Respectful Insolence

I had wanted to let this cup pass, but couldn’t, not after several readers e-mailed it to me and I went and experienced its inanity first hand. As Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, Part III: “Just when I thought I was finally out, they drag me back in again!” In this case, it was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who did the dragging.

Yes, RFK Jr. has dropped one more steamy, stinky turd on the blogosphere. No, it’s not nearly as big and stinky as the first one that he dropped back in June, but that’s almost certainly only because it’s a short blog piece, rather than a full feature article for Salon.com and Rolling Stone. I’m sure if RFK had expanded the article to the length of his infamous June Salon.com/Rolling Stone article, he’d have almost certainly matched or exceeded its foulness. (The man seldom disappoints in that respect.) I commented on the many distortions and examples of faulty reasoning in RFK Jr.’s article shortly after it came out. Several other skeptical bloggers ripped into the article’s mendacity, including Skeptico (whose exposure of the utterly dishonest and deceptive manner in which RFK Jr. misrepresented the Simpsonwood Conference as a secret meeting in which dire conspiracies were discussed, not unlike the Cigarette Smoking Man would have thought up on the X-Files, was a classic in skeptical blogging, as was his later revelation about how RFK Jr. super-selectively quote-mined the Institute of Medicine report to make it appear as though there was a cover-up about thimerosal in vaccines when there wasn’t); Majikthise, who came to pretty much the same conclusion about the Simpsonwood Meeting; and Autism Diva , who pointed out even more errors and distortions in the article.

Yes, on The Huffington Post, that repository of altie woo, ranging from the antivaxer who claims he isn’t, pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon, and that tireless purveyor of quantum physics pseudoscientific New Age nonsense Deepak Chopra, RFK Jr. has, after a several month absence, returned to resurrect his conspiracy-mongering regarding the CDC and vaccines.

Not unexpectedly, RFK Jr.’s article, Time for the CDC to come clean, starts poorly, with a blanket statement that is unsupported by science:

Thimerosal is the mercury-based vaccine preservative that has been linked to epidemics of neurological disorders, including autism, in American children born after 1989.

Yes, it’s more of the same old assertions without evidence. (See the links at the end of this article for multiple discussions about why this assertion is unsupported and almost certainly incorrect.) The article then gets to the meat of RFK Jr.’s conspiracy-mongering, proceeding to an accusation that the CDC quietly turned down an offer by SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals in 1999 to begin production of thimerosal-free vaccines immediately:

But the newly released documents show that behind the scenes CDC was quietly discouraging Thimerosal’s removal. In a July 1999 letter, vaccine producer SmithKline Beecham tells CDC that it is ready to produce non-Thimerosal DTP (Diptheria/Tetanus/Pertussis) vaccines immediately and has sufficient inventories to supply the entire U.S. market during the remainder of 1999 and the first half of 2000, by which time other vaccine manufacturers would have their Thimerosal-free DTP vaccines on line.

It doesn’t help that RFK Jr. links directly to an site touting the supposed link between thimerosal and autism, but let’s look at the actual letters, shall we? The letter from SmithKline Beecham to me looks like a pitch for an exclusive contract to supply vaccines, stating early in the letter:

As a manufacturer, we agree that, despite the absence of any scientific data that thimerosal causes any adverse effects, whenever possible “thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible,” as is recommended in the July 7 Joint Statement of the AAP and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). For this reason we wish to inform you that SB is in a position to supply Infanrix (Diptheria and Tetanous Toxoids and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine Adsorbed), the only U.S. licensed DTPa vaccine that does not use thimerosal as a preservative, in enough quantities to supply the estimated U.S. market needs for at least the remainder of 1999 and the first half of 2000. By that time, other thimerosal-free DTPa products, including SB’s pentavalent DTPa/HB/IPV, will likely be available, pending FDA approval.

Near the end of the letter, SB makes its intent explicit:

Several weeks ago, SmithKline Beecham was approached by the vaccine contracting department at the CDC inquiring about our ability to supply the entire U.S. DTPa market with Infanrix and the potential for an exclusive DTPa contract., until other nonthimerosal DTPa vaccines were licensed. In reviewing our inventory levels, SmithKline Beecham is now in the position to move forward with such a contract. We believe the exclusive availability of Infanrix DTPa moves the AAP, CDC, and PHS much closer to their stated objectives of thimerosal-free vaccines in the U.S.

So, basically, SmithKline Beecham had been approached about the possibility of providing thimerosal-free DTPa (which begs the question of why the CDC would have approached SB in the first place about thimerosal-free vaccines if it were so intent on promoting thimerosal, but I digress). Based on that contact, the company was now making a pitch that it could fulfill an exclusive contract, which no doubt would have been highly profitable. The reply letter, which RFK described as “rejecting SmithKline’s offer,” actually did nothing of the sort. Here’s how it concluded:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Program staff has communicated this updated information regarding your supply to the 64 immunization projects. CDC also plans to monitor DTaP ordering patterns and continue to provide the States with a choice among currently licensed brands of DTaP vaccine.

In essence, it sounds as though the CDC took the pitch under advisement and wanted to keep its options open for the 64 vaccination programs under its auspices. So upon what does RFK Jr. base his dire-sounding insinuations of conspiracy? Upon what appears to be a single anonymous “federal health official,” who claims that the motivation was largely to protect the financial interests of the CDC’s “vaccine industry friends.” It may be true that anonymous sources are a time-honored technique in journalism, but they are also a risky one, mainly because it’s impossible for the reader to evaluate their veracity, reliability, or potential conflict of interest. Given the way RFK Jr. has utterly destroyed his credibility on this issue by selectively quoting the Simpsonwood transcript and the Institute of Medicine report to the point that I have to wonder if he was outright lying, by cherry-picking all the dubious data that supposedly supports a link between mercury and autism and ignores the much better evidence that refutes such a link, and confuses correlation with causation again and again and again, I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt on any assertion he makes, much less his use of a single anonymous source. Could there have been a big conspiracy by the CDC to promote thimerosal in order to protect the pharmaceutical industry? I suppose it’s possible, but RFK Jr. certainly hasn’t made the case that it’s true, either last June or now. To me, the one assertion by this anonymous source that rings true is this:

“There was also concern,” says the federal official, “that an immediate withdrawal might discredit the international vaccine programs for which CDC is an important partner.” The World Health Organization has urged CDC against the banning of Thimerosal in U.S. vaccines since that prohibition might discredit WHO’s third world inoculation programs.

Indeed, why should WHO remove thimerosal when there was no good evidence that it caused autism or any other neurological diseaese, particularly when doing so could deal a severe blow to efforts to vaccination programs in poor nations?

Near the end of the article, RFK Jr. makes this accusation:

CDC continues to exert muscular efforts to derail studies of American cohorts — the Amish, Christian Scientists, and home-schooled children — who were not exposed to Thimerosal vaccines. Preliminary studies of these groups indicate very low levels of the neurological disorders, including autism, that have been associated with Thimerosal in vaccinated populations.

Of course, RFK Jr. presents no evidence whatsoever that the CDC was or is trying to derail any vaccine studies in any population. (I guess we just have to take his word for it.) Indeed, his assertion that there are lower rates of autism and neurological disorders in these children is also flawed. In reality there is no credible evidence to support this contention, which has been popularized by UPI reporter Dan Olmstead. I addressed one such bit of credulity towards unsupported claims about unvaccinated patients in the suburbs of Chicago, and pointed out how this supposed finding was based solely on the undocumented and unsubstantiated recollection of a single practice of altie doctors. (Can you say confirmation bias? Sure, I knew your could.) Prometheus ably took on the claim that the Amish have a lower incidence of autism, pointing out that, even if that were the case, there are so many other factors, genetic and environmental, that could be just as plausible an explanation for such a difference that it is curious that antivaccination advocates would automatically zero in on vaccines without even acknowledging these other possibilities.

The bottom line is that at present there is no compelling epidemiological, scientific, or clinical trial evidence that mercury in thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, RFK Jr.’s conspiracy-mongering notwithstanding. Indeed, now that thimerosal has been removed from all routine pediatric vaccines except the flu vaccine since 2003, there is as yet no evidence of a decrease in the rate of autism. In other nations, such as Denmark, there has been no evidence of a decrease in the rate of new diagnoses of autism even 13 years after thimerosal was removed from vaccines. This is pretty strong epidemiological evidence that there is no link between the two. At best, one can postulate that a very small percentage of the population might be susceptible to mercury, a population that is such a small percentage of the overall populationthat it wasn’t detected, but that’s a far cry from the dogmatic statements of groups like Generation Rescue that “autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning.” In addition, there isn’t really any good evidence that such a population exists or that mercury causes autism in it. In fact, the symptoms of autism don’t even resemble the symptoms of mercury poisoning. (Look up Pink Disease, if you don’t believe me, particularly the skin changes associated with mercury poisoning in children.)

So why does this pseudoscience persist? Certainly it’s not because of good science. The available evidence does not support a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, and the articles published by those claiming a link is usually published in journals that are either ideologically biased or not peer-reviewed. Articles in better journals that are touted as showing a link almost always, upon closer examination (such as reading the entire article rather than just the abstract) do not support a link or are very weak evidence at best. Kathleen Seidel correctly points out one reason:

It’s time for RFK Jr. to come clean about the fact that he represents the interests of private litigants seeking compensation for supposed vaccine injury when in fact many of those litigants have no evidence that such injury occurred. Many never even suspected that their children were “damaged” until they were convinced after the fact that vaccines offered the only possible explanation for their children’s autism. The sense of entitlement and certainty expressed by many autism=poisoning crusaders is not always based on a careful review of a wide range of information. The numerous studies exonerating vaccines as a cause of autism are often dismissed out of hand, simply because they do not support litigants’ preconceptions.

I agree. For what they no doubt consider to be noble motives, people like RFK Jr. and David Kirby have foolishly hitched their names to a cause that is primarily at its heart not about finding the cause of or better treatments for autism, but rather about trial lawyers seeking to sue the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VCIP). Indeed, as I wrote about recently, this litigation has tainted a major vaccine adverse events reporting database. Perhaps the chief driving force behind this movement are the father-and-son tag team of autism quacks and providers of “expert testimony” and legal services to parents seeking to sue the VCIP, Mark and David Geier. They publish highly speculative papers in non-peer-reviewed journals like Medical Hypotheses (which is dedicated to “radical ideas outside the mainstream) or poor quality articles in which they dumpster-dive this tainted database in really crappy woo-filled journals like The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, and then use these papers to support their litigation.

Far more harmful is how this widespread belief in an almost certainly nonexistent link between mercury and autism provides an opening to a wide variety of quack “therapies” purported to “cure” autism or greatly mitigate its symptoms, assisted by dubious labs hawking nonstandard “provoked” mercury testing. Chief among these quack therapies is chelation therapy, which, its supporters say to parents, will remove the mercury that is supposedly causing their children’s autism. Sadly, it is an ineffective therapy that has led to at least one death, and the quacks don’t do it cheaply. Worse, as I pointed out just last week, utterly speculative and even more scientifically implausible variants of chelation therapy have been proposed by the Geiers, the most bizarre of which is their claim that somehow testosterone potentiates the toxicity of mercury and prevents chelation therapy from properly removing mercury. This speculation (I won’t dignify it by calling it a “hypothesis” or “theory”) has led them to propose an even more bizarre and potentially dangerous solution to this nonexistent problem: the use of Lupron to chemically castrate autistic children in order to make chelation “more effective.” I wonder if RFK Jr. knows what bizarre forms chelation for autism has evolved into in the eight months since his original article appeared in Rolling Stone.

Madness. A whole industry of quackery has sprouted up to prey on the desperation of these parents, who will do anything to help their autistic children.

But that’s not all. There’s still one last harmful effect from this “mercury=autism” hysteria, and it may be the worse effect of all. This intense focus on thimerosal as the “cause” of autism, as the Holy Grail that will lead to cures through chelation, driven by advocacy and pseudoscience rather than sound epidemiology and science, has diverted money, research time, and researchers’ attention to rebutting the pseudoscience used to justify the “mercury-autism” link and away from more productive avenues of research into the true etiology and pathogenesis of autism.

That will be RFK Jr.’s legacy for coming down on the wrong side of this issue.

Some previous posts on this topic:

  • Salon.com flushes its credibility down the toilet
  • Swimming through the thimerosal
  • Thimerosal and autism: Two questions
  • Sadly, it was only a matter of time: An autistic boy dies during chelation therapy
  • Kirby tries to cover his posterior
  • Selective outrage over treatment-related deaths
  • The autopsy results
  • The CDC flubs it
  • How vaccine litigation distorts the VAERS database
  • Why not just castrate them?
  • Comments

    1. #1 BronzeDog
      March 2, 2006

      With all the links, I think this pretty well covers the whole nonsense. Consider this topic bookmarked.

    2. #2 Francis
      March 2, 2006

      Rule 1: You do not fuck with vaccination (or other public health) programs.

      Rule 2: If a vaccine is shown to be safe after it stops being used, then every single person who catches that disease after the vaccine as been stopped should sue those who stopped the vaccine – whether they would have been vaccinated or not (or even if they actually have been vaccinated). The effect of providing mass-immunity from a disease to the whole population is just that great.

      Rule 3: Not having yourself or your kids vaccinated is free-loading and thieving from the general immunity of the population. This should be pointed out repeatedly. And cases such as the British MMR case (which probably gave Kennedy his ideas) leading to the return of Measles and Mumps in the general population should be pointed out.

      Currently there are only three ways of getting me angry in under 10 seconds flat. Fucking with public health (in particular vaccinations and contraception), Creationism, and lying about your evidence…

    3. #3 Paul
      March 2, 2006

      RFK Jr. RFK. JFK Jr. is dead, isn’t he?

      No, I can’t say it.

      I subscribed to The Huffington Post after Phil Plait (badastronomy.com) announced his association with them. It lasted less than 48 hours. I don’t have time for that crap. Thanks for jumping on this. I have friends who have an autistic son. Thankfully, his case is mild, and they have not fallen into any of these traps, but the issue hits home nonetheless.

    4. #4 Fore Sam
      March 2, 2006

      Francis;
      I had measles, mumps and rubella. They were no big deal Autism is a big deal. Wake Up!

    5. #5 Steve
      March 2, 2006

      Thats right Fore Sam, you had Measles, Mumps and Rubella and are just fine so they offer no risk to anyone at all. But you haven’t had Autism so how can you compare them to know huh? My logic > Fore Sam logic. pwned.

    6. #6 BronzeDog
      March 2, 2006

      Kids die from measles, and it’s “no big deal?”

      Even in America, with good health care, measles can still be deadly. 1 in 2,000, or so?, versus an imaginary chance of autism?

    7. #7 BronzeDog
      March 2, 2006

      You know, by Fore Sam’s apparent logic, diabetes isn’t a big deal: My dad has it, and he controls it very well through diet and exercise (plus a minor drug help). Of course, my dad knew someone else who had diabetes and ended up dying from gangrene when the blood vessels in her foot broke down, so diabetes is a big deal… Wait, surprise, surprise, Fore Sam’s apparent logic leads to a contradiction.

      That’s why we judge the danger of a disease by more than one individual. Like large population samples, while controlling for other factors. The virulence of measles, mumps, and rubella don’t revolve around you, Fore Sam.

    8. #8 Autism Diva
      March 2, 2006

      Thanks, Orac.

      Gee, how about diptheria, Fore Sam. Did you ever know someone who got diptheria and said, “no big deal”? There’s a reason why there was an epidemic of diptheria in the former Soviet Union a few years ago, and why there wasn’t an epidemic of diptheria here. They had let their vaccine program slip (or had to let it slip) and the US didn’t let it slip.

      Leave it to Fore Sam (who has taken steps to put himself in line for future money coming from a vaccine lawsuit) a his antivax friends and there will be outbreaks of diptheria here. There have already been deaths from whooping cough most likely caused by the drop in vaccinated kids in California. The parents didn’t want their kids to get vaccinated out of an unreasoning and baseless fear of vaccines and their ingredients, so the herd immunity dropped and babies died of pertussis.

      Fore Sam would like to see all vaccinations to end today, wouldn’t you Fore Sam? Many of the supposedly “anti-mercury” parents are really totally antivaccine and only admit it privately that they will never allow any of their kids to be vaccinated for any reason, and they’ll lie about having a religious reason for not vaccinating their kids, too. They talk about doing this on the mercury=autism Internet groups. Just like they talk about their lawsuits and how they intend to make the CDC and “big pharma” pay for their children’s suffering which was not caused by the CDC or “big pharma”. One thing about “big pharma” and the Dept. of Health and Human Services is that they seem to have very deep pockets, it makes them look like likely targets for the kind of people who suddenly “accidently fall” and hurt themselves in WalMart and even for parents who have been convinced that their kids were made autistic by vaccines by the hysteria.

      Parents whose babies die of vaccine preventable diseases can thank people like Arianna Huffington and Bobby (I wish I was president) Kennedy Jr. for keeping the insanity going.

    9. #9 Orac
      March 2, 2006

      Fore Sam appears to be falling victim to this kind of thinking.

    10. #10 Bartholomew Cubbins
      March 2, 2006

      Fixed.

      Fore Sam appears to [have willingly and exuberantly fallen] victim“…

    11. #11 Concerned Mom
      March 2, 2006

      Autism Diva said “There have already been deaths from whooping cough most likely caused by the drop in vaccinated kids in California.”

      Huh?? California DTaP rates for school age children are in the 96-97% range per the CDC. Pertussis is on the rise 1) because it is a cyclical disease 2) because it is largely undiagnosed in anyone older than age two and 3)the DTaP vax only lasts until you are about 10. That’s why the adult vax was just licensed. You can’t blame whooping cough on kids when most of the cases are in adolescents and adults.

      Out of curiosity, do any of you have an infant right now? Just wondering if you really know what it is like to take your 8 week old baby to the doctor and have him injected with vaccines for seven different diseases (soon to be eight) in one day.

      I am not worried about thimerosal. I am not worried about the number of needles. I am worried about Offit thinking that 10,000 vaccines in a day is just fine.

    12. #12 Ali
      March 2, 2006

      Nicely done, once again.

      Folks, sadly there’s no convincing Fore Sam. He’s not here to inform, he is here to instigate. If you stop feeding the troll, he will wither and die.

    13. #13 Hank Barnes
      March 2, 2006

      Concerned Mom,

      I am not worried about thimerosal. I am not worried about the number of needles. I am worried about Offit thinking that 10,000 vaccines in a day is just fine.

      I’m kinda on the same page as you. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were all these semi-organized “Anti-Vax” groups out there who generate hostile reactions from Orac and his minions.

      I, too, am not worried about thimerosol. I’m sure somewhere some solid (non-lawyer) epidemiological studies have been undertaken comparing autism rates of 2 groups: those who took thimerosal and those who didn’t. Whatever the results are, I’ll abide by.

      Also, I do think highly of vaccines, in general, or at least historically. I am persuaded that polio and small pox vaccines have virtually eliminated said diseases in US — which obviously is a good thing.

      You raise one excellent point that intrigues me:

      …thinking that 10,000 vaccines in a day is just fine.

      I guess the question is, Whether there is a region of diminishing rate of (health) return, the more vaccines one takes. There could be a “saturation factor” where more and more innoculations, counter-intuivitively, end up on the margins, hurting, not helping, the child.

      That’s a viable hypothesis — I’m suspect it has been tested somewhere, but I don’t know. I care about the health of kids, more so than debunking anybody or defending vaccines. So, I haven’t formed concrete opinions on the matter, other than the general ones above.

      Hank Barnes

    14. #14 BronzeDog
      March 2, 2006

      Fore Sam seems to be sticking around for shorter periods of time, and I’m trying being more direct in disecting his stuff. I have a habit of getting into a subtle Socratic mode, which seems to be self-defeating when someone won’t pay attention to what I’m saying.

      I also don’t want any fence-sitting lurkers to commit any arguments from silence.

    15. #15 HCN
      March 2, 2006

      Dear Concerned Mom,

      Unless you live in a hermetically sealed bubble, you and your child come into contact with more than enough microbes than would ever be in 10000 vaccines. That is what he meant… not that eventually what kids will be given that many vaccines.

      Also, the number of “needles” is reduced with the combination vaccines. For instance, if your child had MMR vaccine twice as recommended (which has never had thimerosal), that would be two appointments instead of SIX!

      Speaking of needles… which would you prefer: The old oral polio vaccine or the now recommended IPV? (an option now that polio is almost gone from the USA, unless some people decide to import it… which happened recently, Polio Outbreak in Minnesota

      I’ve had babies… they’ve all been vaccinated. But then again they are old enough to get a couple of the actual diseases. Particularly chicken pox and a gastrointestinal ailment that may have been prevented with the new rotavirus vaccine. The latter caused my toddler to become dehydrated and caused a grand mal seizure. I’d much prefer to have avoided that trip to the ER by ambulance.

      I’ve also noticed that vaccine requirements change with time. My kids have never had the smallpox vaccine offered… yet I still bear the scars from the several I had as a kid. They may be re-vaccinated with a new DTaP for adolesecents since pertussis protection does wane after time.

    16. #16 justawriter
      March 2, 2006
    17. #17 HCN
      March 2, 2006

      That is just one of many research programs on neurology and psychiatry that is going on globally. Here is a link to the efforts in the USA:
      Autism Spectrum Disorders Research at NIMH

    18. #18 Brian S.
      March 2, 2006

      Any evidence that RFK Jr. is one of the lawyers representing private litigants? There’s nothing in the link, and I didn’t find anything in a quick scan of the Web.

    19. #19 BronzeDog
      March 2, 2006

      Any evidence that RFK Jr. is one of the lawyers representing private litigants? There’s nothing in the link, and I didn’t find anything in a quick scan of the Web.

      Normally, I prefer to avoid appeals to motivation, but I’d certainly like to know, in case I need to do a Socratic tu quoque.

    20. #20 Orac
      March 2, 2006

      Any evidence that RFK Jr. is one of the lawyers representing private litigants? There’s nothing in the link, and I didn’t find anything in a quick scan of the Web.

      That is not exactly what Kathleen is saying, nor is it what I’m saying. What Kathleen is saying is that RFK Jr. is representing the interests of the litigants and their lawyers, which is undoubtedly true. His articles support their cause. I have no idea what his motivation is, but it probably feeds into his apparent view of himself as a crusader for the little guy against power.

    21. #21 killerjabs
      March 2, 2006

      Orac,

      The CDC has been deceitful and I have a hard time understanding why you fail to see that. They declared that mercury should be removed from vaccines. I think we will agree on that point. So why wouldn’t they give a contract to a company that could supply the country with mercury free vaccines? If their primary goal was to eliminate mercury then there was no reason why they wouldn’t have taken SKB up on their offer. But apparently the elimination of mercury from vaccines was not their primary goal. Do you agree with this statement?

      In fact, now in 2006 and with mercury still not eliminated from vaccines I think it’s quite obvious that the CDC does not want to eliminate mercury from vaccines. If you don’t think this is true then how do you explain organizations like the AAP fighting to prevent states from banning mercury from vaccines? To me, that is madness.

      You mention Pink Disease and seem to imply that because autistic children do not turn pink they cannot be mercury poisoned. Does the skin change color in all cases of mercury poisoning? Did that happen in Minamata?

    22. #22 Brian S.
      March 2, 2006

      The statement that RFK Jr. “represents the interests of private litigants seeking compensation for supposed vaccine injury” isn’t very meaningful absent some kind of representation. So what if his articles support one side in litigation – is that a huge surprise? What exactly is there for him to come clean about?

      FWIW, I think both sides of this debate are guilty of exaggeration and ad hominem attacks. I actually think RFK’s side is worse, but Orac’s side could stand to be more careful.

    23. #23 Orac
      March 2, 2006

      Brian:

      Please state where I have “exaggerated.” If anything, I’ve held my fire a bit. (My first draft was much harsher.) Also, it’s obvious that Kathleen was simply turning the title of RFK, Jr.’s article back on him in a rather ironic way.

      However, you may have a bit of a point. Perhaps Kathleen and I were suggesting that RFK Jr. should “come clean” about the wrong issue. In actuality, what RFK, Jr. should come clean about is the way he has systematically quote-mined at least two transcripts in most a most deceptive way, distorted evidence, used numerous logical fallacies (his favorite one to violate being the “correlation does not equal causation” fallacy, as I pointed out in my very first piece on the topic), all in the cause of promoting bad science, the worst kinds of autism quackery, and a dark “conspiracy” that almost certainly didn’t and doesn’t exist.

      The bottom line is that RFK Jr. is on the wrong side on this issue. There are many reasons to criticize the CDC or pharmaceutical manufacturers, but the thimerosal issue is not one of them.

    24. #24 Jackdog
      March 2, 2006

      Concerned Mom,

      As a practicing Pediatrician I deal with concerns such as yours every day. Our bodies are bombarded with foreign antigens from shortly after conception. Our immune system is a highly evolved, complex, and beautiful system that protects us against most invaders. The typical child becomes ill about 8-10 times per year. The typical healthy adult only becomes ill a couple of times per year. Why is this? Because our immune system is a dynamic system that is programmed to learn faster and better that mankinds best computer. Our current vaccines teach the immune system. They are not free of risk. But neither is driving with your children to the grocery store. The simple fact is that every vaccine being given today on balance, saves lives. I have been in practice for only 10 years but I can remember when spinal taps were extremely routine and admissions for H.flu meningitis happened on normal days. My last child admitted for meningitis was 18 months ago. For every anecdote presented by the antivaccine crazies, you could go in any Pediatricians office and hear 100 stories about the terrible diseases that are now virtually eliminated.

      The story is not over. You mentioned the 8th vaccine which will be reintroduced this year. I admitted two children this week for Rotavirus and dehydration. In my small community, we lost a child to Rotavirus just last year.

      I have two young children and I will continue to vaccinate them with any well studied future vaccines with no hesitation. My son is allergic to eggs and we invested an entire day in the allergists office so he could receive a gradually increasing dose of the measles vaccine.

    25. #25 Brian S.
      March 2, 2006

      By each “side” of the debate, I meant what proponents on each side are generally saying, not just what Orac is saying in this post and RFK in his post. Maybe I should’ve been clearer.

      If there is an exaggeration in Orac’s post, however, it might be the Denmark issue. According to this comment:

      http://majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2005/06/thimerosal_corr.html#comment-6378728

      Denmark and Canada used little thimerosal before the phaseout, so the lack of response is understandable. I know, completely unsourced info. I don’t trust it, but I don’t dismiss it out of hand either.

      My two cents are that I think Orac’s side is 90% likely to be right. I also think RFK Jr. is using environmental lawyer language rather than responsible environmental leader language. And I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and their claims of certainty.

    26. #26 Brian S.
      March 2, 2006

      May as well add that I think the record is 100% clear that thimerosal is not the primary cause of autism.

    27. #27 killerjabs
      March 2, 2006

      “I have two young children and I will continue to vaccinate them with any well studied future vaccines with no hesitation.”

      Jackdog, It’s great to have a pediatrician on this board. The comment of yours that I quoted above is very interesting to me. Are you aware of a single safety study for thimerosal? If yes, please forward on the link. I’m not talking about studies for autism, just studies to prove that thimerosal is safe in vaccines. My understanding is that it was grandfathered into modern medicine since it was invented prior to the FDA.

      As a pediatrician, I would also be interested to hear your thoughts regarding the AAP’s position on mercury. They take a very strong stance against mercury from coal burning plants yet simultaneously fight against the ban of mercury in vaccines. This truly baffles my mind.

    28. #28 Francis
      March 2, 2006

      Also, the number of “needles” is reduced with the combination vaccines. For instance, if your child had MMR vaccine twice as recommended (which has never had thimerosal), that would be two appointments instead of SIX!

      And yet that doesn’t prevent some idiots on this side of the Atlantic from having fallen for the idea that MMR causes Autism based on extremely flimsy evidence and a corresponding drop in MMR uptake…

    29. #29 killerjabs
      March 2, 2006

      Francis,

      There may not be evidence that the MMR causes autism, but there is a growing amount of clinical data showing that autistic children with bowel issues have the vaccine strain of the measles virus in their gut. This was tested via biopsy and I hear the results will be released this summer.

    30. #30 Ebonmuse
      March 2, 2006

      “…there is a growing amount of clinical data showing that autistic children with bowel issues have the vaccine strain of the measles virus in their gut.”

      Yes, and I’m sure there’s also a “growing amount” of data showing that autistic children with bowel issues have breast milk in their gut. Does that mean that breast-feeding causes autism?

    31. #31 Jackdog
      March 2, 2006

      It is true that, as of 2001, there was not clear understanding of whether or not thimerosol played a role in autism and other neurodevelopmental problems. The concerns were based in the fact that mercury is often a toxin. That is why the decision was made to go ahead and move to thimersol free single dose vials. There was nothing deceitful about how this was done. The debate is in the public record. The changes were made in a controlled manner. The consequence of moving too quickly and disrupting the vaccine supply in this or other countries can not be minimized. There were infants in this country who contracted Hepatitis B as a result of the delay in administering this vaccine around that time. If anything, based on what I would consider to be flimsy evidence, the move was extremely rapid.

      I think the AAP believes that state legislatures have no business getting into this debate. We don’t have a perfect process for making these decisions in this country but I personally know my representative and I don’t want him involved.

    32. #32 killerjabs
      March 2, 2006

      “Yes, and I’m sure there’s also a “growing amount” of data showing that autistic children with bowel issues have breast milk in their gut. Does that mean that breast-feeding causes autism?”

      I stated upfront that there is no evidence that the MMR causes autism. But to compare breast milk to the measles virus is silly. The measles virus is not supposed to lodge itself in the guts of children after vaccination.

    33. #33 killerjabs
      March 2, 2006

      “It is true that, as of 2001, there was not clear understanding of whether or not thimerosol played a role in autism and other neurodevelopmental problems. The concerns were based in the fact that mercury is often a toxin”

      When would mercury not be a toxin?

      “That is why the decision was made to go ahead and move to thimersol free single dose vials.”

      Exactly, so don’t you find it odd that the CDC did not want to take advantage of the thimerosal free vials offered by GSK?

      “There was nothing deceitful about how this was done. The debate is in the public record. The changes were made in a controlled manner. The consequence of moving too quickly and disrupting the vaccine supply in this or other countries can not be minimized.”

      It was extremely deceitful. After refusing to provide thimerosal free vaccines via GSK the CDC promised to require that all vaccines be thimerosal free as soon as “adequate supplies are available.” The supplies were there. It was the CDC choosing not to use them. The vaccine supply did not have to be disrupted.

      “If anything, based on what I would consider to be flimsy evidence, the move was extremely rapid.”

      Flimsy evidence? Mercury is a known neurotoxin. Do you really need evidence to realize it shouldn’t be a vaccine ingredient? It has now been in vaccines for about 60 years. I would argue that the decision to start removing it was anything but rapid.

      “I think the AAP believes that state legislatures have no business getting into this debate. We don’t have a perfect process for making these decisions in this country but I personally know my representative and I don’t want him involved.”

      If the CDC & AAP would put politics aside perhaps there would be no need for state legislatures to intervene. We’re now at 7 years since the CDC made the initial announcement to remove mercury from vaccines. That should have been more than enough time. And not wanting state legislatures to intervene is not a very good reason for wanting to keep mercury in vaccines. You didn’t answer my question regarding why the AAP is against mercury emissions from power plants but for mercury in vaccines.

    34. #34 Kathleen Seidel
      March 2, 2006

      Orac, thanks for quoting me. You’re right; I was referring specifically to RFK Jr.’s advocacy for the interests of litigants, which is not the same thing as serving as plaintiffs’ counsel. In fact, there are many different attorneys serving as counsel to plaintiffs in thimerosal cases. Many of them have snazzy websites with dramatic though unsubstantiated statements such as “Recent studies have confirmed that autism is often caused by these vaccines and in particular the ethyl-mercury preservative Thimerosal.” Head over to Lawyers and Settlements for a spiffily-formatted conspiracy rant by Evelyn Pringle, then one click later you can find out how you, too, can get in on the opportunity to turn the difficult experience of diagnosis and disability into cold hard cash. I have been through it myself, so have members of my family and many friends, and I know that a person can come through to another place if they are willing to make peace with the fact that objectively troublesome and socially devalued characteristics can be genetically transmitted. Coming to terms with these experiences is likely to be considerably more difficult if a person devotes huge amounts of energy to laying blame and seeking revenge.

    35. #35 Autism Diva
      March 3, 2006

      Wakefield is distancing himself from measles as far as his “research” goes. There’s a new paper out by Ashwood and Wakefield, there’s nary a mention of measles anywhere in the body of the paper.

      He seems to be talking about his orginial kids (the ones who’s parents’ lawyer hired him to find a way to sue the vaccine makers?) Interestingly even with good old Andy Wakefield giving them advice on diet and antivirals or whatever he might have advised them on their imaginary measles in their guts, they are all still autistic. He says it right there in his paper. All the kids are still autistic, and this from a man who likes to portray autism as completely reversible like a bout of drunkeness is reversible.

      He also admits that autistic kids might not have any more bowel problems than normal kids (both normal and autistic kids have fairly high incidence of constipation and diarrhea, it’s just that the autistic kids who have bad gut problems are talked about ALL the time as if they are representative of all autistic kids. They are not.

      What should be out this summer is a paper from Eric Fombonne showing what Wakefield did, what error he made in his lab tests that gave a false positive for measles in the guts of those kids. NO MEASLES, is the finding that other researchers have come up with when they tried to replicate Wakefield’s work.

      As has been pointed out once you allow a baby out of the womb (gasp) it is in a world full of bacteria and viruses. Ever notice how much of what a baby touches goes in it’s mouth??? The number of dead and near dead germs in vaccines are pitiful next to what the kids are swimming in. The point in vaccinating is to control the exposure to germs that could take off and harm lots of people. Autism Diva doesn’t have a baby, but if she were responsible for a baby right now, even a preemie she wouldn’t freak out about the amount of thimerosal in vaccines. The fear of the amount of mercury and the form that mercury is in is grossly exaggerated by people who intend to rake in the bucks from lawsuits.

      Maybe “killerjabs” has a case pending?? Not that he’d be likely to admit it. But this is a good place to keep the fear of mercury alive isn’t it, Killerjabs?

      The lawyers for the mercury parents have been on borrowed time for a year or more… they were supposed to have all their “proof” martialed by now to show to a judge, but because they have NOTHING vaguely like proof that autism could even possibly be caused by thimerosal hypothetically on a “good” day, they are scrambling with garbage like the latest stuff from the Geiers. Pure garbage. It’s not going to convince any judge, but if they can get a jury that has heard stuff like what Kennedy is spewing, then they have a chance.

      It’s all about the money and the ambulance chasers and their stinking greed. Bobby Kennedy Jr. is probably not aware that he has been outright lied to by these folks. He’s not bright enough to check out the facts himself so he’s just blathering.

    36. #36 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Autism Diva,

      Not sure where you are getting your info from but I don’t think Wakefield is distancing himself from measles. Have you seen the presentation at Carnegie Mellon in November? Here is a link: http://www.chem.cmu.edu/wakefield/

      The rest of your rant is a bit off topic. RFK Jr’s blog focused on the CDC’s decision to not secure thimerosal free vaccines which contradicts their public statements.

    37. #37 Ebonmuse
      March 3, 2006

      But to compare breast milk to the measles virus is silly. The measles virus is not supposed to lodge itself in the guts of children after vaccination.

      Why not? The measles vaccine uses a live virus, doesn’t it? The point of live-virus vaccines is to create a virus strong enough to provoke an immune response, but too weak to make the child sick. I don’t know what the attenuated virus is “supposed” to do, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it replicated at least a little inside the body. The point is that it can’t replicate enough to actually give you the measles.

    38. #38 Alyric
      March 3, 2006

      Dear Killer

      ‘Mercury is a neurotoxin’ is about the only true statement that’s ever been issued by the ‘Evidence of Lunacy’ Brigade. Notably absent are all the other equally true statements having equal validity – water is a toxin, nutmeg is a toxin. Point of fact you would be hard pressed to find any substance on this earth that’s not capable of being a toxin. Some of those toxins – real nasties are produced by bacteria – Chlostridium Tetanii for instance – that toxin produces tetanus – not a nice way to die. Fortunately we don’t have to watch our children die this way any more. Maybe Killer and cronies should have to watch one of those simulations showing what happens – kind of a techie version of the ads on cigarette packets. Watch Corynebacterium Diptheria in action – see your simulacrum choke to death – now there’s a thrill.

      To avoid getting a lethal dose of said toxin or some equally nasty disease – we vaccinate – with far far less exposure to antigens than 5 minutes playing in the dirt. Come to think of it – if we had the immune systems that the EOH lot like to believe we had – how long would we last ex-utero – 24 hours before we shuffled off this mortal alfoil with massive septicaemia? Nah – probably succumbed in utero – actually – no human race full stop.

    39. #39 Alyric
      March 3, 2006

      Proble with Friday afternoons – forgot half the post.

      What the EOH crowd and I assume you too Killer, have failed to prove as in completely and utterly and abysmally failed to prove is that mercury IN THE FORM OF THIMEROSAL, AT THE DOSAGE GIVEN has ever harmed anyone, anywhere. Has not been done and is not likely to be done any time in the forseeable future. Rabbiting on robotically

      mercury is a neurotoxin – exterminate – mercury is a neurotoxin – exterminate (repeat 50 times)

      doesn’t explain anything at all except possibily the critical thinking skills of the emitting robot.

    40. #40 Francis
      March 3, 2006

      Exactly, so don’t you find it odd that the CDC did not want to take advantage of the thimerosal free vials offered by GSK?

      That depends on the terms and conditions GSK offered their vials at. If they were e.g. at three times the price then no I don’t think it odd in the slightest.

    41. #41 Steve
      March 3, 2006

      As already mentioned Mercury is a neurotoxin. I also note that the Sun is hot, UV light can be dangerous and its generally a bad idea to eat unidentified funghi. What you “killerjabs” need to do is present evidence that mercury in the levels and form found in vaccines is actually dangerous. Try not to circular eh? Any less is well… fearmongering and i’m sure a moral person as youself does not intend that.

    42. #42 Orac
      March 3, 2006

      Alyric:

      I like the Dalek reference. I’m a big Doctor Who fan.

    43. #43 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Ebonmuse,

      The measles virus is being found in the guts of children years after their vaccination. Also, the reason these children were scoped in the first place is because they have terrible bowel issues. So the contention is that the measles virus from the vaccine has caused bowel disease. There is a pediatrician on this board. I’d be willing to defer to his/her opinion regarding whether or not the measles virus should be alive & well in the gut of children years after vaccination.

    44. #44 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Alyric, Steve,

      The CDC requires children to be vaccinated with a mercury containing solution. It should not be the responsibility of concerned parents to test those vaccines for safety. That responsibility should rest with some combination of the drug manufacturers and the CDC. But there isn’t a single safety study. How can you argue this with me? I’m not arguing that thimerosal causes autism. I’m arguing that mercury is a known neurotoxin that has no place in medicine. And if the CDC, AAP or anyone else wants to keep it in vaccines then they need to provide the long overdue safety studies to back up their argument.

    45. #45 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      “That depends on the terms and conditions GSK offered their vials at. If they were e.g. at three times the price then no I don’t think it odd in the slightest.”

      Francis, If you read the CDC’s response to GSK price was not a factor. They expressed a desire to provide options. Producing energy without fossil fuels comes with an increased cost but yet the AAP has no problem suing to attempt to stop mercury emissions from power plants.

    46. #46 Ebonmuse
      March 3, 2006

      killerjabs:

      I’d like to see a reference for this.

    47. #47 jre
      March 3, 2006

      It should not be the responsibility of concerned parents to test those vaccines for safety. That responsibility should rest with some combination of the drug manufacturers and the CDC. But there isn’t a single safety study. How can you argue this with me?

      By pointing you to a bibliography with references to a large number of safety studies.

      Look — each individual vaccine is studied for safety in multiple phases before it is approved for use, and the question of thimerosal toxicity has been extremely heavily studied. The scientific and medical communities take this subject very seriously, and have gone to extraordinary lengths actively looking for adverse effects before delivering a consensus opinion that no convincing evidence has been produced linking vaccines to autism or other neurological disorders.

      To say that “there isn’t a single safety study” evinces a lack of familiarity with the published literature, a strong desire to find support for a predetermined conclusion, or both.

    48. #48 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Ebonmuse,

      The report is not published yet. You should view the presentation from Carnegie Mellon. Here is another link to it: http://www.chem.cmu.edu/wakefield/

    49. Oh shit, I really stepped in it. I thought I had jumped over to another page on Pharyngula. I think I’ve fixed it now.

      Mea maxima culpa. This isn’t as bad as Dan Rather’s goof, is it? http://revart.blogs.com/minister_of_rants/2006/03/skeptics_digest.html#trackback

    50. #50 drinkysr
      March 3, 2006

      killerjabs,

      The reason you will not see a “safety” study (I mean a dedicated clinical trial of thimerosal vs. placebo) is that thimerosal alone has no specific medicinal value (it does not, by itself, treat any disease). Therefore you would have trouble getting review-board approval to do a meaningful test (in infants).

      Also, all new products including vaccines have to undergo extensive safety studies as mandated by the FDA. So, all thimerosal-containing vaccines have undergone said studies and can be found in the PDR.

      As far as you “mercury is a toxin” contention. Well, Aspiring is certainly a toxin and kills many people every year. Other toxins used medicinally: Lithium, digitalis glycosides, colchicine. The golden rule of toxicology “A toxin is in the dose” – I’ll drink a gallon of homeopathic cyanide and smile, but not so much as a drop of tetrodotoxin.

    51. #51 Kathleen Seidel
      March 3, 2006

      I read the correspondence, too. The CDC was willing to address public concerns about thimerosal, since these concerns have to be taken into consideration when developing public health programs that hinge on voluntary participation. With a double-edged letter that is a glorious subject for dissection, John Jabara, the head of SKB’s Vaccine Business Unit, tried to turn that to his company’s advantage. First he acknowledged SKB’s agreement with the CDC that there was an absence of scientific data regarding adverse effects of thimerosal in vaccines. Then he emphasized the then-current DTaP’s higher thimerosal content relative to other vaccines. Then he referred to the cumulative exposure to mercury via DTaP as “nearing the EPA threshold” — slightly more dramatic than “below the EPA threshold” — as preface to broaching the possibility of a sole-source contract for SKB to provide DTaP vaccine for the entire US! That was wily and businesslike of him, but hardly altruistic. Who knows whether SKB actually had the inventory or production capacity that Jabara claimed? His statement that SKB was “in a position to supply Infantrix… in enough quantities to supply the estimated US market needs for at least the remainder of 1999 and the first half of 2000″ is followed by speculation that other sources of supply would “likely be available, pending FDA approval.” FDA approval is not a predictable or always-speedy process. What if Dr. Koplan had taken him up on the offer to monopolize the DTaP supply, then the prediction that other companies would be able to pick up their slack soon enough were not to pan out? Dr. Koplan conveyed the information about the availability of Infantrix to all 64 immunization projects, ensuring that their administrators were aware that thimerosal-free formulations were available. Recognizing the need to respect state and local autonomy, he left the ultimate purchasing decisions to local authorities. He also kept open supply lines for brands that were already licensed — that is, vaccines that had already met FDA approval. It would have been foolish of Dr. Koplan to make the entire U.S. DTaP immunization program vulnerable to the fate of a single manufacturer. If he didn’t maintain diverse sources of supply, all it would take would be a single plant disaster and he and the DTaP component of the national immunization program would be totally hosed.

    52. #52 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Drinkysr,

      So what happens when a drug company wants to use a new preservative? Are there really no tests performed on the preservative because it has no medicinal value? Your point about the preservative being tested as part of the vaccine safety study is well taken.

      But since we’re talking about a toxic substance like mercury that is in multiple vaccines I think a proper safety study would need to consider the cumulative effect of the entire vaccine schedule. Actually, regardless of whether mercury is present in the vaccines I think that type of safety study should be performed.

      I completely understand that the dose makes the toxin. Are you saying that 25 mcg of mercury at one time for a baby is safe? We could go down this road if you like. The EPA sets some guidelines about this and based on their data the amount of mercury in vaccines is clearly not safe. Especially when you consider all the other sources of mercury in our environment.

    53. #53 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Kathleen,

      Can you post links to the correspondence you refer to?

    54. #55 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      I already read those. For some reason I thought you were referring to something different.

      “The CDC was willing to address public concerns about thimerosal, since these concerns have to be taken into consideration when developing public health programs that hinge on voluntary participation.”

      Kathleen, you make it sound like the CDC did us a favor by looking into the thimerosal contents of vaccines. Why is it so hard for you to come down against the CDC and others for not realizing how much mercury they were giving via vaccines and for fighting now to keep mercury in vaccines?

      “With a double-edged letter that is a glorious subject for dissection, John Jabara, the head of SKB’s Vaccine Business Unit, tried to turn that to his company’s advantage.”

      Why is it at all relevant that GSK is looking to make money? Being a corporation and all, I thought that would have been obvious. If you want to discuss the greed of pharma I’m certainly willing to do that.

      Kathleen, the bottom line is that the CDC had the option to provide mercury free DTaP vaccines in 1999 and decided against it. If somehow there was a problem with this manufacturer they still would have all of the existing supply with thimerosal. You’re trying very hard to give the CDC the benefit of the doubt. I might be inclined to do the same if we weren’t sitting here in 2006 with mercury in flu shots and a fired up AAP attacking states that want to remove mercury from vaccines.

    55. #56 Kathleen Seidel
      March 3, 2006

      killerjabs, I don’t think that CDC staff was “doing us a favor” by looking into thimerosal content of vaccines, they were doing their job. I don’t “come down on” people if I’m not convinced they deserve it. Medical practitioners and CDC staff and pharmaceutical company employees are people — not faceless villains. I don’t have a problem with businesses making money; that’s the way of the world. Because that’s the way of the world, I’m not inclined to think that Jabara’s letter was an expression of humanitarianism as much as it was a business ploy. SKB obviously upped their inventories of Infantrix not because they thought that thimerosal was dangerous, but because they speculated that increased public concern about thimerosal would increase demand for thimerosal-free vaccines. After expressing his company’s agreement with the CDC that there was an absence of scientific data regarding adverse effects of thimerosal in vaccines, Jabara offered a sales pitch phrased to make the competition sound less safe than his own product. That’s my interpretation, not a moral condemnation. I suspect that the folks at the CDC recognized exactly what Jabara was doing; they probably deal with salesmen trying to corner the market all the time. Ultimately, the CDC informed the immunization programs of the availability of increased stocks of Infantrix, and gave them the option of purchasing it as well as other FDA-approved vaccines — without granting SKB a monopoly.

    56. #57 anonimouse
      March 3, 2006

      The CDC was not trying to keep mercury in vaccines, they were trying to maintain continuity in the vaccine program until thimerosal-free formulations of said vaccines were available. Big difference. If they wanted to keep mercury in vaccines they’d have not made their recommendation in the first place.

      And as to mercury in flu shots…there are plenty of doses of thimerosal-free vaccine available. In fact, if you look at CDC projections for the number of pregnant women and infants that are likely to get vaccinated (and those numbers are very low) you’d notice that the available supply should be more than the anticipated demand. Doesn’t mean those stockpiles are distributed appropriately, however.

    57. #58 Jackdog
      March 3, 2006

      killerjabs,
      Sorry about the delay in my response. This is the first time I’ve checked this site since last night.

      “When would Mercury not be a toxin?”

      This was answered quite well by drinsyr and Alyric. Mercury is a toxin in certain forms and at certain doses. So is Iron. It is required for human life and yet it kills with acute or chronic overdosage.

      “Don’t you find it odd that the CDC did not want to take advantage of the thimerosol vials offered by GSK?”

      Not at all. The CDC’s response was a measured one based on the lack of evidence for thimerosol toxicity. The “politics” was more on the side of the antivaccine groups pushing for its premature removal from vaccines. The CDC had to balance other factors especially the known consequences of an undervaccinated population. They may have had other reasons that I don’t know about, but that is okay with me. I’m not the one pushing a conspiracy theory here.

      “It was extremely deceitful…The supplies were there…”

      Prove this. You can’t based on what has been presented here.

      “Mercury is a known neurotoxin….”

      Thimerosol is not.

      “If the CDC and the AAP would put politics aside, perhaps there would be no need for state legislatures to intervene…”

      I wish they would as well. If politics had been put aside, then thimerosol would have been a non-issue. Thimerosol is basically a non-issue now. Except for flu, none of the vaccines that I routinely give have thimerosol as a component.

      Your perception of the risk of thimerosol seems extreme. I’m curious about your perception of other risks. Do you wear a seatbelt? How about cigarette smoke? Do you ever ride a bicycle without a helmet? Were you worried about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What other toxins do you worry about? We all live our lives balancing risks versus benefits and we all take reasonable precautions. The main purpose of case controlled studies is to help us make these decisions in medicine. Sometimes our intuition about risks versus benefit is right and sometimes it is very wrong. You are wrong about the risk of thimerosol.

    58. #59 Brian S.
      March 3, 2006

      Kathleen Seidel says she (and by extension Orac) “was referring specifically to RFK Jr.’s advocacy for the interests of litigants, which is not the same thing as serving as plaintiffs’ counsel.”

      Okay then, so it’s appropriate to say that Kathleen should come clean that she’s advocating for the interests of the big pharmaceutical company defendants?

      I think Orac’s later revision that it’s all just a rhetorical flourish and devoid of content, is a better spot to stand on. Considering how the statement looks when you turn it around, though, I think it’s better not to make the flourish at all.

    59. #60 Ummm
      March 3, 2006

      Curious how the anti-anti-thimerosal brigades aren’t commenting on this study yet:

      http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49094

      I thought you were going to bet your homes and such you’d never see independent confirmation of such a link in a respected journal? Where’s Skeptico and Autism-Astroturf-Diva?

    60. #61 Steve
      March 3, 2006

      Nicely dodged Jabs. Vaccines have prooved their safety and efficacy in public health. You are arguing that their damage to public health outweighs their benrfit without showing they damage public health in any way.
      How about some hypotheticals, you know compare the amount of mercury in vaccines with the amounts you would be exposed to naturally? Got anything on that? I mean, if you really are the sword of truth some evidence for your postion would be helpful. I mean i’m not employed or have any financial reason to support “pharma”, so if you argued honestly and presented evidence,i along with many others would agree with you. I/We have no vested interest in vaccines… its just we’re not prepared to risk the public health on the crap you offer. Take that as ad hom if you like, but you really need to hit then exceed by a magnitude the levels of evidence normally required.
      Me and my 100 trillion bacteria gonna laugh at a few tens of viral epitopes and get on with normal life.
      PS

    61. #62 Steve
      March 3, 2006

      Ummm, yeah the word is respected Journal and the Jouranal of American Physicians and Surgeons is not respected, despite its “respectable” name.

    62. #63 Brian S.
      March 3, 2006

      Follow-up to Steve – the article is also by the Geiers, who have severe credibility problems of their own.

    63. #64 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Kathleen,

      It’s not an issue of SKB trying to corner the market or gain a monopoly. The CDC said that thimerosal containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible. Here is a quote from their announcement on July 7 ,1999:

      “Nevertheless, because any potential risk is of concern, the Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agree that thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible.”

      So I’m saying they did not heed their own advice when they chose not to utilize the thimerosal free vaccines that GSK had. I don’t understand how you all can dispute this point.

      Anonimuse, you said:

      “The CDC was not trying to keep mercury in vaccines, they were trying to maintain continuity in the vaccine program until thimerosal-free formulations of said vaccines were available”

      But don’t you see that thimerosal free formulations of the DTaP were available and they chose not to use them?

    64. #65 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Jackdog,

      No apologies necessary for the delayed response.

      You said:

      “Mercury is a toxin in certain forms and at certain doses. So is Iron. It is required for human life and yet it kills with acute or chronic overdosage.”

      If you are arguing that the amount of mercury in vaccines in 1999 was not at toxic levels I think you should check the EPA references for safety guidelines on mercury. You may be surprised to see that the bolus doses of mercury from vaccines greatly surpassed those safety guidelines.

      _________________________________________________
      I said:
      “Don’t you find it odd that the CDC did not want to take advantage of the thimerosol vials offered by GSK?”

      You said:
      “Not at all. The CDC’s response was a measured one based on the lack of evidence for thimerosol toxicity. The “politics” was more on the side of the antivaccine groups pushing for its premature removal from vaccines. The CDC had to balance other factors especially the known consequences of an undervaccinated population. They may have had other reasons that I don’t know about, but that is okay with me. I’m not the one pushing a conspiracy theory here.”

      Jackdog, In July 1999 the CDC said that thimerosal free vaccines should be used whenever possible. So their response should have had nothing to do with evidence or lack of evidence for thimerosal toxicity. They had already made up their minds that thimerosal should not be used. So again I ask you, “Don’t you find it odd that the CDC did not want to take advantage of the thimerosol vials offered by GSK?”
      _______________________________________
      I said:
      “It was extremely deceitful…The supplies were there…”

      You said:
      “Prove this. You can’t based on what has been presented here.”

      Why not? The letter from GSK indicates they have mercury free vaccines. If you don’t believe that to be true I think it’s up to you to prove otherwise.

      __________________________________________________

      “Mercury is a known neurotoxin….”

      “Thimerosol is not.”

      Prove to me that thimerosal is not a neurotoxin. Have you ever seen the Material Safety Data Sheet for thimerosal? Why would there be a skull on it?

    65. #66 killerjabs
      March 3, 2006

      Steve,

      “You are arguing that their damage to public health outweighs their benrfit without showing they damage public health in any way.”

      Regardless of whether I believe that, I have not even attempted to make that argument here. My argument is simply that the CDC failed to follow their own advice when they chose to continue vaccinating with thimerosal containing DTaP when they had a thimerosal-free alternative. That is all I am arguing here.

      But I’ll attempt to answer your question regarding the mercury exposure in vaccines which will also give you the background for the CDC’s decision in 1999 to remove mercury from vaccines asap. The exposure in the first 6 months of life was 162.5 mcg through 4 “bolus” doses at birth, 2 months, 4 months & 6 months. The FDA then divided the 162.5 mcg and divided by 180 days and came up with an average exposure of .9 mcg per day which is just above the EPA limit but below the FDA & CDC limits. The .9 mcg avg daily exposure is deceiving because children were actually being exposed to much larger levels of mercury on 4 separate days which is much worse than a little bit every day. If you then factor in the mercury exposure from other sources (coal burning power plants, fish, pregnancy vaccines such as flu shots or Rhogam, amalgams, etc…) you are talking about a tremendous amount of exposure.

      Again, Steve, I’m not asking you to change your public health beliefs. Just merely pointing out the facts that the drug companies, FDA & CDC exposed our children to way too much mercury and that the CDC has done a terrible job in providing us with thimerosal free vaccines even after they stated a preference for it. And yes, I think RFK Jr. is absolutely correct in pointing that out.

    66. #67 HCN
      March 3, 2006

      killerjabs said “Alyric, Steve,

      The CDC requires children to be vaccinated with a mercury containing solution. ”

      This indicates that this person is just making it up as she/he goes along.

      The CDC does not require children to be vaccinated by anything. They provide recommendations. Actual vaccine policy is done by public health departments usually on the state or county level. Many times the way any immunization policy is actually enforced is through admittance into public school (and there are may ways to circumvent those requirements).

      Also, Thimerosal in Vaccines shows that most to almost ALL pediatric vaccines are available with thimerosal.

      Also, it is not a simple matter of just removing thimerosal. Whenever a vaccine is changed it has to be shown to be both effective and safe. Which you would know if you actually read the above link.

      Other relevent reading would be WHO Guidelines which note that there have been quality problems whenever vaccines are changed.

      But you won’t read it, or if you do you will do selective quoting that stilts to some kind of conspiracy. So I don’t expect you to change your position. I will, though, ask for an honest answer to this question:

      Which vaccine in this Immunization Schedule (just for convenience, since the UK has different recommendations) is more dangerous than the actual disease it is for?

      Just give an answer indicating which vaccine versus the disease. Like if you say it is DTaP, please tell us whether diptheria, tetanus and pertussis are less damaging. Also, be so kind to give the source of the information, something like this Report on Pertussis in the United States from 2001 to 2003.

      Thank you

    67. #68 Kathleen Seidel
      March 4, 2006

      Brian, your point about the potential for a rhetorical fluorish to turn around and bite one on the ass is well taken. My kvetch remains that RFK Jr. doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the lawsuits in this latest article. They are its subtext, but a person wouldn’t know that if the article provided their first exposure to the subject. As for the question of whose interests I’m advocating for — I’m concerned about the impact of sensationalism, shoddy science, conspiracy mongering and profiteering on autistic people, their families, and public health in general. Whatever positions I might take on any subject spring from that perspective. Some might coincide with those taken by big pharmaceutical company defendants; others might not. For someone who’s always considered myself relatively politically “progressive,” it’s an interesting place to find myself in — as interesting as the phenomenon of “progressives” making uncritical references to articles published in the Journal of Physicians and Surgeons with no apparent awareness of or concern for the far-right political mission of the organization that publishes it.

    68. #69 killerjabs
      March 4, 2006

      Kathleen,

      The fact that some people have filed lawsuits due to adverse vaccine reactions has absolutely nothing to do with the Kennedy article. They are two completely different topics. And what role do you think Kennedy has in those lawsuits anyway? You completely missed the point of this article so I’ll say it again.

      The CDC failed to follow their own advice when they chose to continue vaccinating with thimerosal containing DTaP when they had a thimerosal-free alternative.

    69. #70 HCN
      March 5, 2006

      killerjabs said: “The CDC requires children to be vaccinated with a mercury containing solution. ”

      This is proof that this person just makes up stuff as she/he goes along. The CDC may make RECOMMENDATION… but immunization policy is made at the state and county level through their public health departments, and often only enforced only through the admission requirements of public school (and some states have very liberal rules to circumvent those policies… things like “philosophical” objections to vaccination).

      ALSO… what thimerosal in vaccines? If you read Thimerosal in Vaccines you will see that most are available withOUT thimerosal (including influenza)! So where does it say that the CDC actually REQUIRES children to be vaccinated with vaccines containing thimerosal?

      Also, killerjabs, seems to imply that it is an “easy” thing to remove thimerosal. Actually, that is not true. Changing a vaccine can effect its effectiveness and safety. Check out what WHO has to say about removing thimerosal.

      Of course, “killerjabs” (cute username… did you come up with that on your own, or did you need help?), will not read nor understand the previous two webpages. She/he/it has made up her/his/their mind, and no amount of evidence will sway them. BUT… I will ask her/he/them/it to answer ONE question:

      What vaccine in the present recommended pediatric schedule is more dangererous than the actual disease?

      Because recommended vaccines schedules vary from country to country, and even from county to county, I think that I will request the list from This Recommended Pediatric Schedule be used.

      Don’t say “all of them”… I get that often when I ask this question. It is a blatent cop-out. Be specific! If you feel the DtaP is more dangerous, please give us which disease that is less deadly than the vaccine (diptheria, tetanus, pertussis). Please include good references. Something on the order of Pertussis in the United States 2001-2003.

    70. #71 Clark Venable
      March 5, 2006

      Early Downward Trends in Neurodevelopmental Disorders Following Removal of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines (pdf).

      Contemporaneously with the epidemic rise in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs), first observed in the United States during the 1990s, the childhood immunization schedule was expanded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include several additional thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs). On July 7, 1999, a joint recommendation was made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) to remove thimerosal from vaccines. A two-phase study was undertaken to evaluate trends in diagnosis of new NDs entered into the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) databases on a reporting quarter basis, from 1994 through 2005. Significant increasing trends in newly diagnosed NDs were observed in both databases 1994 through mid-2002. Significant decreasing trends in newly diagnosed NDs were observed in both databases from mid-2002 through 2005. The results indicate that the trends in newly diagnosed NDs correspond directly to the expansion and subsequent contraction of the cumulative mercury dose to which children were exposed from TCVs through the U.S. immunization schedule.

    71. #72 Orac
      March 5, 2006

      Yeah, that article is on my list to discuss next week. Scientifically, it’s a piece of crap, just like 99.9% of what the Geiers publish is. It’s just the Geiers dumpster-diving the VAERS database yet again and using the California database for a purpose for which it was not intended. I’m surprised you didn’t see that right away.

      Look at some of the other articles published in that particular journal, too. It’ll give you an idea of the quality of the peer review. For instance, did you see the articles on the “shaken baby” syndrome that try to link them to vaccine damage? Or the anti-fluoridation rants.

      There’s a reason the Geiers publish in that journal so frequently. That journal and Medical Hypotheses.

      I suggest you look at the articles below:

      A Review of the the Use of California Department of Developmental Service’s Autism Data

      The Geiers Go Dumpster-Diving Again

    72. #73 Orac
      March 5, 2006

      Oh, I forgot another one that you should look at, Clark.

      The VAERS database has been corrupted by adverse events reporting based on litigation, which I wrote about on the old blog.

      Garbage in = garbage out.

    73. #74 Clark Venble
      March 5, 2006

      It’s out of my field, but I’ll review the article in more detail per your suggestion, Orac. As I say on blog: I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy. I should modify it to say ‘I believe that a scientist looking at scientific problems not in their area is just as dumb as the next scientist.’

    74. #75 Orac
      March 5, 2006

      Not if that scientist takes the time to seriously educate him or herself about that field. In that case, that scientist may not be as knowledgeable as an expert in the field, but he or she will certainly be more knowledgeable than just any other scientist.

      Besides, the Geiers’ stuff is so bad that I usually don’t even need to dig too deeply to spot the logical and scientific fallacies in their work. See, for example, my discussion of the Geiers’ desire to use “testosterone regulation” (Lupron) to treat autism by “making chelation work better,” a desire based on not just no science, but demonstrably incorrect science.

    75. #76 Fore Sam
      March 5, 2006

      Testosterone binds with mercury. Ergo, taking out the testosterone also takes out more mercury. Ergo, chelation works better and, as they showed, with fewer side effects. If you listened to the Geier’s instead of criticizing them, you might be able to speak intelligently on the subject. Mercury caused the autism epidemic and you are wrong.

    76. #77 BronzeDog
      March 5, 2006

      Testosterone binds with mercury.

      My memory on this point isn’t the best, but isn’t that a myth in itself? Got any evidence?

    77. #78 HCN
      March 6, 2006

      The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is more of a joke than “Medical Hypotheses”. It is more of a political publication than medical.

    78. #79 killerjabs
      March 6, 2006

      HCN,

      “The CDC does not require children to be vaccinated by anything. They provide recommendations. Actual vaccine policy is done by public health departments usually on the state or county level. Many times the way any immunization policy is actually enforced is through admittance into public school (and there are may ways to circumvent those requirements).”

      You’re going to argue over this? So maybe the CDC doesn’t officially make requirements. But their recommendations effectively become requirements due to the public schools requiring children to meet the CDC recommendations. Yes, there are ways to circumvent that but your average joe would not be aware of it.

      “Also, Thimerosal in Vaccines shows that most to almost ALL pediatric vaccines are available with thimerosal.”

      “Also, it is not a simple matter of just removing thimerosal. Whenever a vaccine is changed it has to be shown to be both effective and safe. Which you would know if you actually read the above link.”

      I’m assuming you meant to say that almost all vaccines are available withOUT thimerosal. I recognize that and I have never disputed that fact. My argument, once again, is that the CDC failed to heed their own advice in 1999 when they chose not to use the thimerosal free DTaP. And I never said it was simple to remove thimerosal. But it’s now 2006, 7 years after the CDC recommendation to remove thimerosal, and we are still not there yet. Don’t you think there has been more than enough time to get mercury out of vaccines?

      “Which vaccine in this Immunization Schedule (just for convenience, since the UK has different recommendations) is more dangerous than the actual disease it is for?”

      Gee, that’s a loaded question. How about if I answer it in a slightly different way. The Hep B vaccine is given to newborns, the majority of which have 0% chance of ever catching the disease since it is transmitted by unprotected sex or by shared needles. Since there is no risk of getting the disease, I will argue that there is a much higher risk of an adverse reaction from the shot. I would argue that the vaccine should be given to children when they are older.

      Again, my main argument is that RFK Jr. is justified in his latest piece and that the CDC should have been doing everything in their power to heed their own advice and remove mercury from vaccines.

    79. #80 killerjabs
      March 6, 2006

      HCN,

      Here is a link to an article on some fatal reactions to vaccines in the UK: http://health.telegraph.co.uk/health/main.jhtml?xml=/health/2006/02/13/nmmr12.xml

    80. #81 Quaoar
      March 6, 2006
    81. #82 Orac
      March 7, 2006

      Yeah, I saw it. I don’t know if my brain and critical thinking skills can take yet another dive into the bowels of the breathtaking inanity that is RFK, Jr. on this issue–at least not this soon. One can only stand so many assaults on science and critical thinking in the name of scoring cheap political points in such a short period of time.

    82. #83 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      Orac,

      I’m really beginning to wonder about both your brain and your critical thinking skills (not to mention your spelling – what the hell is inanity?). Like I must have said half a dozen times on this blog – the CDC failed to follow their own advice when they chose not to take advantage of mercury free vaccines from GSK. The fact that you use adjectives like “breathtaking inanity” to describe RFK Jr’s. objections to that behavior is truly unbelievable. And now the CDC is increasing the flu vaccine recommendation which will result in millions of children to be injected with mercury. And why are they doing this? To try and reduce sick days. Talk about a ridiculous risk/reward ratio. And we haven’t even discussed the fact that the flu vaccine is anything but a given when it comes to flu immunity. Your reaction is way off on these RFK Jr articles. You need to take a deep breath and do your best to look at these issues with an open mind.

    83. #84 Orac
      March 7, 2006

      It’s not my problem if you don’t have a good enough vocabulary to know that “inanity” is a word. Look it up in the dictionary if you don’t believe me. To spell it out, since you are obviously not familiar with a recent famous use of the word, my use of the term “breathtaking inanity” comes from Judge John E. Jones III’s decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. Look that up too, and you’ll see why I chose that particular term.

      But I digress. It’s not my critical thinking skills that are in doubt. Given how many times I’ve noticed RFK Jr. using logical fallacies; misrepresenting transcripts by carefully cherry picking quotes that support a conspiracy and ignoring the context and the rest of the quotes that do not; swallowing bad science without questioning it; lambasting pharmaceutical companies for having a financial conflict of interest while ignoring the glaring financial conflict of interest that “mercury crusaders” like the Geiers and Boyd Haley have; and just generally showing a lack of critical thinking skills on this issue, I am not prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept his version of anything having to do with vaccines and/or autism without doing some digging myself.

      Time and time again, RFK Jr. has proven himself unworthy of being given the benefit of the doubt when he pontificates on these particular matters.

    84. #85 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      Orac,

      I didn’t ask you to give the benefit of the doubt. RFK Jr. is talking common sense. There are two issues. I stated them above. RFK Jr. is right about them and there is no argument you can make to refute them.

      Regarding the reasons you dislike RFK Jr. You’re right about one of them. RFK Jr. shouldn’t lambast drug companies for a conflict of interest while ignoring the Geier’s & Boyd Haley. Since you point this out I’m sure you wouldn’t be guilty of the same error, would you? You seem to spend lots of time laying into people like the Geiers. I know you wouldn’t ignore conflicts of interest on the other side. I must have missed them, so could you please forward me your blog entries where you correctly put the CDC in it’s place for having Verstraeten serve as the lead author in their epidemiological studies even though he was employed by GSK halfway through the study? Or show me the one where you discuss how the CDC should not ethically have the dual responsibility of setting the vaccine schedule as well as leading the effort to study their safety?

    85. #86 HCN
      March 7, 2006

      Killerjabs, you did not answer my question, though truthfully I did not expect you to — and a newspaper article does not count. Especially since measles kills several more than 18 per year, more like almost half a million children per year. See Measles Initiative. So even if the “secret” report was true (and often times it is a secondary thing that happens at the time of vaccination), the facts show that measles itself is much much more deadly than the vaccine (which has never ever contained thimerosal).

      Also, due to the efforts of Wakefield and the lawyer who paid him the UK is not only having several adolescents coming down with mumps, but now measles is making a comeback! Good job!

    86. #87 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      HCN,

      I did answer your question and I used Hep B as an example. The fact that measles kills almost 500K children per year is somewhat misleading because it is occuring in places that lack basic sanitation and medicine. Do you know how many people in the US died from the wild measles virus in the years right before the introduction of the measles virus? If the over/under line is 18 I’m going with the under. So there’s my second example for you. My third would be the flu vaccine. I’ll take my chances without the flu vaccine any day of the week to avoid 25 mcg of mercury and because the stupid flu vaccine is hardly a guarantee to work and there were a couple of studies done that showed the flu vaccine has NEVER saved the life of the elderly or for infants. So now that’s 3 examples for you.

      You’re judging Wakefield without all of the results in. Have you watched his presentation from Carnegie Mellon? If the measles virus from vaccines has indeed lodged itself in the guts of children and caused a new bowel disease you will have to admit that you are wrong and offer up your most loving apology to Wakefield.

    87. #88 HCN
      March 7, 2006

      killerjabs said ” Do you know how many people in the US died from the wild measles virus in the years right before the introduction of the measles virus? If the over/under line is 18 I’m going with the under. ”

      Actually as it reads that does not make sense… but I am going to be charitable and assume you meant “measles vaccine”. Which was introduced as a single vaccine in 1963 (the triple MMR because available in the USA in the early 1970’s when the more effective Jeryl Lynn strain of mumps vaccine became available). At that time there were half a million cases of measles in the USA each year, with 500 deaths from measles per year, which is a whole lot more than 18 (that was a multi-year figure). The sanitary conditions in 1963 were not that different from today.

      Also there was a lapse in vaccination in the late 1980’s which caused a resurgence of measles in the USA. Between 1989 and 1991 there were 123 deaths from measles. That is a lot more than 18.

      Relevant data from this: Pink Book, Page 130 to 131

      So you mention HepB… which is a disease that often has no known source. I checked into the deaths attributed to HepB vaccine, and read an evaluation that seemed to be more of a cautionary tale against co-sleeping (one victim was found on the floor next to the couch): Neonatal Deaths after Hepatitis B Vaccine.

    88. #89 Catherina
      March 7, 2006

      actually, people are still dying from that epidemic today:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16235165&query_hl=1&itool=pubmed_docsum

      Bellini et al. tested the measles virus found in the brain of patients dying/dead from SSPE and can associate more than 10 cases with that particular outbreak. So not only was the acute measles mortality 1 death in 440 measles cases, but years later, about 1 SSPE death per 10 actute deaths is occuring. Very appropriately, the paper is called:

      Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: more cases of this fatal disease are prevented by measles immunization than was previously recognized.

    89. #90 Jonatahn Semetko
      March 7, 2006

      Killerjabs,

      The broader research center I am affiliated with (I am with another lab there) can not replicate Wakefield’s findings. That seems to be an issue.

    90. #91 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      HCN,

      The number of deaths from the measles was actually higher than I thought. Although I think your estimate of 500 is on the high side. Here is another source http://www.healthsentinel.com/graphs.php?id=20&event=graphs_print_list_item which states the mortality rate due to measles in 1963 was .2 per 100,000 which would make the number of deaths 378 given the size of the US population in that year. Granted 378 is still much higher than 18. But there are accepted (as opposed to the “secret” report that gave us the 18 number and databases like VAERS) cases of adverse reactions to vaccines (i.e. some people got polio as a result of the vaccine) that would need to be added to the list. The 378 number is based on a US population that is more than 3x as much as the UK population so you would need to adjust for that. Also, the number of suspected adverse reactions are underreported. The secret report article said adverse reactions could actually be twice as much and other people say it’s even higher. For example, if you were arguing for the safety record of pain killers 10 years ago you would have a strong case because no one knew that heart attacks could be linked to those drugs. The jury is literally still out when it comes to the safety of MMR and it will take more time to accurately answer your question.

      Your missing my point on HepB. The newborns who receive that vaccine have 0% chance of getting the disease but every vaccine has a risk.

    91. #92 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      Jonatahn,

      Could you give more details? What exactly did your research center do?

    92. #93 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      http://www.milforddailynews.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=87552&format=text

      Report: Government knew of autism link
      By Jon Brodkin
      Tuesday, March 7, 2006

      Eight years before the U.S. government decided to remove mercury from most childhood vaccines, federal health officials were already receiving reports linking vaccinations to new cases of autism.

      (The rest at the above link.)

      [Edited by Orac. Note: If you have a link to an article, do not post the complete article in the comments. It wastes bandwidth and risks copyright infringement.]

    93. #94 Catherina
      March 7, 2006

      measles deaths in the US, pretty much the same from WW2 till the vaccine struck:

      1950 468
      1951 683
      1952 618
      1953 462
      1954 518
      1955 345
      1956 530
      1957 389
      1958 552
      1959 385
      1960 380
      1961 434
      1962 408
      1963 364
      1964 421
      1965 296
      1966 261
      1967 81
      1968 24
      1969 41
      1970 89
      1971 90
      1972 24
      1973 23
      1974 20
      1975 20
      1976 12
      1977 15
      1978 11
      1979 6
      1980 11
      1981 2
      1982 2

    94. #95 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      Catherina,

      To really see the downward slope of vaccine deaths before the introduction of the vaccine I think you need to go back further than 1950. The HealthSentinal link I provided goes back to 1900 and you can really see the decrease when viewed that way.

    95. #96 HCN
      March 7, 2006

      The explanation for the variation is that measles epidemics come in cycles. Starting in the mid-20th century many measles deaths were prevented by improved medical care. You’ll notice that it is only after vaccination programs did it plummet.

      Now, killerjabs… Explain why 123 people died from measles in the USA between 1989 and 1991.

    96. #97 killerjabs
      March 7, 2006

      HCN,

      I don’t think cycles explains the decline in measles death that started in 1900. There are some spikes in both directions but the rate is clearly on a downward trend.

      And I have no idea why so many people died from the measles in the US between 1989 & 1991. Maybe the vaccine wasn’t working so well. How do we know that those people weren’t vaccinated? Vaccines do not always work and they do not provide lifelong immunity.

      While we’re on the topic of vaccine reactions, here is a very interesting analysis of infant deaths reported in the VAERS database. Notice how the majority of deaths occur within 1 week of vaccination and a significant portion occur within the same day. And say what you will about the VAERS database. But until there is a better place to view adverse reactions to vaccines you’re going to have to deal with it. http://www.vaccinationnews.com/Adverse_Reactions/vaers/infant_deaths.htm

      Here’s another link to some interesting tidbits: http://www.vaccinationnews.com/Scandals/Aug_23_02/ChronicNewacheck.htm Here are some of the highlights:

      “So between 1960 and 1998, it would appear that the prevalence of chronic conditions, among all children, resulting in disability, rose from 1.8% to 6.5%, although a certain portion of the earlier rise may be attributable to changes in perception and other factors not indicative of real changes in incidence.”

      “Finally, prevalence of disabling asthma, as reported in the National Health Interview Survey, has increased 232% since 1969, the first year that electronic data are available from the survey. In contrast, prevalence of disability due to all other childhood chronic conditions increased by 113% over the same period.”

    97. #98 HCN
      March 7, 2006

      Avoidance of addressing the actual question duly noted.

      The years were specifically 1989 through 1991. None of the others.

    98. #99 Jonathan Semetko
      March 8, 2006

      Killerjabs, fair question:

      A research and treatment lab the institution I attend (and is part of research and service collective) attempted to replicate Wakefield et al (1998)and failed. I observe that this is not the first negative finding of Wakefield’s research.

      And then there is this:

      Honda, H., Shimizu, Y., & Rutter, M. (2005). No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol 46 (6), 572-579.

      A sometime member of that group included Dr. Singh who is still at my insitution by is no longer part of that particular lab. The results seem to be negative even though Dr. Singh claims to have replicated this result.

      That specific lab now investigates loci in the 6th chromosome.

      I am part of a different research group in that center.

    99. #100 HCN
      March 8, 2006

      Oops… I misread that killerjabs actually said “I don’t know”.

      Actually, the vaccine status of most of the measles victims were noted. Many of them had not been vaccinated, 90% of them.

      This you would know if you had actually read pages 130 to 131 of the Pink Book that I linked to (it is a 20 page document, since each chapter of the Pink Book is a separate PDF file). I assumed you would not read it, and I was correct.

      You should also check out the rest of the Pink Book. It would increase your knowledge of the diseases and the vaccines immensely: The Pink Book

    100. #101 Catherina
      March 8, 2006

      killerjabs,

      yes, there was a downward trend from the early 20th century. In 1920ies Germany, for example, 3% of each birth cohort (every 33rd child born) died of measles (another 3% of pertussis and scarlet fever). Measles suppress the immune system for a number of months, so opportunistic infections occur (a bit like with HIV infection) and the little children died of pneumonia, invasive otitis etc. Up to 35% of measles patients get vomitting, diarrhea and very high fever. That alone is enough to kill a child, if the environment (clean water etc) is not ideal. As general hygiene improved and antibiotics were found, diarrhea was no longer automatically a killer and the opportunistic infections could be treated. The downward trend of measles mortality began and stopped at about 1 in 1000. That is the best we can do. Statistically, in the developed world, 1 out of 1000 children dies of measles, around 8 to 12% will have complications, including encephalitis. 1 in about 3000 small children with measles will go on to develop SSPE, about 1 in 10’000 overall. There is nothing modern medicine can do about that. Measles are caused by a virus, there is no treatment.

      In contemporary outbreaks, vaccination status is recorded in as many cases as possible. In Bavaria (Germany) an outbreak occured in 2000/2001; close to 1200 cases in a community of roughly 80’000. Only 55 cases were non pediatric. Only 3 cases had been vaccinated twice. 93% of all cases were unvaccinated. I set off to calculate the relative risk based on the know population data (vaccination status at school entry, population under 18 etc) and found that (brace yourself) in this one outbreak 18% of the entire unvaccinated pediatric population got measles, while only 0.39% of the vaccinated population under 18 got the measles. Rather impressive, isn’t it?

      In Switzerland in 2003, a measles outbreak with eventually 600 reported cases – the Swiss equivalent of the CDC reported complictions as follows:

      11,0% complications among 464 reported cases

      3 cases of encephalitis,
      14 pneumonia,
      3 cases of suspected pneumonia,
      11 cases of otitis,
      1 delirium,
      1 myokarditis,
      1 cases of generalised tonic convulsionen,
      1 Gingivostomatitis,
      1 Hepatitis with suspected appendizitis,
      1 otitis mit Hepatitis and
      14 hospitalisations without specified complications
      26 (5,6%) Persons were hospitalised, one person for nearly 6 weeks because of encephalitis

      (source http://www.bullmed.ch/pdf/2003/2003-27/2003-27-667.PDF further reading on the Coburg epidemic, in German, here: http://www.promed-ev.de/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=11 and this here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16094223&query_hl=1&itool=pubmed_docsum)

      That is what measles look like today – still no fun and still nothing you can do in many cases, except wait it out and hope.

      Vaccinations are becoming the victims of their own success and unvaccinated children are becoming the victims of their parents’ lack of imagination (and lack of awareness of their own history).

    101. #102 killerjabs
      March 8, 2006

      Catherina,

      Talk about lack of imagination…

      “Vaccinations are becoming the victims of their own success”

      Sounds like you’ve passed the pro-vaccine class ;-)

      Look, My objective here was not to argue whether vaccines prevent measles. HCN started this conversation with his challenge to me – so maybe the measles case is tough to make using the data we have today but I still think one could make a strong argument against Hep B vaccines for newborns and flu vaccines.

      So I agree that vaccines are very good at protecting against the disease they were intended to protect against. For me personally, vaccines are not the victims of their own success. I’m a pretty mainstream guy and never would have questioned vaccines if I didn’t have an autistic son and didn’t do my own research. I see vaccines as victims of the arrogant, greedy people that run the program or contribute to it. I don’t think they are evil people looking to harm children. I see them as people who have invested their entire career into the vaccine program and see it as the greatest medical achievement. They’re too close to it and I don’t think they could ever believe that vaccines could have caused an autism epidemic or epidemics in chronic diseases such as asthma or auto immune diseases such as childhood diabetes. Even if presented with the evidence, I think they could convince themselves that the adverse side effects are an ugly cost of doing business but the greater good is still served by eliminating diseases such as measles. That’s my opinion and my next child will not be receiving ANY vaccinations. Could I possibly change my mind later? Maybe. I would like to see an unvaccinated population studied with the rates of several diseases and disorders compared to a vaccinated population. And I would like to see that study conducted by an independent auditor – like an Ernst & Young.

    102. #103 Catherina
      March 8, 2006

      killer,

      there can be no systematic study of unvaccinated children versus vaccinated. It would never pass any ethical review committee (that is the committee that the Geiers have not passed with the “study” they are talking about in that autism media sniped). It is unethical to deny a child basic medical care known to work (as in vaccines). Nevertheless, if your child remains unvaccinated s/he will be protected by community immunity (unless you choose to move into a low vaccination coverage community, which I would not advise, especially after witnessing the pertussis outbreak in the Steiner Kindergarten a couple of streets down).

      And vaccines are actually one of the three most important medical developments/findings ever (the other two being anesthesia and antibiotics).

    103. #104 killerjabs
      March 8, 2006

      Catherina,

      There are populations of people that do not vaccinate based on religious or other beliefs. One example is the Amish.

    104. #105 Jonathan Semetko
      March 8, 2006

      Killerjabs,

      You name the Amish as folks who don’t get vaccines.

      The FamilyFirst folks in Chicago are another example. There are a few more I could name.

      However, a problem is that sometimes members of both groups do get vaccines.

      It would be a bad idea to try to use those folks in research. Those groups are naturally formed, they are not randomized. Anyone one attempting to use them as controls in formalized study would be failing to control for selection bias, as well as random and systematic error. Such a study might also involve Texas Sharpshooting.

    105. #106 Coreen Adamany
      March 22, 2006

      I don’t think that all vaccines are bad. But I think that we are getting way ahead of ourselves to believe that if we keep piling on one vaccine on top of another that we are doing our childrens systems good. There are just a few things I would like to point out as food for thought.

      1. A infants liver isn’t fully developed until the age of 6 months. Why then are we giving the infant all these vaccines before the age of 6 months? We are stressing their livers, thereby stressing their immune systems. Then we wonder why we have all these kids with constant colds, constant ear infections and tonsillitis. Their immune systems haven’t had a chance from the get go. If that’s not bad enough, we then give them antibiotics which kill not only the bad bacteria, but the good as well. Setting them up for more immune difficulty. All these kids on the Autism spectrum today have a few things in common, and one of them is a severely compromised immune system.

      2. I believe that there is enough evidence out there that shows a definate link between mercury (i.e. Thimerosal) and neurological problems. I feel the only reason that the CDC studies have shown little or no link is that their financial burden would be insurmountable. They just keep covering it up. But I won’t even debate that. The point is, with all the mercury that was included in these vaccines given to infants by their 2nd birthday- it amounts to a lethal dose given to a 220 lb. adult- it’s wrong. The drug companies are still putting mercury in their flu vaccines. Any mercury is too much mercury. It is a poison and that is a fact.

      So, I feel that vaccines should only be given to children that are very healthy, at least 6 months of age, have had all of their titers tested first (to make sure they don’t already have immunity passed on from their parents), and are only given one vaccine at a time. This would be to make sure that there are not any adverse reactions and if so, that vaccine shouldn’t be given again. The vaccine should be given from a single dose vial. With a multi dose vial you just can’t be 100 percent sure that you are getting the correct dose, even if the nurse mixes it properly. And of coarse above all, free of mercury!
      I say lets be smart about vaccinations. It seems to me that many people put more thought into what kind of gas they put into their cars than what poisons they are allowing into their own childrens bodies. Think about it.

    106. #107 BronzeDog
      March 22, 2006

      mercury (i.e. Thimerosal)

      Fore Sam did a lot of Humpty-dumptying on that: Thimerosal is a mercury compound, not mercury.

      I believe that there is enough evidence out there that shows a definate link between mercury (i.e. Thimerosal) and neurological problems.

      Show me.

      They just keep covering it up. But I won’t even debate that.

      Immunization against evidence. The same thing could be said of aliens. Talking about cover-ups only distracts from the issue (the evidence), so you should never bring them up.

      So, I feel that vaccines should only be given to children that are very healthy, at least 6 months of age, have had all of their titers tested first (to make sure they don’t already have immunity passed on from their parents), and are only given one vaccine at a time.

      They’re exposed to several thousand pathogens whenever they put their mouth on something. When they get, say, an MMR vaccine, they receive 3 weakened/disabled pathogens.

      And of coarse above all, free of mercury!

      Breast milk contains more mercury than thimerosal vaccines, and in their case, the mercury has to break some chemical bonds to act the same way.

      It seems to me that many people put more thought into what kind of gas they put into their cars than what poisons they are allowing into their own childrens bodies. Think about it.

      The problem is that you don’t seem to actually be thinking about it: You’re just knee-jerking whenever someone points at an Hg in a chemical equation. The dose makes the poison, and in the case of thimerosal vaccines, I have yet to see any evidence that that one-time dose is of any danger.

    107. #108 Coreen Adamany
      August 28, 2007

      If you don’t have the sincerity to use your real name when replying to such an important topic, than your comments can’t even be taken into consideration. Your reply therefore has no merit, BronzeDog.

    108. #109 Cain
      August 28, 2007

      It took you almost 18 months to come up with that reply?

    109. #110 puf_almighty
      April 4, 2008

      killerjabs wrote:
      Are you aware of a single safety study for thimerosal? If yes, please forward on the link

      It’d be a study on ethylmercury, which is what thimerosal metabolizes into, once in the body. Currently the FDA uses methylmercury (TOTALLY DIFFERENT COMPOUND) toxicity standards for it, and it’s based on that that- the use of exposure standards for a TOTALLY DIFFERENT COMPOUND – that the FDA removed ‘em from vaccines. Ethylmercury (thimerosal) has been demonstrated to react differently in the brains of infants than methylmercury, with ethylmercury getting a third as much in the brain.

      Also, here’s the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases talking about an experiment comparing infants receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines, with infants receiving non-thimerosal-containing vaccines:

      Mercury levels in blood and urine were low in all infants studied and, in many cases, too small to measure. There was no observed dose-dependent relationship between the level of thimerosal received through vaccination and the level of mercury in the body.
      Mercury levels in blood did not exceed, at any time, the blood levels that correspond to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for exposure.
      Mercury levels in the stool of infants receiving vaccines containing thimerosal were relatively high compared to mercury levels in the stool of infants who were not exposed to thimerosal, providing evidence that mercury from thimerosal is eliminated in the stool of infants.

      Good enough for me. I’m not any kind of expert or anything at this- I heard about it when Pharyngula linked to this post, and about ten minutes of searching on my lunch break pops up pretty overwhelming evidence. You’d have to really be wearing blinders to think this was a super-big deal.

      Something I haven’t seen anyone say, here, is that the old folk wisdom about mercury being just hideously dangerous, doesn’t really apply here. That’s inorganic mercury, this is organic mercury. TOTALLY DIFFERENT and inorganic mercury isn’t even a COMPOUND.

    The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.