taking trains from Wales to Bath. I met Father 11 -- the only American case -- closest to home, at a Peet’s Coffee shop in an affluent, picture-perfect Southern California enclave.
We sat outside in the mid-60s sunshine he jokingly called “a little frosty.” A wealthy businessman who lives in a gated community nearby, he wore a light jacket emblazoned with “Cal,” for the University of California at Berkeley where he got an engineering degree. He carried a thin file folder and a spiral notebook.
In this laid-back setting, it was hard to grasp the role he and his family have played in one of the major medical controversies of our time, one that unfolded in a foggy city 6,000 miles to the east.
This father is Deer’s best witness among the parents of the 12 children described in the Lancet paper – in fact, his only one, the lone parent who is hostile to Wakefield, not just a little frosty, but coldly angry. His anonymous comments to Deer in the BMJ seemed to fully support its January 5, 2011, cover story: “Secrets of the MMR Scare: How the Case Against the MMR Was Fixed.”
Back in May 2005, a friend of mine in Washington came home late from work and was met excitedly by his wife, who told him she had just seen the most amazing episode of Law and Order: SVU. It was about a malaria drug called “Quinium” that made soldiers suicidal and homicidal; the government and drug company were covering up the truth and getting away with it. People were being irreversibly harmed, even dying.
The Quinium drama, she said, was just like the link between vaccines and autism that they had witnessed first-hand – an immediate reaction and regression, and a coverup of the obvious truth that was continuing even now.
My friend smiled and explained to his wife that the episode was a thinly veiled account of a malaria drug named Lariam, and that the episode was based on my reporting. (His wife knew me, but not as well as he did.) The "reporter" in the SVU episode was a somewhat squirrely character named Sherm Hemphill, clearly an amalgam of me and Mark Benjamin – we had written dozens stories about Lariam’s deadly consequences when we were at UPI. Mark went on to Salon.com where he wrote his own impressions of the SVU episode in an article titled, “Ripped from my headlines! ‘Law and Order: SVU’ pulls details from my reporting for its gripping finale. So why is the ‘reporter’ such an ink-stained wretch?” (Mark was not as amused as I was that the reporter was portrayed as a tabloid journalist pawing through trash for a scoop. I’ve done worse!)
I recount this story not just to relive my one – and only – moment in the Hollywood sun, but because I was reminded of it this week in quite a remarkable way. A Facebook friend named Hil Down messaged me an article with the note, “vaccines and Lariam, all in one article.”
The piece, which Anne Dachel also picked up in her Media Update, was from the Associated Press and titled, “Anti-vaccine mothers discuss their thinking amid backlash.” The headline was unfortunate, the story better. It portrayed three mothers who “are among the vaccine skeptics who have been widely ridiculed since more than 100 people fell ill in a measles outbreak traced to Disneyland. Critics question their intelligence, their parenting, even their sanity. Some have been called criminals for foregoing shots for their children that are overwhelmingly shown to be safe and effective.
"'Contrary to the common sentiment, we are not anti-science,' said Michelle Moore, a businesswoman who lives in the affluent Portland suburb of Lake Oswego with her 2½-year-old twin girls. 'I'm not opposed to medicine, and I think vaccines have a place. We think it's a medical choice, and it should be researched carefully.'"
Then came the beauty part: “Moore, an MBA graduate who runs an agriculture-related business, traces her feelings back to the time she took Lariam, a supposedly safe anti-malaria medication. Instead, she said, the drug saddled her with multiple health complications. She questions whether the government knew about the risks at the time. Health officials now acknowledge Lariam can cause severe side effects, some of which can be permanent.
“That experience broke Moore's trust in the medical establishment and launched her on years of research into how vaccines can affect people's health.”
There’s a story – make of it what you will – that Joe Kennedy the elder knew it was time to get out of the market when the shoeshine boy started giving him stock tips. By that standard, it might be time for the vaccine injury deniers to get out of the marketplace of ideas, because everybody, and I mean everybody, is convinced they have the expertise and standing to tell the rest of us why vaccines don’t cause autism, shouldn’t be debated, and on and on.
The latest to opine on this topic is Mark Zuckerberg, joining Bill Gates as a gazillionaire bootblack who may know how to make a buck but nothing about the autism epidemic, the science of vaccine injury, the role of liability protection, or other topics that you and I talk about every day. As a putative new media czar whose “news feed” includes plenty of pages that disagree with him (like ours), he ought to keep his mouth shut. Instead, he’s recommending “Immunity: An Inoculation” for his book club. When I first heard that, I decided to let it be, because people should read whatever they want, but then I saw that he is weighing in with his own personal vaccine creed:
“The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community. This book explores the reasons why some people question vaccines, and then logically explains why the doubts are unfounded and vaccines are in fact effective and safe.”
I’ve tried to ignore the book in question, but I will have more to say about it later since it seems to be insinuating itself into pop culture. Meanwhile, I’ll just say that Zuckerberg – whose father, a dentist, had his practice in their home – is way too powerful, and uninformed, to be offering this kind of cheap and easy commentary.
From creed to screed: One unfortunate aspect of the Internet – which as regular readers will agree, has been largely positive for spreading the truth about autism – is that legacy print publications, which shrink ever deeper into oblivion on the newsstand, have opened their online portals and attached their prestige to all manner of guest writers, advertorial “sponsored content,” click-throughs, partnerships and so on. (The wack-a-doodle Time online piece about printing the names and addresses of vaccine-exempting families is a case in point. Henry Luce would have had a heart attack on the spot if he weren’t already deceased.)
Anyway, Rolling Stone published a screed online by someone named Jeb Lund, who seems never to have heard of thimerosal or RS Contributing Editor RFK Jr. – or Rolling Stone’s own archive -- when he writes:
“Anti-vaxxer science is science in the same way that saying the word "FUCK" came from "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" or "Fornication Under Consent of King" is etymology. It's science the way "Catherine the Great died having sex with a horse" is history. It's shit that sounds plausible only if you're someone never in danger of double-checking it or stumbling across something like topical expertise. Christ, you could figure out most of this stuff is bullshit just by reading the questions and answers on NTN Bar Trivia at your local Buffalo Wild Wings for more than a few hours.”
It was a decade ago – “a budding spring day” in April 2005 – that I visited Amish country in Pennsylvania just a couple of hours away from Washington for my first Age of Autism column, titled The Amish Anomaly. I posed the question, “Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder. I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.”
I was a bit naive. My reporting, which found very few autistic Amish and a much lower vaccination rate than the country as a whole, raised the specter of a link between vaccinations and autism, a link that was starting to get some traction as the autism rate inexplicably exploded in America's children. The effort to nullify what I reported was quick and continuing: Opponents like Seth Mnookin portrayed the Amish Anomaly (which has its own Wikipedia page!) as junk on a par with Andy Wakefield's Lancet study:
“The various vaccine manufactroversies that have spread in the wake of Andrew Wakefield’s bogus claims that the measles component of the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism are too numerous to unpack in one brief blog post. One of the most persistent has been the Amish fallacy: Most Amish don’t vaccinate; there’s almost no record of autism in Amish communities; ergo, vaccines cause autism. (This argument has also been used, time and time and time again, to illustrate the efficacy of a proposed vaccinated-versus-unvaccinated study.)
From The Gary Null Radio Program 2/6/15.
First Guest: Prof. Mary Holland
Prof. Mary Holland is a Director of the Graduate Legal Skills Program at New York University School of Law, specializing in international human rights, public law and vaccine safety law and injury compensation. She also has a son who regressed into autism following the MMR vaccine. Yesterday she was a guest on Democracy Now along with Dr. Paul Offit, the guru celebrity of the pro-vaccine industry. Since Offit was the last to be interviewed during yesterday’s program, we have invited her on to respond to Offit’s comments. Mary has degrees in Russian studies from Harvard, and graduate degrees in international relations and a JD from Columbia University, where she has also taught international law at its Law School. Mary is the co-author of “Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health and Our Children.” The website is VaccineEpidemic.com
Second Guest: Dr. Sherri Tenpenny
KCBS Morning Anchor Stan Bunger offers this commentary on an interview Thursday morning with a vaccine skeptic:
Click here for the link to the audio, no embed code available, sorry.
After weeks of listening to people revile the parents who don’t get their kids vaccinated, I thought it would be a good idea to ask the people who question the childhood vaccination program why they think the way they do.
So we put one of them on the air for an interview. Dan Olmsted edits the website “Age of Autism” and believes vaccines are a significant part of what he calls the “autism epidemic.”
It may have come as a shock to those who assume these folks foam at the mouth, but Olmsted speaks in a calm voice and doesn’t rant or rave. He DOES, however, toss off lines that, well, aren’t quite true.