Respectful Insolence

Thanks, Jenny McCarthy

The other day, I sarcastically “thanked” Andrew Wakefield for his role in making sure that measles is again endemic in the U.K. At the same time I wondered whether in 5 to 10 years I’d be similarly “thanking” Jenny McCarthy for her role in doing the same thing here in the United States.

It looks as though I won’t have to wait five years:

At least 127 people in 15 states have come down with the measles, the biggest outbreak in the United States in more than 10 years, Reuters reported.

Cases started springing up in May, when more than 70 people in a dozen states became ill. According to federal health officials, most of the victims were not vaccinated against the highly contagious virus.

In a statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the outbreak has been traced to travelers who became sick overseas, returned to the United States and infected others.

The news comes on the heels of public health officials’ stressing the importance of immunizing children.

“What concerns me is the trend of more and more people not vaccinating their children because of fears that vaccines cause autism — although no studies have proven this to be true,” Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, told FOXNews.com in May.

Last month British health officials said measles had become an epidemic in that country for the first time since the mid-1990s due to parents not getting their children vaccinated.

“With the whole debate about vaccines — and now parents due to their personal beliefs not vaccinating their children — what we are seeing now is that we are going to have these epidemic outbreaks throughout the country,” said Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health at FOXNews.com.

“If this continues, we will see outbreaks throughout the entire developed world — something we have never seen before,” he added.

Here’s the kicker:

This latest outbreak comes eight years after the virus was declared practically dead in the United States, thanks to a vaccination program that began in the 1960s.

Antivaccinationist lies spread by activists and their useful idiots in the media have consequences. A disease once thought dead and controlled is resurgent. What other vaccine-preventable diseases will follow? Hib? Pertussis? Polio? Anything’s possible when vaccine rates fall below the threshold for herd immunity.

So, thank you, Jenny McCarthy. I realize that you’ve only been on the anti-vaccine bandwagon about a year now, making it premature to give you the “credit” for this, but you’ve done amazing work whipping up hysteria against vaccines with your “Green Our Vaccines” rally. Indeed, in one short year, you’ve become the face of the American antivaccination movement for better or for worse. Cranks like Mark and David Geier, Boyd Haley, J.B. Handley and Generation Rescue, David Kirby, Dan Olmsted, and the merry band of antivaccinationists now gathered together at Age of Autism all laid the groundwork for this “triumph,” whipping up fear about vaccines and feeding credulous reporters, stroking crunchy doctors to the stars with sympathies to the anti-vaccine movement like Dr. Jay Gordon, and gathering useful celebrity idiots like yourself and your boyfriend Jim Carrey to their cause, all the while proclaiming piously that they are not “anti-vaccine.” There is lots of “credit” to go around, and all of them also deserve their fair measure of our “thanks” for their role in this resurgence. Now, however, if nothing changes, you’ll be the perfect figurehead leader to take us to the promised land before mass vaccination, as you are by far the most recognizable anti-vaccine activist in the country at the moment. I’m sure many will be “thanking” you a few years from now, once measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases once vanquished have become endemic in the U.S. again.

At least we have Amanda Peet on our side. Sadly, it’s probably not enough, but it’s a start.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave
    July 11, 2008

    It’s encouraging to see that Amanda Peet will even be doing public service announcements about the importance of vaccines. Good for her.

  2. #2 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    This is almost too funny! The brain trust at AoA is running an “article” about therapies for individuals with neurological damage using stem cells. They are actually…get this…trying to get people visiting their site to lobby a research group use stem cells on kids with autism to cure them. OMG it gets better every time I go over there!

    All I have to say is that if they ever come up with a therapeutic, I hope it is not made available orally. How great would that be? Daily injections of the medicine that would be their salvation. Ah, irony…you just got to love it!

  3. #3 Noadi
    July 11, 2008

    I’m not for being gentle with this. I think we need to remind people of how terrible these diseases are. We need to start having public service campaigns graphically showing what these diseases do. There’s plenty of film out there of kids crippled and in iron lungs due to polio, x-rays of babies broken ribs due to coughing from pertussis, etc. Shove it in people’s faces and ask what they would prefer, children dead and permanently maimed or protecting them from a totally unproven risk of autism.

  4. #5 llewelly
    July 11, 2008

    If all the unvaccinated autistic children die of preventable diseases, will AoA declare victory over autism?

  5. #6 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    Funny how AoA has said nothing about the research presented in the July 11th issue of Science. They’ll have a story up lickity-split if Jenny McCarthy farts, but anything suggesting genetics in autism is strangely absent. They have also avoided posting my comments.

    What does that have to say about any organization that selectively posts information and will not examine evidence contrary to their position? So, who are the ones’ that have an agenda again?

  6. #7 Elaine
    July 11, 2008

    On Whidbey Island in Washington state, they’ve got a pertussis outbreak, and because of this, some of their Little League teams are not going to participate in a tournament:
    http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=11&sid=72391

  7. #8 Dave
    July 11, 2008

    There’s a story up on cnn.com today (an AP story, actually) reporting on paper in Science that details some of the genetic factors that appear to be involved in autism. Oddly, vaccination does not appear to be involved.

  8. #9 Elaine
    July 11, 2008

    I wonder what these people are going to say 10 to 20 years from now, when we have all these diseases going around again, and no reduction of autism.

  9. #10 Steve Marriott
    July 11, 2008

    Comment seen in an antivaccination forum on the above article:

    “”The last serious U.S. outbreak occurred from 1989 to 1991, when 55,000 people got measles and 123 died.” — good odds, I’d say.”

    It’s always heartening when antivax adults are willing to accept such odds on behalf of our children.

  10. #11 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    “”The last serious U.S. outbreak occurred from 1989 to 1991, when 55,000 people got measles and 123 died.” — good odds, I’d say.”

    It’s not the deaths that is the problem (although it is serious)…it’s the organ damage and mental retardation that ensues in far more than 123. When they say they like those odds, they are not considering how many children suffer needlessly, not to mention the costs that are built up hospitalizing many of those children.

    These people are simultaneously morally and mathematically impaired.

  11. #12 Joe
    July 11, 2008

    I intend to write Amanda Peet and thank her:

    c/o Management 360
    9111 Willshire Blvd.
    Beverly Hills, CA 90210

  12. #13 Rogue Epidemiologist
    July 11, 2008

    I haven’t liked a aingle movie Amanda Peet has ever made, but I hope she does well in the new X-Files flick. I’m a huge X-phile.

    I’m also happy to see she’s on the correct side of the fence about the vaccine issue. Can you imagine the kind of damage Hollywood would do to our herd immunity if say, the Scietologists came out in vocal opposition to vaccines?

    This is good. I feel much better now because reading the stuff before the jump, made me dread the day when a kid would finally died of measles or something because of the stupidity of these anti-vaxers.

  13. #14 Jeph
    July 11, 2008

    My understanding is not that the autism link is unproven, but that the studies have proven the autism link is unlikely — a much stronger statement. Am I getting that right?

  14. #15 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    Thanks guys, a accomplished scientist just injected monkeys with the 1990′s levels of mercury and they developed autism like symptoms, thanks for the autism epidemic, really appreciate it.

    127 cases of measles oooooooooooooooooooh, all patients will recover with natural immunity, nothing to have a hissy fit over. Nobody is going to stop getting vaccinated for polio etc now that they’ve taken the mercury out, this is hysteria and propaganda.

    BY DAN OLMSTED

    The first research project to examine effects of the total vaccine load received by children in the 1990s has found autism-like signs and symptoms in infant monkeys vaccinated the same way. The study’s principal investigator, Laura Hewitson from the University of Pittsburgh, reports developmental delays, behavior problems and brain changes in macaque monkeys that mimic “certain neurological abnormalities of autism.”

    The findings are being reported Friday and Saturday at a major international autism conference in London.

    Although couched in scientific language, Hewitson’s findings are explosive. They suggest, for the first time, that our closest animal cousins develop characteristics of autism when subjected to the same immunizations – such as the MMR shot — and vaccine formulations – such as the mercury preservative thimerosal — that American children received when autism diagnoses exploded in the 1990s.”

  15. #16 Noadi
    July 11, 2008

    Clearly mathematically impaired. I did the math and that is 1 in 447 people who contracted measles died in that outbreak. Don’t forget also that measles is highly contagious, most people without immunity contract it.

    Compare that to the rate of autism (which is NON-FATAL) and even if vaccines were the cause despite all the evidence to the contrary I’d still consider the risk of measles to be greater. I’d rather have a live autistic child than a dead child without autism.

  16. #17 notmercury
    July 11, 2008

    RJ Said: “Funny how AoA has said nothing about the research presented in the July 11th issue of Science. They’ll have a story up lickity-split if Jenny McCarthy farts, but anything suggesting genetics in autism is strangely absent.”

    Oh they will, just give them time. The Mercury Mind Trust is busy right this very moment searching Pubmed to see if they can’t link these genes, or more accurately the activation of these genes, to mercury exposure. They’ll come up with something, never fear, just so long as it sounds plausible enough for the average Biomed parent to wrap his or her mind around to keep the mercury myth alive a little longer.

    My guess is we’ll hear someone saying that methylation is responisble for the expression of these genes and everyone knows mercury messes with methylation. Either that or they’ll just fall back on the old “you can’t have a genetic epidemic” standby.

  17. #18 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    lol 15 states 127 people, lets assume that each state has 6 million people, multiply that by 15 thats 90 million people, out of 90 million people 127 got a self limiting virus that gets knocked out with natural immunity! WOW what an epidemic! 127 out of 90 million I’m terrified!

  18. #19 D. C. Sessions
    July 11, 2008

    127 cases of measles oooooooooooooooooooh, all patients will recover with natural immunity, nothing to have a hissy fit over. Nobody is going to stop getting vaccinated for polio etc now that they’ve taken the mercury out, this is hysteria and propaganda.

    Well, actually about one in 500 die of measles in the USA, but that’s not exactly a direct comparison to autism (unless you’re a member of the “better dead than autistic” party.)

    A somewhat more direct comparison is between autism and the rates of brain damage from measles encephalitis, blindness from corneal scarring, deafness, etc.

  19. #20 mimi
    July 11, 2008

    I liked Amanda Peet in “Martian Child.” It was a good movie.

    Funny thang. On Jenny’s DC Rally Yahoo group they were trying to downgrade Amanda Peet by saying how insignificant the movies have been that Peet has been in.

    Yah, did they try comparing Peet’s career to Jenny McCarthy’s movie career? “Dirty Love”? That thing got an award for being one of the worst movies ever.

    @llewelly, Will AoA declare victory if all autistic children (and many non-autistic children and many adults) die of vaccine preventable diseases?

    Yes.

    Their unspoken motto is “better dead than autistic”. They (including Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey) are the biggest bunch of sociopaths I know of. They are angry because they got stuck with “defective” children and they are so envious and bitter they don’t care if other people’s kids die, it’s that simple.

  20. #21 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    Cooler,

    Geee, thanks for the highly respected Dan Olmsted reference to unpublished (i.e. no peer-review) work. So, not only do we have to go with Dan’s unbiased interpretation, but we get to enjoy his characterization of something we’ll probably never see based on his word.

    “all patients will recover with natural immunity”
    Just like the 350,000 that died from it last year. The death being the natural component, right?

  21. #22 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    And of course, we all know Laura Hewitson’s methods are top-notch and unbiased, no doubt.http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=827

  22. #23 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    Well lets get it published asap, what are you guys so afraid of?

    No measles is usually self limiting in developed countries, anyways since many of these patients were, I assume, adults who got it from traveling abroad, if they didn’t get vaccinated it was long before the Mercury controversy, therefore mcarthy’s “propaganda” had nothing do with thier parents not vaccinating them, if infact they were not vaccinated, which is very nebulous, considering this report is an anecdotal account, not a scientfic study/experiment.

  23. #24 anonimouse
    July 11, 2008

    Don’t bother with cooler, he/she/it is a “getting measles gives you natural immunity” bot.

  24. #25 Tom
    July 11, 2008

    Notice to antivaccinationists:

    When Fox News is the voice of reason, you have screwed up beyond comprehension. That is all.

  25. #26 Dave S.
    July 11, 2008

    I wonder what these people are going to say 10 to 20 years from now, when we have all these diseases going around again, and no reduction of autism.

    Not to worry Elaine…that’s plenty of time to drag the goalposts a good long way.

  26. #27 TheOtherOne
    July 11, 2008

    Well lets get it published asap, what are you guys so afraid of?

    Uh-huh. It’s up to the people who did/wrote up the study to publish the findings.

    If Olmsted hasn’t succeeded in doing so, that’s reason to discredit the study – not reason to suggest that we (those who are skeptical of the claims in his paper) are afraid of something. Chances are, no reputable publication will accept it due to various significant flaws . . . .

  27. #28 Dangerous Bacon
    July 11, 2008

    “wonder what these people are going to say 10 to 20 years from now, when we have all these diseases going around again, and no reduction of autism.”

    They’ll find a way to blame resurgence of preventable infectious disease on immunization – maybe through some tripe about “lowered natural immunity”. Continued autism will be linked to “environmental mercury”, genetic damage caused by vaccination, the permanent thimerosal-laden chemtrail belt orbiting the stratosphere, or whatever delusions can be propagated by antivaxers and swallowed by their misinformed, confused and hostile followers who lap this stuff up.

  28. #29 RJ
    July 11, 2008

    It will be anything except genes. They are perfect people that the world owes them so much. How could they be responsible for the outcome of their ‘damaged’ children? It is someone else’s fault and there is a conspiracy to cover it up.

  29. #30 Ms. Clark
    July 11, 2008

    I hope the surviving family members of all the people who die from measles if this outbreak goes on will make sure to put a picture of Jenny McCarthy and J.B. Handley on the gravestones of the dead. I hope that children who go blind or deaf from measles outbreak Jenny will tell people that it their disability is thanks to the hard work of those people at Generation Rescue and AoA. Maybe the AIDS commmunity will have special words of thanks for David Kirby.

  30. #31 Ray C.
    July 11, 2008

    “cooler”: Begone, foul troll.

  31. #32 Bronze Dog
    July 11, 2008

    For the life of me, I’m trying to remember one thing cooler said about 9/11 twoof that struck me as the dumbest thing I had ever heard on the topic, but I can’t remember it. I could have sworn I even put up a post on my blog about it. Oh well.

  32. #33 The Ridger
    July 11, 2008

    Tom beat me to it.

  33. #34 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    Oh i cant wait for that study to be published where autism was induced in monkeys with the 1991 100x the epa safe limit of mercury vaccine schedule, this will finally be the smoking gun in in thimerosols causal role! The Data is already there, the expirements done, the only hope you have is that the establishment will prevent the publication, which there is a chance of considering many editors of journals are hacks who don’t wan’t to publsish anything that’s politically correct!

    Already according to a Larry King poll 88% think vaccines cause autism, after this you guys will lose all respect from everybody! I can’t wait!

  34. #35 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    Politically incorrect,i meant to say.

    Check out Orac’s debunking of this study and how the age of autism site debuunked him! I love it!

    “How long is the life expectancy and time to maturity of these monkeys? In other words, were the investigators scaling down the time between injections proportionally to the difference in time to maturity between humans and these monkeys? That could end up being a lot of shots in a short period of time. So I looked it up. Rhesus Macaque monkeys live around 25 years and males reach sexual maturity by around four years of age, approximately 1/4 of the time it takes humans males to reach sexual maturity. That means, if I interpret correctly the methodology claiming to “adjust for age” that these monkeys could have received a lot of shots in a really short period of time.”

    Did he just say that “a lot of shots in a really short period of time” could cause a problem?

    Boy, that sounds familiar.

    Thanks for looking out for the monkeys, Dr. don’t mind the several million kids over here who got “a lot of shots in a really short period of time” and are now completely fucked up. The CDC’s epidemiologist, who now works for Glaxo Smith Kline in the vaccine division, says they there is no link based on his “well designed” study comparing kids who got a lot of mercury with those who got quite a bit. You should feel like you have this all figured out.”

    Nobel worthy post at the age of autism blog

  35. #36 CK Loo
    July 11, 2008

    I think there is a subset of the population that just revels in being dumbasses. The only problem is when they start convincing otherwise rational people that they’re right. It’s to bad that often the dumbasses get more air-time in the media than reasonable people.

  36. #37 mandrake
    July 11, 2008

    Thimerosal is no longer in vaccines. Rate of autism has not gone down. Amazing! Apparently thimerosal is capable of causing autism even when not present! We knew that stuff was bad news.

  37. #38 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    cite a study that compares about 3000 unvaccinated kids to 3000 who with the 1991 levels of mercury vaccine intake, and show the differences in Autism.

  38. #39 sailor
    July 11, 2008

    Cooler before you wet your pants in excitment over his monkey study you had better go read Oracs take on it:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/05/some_monkey_business_in_autism_research.php

  39. #40 sailor
    July 11, 2008

    Cooler, not least of the problems is that there were 13 monkeys in the experimental group and only three in the control group. Doesn’t even give you enough to monkey around with the statistics.

  40. #41 cooler
    July 11, 2008

    Orac says that having only 3 control monkeys is a problem, well than we should throw out all the data on SIV causing AIDS in Macaque monkeys, because there are not any control animals in the vast majority if not all of those studies. Having controls helps clarify if its being tortured in a cage or really the pathogen etc.

    Funny how concerned you guys are about the monkeys recieving too many shots in a short period of time when it comes to monkeys and not babies.

  41. #42 Liz
    July 11, 2008

    I had the measles (not rubella) in junior high school, and to the best of my knowledge, I was vaccinated as a child. (I was born in 1962.) Here’s what I remember. Extremely high fever (104+), uncontrollable shivers, IV fluids, vomit, diarrhea, you name it. I had it. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy or Jenny McCarthy. I believe the measles outbreak was limited to me and the girl who passed it to me. Chalk up that little containment to the ubiquity of vaccinations among my generation.

    Interestingly enough, I had to get the 2-shot MMR when I went back to graduate school because I could not produce my childhood immunization records. I can’t imagine contracting measles as an adult.

  42. #43 D. C. Sessions
    July 11, 2008

    I think there is a subset of the population that just revels in being dumbasses.

    Not exactly. Dunning, Kruger, 1999.

  43. #44 ozzy
    July 12, 2008

    Cooler,

    Please answer this simple question. Since mercury exposure via vaccines has been drastically lowered to below trace levels in all childhood vaccines administered to children under 2, why hasn’t the incidence of autism decreased?

  44. #45 jk
    July 12, 2008

    http://www.putchildrenfirst.org/media/2.16.pdf

    Click link above to read (the government’s) Thimerosal Study Data. Look at the bolded numbers.

    Mercury in vaccines is clearly connected to a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities. Thus, the number of autism cases may not drop even after thimerosal is removed from vaccines. Keep in mind that thimerosal is still in flu shots, boosters, and other shots.

    “Dr. Thomas Verstraeten was given the task of comparing neurodevelopmental outcomes of children exposed to Thimerosal using the CDC’s internal database, the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). CDC hoped to run their own analysis, establish no relationship between Thimerosal and autism, give the analysis to the IOM, and close this chapter for good. By November of 1999, just 5 months after the joint statement, Dr. Verstraeten was in a near panic as the data he was analyzing was showing a clear, unassailable, ugly truth: there was a statistically significant relationship between the amount of mercury children were receiving through their vaccines and autism. No matter how he tried to run the numbers, he wrote, the association “just won’t go away.” – http://www.putchildrenfirst.org/chapter2.html

    Now, keep in mind that a correlation between mercury in vaccines and autism is just a correlation. There is also a correlation between the amount of mercury in vaccines given to kids, and the number/timing of vaccines given to kids.

    Hence, one explanation of the data is that vaccine mercury causes autism. Perhaps a more sensible (conservative) explanation is that something in the vaccines causes autism, but we don’t know what exactly.

    Either way, there is a strong correlation between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental problems (the data shows). Since autism rates haven’t decreased, one would reason that it is something else in the vaccine (or the vaccine itself) that is causing the autism diagnoses.

  45. #46 Harrison
    July 12, 2008

    I think the best thing to do with this antivax clown (cooler) is to ignore it. Eventually it will get bored and go away. We can only hope it will not reproduce. It obviously has never seen the film of the poor infant with pertussis, coughing and struggling for breath and vomiting.

  46. #47 HCN
    July 12, 2008

    jk said “.putchildrenfirst.org…” which is a Handley website (you know, the Internet squatter, http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/11/has_it_really_been_a_whole_year.php )…

    This now invokes Orac’s Corollary to Scopie’s Law:

    n any discussion involving autism and vaccines, citing Generation Rescue, Age of Autism or any associated website (like Putchildrenfirst) as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.

  47. #48 cooler
    July 12, 2008

    Cite the reference Ozzy, Harrison, you need to get a degree from college, your lack of education is embarrasing. Never said people shouldnt get vaccinated, just they should be free of mercury, if you get your GED you might understand this.

  48. #49 HCN
    July 12, 2008

    jk said “Either way, there is a strong correlation between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental problems (the data shows). ”

    Actually, no it doesn’t. And it has NOTHING to do with measles. The MMR never contained thimerosal, so you are barking up the wrong conspiracy. The MMR vaccine has been around since 1971, is that when this so-called autism epidemic started?

    Come on, give us some actual papers (not random websites of internet squatters) that show that the MMR vaccine is riskier than measles, mumps and rubella.

    You know, something like this:
    http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/160/3/302 … which says “Approximately 1 in 1000 children with clinical measles develops encephalitis. Although most children with encephalitis recover without sequelae, approximately 15% die and 25% of survivors develop complications such as Mental Retardation. We assumed that approximately 1 in 5000 cases of measles leads to Mental Retardation.”

    or

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5520a4.htm … which says “However, complications have included 27 reports of orchitis, 11 meningitis, four encephalitis, four deafness,..” (the orchitis is swelling of the testicles, those young men may be sterile)

  49. #50 Glazius
    July 12, 2008

    Funny how concerned you guys are about the monkeys recieving too many shots in a short period of time when it comes to monkeys and not babies.

    Well, yes. That’s because babies don’t receive too many shots in a short period of time, but if you were experimenting on macaques and adjusted the interval between shots to “correct for lifespan” there’d be a problem. Just because a macaque has 1/4 a human lifespan doesn’t mean their metabolism and healing rate is 4x as fast. Hewitson has something of a background in primate research so it’s not likely she actually made that mistake, but the problem is that all we have of her study is an abstract summarizing methods and results, because that’s all that was published, since she presented as a posterboard on the conference floor and didn’t actually have anyone else inspect her methods or results.

    And as far as the control goes, with the study design Hewitson was using she could only have gotten a statistically significant result if all three of her control macaques acted perfectly, identically normal and all 13 or so of the vaccinated macaques held up glowing neon signs saying “YES I HAVE MONKEY AUTISM”. That’s why it was a posterboard on the conference floor, where the only requirement was “pays conference admission fee”.

    (Also: there were more antigens in the original smallpox vaccine than there are in the complete load of modern vaccines. Also also: MMR doesn’t use mercury-based preservatives and never has. But please don’t let the truth hold you back.)

  50. #51 RJ
    July 12, 2008

    It’s Jully 12th. It has been about 48 hours since the release of the article in Science that examines the role of de novo mutations in autism. It has been covered on every major news/media outlet…and yet no mention at all at Aoa. Instead, they have moved on to an account of one mothers ‘success’ using chelation therapy for her child.

    Additionally, it should be noted that my comments are no longer posted, including responses to questions posted by other readers.

    There is an old story that deals with people who accuse others of wrongdoing as being the very ones who themselves are perpetrators (people accuse others of stealing because they are thieves, etc). With all the conspiracy talk in their discussions, I wonder what Olmsted’s real motivations and vested interest are. It apparently isn’t the truth or science…or even children with autism. It’s not about providing answers to parents. I wonder……

  51. #52 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 12, 2008

    JK writes: Now, keep in mind that a correlation between mercury in vaccines and autism is just a correlation. There is also a correlation between the amount of mercury in vaccines given to kids, and the number/timing of vaccines given to kids. …. Either way, there is a strong correlation between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental problems (the data shows). Since autism rates haven’t decreased, one would reason that it is something else in the vaccine (or the vaccine itself) that is causing the autism diagnoses.

    You are so sure vaccines are the cause that you are unwilling to look at anything else. Have you considered the increase in exposure to something else: P-rays given off by home computers, Starbucks Coffee, global warming?

    Or the decrease in something that used to have a protective effect … like bacteria in the home, smallpox vaccine, recess in schools, number of pirates.

    Or maybe it’s something else entirely … like genetic defects?

    Changed diagnostic criteria, increased awareness, and increased funding for schools who have autistic children enrolled … it’s an artificial epidemic.

  52. #53 Blaidd Drwg
    July 12, 2008

    Cooler…

    Please explain, *IF* Thimerosal is the cause of Autism, why are autism rates going UP after its removal?

    I have a hypothesis of my own to offer concerning the rise in autism over the last 50+ years:
    Since the rate of autism has continued to rise, despite the elimination of thimerosal in vaccines, we must look for *other* things which are misunderstood, yet have had a history of increase over the last 60 years. I suggest that the microchip fits that description perfectly. Since its invention in the 1940′s the semiconductor has had virtually exponential growth, invading virtually every home in the industrialized world. These semiconductors are produced using some of the most toxic chemicals known to Man, some of which do not exist in Nature. Silane gas, for example, explodes in the presence of oxygen AT ANY TEMPERATURE. Another chemical used in semiconductor processing is Arsine, (a derivative of arsenic), which is so toxic that by the time you are able to detect its presence by smell (it is said to smell like garlic), you have already inhaled a greater than lethal dose. There are many other highly toxic chemicals that are used, and we don’t know what thier effects are, since they don’t occur naturally (Hexa-methyl-disilazane, POCL3, Poly-Di-chlorosilane, to name just a few).
    These chemicals may not be completely removed from the microchip after processing, and may be outgassing in our homes, in quantities too small to be readily detectable, yet are poisoning the brains of our children, since the brain of an infant is so much more at risk to minute environmental insults than is that of an adult.
    PS, I am 99.99% tongue-in-cheek about this, it has no more validity behind it than does the mercury-autism link, I put it out for comparison only – a “correlation=causation” hypothesis.
    The information about the chemicals is true, I worked in that industry back in the early 80′s in central California. Those chemicals ARE nasty, deadly, sneaky, and they WILL hurt you if you give them 1/2 a chance.

  53. #54 Joseph
    July 12, 2008

    There’s an ecological time correlation between autism and thimerosal dose, but only in the early 1990s. This obviously disappears afterwards. The correlation has been exploited to no end, most notably by the Geiers.

    Time series correlations are easy to come by in autism. Just find anything that was in an upward trend at some point in time, and you have a correlation. But perhaps the decrease in the number of pirates is causing autism. That’s it.

    If you can show there’s a detrended correlation, let’s discuss.

  54. #55 Craig Willoughby
    July 12, 2008

    Just a little food for thought, everyone. I don’t wish to argue, but I do wish to bring up a point. If autism was purely genetic, wouldn’t we see a larger number of autistic adults, especially those that are considered non-verbal and uncommunicative?

  55. #56 Niobe
    July 12, 2008

    There are Craig, they were just diagnosed under other umbrellas and there was a retrospective study done to see if they would fit in the new diagnostics and a large number did. (I recall there was a post about it here, or on sciencebasedmedicine)

    These people were called “slow”. It’s like the age old canard about people saying ADD/ADHD didn’t exist back in the day and kids just need a good whoopin.

  56. #57 Lucas McCarty
    July 12, 2008

    Craig, this is why a lot of Autistics are angry at these people: their failed hypothesis relies on the assumption that there is an ‘Autism epidemic’ meaning an actual massive increase in incidence rather than statistical changes. This in turn relies on an assumption that most Autistics are under the age of 18 and that there are very few Autistic adults. This means denying the existence of millions of Autistic adults who make up the majority of Autistics, which also means policy-making on services is affected. How do you get help finding an Autistic-friendly job if the people that can do this are repeatedly being told that Autistic adults are almost non-existent?

    I don’t understand why you think we should be non-verbal and I don’t know of any Autistic who is ‘uncommunicative’ seeing as atypical communication is required for a diagnosis as opposed to little or no communication. Many of us had trouble speaking as children, but Autism features delays, not stasis in development.

  57. #58 RJ
    July 12, 2008

    Craig,

    There has always been a little short bus. Always.

    To answer your own question, what do you think is going to happen the majority of these children diagnosed with autism today? Abandonment? Will they be left to be damned? No. Just as all children, they will learn and grow. Some may continue to have social issues, but many learn to overcome them. Just like those that have endured in the past.

  58. #59 tim gueguen
    July 12, 2008

    Interesting to see the abbreviation AoA being used here. In comicbookland its sometimes used for Age of Apocalypse, Marvel’s mid ’90s X Men crossover event.

  59. #60 HCN
    July 12, 2008

    Craig, since I tend to hang around the library I often recommend books. I have a non-fiction, and a fiction recommendation:

    “Not Even Wrong” by Paul Collins
    “The Silent Boy” by Lois Lowry … You can see what happened to autistic children at the turn of the 20th century.

    Also, recent research has noticed that some adults would have been diagnosed as autistic if recent criteria were used:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18384386?

    Also, a reminder: measles has made a comeback!

    The MMR vaccine has never, ever not at any point since it was approved in 1971 … never contained thimerosal!

    Those who are still arguing thimerosal when the subject is the MMR, please, get a clue.

  60. #61 Science Mom
    July 12, 2008

    Jenny may be a better actress than we think, or at least a better bullshitter. She is in the current issue of Working Mother and has toned down her diatribe considerably,“Then I started reading about the possible connection between vaccinations and autism. Evan has been fully vaccinated, and while I don’t believe they caused his autism, I do think one of them (MMR) made his symptoms worse. (In my opinion, vaccines are necessary, but the schedule and the dosages should be reviewed. For example, ask your doctor if she can break up the MMR shot into three separate vaccines instead of giving it to your child all at once.)”.

  61. #62 Craig Willoughby
    July 12, 2008

    Again, I was not arguing, I was making a point. My point is that if the problem was purely genetic (I do believe that it is partially genetic), then there would be a lot more autistic adults. Lucas, I wasn’t saying that autistic adults would need to be non-verbal, I was merely saying that we should see a lot more if the genetic part were the only cause. I remember growing up meeting and knowing of very few kids that were “slow.” I knew one that had Down’s Syndrome, but that was it. Again, I’m not arguing, I’m just saying that I don’t think the cause is purely genetic.

    HCN, I also never mentioned that MMR contained Thimerosal (it destroys the virus, if my memory serves). Measles can cause encepalopathy in some children and adults. The reason I bring this up was that my son developed an encepalopathy after receiving the MMR and DTaP shots at 18 months. And thanks for the reading suggestions, I will certainly look them up the next time I’m at the library (I usually have my nose buried in books, too).

  62. #63 Elaine
    July 12, 2008

    Re: “For example, ask your doctor if she can break up the MMR shot into three separate vaccines instead of giving it to your child all at once.”

    Is that even possible? Are there separate shots available for measles, mumps, and rubella? I think there’s only MMR, isn’t there?

    Wouldn’t getting 3 shots instead of 1 subject the child to 3 times as many “toxins”?

  63. #64 Science Mom
    July 12, 2008

    Elaine, M,M and R are available as monovalent vaccines although Merck has announced that the Mumpsvax will not be available until next year. There is no advantage to 3 jabs, in fact, it does increase local or minor reactions as opposed to the single, MMR and leaves children vulnerable to infection, especially for those following Dr. Sears’ recommendation. Also, if a child will experience a more serious reaction, say anaphylaxis, what difference would it make if it were to the monovalent measles jab or MMR? You would cease future administration of both right? Why bother with evidence-based medicine and common sense when you have ditzy third-rate celebrities advising mums on medical matters though.

  64. #65 Lucas McCarty
    July 12, 2008

    Craig, I get that point, just not why verbal expression has anything to do with it.

    Your specific point about how there should be a lot more Autistic adults if genes were the only cause has been addressed: the vast majority of diagnosed Autistics are over the age of 18. They are three quarters of the entire group, which is entirely consistent with the average life-expectency. This means the percentage of Autistics in the population has always been stable and constant. I just felt that needed to be elaborated.

    Genes are known to be at least mostly responsible, but no one can say absolutely how much they are a factor.

  65. #66 Michael Ralston
    July 12, 2008

    Craig: The fact you didn’t know a lot of “slow” kids when you were a kid is … unsurprising. And a perfect example of why anecdotes are worthless.

    Of course you didn’t see a lot of “slow” kids! Mainstreaming wasn’t popular until relatively recently. ‘Noticeable’ autistics were generally institutionalized. And most of the rest were just labeled as ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’ or whatever the slang of the time was – and we still are today, but we also show up in statistics now.

    Your argument is flawed because of a selection bias – the kids you grew up with weren’t going to be autistic because autistic kids back in the day didn’t grow up with normal kids.

  66. #67 SLC
    July 12, 2008

    Re the Hoofnagles

    I was under the impression from a reponse to comment I made several months ago that whackjobs like Mr. cooler were banned.

  67. #68 Richard Eis
    July 12, 2008

    For example, ask your doctor if she can break up the MMR shot into three separate vaccines instead of giving it to your child all at once.”

    Ugh, she has lost this round, so she has tried to make her diatribe more appealing. This is the antivax equivelent of changing alternative medicine to complementary.

  68. #69 Elaine
    July 12, 2008

    Thanks for the info, Science Mom.

  69. #70 Joseph
    July 12, 2008

    If autism was purely genetic, wouldn’t we see a larger number of autistic adults, especially those that are considered non-verbal and uncommunicative?

    What is the basis for assuming that there aren’t very many autistic adults? See this.

  70. #71 TheMonkeyMan
    July 13, 2008

    My father worked with Andy Wakefield years ago, and was an expert witness when the British Government investigated the claims that vaccinations were linked to pathology, and boy I could tell you some stuff about that guy.

    The fact that this is an issue at all thoroughly depresses me. The great sadness is the damage misguided people will do to their children.

  71. #72 Phoenix Woman
    July 14, 2008

    I wonder what these people are going to say 10 to 20 years from now, when we have all these diseases going around again, and no reduction of autism.

    Oh, they already have their all-purpose excuse for that: The pervasive presence of mercury everywhere. Never mind that the mercury compound (ethyl mercury) that was used in vaccines has been shown in study after study after study to leave the body far faster than the mercury compound associated with environmental pollution (methyl mercury) — too fast for it to have any negative effects, especially in the infinitesmal amounts used.

  72. #73 Tart
    July 14, 2008

    Peet says in that article that she doesn’t like to put sunscreen on her daughter. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you can put sunscreen on babies older than 6 months. She makes sense on vaccines, but apparently she’s not completely immune to alarmist “think of the children!!1!” memes.

  73. #74 Dianne
    July 14, 2008

    If autism was purely genetic, wouldn’t we see a larger number of autistic adults, especially those that are considered non-verbal and uncommunicative?

    I’m confused. Why would the etiology of autism make any difference in whether we saw it in adults or not? Tay-Sachs is unquestionably genetic and we see very few Tay-Sachs adults out there. COPD is primarily environmental and there are many adults (and virtually no children) around with COPD.

    I suppose the point is that a genetic disease is not supposed to have variation over time, i.e. the incidence should be similar now and so there should be as many adults as children with this non-fatal condition. Others have already pointed out that there are plenty of adult autistics (hi) around, but many are either instutionalized or not particularly noticible, especially on the web where no one gets any non-linguistic signals (so there, ya smug neurotypicals).

    But it may also be that in recent years some forms of autism, particularly asperger’s syndrome, have become more adaptive. I probably wouldn’t have had a child if I had lived 50 years ago, for example. Maybe more AS people are marrying or having kids…possibly with each other…leading to greater propogation of genes related to autism, leading to a greater incidence. If the incidence is even increasing, which is still unproven.

  74. #75 trrll
    July 14, 2008

    But it may also be that in recent years some forms of autism, particularly asperger’s syndrome, have become more adaptive. I probably wouldn’t have had a child if I had lived 50 years ago, for example. Maybe more AS people are marrying or having kids…possibly with each other…leading to greater propogation of genes related to autism, leading to a greater incidence. If the incidence is even increasing, which is still unproven.

    It is interesting to note that autism is associated with above-average parental IQ. Now, like the apparent increase in autism, this could be entirely selection bias–high IQ parents being more likely to recognize a developmental problem and seek medical attention. But what if it is not? One persistent finding in autism is a suggestion that it may be associated with brain overgrowth, and of course we have the phenomenon of autistic savants. An intriguing hypothesis is that autism is a result of an infelicitous combination of gene alleles that in other combinations, or lower gene dosage, produce high intellectual performance. In the past few decades women have increasingly entered professions that require a high level of intellectual performance, bringing intellectually gifted men and women into more frequent contact. If all of this is correct, then the increase in frequency of autism could be in part due to an increase in marriages between men and women carrying the relevant gene alleles.

  75. #76 IanH
    July 14, 2008

    @ trrll

    That’s an interesting idea, although I’d be interested in the data for this assocation. Can I check my understanding? You’re suggesting that AS/autistic people (I’m deliberately not using the word sufferer) get a ‘double dose’ of a gene or gene complex that, in a single dose, is a benefit. I teach science – in the UK, and specialism is physics so apologies to any and all biologists/medics out there – and this seems similar to the inheritance of cystic fibrosis. One (recessive) allele provides a benefit as it confers partial imunity to cholera. It’s only getting a dose from each parent that causes the life-limiting condition we recognise.

    Last question – is there compelling evidence that savant behaviour is more common among autistics?

    IanH

  76. #77 RJ
    July 14, 2008

    trrll,

    Is there a specific reference to parents having an above-average IQ having higher incidences of autistic children? I would like to see it, but have not found it on my own. What I would ask (look for in the paper) is who these parents are. For example, are they truly smarter or are they more educated.

    A possible hypothesis that needs to be explored is the relationship between parental age and de novo mutations (which, in some cases, could manifest as autism). We know that the incidence of Down’s Syndrome increases with parental age. Could it be that this generation that is more focused on advanced education and career development are having their children later in life (the statistics clearly show that in the U.S. parents are having their children later)? I am wondering if these “smarter” parents are just more educated, and as a result, may have had their children later relative to the others in the population, and as a result, have a higher tendency to have a higher rate of de novo mutations in the gametes.

    I think this is an interesting hypothesis and hope there are some out there exploring this possibility.

  77. #78 trrll
    July 14, 2008

    None of this is very solid. The correlation of autism with parental IQ (and also socioeconomic class) is discussed in some of the older literature, but AFAIK it has not been pursued, since it could easily be a selection artifact. And of course, the relationship between IQ score and innate intelligence is itself quite controversial and there are many obvious confounds.

    I’ve seen estimates that 50% of “savants” are autistic (and that 10% of autistic people have “savant” skills), but I’m not sure how rigorous that is, and once again their are obvious confounds. Savant behavior generally refers to “islands” of high performance in somebody who otherwise exhibits lower intellectual performance, so it is the sort of thing that would be more obvious in an autistic child than in a child who is not otherwise impaired. Still, there are quite a few examples of autistic people with talents that would be remarkable in anybody. I met a young child in my nephew’s school class, around 8 years old or so, and happened to notice that he was reading a children’s book–in Chinese. His parents said that he was on his 5th language. He did not remain in my nephew’s class, as he was autistic and the attempt at mainstreaming was unsuccessful. Temple Grandin in one her books describes how she is able to visualize the manipulation of complex 3 dimensional shapes in space better than any 3D graphics program she has seen.

    Concordance of autism in identical twins has generally been found to be quite high, while concordance in fraternal twins and non-twin siblings is much lower, which would tend to suggest multi-gene inheritance rather than simple mixed dominance.

    There are indeed reports that advanced parental age is a risk factor for autism, so this is also a plausible hypothesis.

  78. #79 RJ
    July 14, 2008

    Thanks trrll

  79. #80 Jes
    July 15, 2008

    Measles is a bad example to use for making a case for vaccines because it is a so-called “zero threshold” virus. That is, there is no epidemiological lower bound for control below which virus propagation essentially stops.

    In terms of vaccination this means two things: 1) you would have to have precisely 100% vaccination with a 100% effective vaccine to completely control it, and 2) because those conditions are physically impossible you will always get flare-ups as described in the article, and these flare-up will occur regardless of how effective you vaccination program ever becomes.

    Most diseases do have thresholds which happens to be the primary reason why vaccination and quarantines work at all. In cases when a disease have no threshold such measures are less effective and flare-ups are inevitable though unpredictable. Ascribing a non-threshold flare-up to a particular prior event is like claiming it’s due to a black cat or the evil eye.

  80. #81 isles
    July 15, 2008

    Jes, I think the recent experience in England goes against what you are saying. They never had 100% measles vaccination coverage, but it wasn’t until recently, after vaccination rates dropped, that measles again became endemic there. Before that, there may have been a case or two here and there, but it’s not very useful to take an “all or nothing” view, as I think you are doing, even though it is true that the extreme infectiousness of measles means that the herd immunity threshold is very high.

    See the NHS on this: http://www.immunisation.nhs.uk/About_Immunisation/Science/Factors_affecting_herd_immunity_-_How_infectious_the_disease_is

  81. #82 Tom
    July 15, 2008

    Actually, measles eradication is possible with less than 100%. It’s 92-95% coverage with 2 doses. Finland has eradicated measles. The Americas had a goal to eliminate measles by 2000, but thanks to antivaxers, it didn’t happen. Europe has a goal to eliminate measles by 2010.

    The need for high vaccination rates to eliminate measles only underscore the problem with antivaxers trying to hide in the herd. The San Diego story is a GREAT case for vaccines. It is possible to eliminate measles with a concerted effort.

  82. #83 HCN
    July 15, 2008

    jes said “Measles is a bad example to use for making a case for vaccines because it is a so-called “zero threshold” virus. That is, there is no epidemiological lower bound for control below which virus propagation essentially stops.”

    Where did you learn that, because it makes no sense. Measles, like smallpox, is only transmitted between humans. There is no other vector. Herd immunity kept the unvaxed kids in San Diego free from measles until one decided to travel to Switzerland, where there is an outbreak.

    By the way, I checked PubMed for “zero threshold virus” and only a few hits, and absolutely none with I added “measles” to the search string. I did get lots of hits when I used “herd immunity measles”. In fact, one of the papers is public access that explains it a bit:
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=16218769 … which says “In populations with a high but heterogeneous vaccine coverage, measles transmission can be interrupted without establishing solid herd immunity. When infection is reintroduced, a major outbreak can occur in the communities with low vaccine coverage. During such a major outbreak, each additional susceptible individual in excess of the threshold is associated with almost two additional infections. This quantitative relationship offers potential for anticipating both the likelihood and size of future major outbreaks when measles transmission has been interrupted.”

  83. #84 Metro
    July 17, 2008

    Has anyone yet mentioned that since Canada dropped mercury in vaccines there has been no corresponding drop in autism cases?

    Just throwing that out there.
    I’m guessing it’s the power lines, or the cell phone “emissions”, or something, right?

  84. #85 Joe
    July 18, 2008

    Amanda Peet has recently http://www.cookiemag.com/entertainment/2008/07/peet_apology apologized for calling non-vaccinating parents “parasites.” However, her letter spells-out (in more restrained terms) just how damaging non-vaccination is.