Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Early Successes of Vaccines

It would be a great understatement to say that vaccination has become a mainstay of health care in the developed world.

Prior to vaccination efforts, smallpox claimed an estimated 400,000 lives in Europe every year. According to some estimates, smallpox was responsible for nearly 500 million deaths worldwide in the 20th Century alone. Vaccination made smallpox the first infectious disease ever declared eradicated. Similarly, poliomyelitis–which once struck fear in the hearts of every parent–has been eradicated in the Western Hemisphere, in no small part due to vaccination efforts.

Proponents of vaccination will point to these successes, and with good reason.

Early Successes of Some Vaccines Become Mandates for All Other Vaccines

Today, vaccines exist for a myriad of diseases: diptheria, Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), Shingles, Pneumonia, various Influenza strains, rabies, and tetanus. The successes of vaccination have not been lost on our government, which has mandated the vaccination of children via established schedules.

Complicating matters, the number of children with autism has spiked considerably, in both raw and percentage terms, leading some critics to consider whether the aggressive vaccine schedules have contributed to the problem. Jenny McCarthy has used her celebrity status to promote the allegation that vaccines are tied to autism. Adding fuel to the fire, Andrew Wakefield, in 1998, published a study–now discredited–in The Lancet, allegedly linking the MMR vaccination to autism.

Even worse, while some vaccines–particularly HPV–have been shown to be of questionable safety and efficacy, this has not stopped government efforts to mandate their schedule.

(In other words, government is telling you, “You must take the HPV vaccine, because the smallpox vaccine was so successful.”)

The Perils of Skepticism

The pro-vaxers have responded to critics by (a) calling them tin-foil hatters, (b) suggesting that they oppose science and progress, and (c) falling back on the claim that there is no scientific proof that vaccines affect autism rates.

They appealed to their own authority while associating the anti-vaxers with a former Playboy model with no scientific background. That tactic, for many years, marginalized anti-vaxers. Even a reasonable skeptic, otherwise pro-vaccine, who questioned the schedules and the lack of scientific transparency of key players, risked professional marginalization.

Had that been the end of it, the anti-vaxers, who have long alleged a government coverup of the real risks of vaccines–to include autism–would have little basis for their position.

Enter Brian Hooker, a biochemical engineer and parent of an autistic child in search of answers.

Analyzing a CDC study, Hooker determined a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and submitted his results to Translational Neurodegeneration. TN would later pull the study, citing “concerns about validity”.

Other evidence notwithstanding, the matter would have died from “lies, damned lies, and statistics” syndrome, as the debate would have devolved into a game of “our statistics are better than yours”, with the CDC always appealing to their own authority, and thus declaring victory.

Except that Hooker had a smoking gun.

Unfortunately for the scoffers, the CDC got caught with their pants down. Dr. William Thompson, a senior scientist at the CDC, was caught on tape admitting to omitting a set of data that showed a large rise in autism among African-Americans who received the MMR vaccine. The story originally appeared on a blog related to CNN, with CNN saying they could not verify the story.

Ultimately, Dr. Thompson admitted to it, with the following statement (emphasis added):

My name is William Thompson.  I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.

I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives.  I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub­ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.

I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his belief that CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.

I am grateful for the many supportive e-mails that I have received over the last several days.

I will not be answering further questions at this time.  I am providing information to Congressman William Posey, and of course will continue to cooperate with Congress.

I have also offered to assist with reanalysis of the study data or development of further studies.  For the time being, however, I am focused on my job and my family.

Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists inside or outside the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism.  There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.

My colleagues and supervisors at the CDC have been entirely professional since this matter became public. In fact, I received a performance-based award after this story came out.  I have experienced no pressure or retaliation and certainly was not escorted from the building, as some have stated.

So let’s look at what Dr. Thompson has said:

1. He admitted that the CDC cooked the books. Whenever a researcher “omits statistically significant information”, that is a major red flag, a serious breach of academic integrity and an affront to legitimate use of the scientific method.

In an engineering or science lab, such cherry picking of data is cause for a failing grade–even a dismissal—on grounds of academic integrity. If the data doesn’t support the hypothesis, you have an ethical obligation to admit it and present an explanation for the data.

Sweeping “bad” data under the rug is not an acceptable practice.

Why was this data swept under the rug?

2. He admitted that this fraud was a team effort. Dr. Thompson said “my coauthors and I“. There is a legal term for this; it’s called a conspiracy.

Why the conspiracy? What did they have to gain by concealing evidence? Who put them up to this?

3. He has admitted to scientific–and perhaps criminal–fraud. Given that Dr. Thompson and his co-authors omitted statistically significant information from a scientific study that was funded with tax monies, this is a creditable basis for prosecution. This is because their actions represent fraud.

Why is the Department of Justice not seeking indictments?

4. He has re-stated his position on vaccines as an article of faith. When he says, “I believe that vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives,” he has implicitly abandoned a scientific basis for his thoughts on vaccines. It’s now a matter of “I believe.”

To be fair, vaccines HAVE saved many lives. Smallpox–a killer of hundreds of millions–is now history thanks to vaccines.

That, however, is no good reason to require the Hepatitis B vaccine, which protects against a disease that is sexually-transmitted and is dominant among male homosexuals. Nor is a a credible basis to require the HPV vaccine, which is only marginally effective and protects against an infection that is sexually-transmitted.

Why the hurry to require an HPV vaccine that is so questionable?

Why the hurry to require a Hepatitis B vaccine that applies mostly to male homosexuals?

5. He uses his faith as a basis for a mandate. If there is data that shows a risk of autism for the MMR vaccine, then it should be up to the parents to do a risk-benefit analysis of their own to decide of their child should receive the MMR vaccine. This should not be a government decision!

Many parents could well decide that the autism risk is outweighed by the protections against MMR; that should be their decision.

Ditto for the HPV vaccine, as some parents may well decide that the benefits of Gardasil outweigh the risks, while others may decide otherwise. Each is a legitimate decision best left to the parents–not the government–to decide.

If the case for vaccination has now been reduced to a matter of faith by a senior scientist, then why the mandates?

6. The data omission has racist implications.

Dr. Thompson has admitted to omitting data that had African-Americans suffering a greater outbreak of autism with the MMR vaccine.

Will this revelation become cause for great outcry among racial minorities of all types especially as the federal government has admitted to covering up information of particular interest to a racial minority? 

While the pro-vaxers will continue to scoff, the fact remains: government has been caught in scientific and criminal fraud.

Why are heads not rolling? Where are the indictments? Where are the prosecutions? Who is going to jail for this? Where is this transparent government our President promised us?

Make no mistake: the burden of proof has now shifted: it is now incumbent on the CDC to show why they should be trusted.