Friday, February 20, 2009

Vaccine-Autism War: Globe & Mail's Andre Picard Decrees Vaccines Safe

Andre Picard of the Globe and Mail has decreed that vaccines do not cause autism. In Picard's own words:

Vaccines do not cause autism.

The science proving this point has been quite clear for a number of years.

There is nothing new in Picard's decree. He relies on the recent vaccine court decisions and resorts to the usual demeaning dismissals of parents and professionals who express concerns about vaccines:

That's because a whole industry of hucksters has sprung up to promote alternatives to vaccines, and the vocal (and Web-savvy) minority of conspiracy theorists will see these thorough, thoughtful rulings as, well, just another part of the conspiracy by Big Pharma to poison kids for profit.


I submitted a comment about Picard's opinion piece to the Globe and Mail but it was not accepted as a comment on the moderated opinion section. I did not insult Mr. Picard or use any inappropriate language. What I did do was:

1) point out that there have in fact been thousands of settlements of vaccine lawsuits where brain injuries and neurological damage including autistic like symptoms have been claimed and that the US government has paid to settle those claims and that there have been many reports in learned journals informing of serious vaccine reactions;

2) point out that in the Poling case which the government settled the government (former CDC head Dr. Julie Gerberding) acknowledged that the vaccine could result in autism like symptoms);

3) point out that Dr. Bernadine Healy has stated that the studies which did not find a vaccine-autism connection were epidemiological studies which were not able to examine possible vaccine-autism results amongst vulnerable population subsets;

4) point out as Dr. Healy stated in 2008, as researcher Teresa Binstock did in 1999 and as shown at p. 152 of the IOM Vaccine Safety Report (2004) and in the recent cancellation of vaccine-autism studies by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (2009) that government health authorities have actively discouraged and suppressed the type of research which might show a vaccine-autism connection amongst some population subsets;

5) point out that Dr. Julie Gerberding has stated that studies of unvaccinated children have never been done but could and should be done;

6) point out that contrary to Andre Picard's claim, and the frequently stated claim that thimerosal has been removed from all children's vaccines the FDA web site says otherwise:

(FDA Website: "Thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine").

I also put on the record for the Globe and Mail, in my rejected comment submission, that I am the parent of a 13 year old autistic boy who has never attributed his autism to vaccines. I have changed my mind from the belief that a vaccine-autism connection has been disproved to being undecided.

I am undecided because of the facts set out above. If Andre Picard and the Globe and Mail wish to dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist fine but they should rebut the facts that I have set out in this comment or show that my reasoning in relation to those facts is flawed.

Of course they can use their bully pulpit to issue Picardian decrees about vaccine safety and simply ignore facts and reason.

And they can still continue to pretend to be journalists while they are at it.





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15 comments:

Mayfly said...

Harold, you obviously don't think the link between vaccines and autism has been shown to be bogus. It does not appear that you think the link has been shown to be tenuous, despite the studies showing no link. What study would satisfy you?

The original mercury hypothesis was based on the amount received via inoculation exceeded EPA guidelines. Now dose has become immaterial to the anti-vaccine crowd. The argument was the great rise in the number of vaccines and thus the amount of thimerosol sp? was at the heart of the crisis.

The Polling case involves someone with s mitochondrial disorder. What would have happened if she had been struck by one of the diseases she was vaccinated against? To generalize from the Polling case is not logical.

Your article called the Empire Strikes Back, the empire being evil, shows that you have left the neutral ground on this issue. Why not just declare yourself an anti-vaxer.

Marni Wachs said...

It's a very scary sign about a culture when reasonable questioning is labeled and dismissed, in this case, there is an attempt not to address the issue put forth, but instead to ask Harold to "admit" that he is an "anti-vaxer".

Gee, this reminds me of something that may have happened about sixty years ago called McCarthyism. Ironically enough.

You'll notice Madfly didn't attempt to address the stated concerns, nor does the Globe and Mail, nor Paul Offit etc. etc.

I'm beginning to think that it would be a step in the right direction to bring some respected philosophy professors into this debate, some schooled in the history of science, and equipped with intelligent arguments and logic. This is a huge cultural issue, as opposed to simply the discussion of a few studies or court decisions.

Autism Reality NB said...

Mayfly

1. I will disregard the irrlevant personal comments.

2. I made no generalizations from the Poling case. The Poling case illustrates that there may be vulnerable population subsets for whom vaccines may cause autism or autism symptoms.

3. The research that COULD and SHOULD be done - according to Dr. Julie Gerberding is research involving the unvaccinated children that are claimed to exist in substantial numbers.

4.Dr. Bernadine Healy has also commented on the need for more study - in particular a need to study those children who did develop autism symptoms after vaccination.

5. I have not left the neutral ground at all. I have an open mind. I have not accepted that there is conclusive evidence for ... or against ... a vaccine autism connection.

6. Public authorities have actively suppressed and discouraged any research that might actually show a vaccine autism connection as I stated in this comment and as you ignored. There is no reason to suppress such research.

My position is simple:

DO THE RESEARCH and quit attempting to demean all those who question the safety of vaccines.

Access Natural Healing said...

Thank you for creating a thoughtful discussion of the autism dilemma.

Mayfly said...

I apologize for any thing you took personally. It seems to me that you present those who argue against the vaccine/autism connection in a bad light.

The great preponderance of evidence is against such a link. I agree it is not a 100% certain thing, but many of your posts would make one think the evidence is equal on both sides of the question which is not the case.


I'd like the the study of unvaccinated/vaccinated studies done. I am convinced however that such a study would dissuade very few.

I take it you grew up in the Maritimes. Did your grandparents have a coal stove and furnace? I wonder what their mercury exposure was. I bet it was much higher. Now considering in their day nearly every one had a coal stove and furnace, one would have thought autism would be rampant.


Do you think the link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been disproven? I think it has conclusively.

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Anonymous said...

Harold has done his homework. The "great preponderance of evidence" against the vaccine/autism link has been put forth by government and media, both with great incentive toward selling what people want to believe. Most look at skewed statistics instead of the medical records of actual sick children.

Corporations are not altruistic; they have a money-centered power pathology. When Dr. Andrew Wakefield brought his patients' lab tests to Merck, thinking they'd want to prevent vaccine injury, they didn't look at it. Their response? "We don't have to."

As more and more vaccines are approved for injection into our infants, young children and teens, just watch the number of reported vaccine injuries increase. Look at all the VAERS reports regarding Gardasil. It's more difficult to write off injuries that occur in older children, the way infant developmental disabilities post-vaccination are labeled coincidental.

The Vaccine Court is contradictory, obfuscatory, political and almost completely broken. Single cases of vaccine-induced "autism" are paid out but the Omnibus cases are thrown out.

Given such inadequate vaccine testing after administration, the denial of consumer product failure reports, lack of victim safety net, and no manufacturer liability, then it's caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

Mayfly said...

I don't buy conspiracies. The vaccine court has weighed the evidence. Some say not all the evidence is in. I think that's a fair statement, but the scales are tipped so far against the vaccine/autism connection, I cannot see them being flipped.

The vaccine/no vaccine study would be an epidemiological one. So the arguments would still be there for harm to a subset. But just how does one identify such a subset to conduct a study. If one was done, and proved negative, the inclusion/exclusion criteria would be claimed to be wrong,

Anonymous, you think the vaccine court itself is corrupted by politics. I do not see that. They do find for the plaintiff when the evidence points them that way. If you cannot trust what society has set up to handle these cases where do you turn? It seems paranoid to me,

Let's say Gardisil was found to severely harm those to whom it was given. What does that have to do with the autism/vaccination hypothesis?

It's not McCarthyism to challenge a person's statement. The derogatory term antivaxer was in poor taste. I apologize for that. I should have simply left it a stating Harold's writing do convey the neutrality he claims to possess.

Marni Wachs said...

Some thought on the history of science, as per Thomas Kuhn, philosopher;

Professor Kuhn argued in the book that the typical scientist was not an objective, free thinker and skeptic. Rather, he was a somewhat conservative individual who accepted what he was taught and appiied his knowledge to solving the problems that came before him.

In so doing, Professor Kuhn maintained, these scientists accepted a paradigm, an archetypal solution to a problem, like Ptolemy's theory that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Generally conservative, scientists would tend to solve problems in ways that extended the scope of the paradigm.

In such periods, he maintained, scientists tend to resist research that might signal the development of a new paradigm, like the work of the astronomer Aristarchus, who theorized in the third century B.C. that the planets revolve around the Sun. But, Professor Kuhn said, situations arose that the paradigm could not account for or that contradicted it.

And then, he said, a revolutionary would appear, a Lavoisier or an Einstein, often a young scientist not indoctrinated in the accepted theories, and sweep the old paradigm away.

****************************

I thought that was a pretty interesting and relevant perspective on the historical processes of change in the science world. Possibly even more interesting os that philosophy CAN actually be relevant - go figure, LOL.

Marni Wachs said...

Hello Mayfly, (Hello Neuman)

Re: "I don't buy conspiracies."

"Conspiracies" is just another dismissive label you thought no one would call you out on.

Relevant questioning is not a conspiracy theory. Please identify the "consiracy" that you see in Harold's post, and then we may all enter into your perspective.

Sandra said...

Hi Harold,

It's my first time commenting here. I find that with the G&M, comments that are substantiated and even supplied with links will not get posted when they question vaccines.

Mayfly,
It is not clear that Hannah Poling had a mitochondrial disorder before her first vaccine. As for all the MMR studies that they hold up a conclusive proof that there is no link between the MMR and autism, are those studies good enough for you? Seriously, can you explain why Fombonne used one city in Quebec for MMR uptake and then a different one for PDD rates in his study? Doesn't that make you go hmm?

Mayfly said...

Harold has not written anything that makes me believe there is any conspiracy afoot. I'm intrigued by his characterization of what is good and evil in this conflict.

When people start talking about government control of information, and politicalization of the court process, then they are entering into the world of conspiracy.

I don't mind being called on something. Re-examining of ones position and clarification is how civil discourse progresses. Here you are barking up the wrong tree.

There is a joke in physics that if you have not made a breakthrough by the time your 25, dont't expect to. However the discovery of dark energy has shown how little we understand, and experimenters are looking for things which violate "the standard model." Such things are termed "new physics" and bear investigating. Science is not as staid as is sometimes suggested.

There is nothing in the vaccine-autism debate which suggests new advancements in science is needed to understand it.

Mayfly said...

Harold has not written anything that makes me believe there is any conspiracy afoot. I'm intrigued by his characterization of what is good and evil in this conflict.

When people start talking about government control of information, and politicalization of the court process, then they are entering into the world of conspiracy.

I don't mind being called on something. Re-examining of ones position and clarification is how civil discourse progresses. Here you are barking up the wrong tree.

There is a joke in physics that if you have not made a breakthrough by the time your 25, dont't expect to. However the discovery of dark energy has shown how little we understand, and experimenters are looking for things which violate "the standard model." Such things are termed "new physics" and bear investigating. Science is not as staid as is sometimes suggested.

There is nothing in the vaccine-autism debate which suggests new advancements in science is needed to understand it.

Schwartz said...

Mayfly,

"What study would satisfy you?"

I can't speak for Harold, but a properly designed large long term study would be a good start.

HRT was a therapy that was in high use for many years, underwent numerous industry funded clinical trials that showed no problems. Only after an independent large trial was done, did they realize significant issues with the therapy.

We know:

1) Many components of vaccines have never been toxicity tested for children
2) Science can't explain how several key vaccine components work biologically
3) Unlike infectious diseases, there is no compulsary reporting for drug or vaccine adverse events, so our data is poor
4) Public data is not available regarding bad vaccine lots or their frequency
5) We have recent historical evidence that the FDA is failing miserably in it's ability to properly test and monitor drugs and medical equipment for safety
6) We have recent historical evidence that the FDA is failing miserably in monitoring the quality of pharmaceuticals
7) We have recent evidence that "self regulating" industries often cause significant safety issues resulting in death
8) We have plenty of peer reviewed evidence that tells us that significant bias is introduced in the conclusions of industry funded peer-reviewed studies
9) We have plenty of anecdotal evidence in the form of VICP damage award cases
10) We have peer-reviewed evidence that the bulk of MMR vaccine trials are not adequate (poor methodology, high bias) to determine the safety OR efficacy of the vaccine (Cochrane)
11) The Omnibus decision was based on the fact that there isn't any good evidence linking the MMR and Thimerosal vaccines with Autism. That will always be true if the proper studies aren't done.
12) The epidemiological studies are based on a small set of very poor and confounded datasets. There is little agreement
13) The epidemiological studies done to date have high risks of false negatives based on the study design
14) The epidemiological studies done to date do not have the power to detect small subsets of vulnerable children among the crowd.
15) There is very little (if any) investigation and public reporting on the followups to known vaccine damage cases. This is contrasted with the extensive study and monitoring (mandated by law) for infectious disease outbreaks.
16) Safety studies on concurrent vaccine adminitration have never been done
17) Safety studies on vaccine schedules have never been done

"The original mercury hypothesis was based on the amount received via inoculation exceeded EPA guidelines."

No, the original mercury hypothesis was based on the fact that mercury is a known neurotoxin that has immunosuppressive traits. It was also based on data from the initial verstraeten data that showed there were some correlations to neurological problems. The FDA decided to recommend Thimerosal removal based on the EPA guidelines. You're mixing those things up.

"The Polling case involves someone with s mitochondrial disorder."

No, Hannah Poling currently has no mitochondrial disorder. The only measurement and symptoms of a disorder only appeared post-vaccination.

"What would have happened if she had been struck by one of the diseases she was vaccinated against?"

She was. She suffered from a very bad reaction to several simultaneous live virus' from the vaccines. Varicella at a minimum.

"Why not just declare yourself an anti-vaxer."

You claim to side with science and then apply broad based generalizations? Better go back to the drawing board there.

"The great preponderance of evidence is against such a link."

Your opinion. I disagree for the reasons listed above. Clearly Harold does as well.

"Did your grandparents have a coal stove and furnace? I wonder what their mercury exposure was. I bet it was much higher. Now considering in their day nearly every one had a coal stove and furnace, one would have thought autism would be rampant."

This argument assumes:
1) The timing of the dose is irrelevant
2) The type of mercury is irrelevant
3) The method of exposure is irrelevant

Clearly all of these are incorrect assumptions since we know all of these factors matter and therefore your comparison is invalid. i.e. strawman

"Do you think the link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been disproven? I think it has conclusively."

Clearly you haven't read the extensive Cochrane review on the MMR vaccine. Although they concluded that MMR usage should continue, they also stated quite clearly that all of those studies you reference was not adequate to determine safety outcomes based on bias or flawed methodology.

"I don't buy conspiracies."

Conspiracies are not required. The human reaction to conflict of interest is very well known: That's why we have laws restricting our politicians' conflicts of interest. Why the medical science industry thinks they are immune is baffling. When you set up huge conflicts of interest, and very complex biology (meaning it is hard to find and identify problems) where is the incentive for anyone to look for problems? Why would anyone fund such a venture? This requires no conspiracy. People behave quite predictably, according to the incentives they're given.

"The vaccine/no vaccine study would be an epidemiological one."

Actually, the highest quality study would be a form of CT, not an epidemiological study.

"Let's say Gardisil was found to severely harm those to whom it was given. What does that have to do with the autism/vaccination hypothesis?"

It might point out problems with safety testing, study bias, and regulatory approval.

"Anonymous, you think the vaccine court itself is corrupted by politics. I do not see that."

We probably agree on this point. The evidence supporting causation is difficult to come by. It is mostly restricted to individual cases and even then not well understood. Courts like to rely on mainstream science (for good and bad reasons).

"If you cannot trust what society has set up to handle these cases where do you turn?"

There are many laws and procedures in our society that do not serve the best interests of that society. That is why processes, and laws constantly change. The current vaccine process is likely failing the public as outlined in a recent NEJM submission to the SCOTUS in a case currently being heard. To quote:
http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/NEJM_Editors_Amicus.pdf
"First, contrary to Petitioner’s Amici’s necessary premise, the FDA is in no position to ensure the safety of prescription drugs. Not only is the FDA seriously hampered in its ability to determine the risks of drugs before they are approved for sale, but it has proven inadequate to the task of addressing hazards that only become apparent after a drug has been widely marketed to an unsuspecting public. Post-approval dangers posed by drugs placed into the market are unfortunately quite common. However, the FDA’s ability to either anticipate these risks or react expeditiously once they have been revealed has been limited by serious information- gathering constraints in both pre- and postapproval settings."
"The theory that the risk of tort liability causes drug manufacturers to “over-warn” of the dangers of their drugs (thereby scaring patients away from drugs they need) not only has no empirical support, but it ignores the fact that under-warning has, unmistakably and tragically, exacted a terrible toll on public health and safety."
"Without the tort system, the FDA would be stripped of an essential source of information that the agency has consistently relied on when making its regulatory decisions, and the American public would be deprived of a vital deterrent against pharmaceutical company misconduct."

The tort system has been effectively stripped from vaccines. I think that decision needs to be revisited given the evidence quoted in that paper.

To summarize: There is plenty of peer-reviewed evidence that tells us that the regulatory authorities are failing in their duty to protect the public. There is plenty of peer-reviewed evidence that industry funded studies are subject to bias affecting conclusions. There is plenty of evidence that the data on Autism prevalance is very poor (the data that underpins all of the current epidemiology). There is peer-reviewed evidence that safety studies are inadequate. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of problems. Given the lack of higher quality evidence, anecdotal evidence demands high quality investigation. I would say the preponderance of evidence points to the need for better study.

Schwartz said...

Harold,

I have had correspondence with Andre in the past and came away very disappointed. He wrote a good series over a year ago on the failings of medical reporting. Alas, he and the G&M crew have consistently failed to eliminate the issues he described.

Just using the definitive terms "proof" and "do not cause" are clear indications that he doesn't understand any of the limitations of the science.