March 18th 2008, 13:59All of us rest easy in our beds at night in the belief that someone, somewhere, has our best interests at heart. That sense, that there are scientists sitting in lofty institutions who make decisions, however ultimately flawed, from a sense of right so permeates our psyche that even so jaded a science reporter as I was rattled when sifting through the evidence of a possible link between vaccination and autism.
According to documents acquired by concerned parents through the US Freedom of Information Act, in June 1999, a group of 51 top scientists and health officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and representatives of various vaccine manufacturers, met at the Simpsonwood Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, to listen to the findings of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist. He had found alarming evidence in the CDC's Vaccine Safety Database of a strong association between neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, and thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used at the time in many US vaccines, and still present in many vaccines used in Europe.
In the ensuing years, the CDC withheld these findings, held off removing thimerosal until 2002 and eventually 'lost' the data. When it resurfaced, the agency handed it over to a private company, America's Health Insurance Plans, thereby placing it out of the reach of any researchers or journalists who attempted to access it under the Freedom of Information Act.
The CDC then launched a worldwide campaign to court foreign researchers with data, no matter how flawed, that would support evidence that vaccines do not cause autism, while discrediting honest scientists like gastroenterologist Dr Andrew Wakefield, the first to publish evidence that MMR caused gut problems that eventually can lead to autism.
Meanwhile, no one was willing to ask the most obvious question of all: do more vaccinated children have autism than unvaccinated ones? Since 1991, after recommendations by the CDC for three additional vaccines containing the preservative to be given to children virtually at birth, cases of autism increased 15-fold-to one in every 166 children. The CDC consistently refused to carry out such a study.
Generation Rescue, a self-funded group of 350 parents, raised more than $200,000 to provide an answer. It recruited SurveyUSA, an independent opinion-research firm, to carry out a telephone survey in nine counties across two states involving some 18,000 children, comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated children of the same gender.
This methodology deliberately mirrored that used by the CDC to establish the prevalence of ADHD and autism.
The study found that boys who were vaccinated had a 155-per-cent greater chance of having a neurological disorder like ADHD or autism than unvaccinated children. When one unusual county's results were left out of the analyses, vaccinated boys were 146-per-cent more likely to have autism and 279-per-cent more likely to have ADHD.
The first court decision to link autism to a vaccine (see the April issue of WDDTY) has done more than place on trial the current vaccination schedule-presently some 34 vaccines before US children even go to school. It has also exposed egregious error in science, deceit in government, and collusion by what used to be called 'the fourth estate'. Many journalists have decried this publication many times for promoting so-called 'junk science'. The history of the vaccine-autism story reveals to what extent junk science could lie at the very heart of fundamental decisions on health care.