Managing Editor's Note: You know when an author writes about Thimerosal and MMR in the same sentence that he or she has no grasp whatsoever on the autism/vaccine issue and is merely spouting from other uneducated sources.
By Patti Carroll
Group Gives Award to Author They Knew Had Lied in his Book
The results of the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards were announced last night at a gala celebration in downtown St. Paul. The Minnesota Book Awards have been coordinated by a group called The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library for the past few years, and are intended “to showcase the tremendous literary talent and output of our state”.
However, a stain has been cast on The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library after a book called “Fool Me Twice – Fighting the Assault on Science in America” was given an award in the General Nonfiction category. The award is tainted by the fact that not only did the author blatantly lie in this supposed “nonfiction” work, but the coordinators of the event were aware of this fact well in advance of the awards ceremony.
I first heard of this book when my local community newspaper published a glowing, half page review of it back in December. It caught my eye because the review claimed that this local author had identified potentially harmful myths, including vaccines cause autism. I checked the book out of the library a few weeks later, and was outraged when I read the small section on vaccine refusal. Even though this topic was listed in the review and on the book jacket itself as one of the main “myths” the author covered, there were only a few pages in the book that even touched on the subject. And the coverage was downright insulting to one who had actually lived through most of what the author was writing about.
I called Ann Nelson, the coordinator of the book awards, in mid-February to notify her that there were several factual errors in this book. During a rather strange conversation, she told me that there are many different opinions on this topic – to which I calmly replied “Yes, but this is not a book that was nominated in an “opinion” category, this is supposed to be factual”. She then said that they do not really concern themselves with content in the books they consider for awards, but rather writing style and general appeal. “What?” I said, “How can you not consider content in a NON-FICTION book?” She then went on to say that she had never heard of a nominated book that was pulled from consideration for an award, and that there was no process in place to do this. But I continued to appeal to her, listing some of the blatant errors. She seemed concerned, and asked me to put something in writing for her and Alayne Hopkins, the director of the book awards.
Here is what I sent to them two weeks later:
February 29, 2012
To: Ann Nelson
Friends of the St. Paul Library Book Awards
325 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
From: Patti Carroll
Consumer Safety Advocate
Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota
6031 Culligan Way
Minnetonka, MN 55345
Dear Ms. Nelson -
I am following up on our recent phone conversation during which we discussed the fact that a book titled “Fool Me Twice” - by Shawn Lawrence Otto is being considered for a Minnesota Book Award under the general nonfiction category.
The sub-title of the book is “Fighting the Assault on Science in America” - and among the topics the book claims to cover is vaccine refusal. As a parent of a child with vaccine-induced autism, and knowing dozens of others, I have been studying this issue and reading the science pertaining to it for nearly a decade. When I read the portion of the book concerning vaccines, it was evident that Mr. Otto has attempted to re-write the recent history of vaccine refusal into a few tidy paragraphs to support what appears to be a strong bias.
The book contains several bizarre and blatantly untrue statements, and the author makes many broad generalizations on this topic – but includes little “science” to back up his inaccurate and defamatory claims.
Page 152 – “The MMR vaccine contained thimerosal”
This is a stunning statement to read in a book that purports to be about “Fighting the Assault on Science” - as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of science would know that a mercury-based compound could never be used in a vaccine that contains live viruses, such as the MMR vaccine. The mercury would immediately kill the viruses. The MMR vaccine has NEVER contained thimerosal.
Page 152 - Dr. Andrew Wakefield “doctored his evidence to fit his a priori conclusion” in his paper published in the Lancet in 1998, and the paper has been discredited as “fraudulent”
I was shocked to read a published book that contains such pure hearsay. Not only has Dr. Wakefield never been convicted of doctoring evidence or committing fraud, he has never even been charged with these things. Mr. Otto appears to have taken his “facts” straight from tabloid headlines. Dr. Wakefield has filed a defamation lawsuit against the British Medical Journal for printing the false allegations that Mr. Otto is parroting in his book. If you follow the link in Otto’s footnote, you will see it leads to an article that accuses Wakefield of fraud – with absolutely no proof, and certainly no such charges or convictions.
General theme throughout this section - Vaccines do not cause autism
Four years ago, former CDC head Julie Gerberding admitted that vaccines can indeed cause autism, and last year it was revealed that the U.S. government has been aware of this fact for some time. There are many cases of vaccine-induced autism that have been successful in proving their cases in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, including Poling, Banks, Freeman, and others. Interestingly, Otto bemoans the “Crisis in American Journalism”- where he claims “serious journalism is being forced into small outlets on the web, many of them non-profit.” But on the topic of vaccine-induced autism, Otto appears to have violated his own standards by merely copying mainstream media headlines or someone else’s work. Had he done some firsthand investigating on this topic, he would have discovered that among confirmed NVICP cases (those being compensated by the U.S. government for their vaccine-induced brain damage), the rate of autism is one in about every two cases. And since the NVICP’s inception in 1986, there have been over 1300 such cases settled.
Page 153 – Regarding mercury in the form of thimerosal, Mr. Otto states “despite there being no scientific evidence of negative health effects…”
It is absolutely absurd that anyone would make such a ridiculous statement, especially one who claims to be a supporter of “science”. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the toxicity of mercury, and the serious issues it can cause – including death. Surprisingly, the link at footnote 17 takes the reader to the FDA website, where the following statement is found:
“Several cases of acute mercury poisoning from thimerosal-containing products were found in the medical literature with total doses of thimerosal ranging from approximately 3 mg/kg to several hundred mg/kg. These reports included the administration of immune globulin (gamma globulin) (Matheson et al. 1980) and hepatitis B immune globulin (Lowell et al. 1996), choramphenicol formulated with 1000 times the proper dose of thimerosal as a preservative (Axton 1972), thimerosal ear irrigation in a child with tympanostomy tubes (Rohyans et al. 1994), thimerosal treatment of omphaloceles in infants (Fagan et al. 1977), and a suicide attempt with thimerosal (Pfab et al. 1996). These studies reported local necrosis, acute hemolysis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, acute renal tubular necrosis, and central nervous system injury including obtundation, coma, and death. (IOM)”
In his haste to make his point, Mr. Otto apparently did not read through his references in their entirety.
Page 153 – “Thimerosal had been removed from vaccines in 2001”
A quick check of the current vaccine schedule will show that thimerosal is still in several vaccines at what is called a “trace” level (and it should be noted that there is no safe level of thimerosal established by the FDA). It is also in the majority of influenza vaccines routinely administered to pregnant women and infants as young as six months old. Vaccine manufacturers were never required to remove thimerosal from vaccines.
Page 154 – In reference to Dr. Wakefield coming to Minnesota to meet with Somali autism parents, Otto quotes a gentleman named Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed as saying (regarding Wakefield), “ He’s using a vulnerable population here, mothers looking for answers. He’s providing a fake hope.”
Interestingly, Dr. Mohamed was not at any of the meetings between Somali parents and Dr. Wakefield. As one of the organizers of these events, I can attest that it was the Somali parents who implored Dr. Wakefield to come and meet with them. Dr. Mohamed infers that Dr. Wakefield sought out and “used” the Somali parents, when in fact – it was quite the opposite. When you follow the link in Otto’s footnotes, again you will find that he has merely referenced someone else’s article – an article also written by someone who was not even present at the meetings. If Mr. Otto truly wanted to get to the crux of the matter, he would have interviewed Dr. Wakefield, some of the Somali parents who were present at these meetings, or one of the meeting hosts.
These are only a few of the false claims I discovered in this book – and I only read the few pages devoted to vaccines. When people begin to read this recently-published work and realize the poor quality of the coverage on vaccines, it will no doubt reflect poorly on the judges of the Minnesota Book Awards if they have rewarded this author with a prize. I have included several links and two documents to support my arguments, and will gladly provide further backup for you, if needed. It is unfortunate that the author of this “nonfiction” book was unable to provide such meticulous corroboration for what he published.
Otto’s book jacket states – “Whenever the people are well- informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.” But what happens if the people aren’t well informed?
Sadly, the author of “Fool Me Twice” has either been “fooled” himself or is deliberately trying to keep people from being well-informed on the extremely important topic of vaccine safety. Either way, I respectfully request that this book be removed from contention for the Minnesota Book Awards.
Patti Carroll – Board Member
Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota
cc. Alayne Hopkins
Book Awards Director
Banks vs. HHS
Freeman vs. HHS
FDA: Thimerosal in Vaccines
Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s recently filed defamation lawsuit against UK reporter and the BMJ
"CDC Chief Admits that Vaccines Trigger Autism"
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews former CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, now working for Merck Vaccines.
Vaccine Autism Case Gets US Government Compensation 07 Mar 2008
"Hannah's father, neurologist Dr Jon Poling who practised in Athens, Georgia, told the press on Thursday that he and his wife, Terry, a registered nurse and former trial attorney, were 'very pleased' with the decision, reported CNN."
SafeMinds Research Database: Vaccine Mercury Toxicity Studies
Vaccine Mercury Toxicity Studies
Compiled by mercury researcher Boyd E. Haley, PhD
Former chair, Chemistry Department, University of Kentucky
Toxicity of Thimerosal: An Organic Mercurial Added To Vaccines
Thimerosal Toxicity Slide Show
Selected Studies on the Toxicity of Thimerosal Published in Peer Reviewed Scientific and Medical Journals
A. Toxic Effects of Thimerosal on Vital Mammalian Enzymes
B. Chromosomal Aberrations Induced by Thimerosal Exposure
C. Disruption of Calcium Homeostasis by Thimerosal
D. Allergic Responses to Thimerosal in Vaccines and Opthalmics
E. Thimerosal Exposure from Vaccines
SafeMinds Launches Mercury-Free Pregnancy Campaign
"For the 2011-2012 flu season, approximately 53% of the flu vaccine supply still contains mercury in the form of thimerosal."
Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury
Mary Holland Esq., NYU School of Law; Louis Conte; Robert Krakow, Esq.; Lisa Colin
Pace Environmental Law Review
Volume 28, Issue 2 Winter 2011, Article 6: 5-10-2011
Measles, Minneapolis and Somali Kids
By Abdulkadir Khalif
March 28, 2011
"We, the Somali parents of Minnesota have taken upon ourselves to invite caring scientists to help us unravel the mysteries of autism. The CDC woke up from the deep slumber afterwards and is now scrambling to scuttle that process by initiating yet another research to confirm prevalence. Their aim is to put a stop to this perennial Somali story by 'scientifically' disproving prevalence."
After giving the awards group an opportunity to review the references I provided and compare them to the footnotes provided in the book, I called and spoke to Alayne Hopkins, the book awards director. She had received the letter and backup. (I actually printed out the case decision summaries for Banks and Freeman, and sent those along with the memo) In what turned out to be another strange conversation, I listened to this woman say that the judges look only at the book, not the facts – even in a nonfiction category. When I asked what the judges thought after reading my memo, she told me that they did not pass this information on to the judges, and stated that their rules dictate that they take the publisher’s information as factual. I wondered why they had even asked me to document my objections. Like Ms. Nelson, she hemmed and hawed quite a bit, talked about differing “opinions”, and eventually confirmed that they would not remove the book from contention. She said this was really an issue between me and the author and the publisher, and that I should take it up with them, to which I replied that I had planned to, but wanted first to save her organization some embarrassment.
She tried to pacify me by saying that publishers often make corrections on subsequent printings, and that she had passed my memo and contact information on to the author and publisher. She then said that “Shawn” (I guess they’re on a first-name basis) would love to talk to me. But when I asked for his contact information, she would only give me a generic website for him. I decided to wait and see – if he would really “love” to talk to me, he has my number. I’m still waiting for that call.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by the amount of ignorance and misinformation that is spread every day on the topic of vaccine-induced autism. But I can’t help but be amazed at the blazing speed in which:
- A pharma-funded medical journal prints an opinion piece that alleges fraud
- Some guy writes a book repeating that opinion but claims it’s a fact
- A publisher prints and distributes the “nonfiction” book without fact-checking the claim
- A group supposedly dedicated to excellence in writing gives this book an award knowing it contains false information
All in the course of 15 months. Wow.
I would like to think that the judges and sponsors of this event will be shocked to learn that they were never given an opportunity to review important information before they gave this book an award. But after over a decade in the trenches I am losing faith in humanity. Regardless of whether these people just didn’t want to “make waves”, they have done more damage than any of us will ever know. Each person who knowingly gives a pass to dishonest reporting on the dangers of vaccines is an equal partner in harming more of our innocent children.
Shame on them all.