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Vaccines and Autism – Answering the Wrong Questions
Written by Katie Weisman
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 22:56


Editorial by Katie Weisman, Canary Party, Executive Director and SafeMinds Board Member

Now that World Autism Awareness Day has passed, let’s assess where we truly stand.  Last week, two studies were reported and spun by the CDC in the annual countdown to Autism Awareness Month, also known as “Let’s see if blue lights and awareness will keep my child from running into traffic” month.  Both studies received a massive, coordinated and unforgivably uncritical airing in the press.   I swear that none of the writers of any of the articles I read understands the concept of balanced journalism.  I can guarantee that few of the writers or the scientists they quoted actually took the time to read the studies and think critically about them.

The first study, based on a phone survey of a nationally representative sample of parents reported autism spectrum disorders at the terrifying rate of 2% of school-aged American children (6-17).  Let’s say that again – 1 in 50 children has autism.  With 4 million children born per year in the United States that means approximately 80,000 children per year will get autism.  At its most devastating, polio affected 57,628 people of all ages in 1952.  Many died.  Polio was a national health crisis demanding urgent federal response.  Public health officials went into high gear.  For this report of 2% of children with autism, we get, “We are just getting better at recognizing all these children with no language and zero social skills.  They have always been here.  You can relax”.  Unfortunately, many of these children will die, too – from drowning, accidents and seizures associated with their autism – and, tragically, sometimes at the hands of those who are supposed to educate and care for them.  With nothing personal intended against the speakers, here is the CDC’s event for Autism Awareness month - http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/documents/2013-Autism-Awareness-Month-2013.pdf .  You can judge for yourself if this is an appropriate response.

Here are the US autism prevalence numbers in the years they were reported (birth years and ages vary from study to study).

1970    1 in 14,857 (Wisconsin)                                2009     1 in 235 (California DDS)

1987    1 in 8333 (North Dakota)                              2009     1 in 110 (11 States, ASDs)

1989    1 in 2500 (Utah)                                          2009    1 in 91 (National Phone Survey, ASDs)

1999-2003   1 in 321 (California)                                2010   1 in 124 (Salt Lake City – 8s, ASDs)

2001    1 in 150 (Brick, NJ)                                       2010   1 in 83 (Wisconsin Schools, ASDs)

2001    1 in 625 (Texas Schools)                               2011   1 in 213 (San Franciso Bay Area, ASDs)

2002    1 in 671 (California)                                       2011     1 in 108 (EI in Massachusetts, ASDs)

2003    1 in 192  (Minnesota Schools ASDs)                 2012     1 in 88  (14 States ASDs)

2007     1 in 150 (14 states ASDs)                             2012     1 in 57  (Metro New Jersey 8s, ASDS)

2009     1 in 125  (South Carolina 4s ASDs)                 2013     1 in 50  (National Phone Survey, ASDs)

Isn’t anyone worried yet?

While this new study does not have the most reliable methodology, how much more data do we need to tell that we are headed for a cliff?  It is like a macabre game of chicken – how high can the autism numbers get before the country actually realizes there is a problem.  I have decided that we need to rename our lead agency the CFCADEA – the Centers for Controlling Any Disease Except Autism.

The second study is worse.  In the best tradition of tobacco science, this one has been publicized as proving that we are not over-vaccinating our children – that the number of vaccines a child gets has nothing to do with autism.   In fact, the study didn’t even look at the total number of vaccines given – it only looked at the number of antigens.  The problem is that they did a shoddy job answering a question that wasn’t really the question parents want answered.  Parents want to know if vaccinated children (according to the regular schedule) have a higher rate of autism than unvaccinated kids.  The only way to find that out is to actually do that study.  And yes, it is over a decade since we first asked them to do the study.  If vaccines are causing the autism epidemic, that is 800,000 kids…

Let’s be clear here:

1)      It appears that there were no children in the study who were unvaccinated – therefore, no actual control group.  If there actually were a handful who did not receive any vaccines, they are not mentioned anywhere in the text and they are rolled into the lowest exposure group, thereby mixing the placebo group with the exposure group.

2)      Children with low antigen exposure were compared to children with high antigen exposure for their odds ratio of developing autism.  This is like comparing 1 pack a day smokers to three pack a day smokers for lung cancer and saying that because they both developed lung cancer, the smoking had nothing to do with the cancer.

3)      The study makes an assumption that all antigens are equally likely to cause problems and that the only thing that matters is the total number of antigens.  This is like saying that it doesn’t matter what you are drinking, only the total ounces matter.  Sure, throw some formaldehyde and aluminum in the blender.  Don’t worry about any synergistic toxicity.

4)      The study completely ignores all the other vaccine ingredients besides the antigens – except for thimerosal, which they studied, but then they didn’t bother to publish the data.

5)      The study implies that the reduction in the number of antigens in the DPT vaccine should have made it safer.  Yet, in order to reduce the amount of antigen in a typical vaccine (which also saves the manufacturers money since the antigen is the most expensive ingredient), an adjuvant is usually added to stimulate increased immune response to the decreased amount of antigen.  The adjuvant ASO3 has recently been linked to narcolepsy in children who received swine flu vaccine in Europe.  While this particular adjuvant is not found in US vaccines, others are, and it begs the question of what happens when you reduce the amount of antigens but have to increase the amount of adjuvants.  There is no evidence that “fewer antigens with more adjuvants” produces a safer schedule, but this is what was implied by this study.

6)      Due to the large amount of antigens in the old DTP vaccines, the study is really a comparison of the antigen load between the old DTP and new DTaP vaccines.  The overwhelming number of antigens in the DTP would make any impact of any other vaccines irrelevant in terms of categorizing the children as low vs. high exposure.  The authors also knew that the DTP was being phased out starting in the early 1990’s so antigen load was decreasing even as autism prevalence was going up.  There was no reason to do this study since these children were born in 1994-1999 and the trends were going in opposite directions.

7)      In addition, the authors included 186 children among the 752 controls who, while they did not meet the cutoff criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder, did meet diagnoses of speech delay, learning disability, ADHD and so on.  This is like doing a study of diabetes cases and intentionally putting people with pre-diabetes in the control group.

8)      To cap this all off, the study design was so badly flawed to begin with, that any results it reports are invalidated.   It reused a dataset that Price et al. used in 2010 to look at thimerosal exposure and autism.  In both studies, negative findings were reported, which isn’t surprising given the study designs.  In a nutshell, when you design a case-control study,  matching is often used to efficiently control for confounding variables that are associated with the outcome (in this case, a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder).  However, the researchers must ensure that the confounders that they match on are not associated with the exposure of interest (antigens or thimerosal) or they will reduce the power of the study to detect an effect.  An example of this would be studying the effect of high cholesterol on heart disease and matching on the basis of “high-fat diet”.  Since a high-fat diet is strongly associated with high cholesterol, you have eliminated relevant differences between the cases and controls in the design of the study.  Similarly in this case, the researchers matched cases of autism and control children on the variables of MCO (managed care organization) and year of birth.  Since MCOs typically order vaccines in bulk lots from a single manufacturer and since year of birth is associated with which vaccines are on the schedule at the time, both of these were strongly associated with the number of antigens and the amount of thimerosal that the children received – thereby eliminating the differences between cases and controls in the study design.  For a complete discussion of the problems with this dataset, here is the link to a recently published rebuttal, funded by SafeMinds, of the 2010 paper: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/41866/InTechVaccine_safety_study_as_an_interesting_case_of_over_matching_.pdf

 

For those who haven’t looked at the US vaccine schedule lately, I strongly suggest that you go to the following link http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html and look at what our kids are getting.  Ask yourself, would I, as an adult, be OK with getting 9 shots for a total of 13 diseases in one doctor’s visit.  That is what we are giving our 15 month olds.

Would you let your doctor give you any 9 drugs at one time?

Would it make you feel safer if I told you that this combination of shots had never been tested against a placebo for adverse events?

Would it make you feel better if I told you that if you do have a reaction to the vaccines, none of the manufacturers has any financial liability whatsoever?

We seriously need to consider whether this protection from infectious disease is ultimately producing the healthiest children.  Vaccines are the only medical product given routinely to healthy infants, unlike most drugs which are given only when a disease already exists.  The standard of safety for these products should be the highest we can achieve.

 I would like to point out that the last three major studies purporting to disprove a link between vaccines and autism have all been done by the same group of CDC-affiliated researchers using the same dataset from the same MCO’s .  The data had limitations to begin with in terms of participation rate and the exclusion of preemies and multiples, and it has not improved with successive iterations.  To assume that the CDC has no conflict of interest in this study is ludicrous.  With its responsibility for the vaccine schedule and control of infectious disease, along with its holding of vaccine patents with manufacturers, the CDC is not an unbiased source of research on vaccine safety.  And don’t get me started on the part where the authors thank Paul Offit, MD, for his help.  It would sure be nice if some of the reporters out there would recognize that they are being spoon-fed spin.  For those who want to go back and read the studies, here are the links.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf

http://jpeds.com/webfiles/images/journals/ympd/JPEDSDeStefano.pdf

Happy Day After World Autism Awareness Day.  Isn’t it time to start the real conversation about autism?


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Send us the information on your meetings with Congress
Written by The Canary Party
Monday, 18 February 2013 21:31

This week we begin to ask our members of Congress to follow up on the Autism Epidemic hearings held in the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in November of last year.  As you schedule and hold meetings and calls with your representatives, please input the information here so that we can keep track of who has met with whom, and what action they are taking.



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Congress slams NIH, CDC reps for evading vaccine/autism evidence
Written by The Canary Party
Friday, 30 November 2012 16:21

Inept, disjointed agencies waste almost $1 billion, seek more funds

A government health agency director who a decade ago proposed diluting vaccine/autism data was one of two testifiers interrogated at a Congressional hearing yesterday on the federal government’s poor response to the autism epidemic costing the U.S. $137 billion a year.

Dr. Coleen Boyle, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, testified that her goal is “raising awareness of the importance of this as a health problem and one we need to address.” An April 2000 email obtained via FOIA shows that Boyle contacted the CDC’s Frank DeStefano suggesting dilution of vaccine/autism data by adding one- and two-year-olds to his dataset – children too young to have an autism diagnosis then.

“Does autism in history predate vaccines?” asked Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the U.S. House of Representatives House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. Yes, according to agencies administering the shots; no, according to legislators, physicians and parents filling in the gallery, who reported that their children regressed after receiving vaccinations.

Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a medical geneticist from the National Institutes of Health, defended his highly-criticized Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Both Guttmacher and Boyle testified that autism has no known cause or cure, and their only offerings of help were statistical tracking, detection tools, and behavioral therapies.

Outgoing Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) stated that autism has more than one cause, but “the one we’re talking about today is mercury in vaccination and the environment.” He played a video from the University of Calgary showing destruction of brain neurons after low-level mercury exposure (here), and wondered how anybody from the CDC can watch and say that mercury doesn’t have an impact on neurodevelopment. Rep. Burton said that shortly after his grandson got nine vaccines in one day, the boy began banging his head against the wall and lost continence. 

When Boyle claimed that since 2001 Thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines given to children, voices erupted from the audience. Boyle added, “With the exception of the multi-dose flu vaccine” but omitted mentioning that the 50,000 parts per billion injected is exceedingly higher than the 4 ppb “safe” limit for drinking water established by the Environmental Protection Agency and that it took until nearly 2004, not 2001.

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The Autism Hearings in the Government Affairs Committee
Written by The Canary Party
Friday, 30 November 2012 15:22

Yesterday was a hallmark day in the vaccine/autism story.  For the first time in ten years, Congress took up the issue of vaccine/autism causation and families who care about this issue were pleasantly surprised to find that Congress is figuring out that there is a serious problem in the vaccine program.  

Watch the full hearing here.


Watch the Canary Party Chairman, Mark Blaxill, testifying before the committee.


The Committee will be keeping the record open for another week, so you can submit any testimony that you would like to be included.  Submit to:

Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
http://oversight.house.gov/committee-members/

And we encourage you to thank Representative Issa and his colleagues for this brave work.
Http:/www.facebook.com/darrellissa
Congressman Darrell Issa
Washington DC Office 
• 2347 Rayburn House Office Building • Washington, DC 20515 
• Phone: 202-225-3906 • Fax: 202-225-3303

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The Canary Party Endorses Tim Donnelly
Written by The Canary Party
Monday, 05 November 2012 18:26

The Canary Party is proud to endorse Tim Donnelly for the California Assembly for his fight for the rights of parents to vaccinate their children as they see fit in opposing AB2109.

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The Canary Party Endorses Craig Huey
Written by The Canary Party
Tuesday, 30 October 2012 02:11

Because of his commitment to the rights of parents to make their own medical decisions for their children, The Canary Party Endorses Craig Huey for the California State Assembly.  http://www.craighuey.com/

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