Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Offit and Insel Fear Real Vaccine Autism Research

I am a neutral in the vaccine autism war. I have NOT concluded that vaccines or their ingredients cause, or trigger, autism but I do believe that the claim that science has conclusively proved that there is no vaccine autism connection does not hold water. I am also increasingly puzzled by, and concerned by, the opposition of the IACC and persons like IACC head Dr. Tom Insel and vaccine inventor and consequent multimillionaire Dr. Paul Offit, to conducting an observational study comparing autism rates between vaccinated and existing non vaccinated population groups.

The criticisms of the studies cited in support of the position that a vaccine autism link has been conclusively disproved by science have been covered elsewhere in detail and are well known. The most obvious example is the Danish study, conducted after prodding by US health authorities, which examined autism rates from 1972 to 2000 with the diagnostic and social changes that took place over that time period, including the addition of different population groups to the Danish database during different years. The study authors themselves stated that the study did not prove a negative vaccine autism relationship.

The most serious flaw in the position that science has disproved any possible vaccine autism connection is that NO studies have compared autism rates between vaccinated and non vaccinated population groups. What is most surprising is that people like Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Tom Insel, especially Dr. Insel, oppose such a study. Given their opposition to such a study, and the lack of a persuasive rationale for their opposition, it is difficult not to conclude that the good Doctors Offit and Insel are afraid of what such a study might show.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former NIH head, has stated that the epidemiological studies relied upon by authorities to argue against a possible vaccine autism connection are not specific enough to address the effects of vaccines on vulnerable population subsets. She has also argued that an observational study comparing autism rates amongst vaccinated and existing non vaccinated groups COULD and SHOULD be done. Dr. Julie Gerberding, until recently the CDC head, also has stated that the observational comparative study could and should be done. Even Dr. Duane Alexander of the recalcitrant IACC has stated that the observational comparative study could be done.

Teresa Binstock noted in 1999 that funding was available for autism research only if the research proposal examined genetic bases of autism, the "its gotta be genetic " model. In 2004 the IOM expressly discouraged funding of vaccine autism research. Today parents and professionals, as predicted by Binstock, are vilified in the mainstream media (and by attention seeking bloggers like Orac) for even discussing the possibility of a vaccine autism connection. Dr. Paul Offit has been waging an increasingly emotional campaign for several years as a result of which parents are marginalized and dissident professionals are branded as dangerous. Dr. Insel's IACC engaged in agenda and procedural games to reverse its own decision to examine vaccine autism research and the good Dr. Insel testified somewhat bizarrely in front of Senator Harkin's committee that an observational comparative study could not be done.

Substantial sums of money have been poured into genetic based autism research over more than 10 years based on the "its gotta be genetic" funding mindset identified by Teresa Binstock, with no hope of finding cause or cure from such research. It seems very weak to suggest that some of that funding could not be diverted to funding an observational comparative study of vaccinated and non vaccinated groups.

The only reasonable conclusion left to be drawn is that Dr. Tom Insel, Dr. Paul Offit, and other public health authorities who refuse to consider funding of an observational comparative study, are afraid of what the results of such a study might show - that non vaccinated groups have significantly lower autism rates than vaccinated groups.

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