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Are We Winning the Vaccine-Autism War?

The Minnesota Somali Autism Study: That and a dollar will buy you a hot dog.

Super duper weenie By Tim Kasemodel
The Minnesota Somali autism study released on March 31st 2009 has created quite a stir, but not as much as it should.  It creates a certain enigma, a conundrum of sorts.  While it attempts to assure the Somali community that the Minnesota Department of Health cares for them and wishes the best for them, it gives them no answers to the questions they have been asking them for so long.

Why?  Why us? they ask.  Yes, the MDH admits the Somali community was right, that their observations were correct.  It appears there are indeed more Somali children receiving autism services than other children.  But the MDH makes the strange disclaimer that the data they used for this study is not actually good enough to say for sure one way or the other.

What?  How much did the taxpayer spend on this study?

The "media briefing" that I attended was at best unrewarding.  I expected more of an absolute conclusion, a tangible take away from the report.  After a 15 minute controlled speech from Commissioner of Health Dr. Sanne Magnan herself, I thought we would get something we could put our fingers on.  Disappointed I was, but alas, it was exactly what I expected from the Minnesota Department of Health.

We know that a certain New York Times writer took journalistic liberties by cherry picking information from a Somali family recently interviewed.  He conveniently left out the fact they believed vaccines caused their child’s autism before anyone else had suggested it.

I too was once the victim of a young local journalist, who was only looking for the desperate autism parent to plug into his “vaccines are safe” article.  He described me as having “the slightly overweight build of a former high school wrestler, and hair that matches the messiness of the house”.  In the following paragraphs I am going to take certain “journalistic liberties” of my own to describe my experience at the media briefing held by the MDH.  This is kind of a “therapy” of sorts if you know what I mean.

The Commissioner of Health Dr. Sanne Magnan started her media briefing with the basics of the study, moving on to a series of shameless self-congratulatory remarks about how the hard work and sincere efforts of many agencies combined into a collaborative effort to get to the bottom of the concerns of the Somali community.  She mentioned that the MDH had met with “members of the Somali community” the day before, as if she was implying that the whole community was happy with the study. Then she ended it with the unbelievable clarification that the study means essentially nothing at all, no real conclusions were established.  In the end, the answers to the questions from the Somali community were never answered. 

I wondered how the MDH could ever expect the Somali families to believe they sincerely want to help when the MDH can look at this study and say it does not mean anything.  A representative of the Somali organization Parents United Against Autism was in attendance.  He left early in part because he was upset about the comment where the MDH met with “members of the Somali community”.  He knows that that community only includes those Somalis who step in line behind the “It can’t be vaccines” mantra.  If the MDH were being sincere, they certainly would have invited the group at the frontlines of the Somali autism cluster – those who answer the phone calls from scared parents begging for answers to help with a child so difficult to understand.

The robotics of her delivery and the completely confusing message was obviously convincing to the local media present. One of the first questions asked was “Will it be possible to determine if the Somali rates of autism are actually higher than the rest of the population?”  What?  I thought that was what the study was supposed to find out in the first place, and this idiot asked that question?

One question for the Commissioner came from a reporter who I felt had the slightly underweight build of a former high school chess team player, and hair that matched the glossy hue of his shoes.  He addressed the criteria for qualifying for autism services and if services may have been given to kids who did not actually have autism.  I thought this was an odd question, as if he thought a kid who qualified for autism services might actually be a neuro-typical child, but getting services he did not need.  The Commissioner’s answer was as namby-pamby as the conclusion of the study was; some kids who are autistic don’t get services, some who are not, do, so we don’t know.

One of the Somali journalists present asked if they had looked at kids who originated from other East African nations as well.  The answer was no; they only considered any family that listed “Somali” as the language spoken at home.  Well, I suppose if you wanted to look at the rate of autism among Norwegians in Minnesota, you would only consider those who spoke Norwegian at home, right?  I personally know of at least one Somali child who was excluded from this study because the family listed English as spoken at home.  After all, is it so unreasonable to expect that some Somali immigrants could speak English at home?

Yikes!  How much did the taxpayer spend on this study?

Another genius from the media asked about the difference between “administrative” (the latest and greatest catch phrase in autism) or “educational” autism qualification versus a medical diagnosis and what affect that has on the Somali rates.  After the expected response that one cannot consider them the same, I was shocked to hear the Commissioner state quite emphatically that studies have shown that when taken to a clinician, 25% to 30% of educationally diagnosed kids are not given a medical diagnosis. 

Wow.  My hand went up instantly to question her source, but some unbelievably inquisitive reporter, obviously not well versed in media reporting, had a great question.  It was something along the lines of “Where did you get that number from?” or something to that effect.  As the commissioner tried to pretend she actually had read a real study or even a sentence or two that might back up what she said, Judy Punyko, the author of the study piped up to clarify.  What she really meant was that it was based on “observations of various clinicians around the Twin Cities” and that was their opinion.

Does that not sound like “anecdotal evidence” to you?  (More on that later.)

Throughout the briefing we heard over and over how the MDH was there to help, that what was important was looking forward to the next step, that this is just the beginning.  We were told how they wanted to assure the Somali community they were willing to go to the ends of the earth to help them get the services their children needed.  With all the baloney about how great a job they all did, all the different agencies working together, the Somali community was still left begging for answers they desperately needed.  Why were so many of their kids eligible in for services at such a young age?  Were their kids more susceptible to the more severe form of autism, the most obvious at that age? 

So I asked the Commissioner if the MDH had considered looking into how many Somali kids were on the severe end of the spectrum and how many had less “costly” impairments.  Well, by golly, that is just the kind of questions from the community that will get us discussing important issues, looking in the right directions.....blah, blah, blah…….  The answer was that it was not on their radar, would be difficult, expensive.  To me it is the most important question of all – across all ethnicities – so we can plan for these kids as adults.

I told the Commissioner that my wife Laura has been keeping track of the rates of kids “accessing autism services” (AAS for short) in Minnesota since 2003 and that the rate of 9 year olds AAS is currently 1 in 66.  I asked if they could relate that to the rates they found in the study.  After all, they only report percentages, and who really knows off the top of their head that a rate of 1.54% is really a rate of around 1 in 65 kids (except for Mark Blaxill)?  The answer was simple to Judy Punyko – apples to oranges, she said.  You can not compare 9-year-olds rates to that of 3-to 4-year-olds.  While that is true, I was simply wondering if they noticed that the rates in the study were similar to those of older kids who had much more time to get an educational diagnosis.

After the briefing I spoke with Judy Punyko about where the comment regarding 25% to 30% of educational diagnosis not qualifying for medical diagnosis came from.  As she had admitted that it was actually opinion, I asked her why the MDH gets to use anecdotal observation as a basis for denial of the actual increase in rates among Somali children.  I said when parents use observations of what happened to our children, like developing autism after vaccinations, we get attacked.  I explained it was inappropriate for the MDH to use those percentages from now on and urged her to discontinue its use.  She looked at me with the stone cold face equal only to a cat responding to an order to get off the kitchen counter.  It was like I never mentioned it at all.

I thanked Commissioner Magnan for her efforts (she is new to the post) but mentioned that we have been shouting about autism for years and it is far beyond time for more studies on rates.  I implored her to forget about educational, administrative or medical diagnosis of autism and look at the rates reported by the Department of Education.  The simple fact that 1 in 41 nine year old boys in Minnesota have enough developmental deficits to qualify them for autism services should scare the hell out of everybody.

She shook my hand and thanked me for attending the media briefing.

I got home and Laura had given me a printout of the study. Almost immediately I recognized something the Commissioner had said earlier: that over the three year study period the gap between the Somalis and non-Somalis “had narrowed”.  A less confusing way to say that might be that the rate of Somali children born in 2005 qualifying for autism services decreased from those born in 2001.

What could have happened?  This would be good to know, wouldn’t you think?  What happened in 2003?  Oh yeah, I remember, the last of the preservative level thimerosal containing vaccines for infants expired that year.  (Never mind that trace level Hep B vaccines may still be on shelves today) 

Most Somalis may have been on the Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program where the funding for their vaccines were provided by the CDC, which meant they were most likely given the cheapest and most available vaccines: preservative level vaccines.  This means that it was not until the 2006 study cohort that the majority of the vaccines the kids in this study received were likely to be mercury-preservative-free.  It could not have been staring the CDC as blatantly in the face as this study did.  But remember, this study was never about causation or cure.
I guess it all comes down to what the Somali community will take away from this study.  The MDH believes that the headlines in the paper and the pretty faces on the news will help them succeed in getting their message to the Somali community, That there is nothing to worry about, they have it under control, to trust them.  I think they are sadly mistaken.  They are looking for real answers, not platitudes.  It is from the efforts of parents like Hodan, Patti, Abdulkidir, Tim, Zadiq, Laura, Abdulkarim, Libby, Fatima and Nancy that they will find answers.

Parents will make the difference, parents will be there to answer their questions the best we can.  We will tackle the questions that the Somali community desire answers to, in a way the MDH will never be able to match.  With sincerity.

Tim Kasemodel is the father of two boys affected by mercury from vaccines and husband to Laura.  He is one of many parents joining together to help Somali families help their children affected by autism.


Tim Kasemodel

Here is where not only the study is available, but some interesting "fact sheets" that the MDH prepared for the Somalis, where all the basic lies are available - like did you know that a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study has been done and proves vaccines are safe?

Now you know why I stand up the the MDH - because it is so easy to show that they lie.

Thanks everyone for the great comments! As for looking for unvaccinated Somali's in MInnesota, you would have better luck finding Sasquatch.


Marvin Lewis

How can I get to see this study:
The Minnesota Somali autism study released on March 31st 2009?
[email protected]


Lea Schizas - I'm not a scientist, but I think it works like this. You inherit the genetic DNA from your parents, but epigenetics is about how the genes are behaving, this is called gene expression.

So it's not what genes you have, but how they are behaving.

Theoretically gene expression should be able to be changed back to normal.

So here is an example (I'm not saying that this is what actually happens in autism, because I don't know, it is just to give an example of epigenetics.)

Let us say there is a woman with a genetically weak immune system, and she gets a virus in her brain. She doesn't have autism. But then she gets pregnant. The fetus thinks to itself "I have the same genetic immune defect as my mother, and I'm going to be exposed to the same environment with the same viruses. There's nothing I can do about that. But what I can do is increase the gene expression for the genes that give my brain the ability to repair itself."

So the fetus has the same immune weakness in the DNA, and it knows it will be exposed to the same things as the mother, eg viruses, toxins, it knows it will be under attack, and because of the weak immunity in the DNA it knows it can't put up a good fight. All it can do is boost reconstruction. The reconstruction mechanism is called plasticity (the brains ability to repair itself). Too much plasticity gives the symptoms we call autism.

So if this were true then autism is not a direct result of a virus or toxin in the brain, instead autism is the result of the brain's attempt to repair itself from the damage caused by a virus or toxin in the brain. It tries to repair itself by boosting the plasticity.

I have gone a bit offtopic in trying to explain, but I think the gene doesn't actually mutate, it is the same gene as the parent has, it is just behaving differently, and if you could find the environmental triggers that made it behave differently and get rid of them all, then the autistic child might have a non-autistic baby, because the gene expression could go back to normal.

Watch George Ebers on youtube, he is talking about Multiple Sclerosis, but the stuff he says about gene expression is general.

Heidi N

Wow, you must have had a difficult time sitting through all the bull-s&*^! So, the governement trains their employees well on how to spew words without saying anything meaningful. Well, they do have a lot of training meetings. I remember some past work history myself, where I was told to talk in circles so as to not give an answer. This is done to avoid accountability. I say autism is caused by greed and lack of accountability. Everyone just wants to protect their job and find ways to not get sued for their obvious endangerment. How can they sleep at night?

Kathy Blanco


900,000 children to be vaccinated as

campaign begins

August, 1998

In one of the biggest health campaigns in the recent history of Somalia, about 900,000 children under five years of age in central and southern

Somalia are to be vaccinated against polio during two rounds of vaccinations from 15 to 19 August and from 13 to 17, September,1998. Around

2,500 Somali health workers in more than 600 vaccination teams will be visiting all towns, villages and nomadic settlements so that every child

under 5 years of age can be vaccinated against polio.

Polio is a dreaded disease caused by a virus which cripples children under five years of age and makes them lame and disabled and at times even

kills the affected children. The protection from this dreaded disease is very easy: two drops of vaccine are given by mouth (NO INJECTION IS

INVOLVED). In addition to this, all ander-five children will also be given Vitamin A doses by mouth which protects the children from blindness

and many other diseases.

he campaign will be conducted in all the regions of Central and Southern Somalia.

The Polio Eradication Campaign is organised jointly by the Somali communities, Somali health workers and NGOs with technical and financial

support from UNICEF, WHO and Rotary International. Somali authorities and local elders in all the regions have promised their support for the

campaign and have agreed to provide unhindered access to the health workers and teams and to their vehicles.

In order for the campaign to be successful, it will be important that ALL children under five years of age are vaccinated against polio in two

rounds (they have to receive the vaccination twice) only if this is done is there a chance that the virus can be killed once and for all- If a child has

already received some vaccination in the past or has completed the vaccination course in the past, EVEN THAT CHILD SHOULD BE

VACCINATED AGAIN and given these additional doses during the two rounds of this campaign. This will help in boosting the child's

resistance further against the disease.

The vaccine will not cause any fever or any other illness to the child. It can be given safely even to the children who are sick due to malaria,

diarrhoea, respiratory infections or any other infection. Parents should therefore make sure that they bring their children under five years of age

for vaccination when the vaccination teams are visiting their village and neighbourhood.

NO BRAINER..SV-40, lovely...


Wonderful reporting!


Thanks, Tim, for attending so many meetings that other parents can't get to, and reporting your keen observations with intelligent analysis and pointed humor.

It's mind-boggling how the Minnesota Department of Health is no further along than they were last fall, telling us basically what the Somali parents have been saying for years.

I can't help but wonder whether there isn't a little residual sexism involved in presenting the information to the public. The smiling MDH mommy figures scratch their heads and look befuddled, and reporters give them a walk. I think if a male were at the podium, he'd probably get more than one hardball question.

Such as, why aren't any of you tax-funded health workers looking at any of your state's sick, vaccine-injured children?

Why do you give lip service to offers of help such as social services, while ignoring the herd of elephants in the room?

Cynthia Cournoyer

Thanks for your article. I still think that someone should search out a population of Somali children that have never been vaccinated and find out what their rate of autism is. The biggest "complaint" about parents raising questions about vaccines causing autism, is that people might listen to them and stop vaccinating. So no health official or vaccine manufacturer would ever have the least bit of motivation to give these parents even the slightest credibility. It's not in THEIR genetic makeup to do so.
Cynthia Cournoyer

Kelli Ann Davis


You totally crack me up! The mix of wit, humor and intelligence is a perfect blend.

Thanks for reporting back from the "frontlines of ground zero" and keeping us up to date on this important issue.


Kent Heckenlively


I always love reading your articles. They are insightful, well-written, and contain the level of passion we need to bring to this issue.

All the best,
Kent Heckenlively


Excellent work as usual Tim. We in MN are grateful that you keep the fire on our public officials. If only they could hear the smoke alarms blaring.

Tanners Dad

Tim I hope you feel a little better. Most of the time when I rant in my blog my blood pressure goes up. I wish we all could write with the wit of Kim S. But you really did go to far with this post. I must take exception to your attack on the Chess Players. I think this is the way MDH and others really do cherry pick what they want to hear read and write. We have a battle on our hands. I am just thankful we all have pretty thick skin. Hang in there. I was president of the chess club:)

Teresa Conrick


Yikes, is right! Your restraint is amazing as my blood was boiling just reading this.

It has the familiar feel of when CDC et al descended down into Brick Township NJ in 1998 (over 10 years ago--another yikes!)

I had that clipping on my fridge from the initial alarm until it yellowed and the Pediatrics study emerged 2 years later, much like this group who calmed, assured and then walked away. Smoke and mirrors from The Fun House of beurocratic

You guys are survivalists. You put up with blizzards, ice and now another "Snow job"! I am quite certain that between your own data analysis, the brains and truth your side has, and the lack of honesty of others reporting, that this meeting is only the beginning.

I hope medical care is being provided and that those labs can be publicized about gut issues, mitochondria abnormalities, crazy viral titres (patterns),aluminum, mercury, bacteria....etc.

My heart goes out to all of these families and I hope some can make it to Autism One.


Tim-- excellent review. Sometimes it amazes me how polite and civil our side is with these so-called health authorities as they ladel out crap by the kilo.

The detail that Somali autism rates may be tapering down is really fascinating, since no one mentions seeing signs that autism in the general population is doing the same thing (reducing). Maybe I'm misunderstanding or maybe there isn't enough information to tell yet, but it seems to signify that the current vaccine schedule and combined vaccine ingredients (with lower thimerosal/higher aluminum and more shots in general) produces a specific, reliable rate of autism.

You went easy on that reporter. How really silly was his hair? Think you'll ever get a chance to critique his house?

candace passino

awesome account, of the more beurocratic B.S. ,that is slung at our familys. To the Somali families we are here, we are here.we are here..with you.!!!!!!!..keep up the pressure ,they want us to go away...we arent going anywhere..until the truth is aknowledege..and our children recieve the help ,which they deserve.Tim great article, you made my sunday..candace..

Lea Schizas

Kim, I was wondering if you or any of the editors might be able to explain something to me in layman terms about epigenetics. I've been reading this with interest but the scientific terminology escapes me. From my understanding so far epigenetics is when the gene in a fetis mutates or adapts to its present environment. This may have been passed on from the parent but the mutated gene has now become a unique entity of the child and not one necesarily from the parent. A gene that may or did mutate from environmental surroundings.

So wouldn't this misrepresent some of the gene research stating that autism is genetics, passed on by parents? I mean, it is and it isn't in some respects.

Possibility for a further explanation or definition?

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