Lawmakers Look into Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism
The House Oversight Committee Hearing on Autism was held in Washington D.C. on November 29, 2012
Health Impact News Editor Comments: Earlier this year it was announced that autism rates had reached 1 out of every 88 children in the United States. Congress finally held hearings on this national crisis yesterday, and yet the mainstream media has completely ignored the over 4 hours of testimony. Below we share some of the highlights with comments from lawmakers concerned and shocked about this national epidemic.
Opening comments from Representative Dan Burton from Indiana, a long-time spokesperson in Congress on the dangers of vaccines and autism.
If there is one issue regarding vaccines that the mainstream media joins together with one common voice, it is the claim that autism is linked to vaccines, particularly mercury contained in vaccines.
The mainstream media accepts as fact, without even bothering to investigate, that this claim has been proven false, and that the man who supposedly invented this claim has now been condemned.
That man who is now the scapegoat of the mainstream media around the world when the topic of autism and vaccines is discussed, is Dr. Andrew Wakefield. What the media never reports, however, is that Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study linking the MMR vaccine to autism was one of many studies showing the same link. (See: New Published Study Verifies Andrew Wakefield’s Research on Autism – Again) The mainstream media also ignores the large amount of awards for damages being made to vaccine damaged children with autism in the U.S. Vaccine Court, or that other courts of law in other countries are ruling that vaccines cause autism and awarding damages to children with autism. (See: Italian Court Rules MMR Vaccine Caused Autism: Why is this story blacked out of the US Media?)
There is one man that practically gets a free pass from exposure in mainstream media, however. This man is currently a fugitive and is somehow escaping capture better than the world’s worst terrorists. That man is Dr. Poul Thorsen. Thorsen has been accused of stealing millions of dollars of CDC research money and fabricating studies that supposedly showed there was no link between mercury in vaccines and autism. And yet, the CDC still relies on this man’s research to make the claim that there is no link between vaccines and autism. If his research is a fraud, and yet is used as evidence to claim that mercury in vaccines causes no harm when in fact it does, then he is one of most dangerous men of this generation. But he gets a free pass in the media.
Now, perhaps unwittingly, a new study just published and funded by the CDC looks at the same data as the original Thorsen study claiming no link between mercury in vaccines and autism, and the results are contradictory. But, don’t expect to read any of this in the mainstream media. They have been wrongly condemning the wrong man for years now, and they are not in the habit of admitting their mistakes.
New study has completely different results
A widely publicized study released in 2003 claimed that mercury in vaccines played no role in causing autism because the rate of autism in Danish children increased after mercury was removed from Danish produced vaccines in 1992. A study released several weeks ago, however, shows the exact opposite, that the rate of autism in Danish children decreased after mercury was removed. And if the increasing rate of autism claimed in the earlier study showed that mercury had no role in causing autism, then logic would also require that the rate of autism going down, as shown in the current study, indicates that mercury in vaccines may very well have a great deal to do with causing autism. There is also a huge discrepancy between the total number of children with an autism diagnosis in Denmark during the study period between the two papers that baffles explanation.
Both papers were drafted in part by researchers at University of Aarhus in Denmark with support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both papers claim to have drawn their data from a national registry of health information that includes all children born in Denmark, and another registry that records all psychiatric disorders among Danish children. Both studies looked at the time period from 1995 to 2000. Yet the two studies looking at supposedly the exact same data during the exact same time period have two completely different conclusions about the growth of autism in Denmark.
The 2003 study, Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data, was performed under the direction of Dr. Poul Thorsen, Ph. D., who was hired by the CDC to do a series of epidemiological studies in Denmark, several of which focused on the role of vaccines in autism. All the vaccine studies performed by Thorsen concluded there was no causal connection with autism. Thorsen’s studies absolving vaccines of any role in autism have had a decisive impact on American vaccine policy, autism research priorities, and the dismissal of almost all of the autism cases in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. In 2011 Thorsen was indicted for a raft of crimes by the US Attorney, including embezzling CDC funds intended for Danish studies. Thorsen is currently a fugitive.
The exact number of cases of autism in Danish children is difficult to discern in the 2003 Thorsen study. The actual numbers are not provided, as one would expect in a study performed by competent professionals, but a crude graph shows a rise in autism from 1995 through 1999. But even the 2003 Thorsen study graph showed a decline in 2000. Numbers before 1995 are not reliable because only children diagnosed and hospitalized for autism are included in the national registries, which Thorsen identifies as less than 10% of all cases of autism in Danish children. Regardless, the authors concluded, “The discontinuation of thimerosal-containing vaccines in Denmark in 1992 was followed by an increase in the incidence of autism. Our ecological data do not support a correlation between thimerosal-containing vaccines and the incidence of autism.”
The 2013 Danish study, Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Full- and Half-Siblings and Trends Over Time: A Population-Based Cohort Study, analyzes the rate of autism in siblings and half siblings of people with autism. And the rate of autism and direction over time is radically different then in the Thorsen 2003 study. This study shows a steady decline in the number of Danish children with autism every year form 1995 through 2000.
Obviously the autism rate was decreasing in the 1995-2000 period when Thorsen and colleagues claimed in was increasing. In 2003, when there was a great deal of urgency to show that mercury in vaccines had nothing to do with autism, the numbers went up. But in 2013, when the topic has nothing to do with vaccines, and Poul Thorsen was not involved, the numbers went down.
Even at the time of publication of the original Thorsen study significant methodological problems led several prestigious journals to reject the study, which prompted efforts by Jose Cordero, MD, then of the CDC, and later a board member of the Autism Society of America, to intervene with journals to overlook the study’s deficiencies and publish it. Shortly after publication, Mark Blaxill, then with SAFEMINDS, wrote an in-depth analysis of the many other problems with the study that rendered its conclusion suspect.
In the 2003 Thorsen paper, the claim is made that there were only 956 children diagnosed with autism in Denmark between 1971 and 2000. Yet the 2013 study claims that from 1980 through 1999 there were 12,698 cases of autism spectrum disorders, with 2321 of those cases being full-syndrome autism. How a more than 1300% discrepancy could arise from researchers looking at the same data from the same database is difficult to imagine.
NO LIABILITY TO PHARMACEUTICAL VACCINE MANUFACTURERS
Dr. Brian Hooker’s Written Testimony Submitted to Congress
TESTIMONY FOR AUTISM HEARING 11/28/12
My name is Brian Hooker and I hold a PhD in Biochemical Engineering. I am also the very proud father of a neurologically impaired fourteen-year old young man, Steven. Steven received all of his infant vaccines through 15 months of age and subsequently regressed into what is commonly called autism.
Unfortunately, Steven’s story has become much more common and we have to ask: What role, if any, did vaccines play in the emergence of symptoms that will be most likely a life-sentence for a generation of children? A life sentence where these children are unable to speak, are unable to take care of simple bodily functions, are in near-constant chronic pain, and struggle to control their behavior? These children will never realize their full potential and their voices will never be heard.
For all the children still to be born, it remains more than relevant to letourvoices ask: What role, if any, have vaccines played in the rising epidemic of autism – up from 1 in 10,000 cases in 1983 to a staggering 1 in 88 in 2008? Is it merely a coincidence that during this same time period, the vaccine schedule for children in the US has shot up from 10 vaccinations to 49, making our country the most vaccinated nation in the world?
If we simply say over and over again that vaccines are safe and all the studies prove it, might it be lost on all those busy parents that mercury, through the organic compound thimerosal, is still in various U.S. vaccines, at levels many times the EPA toxic exposure limit?
What does the evidence suggest and are we willing to look at it objectively, fairly, with science as our maiden – and with the kids, not politics our guiding light – despite a public health tradition in this country that gives vaccines protected status?
So far, based on my years of research into what the vaccine studies actually find and how they have been conveniently interpreted; and despite my efforts to engage many at the center of these studies, there appears, sadly, an unwillingness to move beyond protected positions.
And the public is deprived of the full accounting it deserves, as those who might question the safety of vaccines, are marginalized, or worse.
But perhaps that is because the evidence connecting vaccines and their chemical components to neurological impairments, including autism, has not been laid out in the way I am going to reveal now.
While I am the parent of child with what is commonly called autism, my research and scientific focus on the data around the issue of vaccines and autism is what I believe to be most relevant to all of us here today… and most telling.
I know that your concern for the health and safety of our children is unwavering….and that you will be guided by that, above all else
With that in mind, let me start by saying that over a period of 8 years during which I submitted more than 100 Freedom of Information requests to The Centers for Disease Control–the CDC–most of which were denied, I have nevertheless uncovered evidence of a disturbingly clear connection between infant vaccines and the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.
I have found, further, that many of these vaccines contain mercury in the form of thimerosal at many times the EPA toxic exposure limit.
Despite these facts the CDC consistently denies the existence of a relationship between any vaccine or vaccine component, including thimerosal, and autism, and has worked very hard to bury the fact that thimerosal, a potent neurotoxin, has played a significant role in the current autism epidemic, as shown by their own studies.
On one single day, when my son was 2 months of age, he received 62.5 mcg. of mercury, which exceeded the EPA safe exposure limit by 130 times. Many health professionals will erroneously tell you that mercury has been removed from of our vaccines. That is not true. The vast majority of seasonal influenza vaccines distributed in the U.S. today contain 25 micrograms of mercury. The seasonal flu vaccine, along with the H1N1 vaccine recommended in 2009, is given routinely to pregnant women in their first trimester as well as infants down to 6 months of age. Mercury partitions preferentially to the placenta and then to the unborn child, meaning that for the 2010 flu season, these very tiny unborn children were exposed to 50 micrograms of mercury. Interestingly, as reported by the CDC’s own VAERS database, the fetal death rate during that particular period jumped by 4250% as compared to the previous “flu season.”
I agree with the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s 2003 Mercury in Medicine Report. Mercury is a known, potent neurotoxin. Placing it in maternal and infant vaccines is at best irresponsible and, at worst, criminal.
Even if you are not willing to condemn injecting infants and pregnant women with toxic mercury-containing vaccines, you would expect that the evidence was at least worthy of the concern and scrutiny of a taxpayer supported health agency like CDC that should be accountable to the public. Yet, over my 8 years and more than a hundred Freedom of Information requests to the CDC regarding the possible link between thimerosal-exposure in infant vaccines and the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, I have encountered a Berlin-wall like resistance. I have been shut out of the information necessary to get to the bottom of the question.
During all these years, the CDC has consistently refused to release the vast majority of the pertinent data, reports and correspondences to me, a father who has a strong right to understand how the CDC conducted its studies and reached its negative conclusions about the relationship between vaccines and autism.
To paint the issue more broadly, the CDC consistently denies the existence of a relationship betweenanyvaccine or vaccine component, including thimerosal, and autism, and while doing so, ignores the evidence contained in their own studies.
The initial analysis of the data used in the CDC’s own “landmark” study, by Verstraeten et al. published in 2003 in the Journal Pediatrics showed that infants exposed to the highest thimerosal levels in their vaccines at one month of age were 7.4 times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis. The children exposed to the highest doses of mercury from vaccines were 7 times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than children who received the lowest doses of mercury!! It is clear that the CDC researchers responsible for this study worked very hard to bury this result via statistical manipulations as even the head researcher, Dr. Thomas Verstraeten entitled an email, regarding the consistent relationship between thimerosal and autism, “It just won’t go away.” Yes, the relationship between thimerosal and autism won’t go away, no matter how expert the experts are at using science to obscure the data.
Later at a secret CDC-vaccine industry representative meeting held in June, 2000, at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center in Georgia, convened to consider these shocking data, CDC scientist Dr. Phillip Rhodes who coauthored the study, stated, regarding the use of data methods to obfuscate the original disturbing analysis of the data, “So you can push, I can pull. But there has been substantial movement from this very highly significant result down to a fairly marginal result.”
I was curious as to why the CDC did not publish the initial analysis of the Verstraeten data right away. But these comments by Dr. Rhodes at Simpsonwood made it evident why the CDC needed to revise its inconvenient initial findings. It took until November 2003 for the final analysis to be released via publication in Pediatrics, as the responsible CDC researchers pushed and pulled for 4 years to make the clear association between thimerosal and autism “go away.”
Although the CDC claimed that their landmark study proved there was no relationship between vaccines and autism, Dr. Verstraeten, who left CDC to work for vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline in July, 2001, stated in 2004 regarding the study’s final outcome, “The article does not state that we found evidence against an association, as a negative study would. It does state, on the contrary, that additional study is recommended, which is the conclusion to which a neutral study must come.”
Rather than doing additional study, the CDC hired the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to hold a meeting on “Vaccines and Autism” in February 2004. Representatives of CDC and affiliated organizations presented 5 very flawed epidemiology studies, each of which I could discuss at length. Based solely on these five studies, the IOM Immunization Safety Review Committee issued a report in May 2004 stating, “The committee … concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism” and “In addition, the committee recommends that available funding for autism research be channeled to the most promising areas,” meaning, don’t do any more research on thimerosal and autism. Prior to the meeting, the ISR Committee chairperson Dr. Marie McCormick instructed the committee, “we are not ever going to come down that [autism] is a true side effect.” The CDC specified the outcome of this report before the fact and McCormick made sure the CDC’s specifications were met.
In 2008, this report was invoked by the Special Master in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to refuse to award compensation in the autism “test cases” closing the door for any recompense to children maimed by high levels of vaccine-based mercury.
Are you beginning to see the pattern here?
One of the 5 studies used to dismiss the vaccine-autism link was co-authored by Dr. Poul Thorsen, who has collaborated with the CDC from 1998 to the present time. Dr. Thorsen is featured on the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Most Wanted Fugitive List as he was indicted on April 14, 2011 by a Federal grand jury on 22 counts of fraud and embezzlement. Dr. Thorsen was installed as the lead investigator for a cohort of scientists from Denmark to investigate the vaccine autism link using Danish databases. Thorsen’s work was funded by a CDC grant of over $10 million dollars. Most of the funds were disbursed after he coauthored the aforementioned thimerosal-autism paper, which was reviewed prior to publication by Dr. Diana Schendel.
While compiling the results for this publication, Denmark researchers deliberately withheld critical data that would have revealed a decline in autism rates in Denmark after mercury-containing vaccines were removed from the Danish childhood vaccine schedule in 1992. The manuscript was initially rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet, leading medical journals. Dr. Coleen Boyle of the CDC then took the unusual action of advocating for the paper by submitting a letter pushing for expedited review by the journal Pediatrics. The letter was signed by Dr. Jose Cordero, then Director of the CDC National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Dr. Thorsen has coauthored 36 peer-reviewed publications in collaboration with the CDC. Since his indictment by a Federal Grand Jury for fraud, he has coauthored four papers in collaboration with Dr. Schendel.
Why is the branch of the CDC charged with responsibility for autism research collaborating with a fugitive charged with defrauding the very agency, the CDC, engaging in this critically important research? Why haven’t any of his studies been retracted or been subjected to review?
The CDC is playing fast and loose with the truth when it promotes its spin on what scientific studies show about vaccines and autism. What I’ve disclosed briefly today is the very tip of the iceberg regarding the use of mercury, a known neurotoxin in vaccines.
Please help us expose the malfeasance or downright efforts by the CDC to suppress the truth by bureaucratic spin. There must be a full investigation of the CDC’s activities in the vaccine safety program and the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
By pursuing such an investigation, you will help bring to light the information hidden in CDC files, some of which I have obtained and am providing to this committee today, that show our children have been and continue to be exposed to dangerous neurotoxins in vaccines, and that these vaccines have been linked to what is commonly called autism.
There is no acceptable reason why mercury should not be banned from all vaccines. The second most toxic substance known to science has no place being injected into infants, pregnant mothers or any human.
Through your efforts, we can take a long needed step toward ending this horrible epidemic and spare a generation of children from what happened to my wonderful, precious son.
The history of this country is, in many ways, based on the idea that powerful political forces are not greater than the power of an idea, especially when that idea is guided by a search for truth, wherever it takes us, and a mission to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Please speak for them.
Thank you for your attention.
Brian Hooker, Ph.D.
Vaccine Epidemicby Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland J.D.