An Interview with Andrew Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield and I were both on the ConspiraSea Cruise in January 2016. By the last full day of the cruise, we’d had a few encounters ranging from standing in the same line for coffee to a fairly tense exchange during one of his lectures. I asked Wakefield after that lecture if he would answer a few questions regarding the so-called “CDC Whistleblower.” He consented, and this is the interview that resulted. Wakefield was aware that I was recording and that I am a critic of his position on vaccines and autism; he did not refuse to answer any of my questions.

2016-01-29 15.13.13
Wakefield lecturing on the cruise

This transcript is my own work, and I welcome any corrections. I’ve edited it slightly to make it more readable and remove irrelevant dialog. I have also added parenthetical comments to note where a statement is inaudible on the recording, which is not of high quality, and provide my best guess at what was said in a few places. I have not changed the substance of any question or answer.

Wakefield answered several questions before I turned the recording on. According to my memory and my notes, I asked him questions about the Thompson documents such as what specific deviations there were from the approved study plan (as he had alleged such deviations in two lectures). He referred me generally to his letter of October 2014, written with Brian Hooker and attorney James Moody, and directed to the federal Office of Research Integrity. He indicated both that he had documents from Thompson at the time he wrote that letter, and that Congressman Posey subsequently received additional documents from Thompson. At that point I began the recording.

I am not an expert in the documents Wakefield discussed. So in order to provide context for these answers, we have asked Matt Carey of Left Brain Right Brain to provide commentary. Carey is a published scientist, a parent of an autistic child, and extremely familiar with the Thompson documents. He has written an in-depth analysis of the Thompson documents and was able to provide an important counterpoint to Wakefield’s claims. Please read that excellent analysis prior to this interview if you are not familiar with the affair. The questions and answers will make little sense without context.

My questions are in black, Wakefield’s answers are in red, and Carey’s comments are in green. We welcome your own comments as well.

So the Posey documents that were released are, as far as you know, the documents Posey was given? He hasn’t held anything back?

I think he has probably given Posey more documents than he’s given me. The reason for that is that I’ve just been given the Posey documents, and they’ve been released and they’re available to anyone—you can get them.

I’ve got them.

And I have not been through them as yet, so I do not know to what extent they overlap completely with the documents I’ve got. And the reason I say that is that there may be additional documents he provided to Posey on Thimerosal or other things, because he was involved in two other vaccine safety studies. I have (inaudible: “all the”?) documents relevant to the MMR studies.

The two thimerosal studies were much larger studies and are more significant than the DeStefano MMR study in the evidence against the idea that vaccines cause autism. Given that, it’s interesting that there isn’t much on the thimerosal studies in the Thompson documents. In Thompson’s personal statement he makes no indication that the results of those studies are anything but valid or that the CDC team acted in any way other than ethically in performing those studies.


And then do you know if there are documents you have from Thompson that Posey does not?

I have documents that Posey does not because Thompson and I were in private correspondence.

And when you say that, are they documents that were that correspondence, or were they documents from the DeStefano days?

They are correspondence between us.

So do you have documents from the research or from his work at the CDC that Posey doesn’t have, other than the correspondence?

I don’t know, because I haven’t been through Posey’s documents yet.

One has to ask why he has not yet been through those documents? They’ve been public for some time. I put them online January 4th, nearly 3 weeks before the cruise. A journalist announced he had received the documents from Representative Posey’s office. That was in November of last year. Dr. Wakefield could have submitted his own request then. If Dr. Wakefield felt there was a possibility of evidence of misconduct in these documents, wouldn’t he have read through them at his first opportunity? In his role as creating a documentary about these events, why isn’t he jumping at the chance to add to or confirm his story?


That will answer a lot of my questions, actually. So, Hooker’s study came out, and again, I’m not a scientist—I’m not qualified to review or really have intelligent commentary on a statistical research study. Do you support the conclusions Hooker drew? Do you endorse them?

Do I –

It would be interesting to know what conclusions Dr. Wakefield is thinking of when he responds. There are the conclusions in the paper and there are the conclusions Dr. Hooker has stated publicly since. The last sentence of Dr. Hooker’s retracted study is “Additional research is required to better understand the relationship between MMR exposure and autism in African American males.” That’s quite different from concluding that the study shows a causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism. I believe both Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Hooker have made the latter claim publicly. It is worth noting that an epidemiological study like Hooker’s cannot, on its own, show a causal connection even if the correlation found is strong. The African American males/autism correlation in the Hooker reanalysis is far from strong.


Do you endorse the conclusions Hooker drew in his study based on the DeStefano research?

Yes, I do. I know, and I know you’re going to say it was retracted. It was retracted on the basis that the did not disclose a conflict of interest. There was absolutely no – on the initial basis, the initial rationale for the retraction was nothing to do with the scientific analysis. Which was a very simple analysis, a very simple statistical manip- analysis, which replicated what Thompson found. It was withdrawn on the basis that there was an undisclosed conflict. And that’s why it was withdrawn. There was no undisclosed conflict, and I suspect that there was pressure on the journal to withdraw [inaudible].

First, as I noted above, we aren’t entirely sure what conclusions he stands behind.

As to the retraction, Dr. Wakefield only gives part of the reason why the Hooker study was retracted. Here is the full statement from the journal:

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.

The editors were concerned about the validity of the methods and analysis and “no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.” That’s a pretty stinging rebuke of the study itself in a retraction and completely avoided by Dr. Wakefield.


But you don’t know that.

No I don’t.

I’ve heard, and again I’m not qualified to even understand the criticism, that Hooker misunderstood how to analyze case control studies. Are you familiar with that criticism?

No I’m not. The criteria for the, if you go to the criteria for the journal, Translational Neurodegeneration, it says papers will be published on the basis of expert peer review. And only when they pass that expert peer review will they be published. The paper went expert peer review which included a statistical analysis and whether he used appropriate methodology. So it passed muster on the basis of the journal’s own rigorous criteria. That gives me cause for concern, because there was nothing in Hooker’s analysis which substantiates or supports the contention that he did not know how to analyze a case control study.

Again, look to the retraction statement by the Journal: Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. Peer review specifically looking at the statistical analysis found the paper lacking.

I’ve peer reviewed many papers, and even edited the proceedings of a large conference. Some peer reviewers are more rigorous than others. We don’t know what “statistical analysis” Dr. Wakefield is claiming that the reviewer(s) performed. A referee could not replicate Dr. Hooker’s analysis as the data are not in the paper. And datasets like these are not “public use”, they are intended only for those who have shown in their application to be “qualified researchers.” Dr. Hooker should not be sharing the dataset with referees or others.

Also, one question that has been in a lot of people’s minds was who did the first peer review of the paper. Often an author can suggest to a journal potential referees and can use that to get people involved who would be favorable to the authors and/or their conclusions. I can’t say for certain that this occurred in this paper, but it is a possibility.

And of course it’s possible that the peer review was just not very rigorous. A while back a peer reviewed paper included the parenthetical comment, “should we cite the crappy … paper here?” That inappropriate comment made it past referees, editors, type setting, and proofs.


Would it be fair to say that you’ve analyzed the statistical work Hooker did, or –

No I didn’t. I’m not a statistician, although I’ve been involved in a lot of statistical analyses, I would not consider myself an expert in statistics and I am not qualified, certainly over and above the expert who clearly was involved in peer review of the paper, to approve or disapprove of it.

Brian Hooker is also not a statistician. Like many of us in research, Dr. Hooker has some knowledge of statistics, but his own statements (for example, “I reanalyzed the datasets using what’s in a very, very simple statistical technique”) show that he is not an expert in the field.

First, in statistics simple is not always the most valid approach. In this case it certainly is not the most valid approach. Second, and more importantly, this isn’t a statistics study. It’s an epidemiological study. In epidemiology strong studies are those that correct for factors that can lead to false conclusions. Here’s a simple example: rich people can afford healthcare and, as a result, tend to see doctors more often. They are more likely to be diagnosed for many diseases because they seek out healthcare. If a study ignores such factors—takes a “simple statistical technique” it could erroneously conclude that rich people get some diseases more than poor people. Dr. Hooker’s analysis is not only too simplistic statistically, it is too simplistic from an epidemiology standpoint.

Here are two technical critiques of the statistical analysis Dr. Hooker used:

Analysis and Reanalysis: The Controversy Behind MMR Vaccinations and Autism, part 2

Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism


If you’re comfortable saying so, are you still in contact with Thompson?

No. When we – let me qualify that. I write to Thompson. Updating him on our progress. I do not anticipate a response. Because in getting him or encouraging him to get a whistleblower lawyer, his lawyer advised as any good lawyer should that he should make no further comment until a congressional hearing or the equivalent. And therefore I have not heard back from him.

If Dr. Thompson has whistleblower protection, why does he need to only comment in a congressional hearing? The vast majority of whistleblowers are not called before congressional committees.

More to the point, if Dr. Thompson felt that there was ongoing harm—that there was strong evidence of an actual connection between vaccines and autism–he would be ethically compelled to come forward and speak out. In fact, in his public statement Dr. Thompson made it very clear that parents should vaccinate:

“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

And just to make sure I understand, is that what you understand what his lawyers have told him to do or what you expect his lawyers would tell him to do?

He has said something to that effect in a text. I can’t remember precisely what it is, but he said based upon my lawyer’s advice, I can now have no further contact. So it’s explicitly based on his lawyers.

I’m not surprised. You made a comment that I hadn’t heard before, that it was not true that the data Thompson released showed a protective effect for on-time MMR vaccinations in non-African American male children.


It’s an awkward question. So I had understood that the Thompson data showed a protective effect for on-time MMR vaccinations in non-male, non-African American children. And in your first –

Quite the opposite, quite the opposite. This is the greatest, one of the most misleading things of all, is when the head of science over Autism Speaks, Dr. Wang, was interviewed by Ronan Farrow, that was precisely what he said and what he took from the fraudulent paper. And that underlines just how deceitful the paper was, that the head of science for an organization which is the biggest autism charity in the world, gets it completely wrong when presenting in national media, that giving MMR vaccination on time appears to be protective against autism is the most egregious of all of the sins that they committed.

Dr. Wakefield appears to be misremembering the interview. The Paul Wang/Ronan Farrow interview can be found here. In discussing the DeStefano study, the one that Hooker reanalyzed, Paul Wang stated:

“If you look at children who got the vaccine on time, there is no increased risk.”

Not that there is a “protective effect” but that there is “no increased risk.”

Later in the interview, discussing a different study, Wang mentioned the “protective” effect found. A good discussion of this can be found at Forbes. Allow me to include a few paragraphs from that discussion because it makes an important point about why simplistic statistical analyses can lead to possibly false findings:

Even more surprising was the relative risk among children who had an older sibling with autism: in this smaller group, children with 2 doses of MMR were just 44% as likely to be diagnosed with autism as unvaccinated children. This statistically significant finding indicates, unexpectedly, that vaccines might actually protect children from autism.

The authors were quick to note that there are other good reasons for this apparent protective effect of vaccines: in particular, if parents of autistic children withheld vaccines from their younger children, this could explain the effect. Why? Because we know that autism has a genetic component, and that if one child has autism, his younger sibling is more likely (because they share many genes) to have autism as well. Jain and colleagues explained that if these parents withheld vaccines–because of fears spread by the anti-vaccine movement–then their children could contribute to the apparently lower rate of autism in children who were vaccinated. The authors couldn’t rule out a protective effect of vaccines, but scientifically it seems unlikely, and they wisely offered an alternative explanation.

The “protective” effect is likely an artifact of the study design and the authors acknowledged it. The first thing a good researcher does when she/he finds a result is to challenge it, test it. “If I do a more in-depth analysis, does this finding hold up?” “Is there an alternate explanation that could be causing this and make this result spurious?” Simple is not elegant, as Dr. Hooker asserts. Simple is the first step. And if you don’t take the next steps, your study is weak and your conclusions more likely to be wrong.

This may also be in the letter you told me to look up, but the destruction of documents—are you aware of specific documents that were destroyed, or types of documents that were destroyed? Or was it just an allegation that documents were destroyed?

Well, what I have are all of the serial outputs of the data covering that period during which the documents were destroyed, and what was quite clear was that the data tables showing highly significant association between autism and vaccination [inaudible: “on time”?] were there before the alleged destruction of documents and were gone afterwards. In other words, the documentary evidence provided by Thompson confirms exactly what he said, that data were destroyed.

This is the story made public in the “garbage can quote” read into the Congressional record by Representative Bill Posey. That can be found in the statement by William Thompson included with the document provided by the Representative to me (and made public by me). Here’s the end key paragraph quoted by Representative Posey. Note that the last line was not read into the record:

However, because I assumed this was illegal and would violate both FOIA laws and DOJ requests, I kept hard copies of all my documents in my office and I retained all the associated computer files. This included all the Word files (agendas and manuscript drafts), Excel files with analysis and results, and SAS files that I used to generate the statistical findings. I also kept all my written notes from meetings. All the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today [emphasis added].

Emphasis added. All the files have been retained. If printouts were shredded but the files kept, what’s the controversy? Dr. Hooker and Dr. Wakefield appear to have been claiming that Hooker recreated the CDC team’s analysis solely using the dataset maintained by the CDC and provided upon request to qualified researchers. So, again, what data was deleted?

One might think, well personal notes were shredded and those could show actions that indicate wrongdoing on the part of the CDC team. We don’t know what notes the other researchers retained. But we do have William Thompson’s notes—notes by the person most likely to record wrong doing. We don’t have statements in his personal notes–taken while the study was ongoing–that suggest fraud. In fact one of the few notes that goes to the mindset of the research team states, “we all have good intentions.”

I don’t understand what that means in this context. You have a report of what’s on the servers? Or you have a report of what was in file cabinets? Or you have –

No, I have printouts, or well, sorry, I have email documents. These are documents generated in Word with a date of creation, so that you can confirm that those documents were created contemporaneously with when Thompson said they were created. And they reflect meetings that took place on a serial basis every month, or twice monthly, between the group, the coauthors for that paper. And in September 2002, when Thompson alleges these documents were destroyed, then the African American effect, for example, and the isolated autism effect, were there. And then afterwards, they were completely gone. So that would support Thompson’s contention that documents were destroyed.

The story is much more mundane than Dr. Wakefield is implying here. What is clear in these documents is that this timeframe–around Sept. 2002–is when the research phase of this project ended. Dr. Wakefield tells us, “And then afterwards, they were completely gone.” When you go through the documents you see that after September 2002 there are pretty much no more research group meetings. There were a handful of meetings after this, but the analysis was over and the figures basically finalized. A preliminary draft of the study manuscript is dated Oct. 2002. So the idea that the team met to discuss what to archive and what to shred, and that the figures were finalized about this time is not only not surprising, it’s expected.

And this is where it’s good to have the actual documents. Dr. Wakefield did not share the documents he had, only quotes and screenshots. Bits that supported the arguments he was making. When we see the actual documents we see a different story. When I put up my own analysis of the documents, I made the documents publicly available so people could form their own opinions. From what I can see Dr. Wakefield did not do this.

Speaking of mundane, yes the documents “reflect meeting that took place on a serial basis” as Dr. Wakefield states. In one folder there are about 500 pages of agendas, tables and graphs for those meetings. And when one goes through these documents one finds they are very redundant. The same talking points, the same graphs and tables meeting after meeting. We are asked to be shocked that the CDC team discarded documents. I’ve posed this question publicly–what in those documents needed to be kept? Do we really need multiple researchers archiving every meeting agenda? The answer is simple: no, we don’t. I not only expect them to discard much of this paperwork, I hope they aren’t hanging on to all this paperwork for every project they work on.

I still don’t understand quite what this means. So there was a word document, and in that document, it refers to the African American effect, the isolated autism effect –

It shows the data. It shows the data table.

And in later versions of that document, those tables are gone?

I’ll give you an example. All of the data are contained in a table called Table 5. That table is there in September and it’s gone in October. Never to be seen again.

The last one of these documents– that has “table 5” is, as Dr. Wakefield says, in September 2005. So is Table 8, which includes things like variables “M_AGEC11” and “B_MULTB.” Why is that important? Because those are variable names important to the researchers but were obviously not intended for the final study. The fact that Table 8 (or table 5 for that matter) got cut isn’t a smoking gun, just evidence that these were preliminary tables and that study hit the turning point of finalization.

Most of the attention in this discussion goes to the African American effect. Let’s consider the “isolated autism” effect. “Isolated” autism means autism without other disabilities. What happened to that? The CDC team published it. They narrowed it down to autism without MR, but it’s basically the same thing as “isolated.” They also showed that in the simple analysis (the sort that Dr. Hooker claims is “elegant”) there is an apparent association, but that association disappears when one does a more rigorous analysis. Aside from debunking the controversy over “isolated” autism, this serves as another example of why simple isn’t the best.

But the data that was used to create Table 5 – was that destroyed?

Very good question, was the data destroyed. No. No it was not. Because it was not – it was intended to be destroyed. All of the – it was Thompson’s claim that all of the hard copy documents, and all of the computer files, relevant to this paper were targeted for destruction. The original data tables or data files from which the tables were generated were preserved by Thompson and are available and can be reconstructed in order to generate the information. As an example, the data tables – the excel – sorry, they were SAS spreadsheets – provided to Hooker, by which he then did an analysis.

Personally, I want to check the source every time Dr. Wakefield or Dr. Hooker claim to be speaking for William Thompson. Thompson has made very few public comments, plus a few conversations secretly recorded by Brian Hooker and since released by Hooker. Given this, let’s ask ourselves: instead of Dr. Wakefield giving his interpretation of what Dr. Thompson said, why not just quote Thompson? For example, consider the very strong claim “it was Thompson’s claim that all of the hard copy documents, and all of the computer files, relevant to this paper were targeted for destruction.” Now Thompson’s statement, “All the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today.”

We don’t know what hard copy documents were kept by the other authors. Or what notes were in notebooks they kept. We hear that they discarded some, but we don’t know that they may have kept. Also, consider this: if “all the hard copy documents” were “targeted for destruction” why meet to decide which documents to shred if the decision is to shred them all? Is it so they can watch everyone discard documents? If so, consider this: we know from Thompson’s own statements that one of the MMR study leaders was missing from the “garbage can” meeting. The story just doesn’t make sense.

We should address the question of discarding research documents: is it unethical? I’ve been a researcher for 30 years. It is common practice to periodically decide what documents to keep in my office, which to archive to a warehouse and which to discard. When I would clear out documents my company would provide me large confidential bins. They look like “garbage cans” except the lid is locked and the only access is through a slot in the top so people can’t fish documents out. After these bins are collected they are sent to a confidential shredder. [Colin: Although I’m not a scientist, I’ve seen similar procedures in very many offices where confidential documents like legal or financial files are used.] I would expect the CDC to have a similar procedure. A researcher keeps the documents that are required to recreate the final analysis and, in my case, determine dates of invention.
Bins like these are used to dispose of confidential documents in many offices, to protect privacy when clearing out old hard copies containing things like social security numbers or health records.


As long as we are talking about the few public statements Dr. Thompson has made, allow me to repeat this one:

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

So that data exists, so far as you know, only in Thompson’s files and not in the CDC’s main files, wherever those may be?

According to Thompson, all of those – he was the only one who preserved all of those records. Beyond that, I do not know the infrastructure of the CDC’s filing system, so I don’t know – I think I’ve probably reached the limit of my knowledge about that. Is there some sort of backup system that retains the original SAS files, I don’t know [inaudible].

“I don’t know.” I believe he should. I see it as ironic that Dr. Wakefield claims to speak for Dr. Thompson (“According to Thompson”) while having not read all the documents Dr. Thompson released to Representative Posey. As I’ve already noted above, Dr. Thompson made it explicitly clear that all the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today. At the very least, the raw data exist. Clearly, since Dr. Hooker used those data for his analysis. Also, I’d be curious how Dr. Wakefield knows that Thompson “was the only one who preserved all of those records”. We know that some documents were discarded, but we don’t know what was kept by the other team members.

And then are you referring to statements that Thompson made that have been released, or statements that are still confidential regarding his allegation that those files were deleted?

Both. Both. So his statement to Bill Posey and other documents that I have obtained that are in the documentary. Documents which are not publicly released.

If by the “statement to Bill Posey” Dr. Wakefield means the full statement that Representative Posey excerpted in his House speech, that is indeed publicly released. I released the documents Representative Posey’s office provided to me. I discussed the full statement here.

The full statement is much longer than the excerpts that Representative Posey read. It includes the statement:

“The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation.”

Emphasis added. I’ll be curious to see if this statement (and others that are problematic for Dr. Wakefield’s story) appear in the documentary.

You mentioned that you’ve analyzed the notes, and that you know who the coauthor was who made some handwritten annotations. Would you disclose who that coauthor is?


Would you disclose how you did the analysis?


Will that be in the documentary?


Both the type of analysis and the name of the author?

As yet undecided. [Inaudible: “As yet”?] a matter of discussion.

I was talking to Nick Begich earlier as he dropped these off [pointing to DVDs], and he kind of referred to the breadth of opinions expressed at the conference. And some – I wouldn’t say alarm, but some surprise at some of the views that have been expressed here. And I know that you haven’t been at all the various panels that haven’t involved vaccines or autism, but I think you’ve heard some relatively wild statements. Would you be comfortable establishing a line at which you feel it’s irresponsible to speculate about the cause of autism, or about conspiracies related to medical care?

So sorry, is there a line –

At which you’d object to some of the speculation that’s gone on at the conference.

My reason for coming, or what persuaded me to come, was that Jeffrey Smith was presenting. And Sherri Tenpenny. The other people I don’t know. I’ve met one other person one time. So I know nothing about any of the other people. But I’ve been someone who’s followed Jeffrey Smith for a long time. And I think his approach to his subject is very thorough, is informed, and very valuable. And so every time I get an opportunity to listen to him then I’m very grateful. Sherri similarly. A great deal of knowledge and understanding of the subject. The others, as you say I haven’t been to the talks. I don’t know what their discussions were about.

I am less interested in his “reason for coming” as for why he didn’t consider association with many speakers a reason for not coming.

I’m thinking for example of Len Horowitz’s discussion of the 528 frequency –

Yeah, I didn’t hear that. [Inaudible: “I wasn’t there”?] I just don’t know. So no, I just don’t know. I wasn’t there. So it would be unfair of me to comment on [inaudible].

I heard you speak in Austin, when we were still living there, at an Autism Speaks conference. [I was mistaken; it was an Autism Trust event called the “Give Autism a Chance Summit.”] You were MCing, I think it was Autism Speaks, at the music center downtown in Austin. There were people on the stage like Dr. Kriegsman, and I can’t think of the other guy’s name, who was instructing parents to turn off their routers and their cell phones so the EM waves wouldn’t hurt their autistic children. And I was hoping at the time you would comment to the parents in the room as to whether you thought that was reasonable advice or not, and you haven’t made a statement on it as far as I know. Is that kind of advice something you think is reasonable?

I don’t – if I do not know the subject, I’m not going to give advice. I’m just not going to do it. It’s irresponsible. I’m not going to give advice that could even be potentially construed as medical if I have not done a thorough analysis of the data. Now that said, I keep my mind open to the possibility that there are co-factors that may influence autism risk [inaudible]. I don’t know what those co-factors are. But I’m never going to advise people on what to do based on something about which I know nothing. I’m going to confine myself to the things which I know and I’ve worked on and I’ve read and understood. And where I don’t know I’m going to say I don’t know. If someone has a competing theory of autism, OK, let them talk about it.

One of the reasons my wife and I came to this country is that has a constitution that includes the values we respect. And god forbid that people should be censored or excluded from expressing opinions. Just like the journalists on this trip feeling threatened, that they couldn’t be in discussions, that’s not right, that’s not the way I operate. I encourage dissent because in the end, it’s only through the presentation of competing arguments that truth is going to win. Just in the same way that I talked to you about how it was not our job to censor the parents’ story just because others found it inconvenient or didn’t believe it. It’s not my job to censor other people expressing opinions that may not concur with my own.

I find this highly ironic given the legal threats Dr. Wakefield has made to journalists. He’s even brought suit multiple times against a journalist. A judge in one case referred to Dr. Wakefield’s use of litigation “as a weapon in his attempts to close down discussion and debate over an important public issue.”

Do you feel that given your high profile, your presence might be an endorsement, or at least perceived that way by people who don’t have a chance to talk to you personally?

Well if that is the case, then I should shut myself in a cave on a high mountain, become a hermit. And that’s not going to happen because that’s not the way in which knowledge is going to spread. If people take it as that then it is because they want to take it as that. Because that’s the spin that’s placed on it.

I wanted to ask just one more question.

Go, one more question.

And feel free not to answer. What evidence would change your mind, about a link between autism and vaccines?

What evidence would change my mind… [long pause] What is my position, firstly let’s define what my position is. That’s very very important. Vaccination should operate from a position of an abundance of caution. What you’re doing is you’re taking healthy children and exposing them to a risk or a potential risk. And you’re doing it on the background of the available data on the safety and efficacy of that vaccine. It’s not like you’re taking patients with end-stage cancer, where you say, “Look, you’ve got a fifty percent chance of dying and a fifty percent chance of living, and there may be some benefit but we don’t know.” You’re taking entirely healthy children and you’re giving them an exposure, which incurs a risk. And the risks are all spelled out in the product insert.

So my position, and the position that medicine should be in, is that you operate from an abundance of caution. If there is even a possible risk of harm, then you do everything in your power to either exclude that risk or stop the vaccination policy. First do no harm.

So my position is not that it’s black and white. It is that you operate from an abundance of caution. You have to be very very clear that what you are doing has a minimal, an absolutely minimal risk, for the maximum benefit.

The interesting thing here is the for years the narrative that I recall from his supporters was that Dr. Wakefield didn’t say that vaccines cause autism. He was just posing questions.

That said, see what Dr. Wakefield has done here? He’s framed the question as though there is only one source of risk–vaccinating (and implies falsely that one of those risks is autism). He doesn’t even approach the question of the risk in not vaccinating and leaving one’s self vulnerable to disease. Ignoring that is hardly an “abundance of caution.” Quite the opposite, it’s an abundance of irresponsibility in my opinion.


The positions and the rhetoric that you’ve taken at this conference make it pretty clear you feel that there is extremely good reason to believe that the MMR vaccine in particular, and possibly vaccines in general, and possibly GMOs as well, have a causative link to autism.


What would change your mind?

That is because I’ve sat in this field now for twenty years, and nothing has persuaded me that the science is wrong. And what now convinces me that there is a real cause for concern is William Thompson coming forward and saying that a hypothesis that I put forward in the year 2000 is proven to be correct by the year 2001 and was kept concealed for 13 years. How would you feel in that position? Would you feel that it reaffirmed your concern that the parents’ story was right? Or would you think, well, we can dismiss that because – no. It is quite clear that there is a problem they have covered up. So it makes me feel more strongly than ever that we need good, independent science—and I mean independent, independent of the CDC, independent of influence by government or the pharmaceutical industry—that gives us the answers. Will we ever get that? No. We will not get that. Why? Because the system is so distorted, and that’s very very sad. And I’m a scientist, I’ve published 140 papers and I’ve never committed fraud in my life. And I’ve published papers which suggest my hypotheses is wrong. Very few people do that. I publish them. I publish papers – and you can look them up, in the Journal of Medical Virology, saying “we do not find this virus in these tissues.” Despite that being our hypothesis [inaudible]. So I’m perfectly open to the counter-argument. But nothing so far has persuaded me that there isn’t a link, and Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link. There is no question, there is a link, they’ve found it. [inaudible] So there we are.

Let’s take on the most important statement here first:

“But nothing so far has persuaded me that there isn’t a link, and Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link. There is no question, there is a link, they’ve found it. [inaudible] So there we are.”

But that is not what Thompson says. Again, I’ll quote him directly:

“The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation.”

 Thompson doesn’t say there is a link. He doesn’t say “without question.” So, there we are.

Also, it’s worth noting that the above response is worthy of a politician. Ask yourself, did Dr. Wakefield ever answer the question (what would change your mind)? If so, I don’t see it.

If I may, let me discuss the general question of vaccines and autism. I’ve taken this very seriously from the start. This is personal to me in a way that it will never be to Andrew Wakefield as I have an autistic child. I am also a researcher, a Ph.D. I’ve immersed myself in the literature—especially that which claims to show a link between vaccines and autism.

Actually it is Dr. Wakefield’s science, and that of many others who purport to show a link, that showed me that there is no substance to the claim of vaccines being linked to autism. And from that I can say this: it isn’t a question of refuting that claim, it’s a matter of the fact that the claim just isn’t strong at all to begin with.

For example, look at Dr. Wakefield’s conclusion here “Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link.” He ignores the bulk of even Hooker’s analysis (most groups show no increased risk of autism) and clings to one small subgroup. OK, that’s a weak stance on his part, but it gets worse. He claims that subgroup result shows not only a correlation, but causation. Even though such a study as this cannot show causation. Even though Thompson himself says this finding “…does not mean that there was a true association.”

There is a large body of evidence, epidemiological and biological, that says that the Wakefield MMR/Autism hypothesis is wrong. But the fact is that the Wakefield MMR/autism hypothesis was never very strong. It’s built on arguments such as “Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link.” And, ironically, Wakefield’s work is some of the strongest in the “vaccines cause autism” portfolio.

This post has been edited to restore formatting to the links in Carey’s comments.

150 thoughts on “An Interview with Andrew Wakefield

  1. reissd February 15, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    I am curious who the co-author is.

    And like Dr. Carey, given Andrew Wakefield’s history, I want verification of any claims he made.

    I am glad he talked to you, but his answers leave many questions.

  2. Jennifer Raff February 15, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Colin, and many thanks to Dr. Carey for agreeing to share his analysis with us. I know how much work you both put into this piece.

  3. Heather Vee February 15, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    Fascinating! And Dr. Carey’s counterpoint is very illuminating also.

  4. JerryA February 15, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    Someone has to have a very negative and distorted view of reality to assume that no research documents get shredded or recycled, and no preliminary tables get removed from papers. If scientists did not get rid of limited-value documents on a regular basis, we’d be buried in paper (or computer files) and not be able to get work done in a very short time. There is a standard procedure for archiving data and keeping or discarding documents. By the way, in general, negative results don’t get published. There is a very public discussion among scientists going on in several fields right now about this very topic.

    As far as removing paragraphs and tables of preliminary results (or non-results) from drafts of scientific papers, there is a technical term for this… It’s called “editing”.

    • Enuf March 27, 2016 / 6:04 pm

      Well stated.

      My own work is in the hard sciences, where what you describe is also the case. Many experiments, calculations or attempts to interpret data lead to dead-ends. It is a normal part of the process of discovery. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is routine. Were it not a normal requirement, it would be because we are all perfect and get it all correct the first time, every time.

      I have long followed the practice of not retaining useless paper. But I do retain digital records. Burn to CD, now DVD or soon BluRay M-disc.

  5. Olivia February 15, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    Thanks to Colin and Dr. Carey for all of your input and dedication. I appreciate those who can keep this conversation both civil and informed, which you both have done.

  6. Randy Wright February 16, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    Thanks for your yeoman service, Colin. I’ve had encounters with many from the “foo foo” crowd (including a reasonably well-educated sister), and while I don’t think the “battles” are futile, they are apt to be explosive and messy.

    I would like to see more in-depth discussion of the thimerosal issue (for the lay people out there, it’s a mercury compound that was used as a preservative for generations and was mostly removed from usage quite some time ago, but it persists in multi-dose applications because of the difficulty of providing refrigeration in hot climate regions). There’s a lot of confusion on that one, and I’ve corresponded with another sister–an MD who does research–and she’s claiming there’s “no causal factor” with autism–my daughter’s older half-brother, BTW, has Aspergers–that has been identified, but individuals on both ends of the political spectrum (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Joe Scarborough come to mind) have questioned the research and suggested that special interests have stifled inquiry into that area.

    I’m on the fence and will defend my objectivity, and as noted previously, mostly a “science reporter” who’s read everything he can on the subject. I’ll also defend my ability to understand what the research is saying (plenty of grad experience, both in humanities and a “hard science” area). I note that the “lazy think” crowd doesn’t make this distinction, and I think it’s important.

    On a personal note, just to demonstrate that I’m not “anti-vaccine,” my teenage daughter is in a program that required a flu shot. I gave my consent, but I specified it had to be thimerosal-free, single dosage, and I intend to stick to my guns on that one.

    • Chris February 16, 2016 / 2:01 pm

      “but individuals on both ends of the political spectrum (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Joe Scarborough come to mind) have questioned the research and suggested that special interests have stifled inquiry into that area.”

      It is generally a bad idea to get medical advice from lawyers, especially if they are connected with any kind of politics. Here is some amusing reading on RFK, jr:

      Listen to your sister who is an MD. If you live the USA it is pretty much a good bet your children have not received a containing thimerosal during the last fifteen years. In many states politicians have made it so that children and pregnant women only get thimerosal free vaccines. Which caused shortages of vaccines during the H1N1 outbreak several years ago, and has not done a thing to affect the levels of autism diagnoses. That seems to be more correlated to the switch from DSM III to DSM IV.

      Oh, yeah! I was told in 1991 that my three year old son was definitely not autistic, even though he could not speak and lined up stuff. It was all because he smiled. Last year he qualified under both DSM IV and DSM V. From the his seizures on his second day of life to now trying to find yet another disability job vendor after the first two decided to not contact us for a few months… it has been an interesting wild parenting trip.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 16, 2016 / 6:02 pm

        RFK Jr. is just flat out wrong. Thimerosal has been studied over and over and no link to autism has been shown.

        It’s interesting to note that perhaps the largest study on autism risk from thimerosal was performed with William Thompson as the lead author. He stepped forward in a so-called “whistleblower” mode to Brian Hooker. Brian Hooker’s main interest is not the MMR vaccine, but thimerosal. What did Thompson have to say about his thimerosal study and autism? Nothing. He made some sort of weak arguments about tics and tics being “autism like”, but he said nothing about his study being wrong, there being any misconduct or leaving real room for questioning the study.

        And there are more, many more, that show no link.

        Now consider this–the whole argument that thimerosal causes autism was based on two pillars.

        1) Autism is a “novel form of mercury poisoning” and if you line up the symptoms of autism and mercury poisoning they are the same. That paper was published in a pay-to-publish (not peer reviewed) journal and was authored by a registered nurse, an MBA and a few others with even less credentials in medical research, toxicology and the like.

        There was probably one researcher who actually specialized in both mercury intoxication and also autism. Her name was Patricia Rodier. She spoke a few times on the subject, most notably in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (the vaccine court group case on autism). She spoke clearly that the “novel form of mercury poisoning” paper was wrong. Mercury poisoning and autism look nothing alike.

        2) the second pillar of the “thimerosal in vaccines causes autism” idea was that as the thimerosal exposure from vaccines increased in the 1990’s, so did the autism counts in places like California. California was the most used data for this because it was publicly available.

        California went further than the federal mandate to phase out thimerosal from infant vaccines (phased out by 2001). California mandates that all vaccines given to infants and pregnant women be thimerosal free. That was about 2005 as I recall.

        So, if the pillar 2 argument were valid, we’d be seeing a HUGE drop in autism in California. The opposite is true, the number of people identified with autism continues to rise.

        If you listen closely to RFK Jr’s recent talks on the subject, he latched on to the William Thompson MMR study story and claims this is about his ideas on thimerosal.

        Except that the MMR does not and can not contain thimerosal. Thimerosal would kill the live viruses in the MMR vaccine. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Kennedy doesn’t know this, given how much time he’s spent on discussing vaccines.

        • Chris February 16, 2016 / 6:24 pm

          Yeah, I knew early on the way to figure someone did not know what they were talking about was when they said “the thimerosal in MMR.”

          One great example of lame and dead the “thimerosal in vaccines” argument is when Sallie Bernard put out a call for vaccines for one of their studies trying to prove something something something almost fifteen years ago:

          Subject: Thimerosal DTaP Needed
          From: Sally Bernard
          Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 00:01:50 -0400
          Yahoo! Message Number: 27456
          Onibasu Link:

          Hi all:

          A group of university-based researchers needs several vials of the older DTaP vaccine formulations which contained thimerosal for a legitimate research study. If anyone knows an MD who might have some of these vaccines or knows where to get them, please email me privately.

          Thank you.

          Sallie Bernard
          Executive Director
          Safe Minds

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 19, 2016 / 11:22 pm

      “suggested that special interests have stifled inquiry into that area.”

      How many dozens of studies, millions of dollars (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars), thousand of researcher hours have to be spent before we can quell the idea that research has been “stiffled”?

      Kennedy plays the classic lawyer role–pretend like the damning evidence that’s been laid out, over and over (and over and over) just doesn’t exist.

      And then we get people who just repeat him like he’s some sort of expert. People who don’t do their own research.

    • Randy Wright February 17, 2016 / 4:05 am

      Well, it looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest (not on purpose, but I welcome actual discussion). I am, however, trying hard to remain civil in light of the patronizing and illogical statements above.

      Item: To the poster that said “Listen to your sister,” that same sister noted, “It’s impossible to prove a negative,” i.e. that thimerosal isn’t a factor in autism. Thimerosal is still around, period.

      Item: Thimerosal, as noted, does remain in flu vaccines, and I, along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., had our children inoculated with thimerosal-free shots.

      In other words, please don’t try to shout me down; I’m reasonably certain I’ve done far more homework on this than most, and that claim that thimerosal isn’t in MMR vaccines amounts to a straw man deflection. Too, the claim about “live viruses” is inaccurate because the viruses have been “attenuated,” and I was speaking to the subject of flu shots; the individual who made that claim seems to have missed my entire thesis.

      “We know from the biological literature that extremely low doses [of mercury] are harmful,” says Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist and autism researcher at Harvard University. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. Why would you put a neurotoxin in vaccines?”

      “We don’t want to publish this book,” Kennedy told him, holding up a copy of his manuscript. “We are very pro-vaccine.” He motioned to Hyman across the table. “Vaccines save lives. We don’t want to alarm the public by showing them the science. We have a publisher lined up, ready to publish it. But we said no.”

      Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of California’s Mind Institute in Davis, was one of the few scientists willing to read Kennedy’s manuscript. “It’s a mixed bag,” she said to me over the phone. She believed that Kennedy had stacked the book with too many problematic studies that he cites as evidence of thimerosal’s contribution to neurodevelopmental disorders. “But it is not true that there is a body of scientific evidence that has put this question to rest, as the CDC asserts.” In fact, on a possible connection between autism and thimerosal, she said, “I think the question still remains to be answered.”

      My own reviews of the research, conducted irregularly over the last four years or so, led me to the same conclusion as Hertz-Piccioto.

      I’ll just put the following link out there, recognizing that it may come from a “questionable source,” but please, “because I say so” statements and personal anecdotes do not constitute legitimate science.

      That one has a ink to the following FDA document, so I think any charge of “cherry picking” is unwarranted.

      When Bill Gates recently made remarks… insinuating that people who question the safety of vaccines were killing children, many critics of Thimerosal were shocked because they agree with the need for vaccines and want to maintain public confidence in the vaccine program.

      And I trust a few people will recognize this politician’s name:

      It’s been a mystery in Washington for weeks. Just before President Bush signed the homeland security bill into law an unknown member of Congress inserted a provision into the legislation that blocks lawsuits against the maker of a controversial vaccine preservative called “thimerosal,” used in vaccines that are given to children.

      House Majority Leader Dick Armey tells CBS News he did it to keep vaccine-makers from going out of business under the weight of mounting lawsuits.


      • Heather Vee February 17, 2016 / 10:44 am

        Again, Randy, if you are science-literate, I would recommend reading the research rather than relying upon the interpretations of the 2 or 3 researchers who disagree with the conclusions of hundreds of researchers at the CDC, FDA, WHO, etc.

        Look to Europe, if you are concerned about the U.S. political climate:

        Or Australia:

        • Randy Wright February 17, 2016 / 11:52 am

          Heather, I have reviewed the research, and unlike in your case, not simply the ones who agree with my position. I even read the following in the document you linked:

          The new data suggest that ethyl mercury may be less toxic than previously assumed, and therefore caution is needed in extrapolating the toxicity profile of methylmercury to ethylmercury

          As a “writer sort,” I feel safe is asserting that conclusion amounts to a “hedge statement,” and I note the 2004 date; it would seem reasonable to look at more recent literature as well. Moreover, the Aussie paper simply repeats the same data as the other link you provided. And that word “epistodemiological” amounts to the worst sort of “rhetorical buzz word jockeying” imaginable; I note its origins are in philosophy, and I thought we were talking hard science.

          And my “English teacher” background would suggest you a) look more deeply at the patronizing tone in your prose, sparring me the passive-aggressive innuendos, and b) learn to read something from other than “the authority of print,” a perspective I acquired from an old PhD writing workshop mentor (and yes, I’m aware that statement is patronizing itself).

          • Randy Wright February 17, 2016 / 12:02 pm

            Should read “sparing” of course (another rant about a lack of an editing feature, and I am chuckling at the possibility of being accused of a “Freudian” with that one).

          • Heather Vee February 17, 2016 / 1:19 pm

            What is your specific criticism of the existing research? There’s no biological plausibility for the thimerosal-autism link, and the epidemiological evidence repeatedly does not support a link. I couldn’t read the material referenced in the “FourWinds10.Net” article you previously provided because the links were broken – or led to Natural News, which is an utterly atrocious site to get any science or health “news.”

            Which additional research am I ignoring? Was it published in a reputable journal? Was it performed by researchers with appropriate backgrounds? Is it higher on the hierarchy of evidence than the studies presented by the CDC, FDA, WHO, etc.? Has it been replicated?

            If you want to talk “research,” then post links to journal articles, not sites that regurgitate Natural News or political newspaper articles.

            • Chris February 17, 2016 / 7:14 pm

              “If you want to talk “research,” then post links to journal articles, not sites that regurgitate Natural News or political newspaper articles.”

              That is what I requested.

              I have noticed that some who claim to have done “more research than most” often do not understand the basics of scientific research. Google searches are not actually real research.

              I predict one of the next steps will be declaring any research by a pharmaceutical company invalid. When it is pointed out that the research was done by public health agencies like WHO, NHS, CDC, etc the claim will be they are all in the thrall of Big Pharma. Then when it is pointed out some of the research is done by Kaiser Permanente, again the claim will be that health insurance (who in my experience dislike paying high costs) are in the thrall of Big Pharma.

              Then when you ask what they mean by “independent” you get those funded by groups like SafeMinds and the Dwoskin Family Foundation, both of which have a certain agenda. When that is explained the cycle starts up again.

              Interestingly, SafeMInds did fund a recent study that showed vaccines do not cause autism. But they don’t like the results:

              And they are keeping silent about those results:

          • Heather Vee February 17, 2016 / 1:55 pm

            BTW – I tracked down the main study in the Natural News article:


            “We examined the effects of early postnatal administration of thimerosal (four i.m. injections, 12 or 240 μg THIM-Hg/kg, on postnatal days 7, 9, 11 and 15) on brain pathology in Wistar rats.”

            An animal study of rats injected 4 times in the first 15 days of life.

            Where does this fit within the heirarchy of evidence, Randy?

            The article mentions that this is the 6th study – but there were only two other “studies” linked – one that had to do with hair mercury levels (notoriously unreliable) and one that included a thimerosal-autism link within a hypothesis statement, but no new evidence.

            • Randy Wright February 19, 2016 / 3:37 pm

              Well, Heather, since you enjoy “tracking down” such claims, here you go:



              I feel like I’m having to conduct a remedial class in logic, reminding a few people that ad hominem attacks are usually indicative of a weak factual basis for one’s arguments, and there’s a definite “straw man” element in that repetition of the “no thimerosal in MMR vaccines” deflection, and the insistence RFK, Jr. “latched onto that story.”

              Now about speaking to these claims lifted from the first link:

              The common canard that US autism rates rose after drug makers removed most thimer- osal from pediatric vaccines in 2003 is wrong. That same year, CDC added flu shots contain- ing massive doses of thimerosal to the pediatric schedule.27 As a result, children today can get nearly as much mercury exposure as children did from all pediatric vaccines combined in the decade prior to 2003.28 Worse, thimerosal, for the first time, is being given to pregnant women in flu shots. Furthermore, CDC’s current autism numbers are for children born in 2002, when kids were still getting thimerosal in their pediatric vaccines. The best science suggests that thimerosal’s complete removal from vaccines is likely to prompt a significant decline in autism. For example, a 2013 CDC study in JAMA Pediatrics shows a 33% drop in autism spectrum disor- der in Denmark following the 1992 removal of thimerosal from Danish vaccines.30 That paper is among 37 peer-reviewed studies linking thimerosal to the autism epidemic.31

              Now Mr. Kennedy is either doing one heckuvan Erich Von Däniken routine, or there may be something legitimate to his charges, assuming his claims of “peer-reviewed studies” is valid.

              And it seems reasonable to investigate this story about a “whistleblower”:

              The corruption has also poisoned CDC’s immunization safety office, the research arm that tests vaccines for safety and efficacy. In August 2014, seventeen-year CDC veteran, Dr. William Thompson, who is author of the principal study cited by CDC to exculpate mercu- ry- preserved vaccines from the autism link, invoked whistleblower protection, and turned extensive agency files over to Congress.21 Thompson, who is still employed at CDC, says that for the past decade his superiors have pressured him and his fellow scientists to lie and manipulate data about the safety of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal to conceal its causative link to a suite of brain injuries, including autism.

              • Chris February 19, 2016 / 3:58 pm

                “Now Mr. Kennedy is either doing one heckuvan Erich Von Däniken routine,…”

                Yes he is:


                Now where are those several PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers (who are not lawyers or finance professors) that show thimerosal does what you claim it does?

                • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:54 pm

                  The date on that “Trouble in the Library” smear is noteworthy. It’s not readily apparent but can be inferred from this statement. Congratulations, you’re up to 2009.

                  Recently, hot on the heels of the election of Barack Obama in the Presidential election last week…</>

              • Heather Vee February 19, 2016 / 6:36 pm

                Randy, here’s the deal:

                You are essentially claiming that every major world health organization is making the wrong call on thimerosal and autism. To support that claim, you need to provide evidence (not RFK, Jr. quotations) that shows how their conclusions are incorrect – evidence that is superior to the evidence that does not link thimerosal and autism . . . and has somehow been overlooked by the hundreds (thousands!) of researchers within these worldwide organizations. Not junk science from the Geiers, not a couple animal studies.

                I’ll look at your links later, but I have a feeling most of them have already been addressed.

              • Heather Vee February 19, 2016 / 9:42 pm

                Just a sampling of the misinformation and distortion there on RFK, Jr.’s site:

                Reference #24: Claims that ethylmercury (in thimerosal) is more toxic and persistent than methylmercury and cites this study:
                This claim is not actually supported by the study, which concludes that, “The initial and terminal half-life of Hg in blood after thimerosal exposure was 2.1 and 8.6 days, respectively, which are significantly shorter than the elimination half-life of Hg after MeHg exposure at 21.5 days. Brain concentrations of total Hg were significantly lower by approximately 3-fold for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys when compared with the MeHg infants ”

                The short half-life of ethylmercury has also been replicated in a study of human infants:

                Reference #26: This references a critique of CDC thimerosal studies, by Brian Hooker and other assorted anti-vax “researchers.” Hooker doesn’t really have the relevant experience or education to criticize epidemiological studies. His own “re-analysis” of a 2004 CDC study was retraced because of its flawed statistical analysis (and because of his undisclosed conflict of interest).

                Further information:

                Reference #30: Claims that there 33% drop in autism spectrum disorder in Denmark following the 1992 removal of thimerosal from Danish vaccines from 1994-2004 and cites Table 3 of this study:

                However, the cited study was limited to looking at the recurrence risk for families who already had one child with ASD or autism; in reality, incidence rates in for ASD in Denmark increased from 9.0 to 38.6 per 100,000 person years during 1995 – 2010:

                Reference #31: Claims that this is a list of “37 peer-reviewed studies linking thimerosal to the autism epidemic.” This is a list by Hooker (surprise!), and nearly a third of the references are to the Geier’s or his own “research” – plus several of the studies are irrelevant (no thimerosal exposure studied). Several of the studies on this list of 37 are also on this list of 22, with further critiques here by Ms. Ditz:


                Thoroughly unimpressed.

              • Heather Vee February 19, 2016 / 9:56 pm

                A sampling of the distortions and inaccuracies in the RFK, Jr. document linked above . . .

                Reference #24: Claims that ethylmercury (in thimerosal) is more toxic and persistent than methylmercury and cites this study:

                This claim is not actually supported by the study, which concludes that, “The initial and terminal half-life of Hg in blood after thimerosal exposure was 2.1 and 8.6 days, respectively, which are significantly shorter than the elimination half-life of Hg after MeHg exposure at 21.5 days. Brain concentrations of total Hg were significantly lower by approximately 3-fold for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys when compared with the MeHg infants ”
                The short half-life of ethylmercury has also been replicated in a study of human infants:

                Reference #26: This references a critique of CDC thimerosal studies, by Brian Hooker and other assorted anti-vax “researchers.” Hooker doesn’t really have the relevant experience or education to criticize epidemiological studies. His own “re-analysis” of a 2004 CDC study was retraced because of its flawed statistical analysis (and because of his undisclosed conflict of interest).

                Further information:

                Reference #30: Claims that there 33% drop in autism spectrum disorder in Denmark following the 1992 removal of thimerosal from Danish vaccines from 1994-2004 and cites Table 3 of this study:

                However, the cited study was limited to looking at the recurrence risk for families who already had one child with ASD or autism; in reality, incidence rates in for ASD in Denmark increased from 9.0 to 38.6 per 100,000 person years during 1995 – 2010:

                Reference #31: Claims that this is a list of “37 peer-reviewed studies linking thimerosal to the autism epidemic.” This is a list by Hooker (surprise!), and nearly a third of the references are to the Geier’s or his own “research” – plus several of the studies are irrelevant (no thimerosal exposure studied). Several of the studies on this list of 37 are also on this list of 22, with further critiques here by Ms. Ditz:


                • Heather Vee February 20, 2016 / 7:28 am

                  Sorry for the double-post. Browser timed out on the first post, and I didn’t realize the comment had made it through.

              • reissd February 21, 2016 / 1:14 pm

                On the flu shot claim I’d add that many children don’t get a flu shot, or get the flu mist or a thimerosal free version – in CA, that’s the law, as in other states – and autism rates keep rising. So even that claim doesn’t hold water.

      • Chris February 17, 2016 / 12:21 pm

        Randy: “In other words, please don’t try to shout me down; I’m reasonably certain I’ve done far more homework on this than most, and that claim that thimerosal isn’t in MMR vaccines amounts to a straw man deflection”

        Except that Dr. Carey (whose comments in the above article are in green) mentioned that Kennedy is actually conflating thimerosal with MMR. Kenneday is obviously not the person to listen to, because he is a crank (as my link to Respectful Insolence points out).

        Why is it illogical bad to suggest you listen to a medical doctor instead of lawyers on medical matters?

        Yes, it is impossible to prove a negative. That is a feature, not a negative. It means that is science we cannot prove something that does not exist, like Carl Sagan’s invisible dragon in his garage.

        Sure thimerosal is still used: because it is still safer than the diseases, and it is cheaper to have multi-dose vaccines in areas where money is limited like the ones where the World Health Organization is trying to serve. If you wish that no one on this planet ever get a thimerosal in a vaccine then start your own foundation to provide the money so that the cold chain and extra cost single vaccines can be provided in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, rural Africa and elsewhere.

        I will reiterate that politicians should not be making medical policy. This is why several children suffered from pertussis and babies died in countries like Sweden and Japan, see:
        Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story

        Japan also removed its MMR vaccine with the Urabe mumps strain, the same mumps strain that caused the UK to remove two versions of MMR in 1992, due to an unacceptable number meningitis. Though the UK went to an MMR with Jeryl Lynn mumps strain (the only one ever used in the USA), but Japan decided to just go for an MR with measles and rubella and make it voluntary. And death followed, see Measles vaccine coverage and factors related to uncompleted vaccination among 18-month-old and 36-month-old children in Kyoto, Japan, which says:

        According to an infectious disease surveillance (2000), total measles cases were estimated to be from 180,000 to 210,000, and total deaths were estimated to be 88 [11,12]. Measles cases are most frequently observed among non-immunized children, particularly between 12 to 24 months.

        You see, I have also been around this subject for a very long time. My son is almost thirty years old. I was on a listserv for his disability starting in the 1990s when we had a phone modem (and phones were plugged into the wall!). I often sent an email to the group explaining his seizures were not caused by a vaccine because he did not get one prior to his second day of life, and he was denied pertussis protection because of those seizures and only got the DT vaccine. This was at a time when our county had a pertussis epidemic (thanks Barbara Loe Fisher and Lea Thompsom for that “Vaccine Roulette” scaremongering in the 1980s). One of the members asked the moderator to ban me just because I mentioned there was no thimerosal in the MMR vaccine. I finally got tired of the people pushing chelation and other nonsense and left the listsev. Two weeks later Roy Kerry killed a kid with chelation (the drugs also removed calcium which caused the heart to stop, Dr. Carey has written about Tariq Nadama and other autistic children who have been killed on his blog LeftBrainRightBrain). That was ten years ago.

        Also notice that both links I posted were PubMed indexed studies by actual scientists. If you wish to continue to tell us the dangers of thimerosal, do not provide news studies or anything by politicians (and definitely nothing from RFK, jr!). Just provide several replicated PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that outnumber the list of studies in the CHOP link provided by Heather Lee.

        This is not “shouting you down”, this is a long winded request that you bring actual scientific evidence to support your concerns.

      • JerryA February 19, 2016 / 3:28 pm

        Mr. Wright,
        The people in favor of vaccination are not trying to make you prove a negative. You have it backwards. It is people who are trying to make scientists prove that vaccines and thimerosal are “completely safe” who want us to prove a negative. Studies after studies have been done showing no significant ill effects from vaccines and thimerosal with respect to autism. That is as close as we’re going to get to proving they are “safe”, but it’s never going to be good enough for the anti-vaccine people. Vaccines have one-in-millions serious side effects, whereas the diseases they prevent have serious effects in the one-in-thousands range. That is a darned good trade in risk, one of the best in medicine. As far as thimerosal, there have been no studies showing widespread side effects, however subtle. None. It’s a fall-back argument, after the MMR/autism argument was destroyed, yet people are still using both in bad faith. As far as relative risk, just one tuna sandwich has more mercury in it than all of the thimerosal in a lifetime of doses of all vaccines you can ever get, combined, yet no one is calling for banning tuna for children or anyone else. Finally, your last argument about stopping lawsuits to “keep vaccine-makers from going out of business under the weight of mounting lawsuits.” is yet another anti-vax argument based upon misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Vaccine makers can be sued, in a special court that makes it easier for plaintiffs, not harder on them. There are a list of side effects that are automatic wins. Even so, a bad argument in that court will still be thrown out, and claiming thimerosal causes autism is one of them because there is no link. Colin has written all about that court in a previous post.

        • Randy Wright February 19, 2016 / 3:43 pm

          If the studies cited in my link above are accurate, that claim of “no studies showing widespread side effects” is in error.

          And I’ll repeat my statement that neither Mr. Kennedy nor I am ‘anti-vaccine,” and your attempting to manipulate the discussion with that argument.

          • JerryA February 19, 2016 / 4:08 pm

            Your only link to any research, as opposed to opinion pieces in the popular press, is the one to the FDA website, which states clearly that after many years of research, the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is no connection whatsoever between thimerosal and autism. Furthermore, there are no unambiguous links between neurological problems and thimerosal, but out of an abundance of caution the FDA will move towards mercury-free vaccines wherever possible. The FDA states “The FDA is continuing its efforts to reduce the exposure of infants, children, and pregnant women to mercury from various sources.” That does not mean that RFK Jr. is otherwise correct- most of his arguments are fringe and based upon a misunderstanding of science, not based upon real science. RFK Jr’s arguments lead one to not vaccinate, making him anti-science, anti-medicine and putting him firmly in the anti-vaccine camp. Note the FDA’s phrase “various sources” of mercury. RFK Jr is not anti-mercury, because if he were, then he’d talk about stopping people’s exposure to mercury from coal-fired power plants and tuna, but never mention vaccines at all. The relative amount of mercury in vaccines is tiny compared with those other sources. But what does he (and you) talk against? QED

            • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:58 pm

              Care to address Kennedy’s claim about thimerosal in other medicines?

              Anyway, I’d like to thank everyone for an “empathetic experience.”

              I now know how Ralph Nader feels.

              • Chris February 22, 2016 / 1:16 am

                Who? Which institution is where that epidemiologist teach? Can you give us the PMIDs of the studies he did on thimerosal and autism. Thank you very much.

                By the way, where are those copious PMIDs from qualified reputable studies on thimerosal and autism we have been asking for. Remember, going to law school does not make a person qualified in epidemiology.

      • Chris February 20, 2016 / 12:36 pm

        “Well, it looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest (not on purpose, but I welcome actual discussion).”

        I tried to tell you Kennedy was a crank, and to not bring up anything by him. But did you learn? No.

        We asked you to cite PubMed indexed articles by reputable qualified researchers, and I would hope that “reputable” means one has not lost their legal right to practice medicine like Mark Geier. But did you figure that out? No.

        Instead you brought up the old hoary nonsense that many of us have been dealing for well over a decade. Some of from even before Kennedy stepped in with his 2005 error filled screed in Salon and Rolling Stone.

        Some of us who have responded to you are in the comment section of this over a decade old blogpost:

        Do you realize how annoying it is to see the same old nonsense being repeated by someone who claims to have done “research.”

        • lizditz February 20, 2016 / 1:16 pm

          Looks like Mr. Wright dropped his polished bits of feces and ran away, Chris.

          • Chris February 20, 2016 / 6:09 pm

            Perhaps he has gone off to do more “research.”

          • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:17 pm

            I’m trusting Jennifer is reading this and noting how wholly inappropriate your personal attack is.

            You certainly expended a lot of flatulence using 2005 citations to address more contemporary sources, which I provided, your denial not withstanding.

            BTW, denial is something I am an expert on, and your behavior is textbook (along with a heaping helping of cognitive dissonance).

            • reissd February 21, 2016 / 1:08 pm

              Note that people have addressed your comment in detail and matter-of-fact repeatedly. You do not engage with the data. You have brought no new data – and Kennedy’s claims haven’t changed since 2005. An opinion in 2015 based on no new data (and ignoring extensive data from before) can certainly be answered with sources from 2009 that address the data.

              I’ve read Kennedy’s book. It relies heavily on the Geier’s work. It ignores the many carefully controlled studies that looked at this issue or dismisses them using conspiracy theories. It’s not letting the science speak. It’s ignoring the science.

              • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 12:52 am

                Actually, according to this, all of those studies from the CDC, and there were only nine of them, all of them epidemiological.

                Here you go, folks. This Bob’s for you…


                Some relevant extractions from this video:

                I am seriously pro-vaccinations.

                I believe vaccinations save millions of lives.

                97% of the people who sit on those committees have the same kind of conflicts that Paul Offit has.

                CDC–Immunology Safety Division:

                Nine studies that the CDC has generated. That prove vaccines are not connoted to autism. They’re all epidemiological studies.

                Statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do.

                Insiitute of Medicine in 1999 told CDC you have to do biological studies and clinical studies because molecules don’t lie, but statistics do.

                I’m good at spotting junk science.

                He (Dr. Bill Thompson) invoked “Federal Whistle Blower Status”… and gave a series of taped statements in which he said for ten years the scientists in his division have been required by their bosses (named)… to lie on their reports, to manipulate data….

                (This was in 2015 if I’m reading the dates correctly. I welcome fact-checking in that area)

                He asked to be subpoenaed by Congress.

                All of the checks-and-balances have been neutralized.

                They (the newspapers) will not publish me if I use the “V” word.

                Humor break: I don’t think he’s referring to the “usual banned V-word.”

                I Googled the moderator, and he is Dr. Robert Hendren, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine.


                And I’m sorry, Reissd, but while your perceptions “tell you” they answered me in detail, and I find that “repeatedly” to contain a very subtle, passive-message that is manipulative rather than substantial.

                Now would you to put your expository writing and critical analysis skills up against mine. I’m not a scientist, but I translate the work of several of them, and I left an MA program here in good standing because of financial considerations, and not because I couldn’t read and write.

                I see the references to Dr. Thompson they cite are not current, unlike Mr. Kennedy’s, but rather a decade old.

                Hang onto your denial, however; it’s far more comforting than allowing troubling intrusive thoughts into one’s gray cells.

                And seriously, Colin, I’ll grant you that Wakefield is charlatan; after you’ve been sufficiently exorcised, etc. (I’ll even buy you a drink sometime), I’d like to see Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. afforded the same opportunity.

                • reissd February 22, 2016 / 2:29 pm

                  The references you got to the CDCwhistleblower claims – the references above – were from this year or last. Here is one more – it was written in 2014 when the problem started but updated in 2016, and has links to all the blogposts on the issues. So on this, too, you are incorrect.


                  When I pointed out your comments were addressed in detail I was referring, for example, to Heather’s detailed, thoughtful response to the references Kennedy used and Liz’s detailed responses. None of which you responded to matter-of-fact.

                  In response, you provide a presentation by Robert Kennedy. I’m afraid that Mr. Kennedy repeating the CDC whistleblower claims and his opinion in the presentation don’t change the science.

                  You have yet to address the detailed explanation why Mr. Kennedy’s views don’t hold water.

  7. anon February 18, 2016 / 9:43 am

    Hey, Green Text geezer, please don’t use that title for mister Wakefield. Medical doctors are a respectable group and deserve some degree of reverence. Wakefield, the charlatan and fraud, does not.

    Also, he has been struck off the General Medical Council’s register – he cannot call himself a doctor, and is is technically wrong to do so. And as we know from the Church of Futurama and the episode with the Central Bureaucracy, being technically correct is the best sort of correct.

    Of course, the GMC striking him off is just a sign of The Powers That Be pulling strings, ’cause autism (or other miscellaneous side effects) helps their power aspirations, somehow:facepalm:

  8. Uncle Ron February 18, 2016 / 9:52 am

    I got about halfway through the Q&A and couldn’t shake the impression that I was listening to Hillary explain that there were no classified documents on her server.

  9. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 11:10 am

    I want to emphasize a point that was left out of Colin’s interview with Wakefield. Matt Carey said it most strongly; I’m quoting him here (with emphasis added)

    Also, consider this: before Thompson, Wakefield and Hooker didn’t talk about the issues of racial/ethnic minorities. For the most part, the entire “autism is caused by vaccines” community have ignored minority communities. Why? Because they are a clear example that the vaccine hypothesis is a failure. Prevalence estimates for racial/ethnic minority groups have been typically much lower than for Caucasians (Hispanics are diagnosed at a rate of 1/3 that of Caucasians in California. And this has been consistent for over 10 years.) This presents a huge problem for the likes of Hooker and Wakefield. If vaccines are a major cause of autism, why do minority groups have such low prevalences? If they were honest about their own beliefs, they would be calling for a study into the “protective” effect for minorities. But they don’t. More importantly, if they were real autism advocates they would be calling for better diagnosis, better awareness, better services for these under served communities. Instead they have just ignored these minority communities. That is, until they could use them as part of their campaign against vaccines.

    And they still aren’t calling for better services better diagnosis in these underserved groups. Instead they are just trying to recruit as many parents as they into the vaccines-cause-autism camp. Imagine being convinced, wrongly, that you participated in injuring your own child. The charlatans who prey on our community with fake–and sometimes abusive–therapies rely on the vaccine/autism idea for the majority of their business.

    The vaccines-cause-autism story is built on lies and it is very damaging. There has been nothing since the Kanner/Bettleheim “refrigerator parent” idea that has caused so much damage to our community. And that is the real story here. A group of people perpetuating a failed idea by carefully crafting a story.

    Matt Carey, The William Thompson Documents. There’s no whistle to blow.

    • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:49 pm

      Interesting how the author of this one managed to conflate Wakefield with Wlliam Thompson,

      Rhetotical manipulation? It looks that way to me…

      • reissd February 21, 2016 / 1:10 pm

        If you had been following the Thompson story, you would be aware it was brought to the public in an (inflammatory) video by Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker and that much of the claims since were from HOoker and Wakefield, not directly from Thompson.

        In other words, they are primary speakers here.

        In what way does the author, in your view, manipulate? What about the quote above is inaccurate or manipulative in your opinion? Mentioning Wakefield isn’t: he’s a player on this.

        • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 12:56 am

          So what did Thompson actually say (in 2015)?

          I’d be interested in hearing it, otherwise I’ll flog you with that “straw man slayer” anecdote, and I would be unrepentant. You’re the one who preached the virtues of repetition.

          • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 1:46 pm

            Mr. Wright, if you had actually been following the issue, you would be aware that William Thompson has never spoken publicly. Brian Hooker had been recording telephone conversations with Mr. Thompson, which Hooker released, aided by Andrew Wakefield. Then another attorney, Kevin Barry, released a book which had transcripts of some (but not all) of the Hooker-Thompson conversations.

            The only statement Thompson has made was through his attorney, In August 2014. Here it is in its entirety.

            August 27, 2014 Press Release, “Statement of William W. Thompson, Ph.D., Regarding the 2004 Article Examining the Possibility of a Relationship Between MMR Vaccine and Autism”



            My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.

            I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

            I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

            My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub­ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.

            I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his beliefthat CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.

            I am grateful for the many supportive e-mails that I have received over the last several days.

            I will not be answering further questions at this time. I am providing information to Congressman William Posey, and of course will continue to cooperate with Congress. I have also offered to assist with reanalysis of the study data or development of further studies. For the time being, however, I am focused on my job and my family.

            Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists inside or outside the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.

            My colleagues and supervisors at the CDC have been entirely professional since this matter became public. In fact, I received a performance-based award after this story came out. I have experienced no pressure or retaliation and certainly was not escorted from the building, as some have stated.


            • Chris February 22, 2016 / 2:15 pm

              If he had been following the issues he would know that it was about the MMR vaccine, which never contained thimerosal, and that RFK, jr is a crank not an authority.

  10. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    Mr Wright seems unaware that Kennedy’s claims have been repeatedly addressed. For example:

    “Despite the obvious scientific evidence supporting the safety of vaccines, there is no reasoning with people like Kennedy who are so emotionally invested in the subject, no matter how strong the argument against their beliefs, Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told MedPage Today.

    ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan had this to say: “In light of this book, it is important to remind people about the safety of vaccines. A figure such as Kennedy who commands a strong following has the potential to negatively influence the public with these anti-scientific and dangerous views. We in the public health community must make sure that his message does not influence parents to leave their children unvaccinated. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization agree that thimerosal is safe as it is currently used in those few vaccines which still have it in trace amounts.”

    • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      I’m sure you find “appeals to authority” comforting and a useful balm for your conscience. It would be too terrifying and unsettling to consider the possibility Mr. Kennedy may be right.

      “These unscientific and dangerous views?” How is potential truth dangerous? Well, to special interests and their mouthpieces, I suppose it could be.

      I’m not sure someone has used a metaphor I’m fond of describe your “because I said so” arguments. Here you go:

      Take a set of old clothes and stuff liberally with straw. Obtain a pillow case or paper sack and paint a face on it. Fill it as well and attach to the torso. Douse with something inflammable such as gasoline and apply a match.

      Stand back and admire the conflagration you’ve created and proclaim victory for the forces of enlightenment.

  11. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    Another example for Mr. Wright (from a handout I wrote for Kennedy’s anti-SB277 tour.

    Robert F. Kennedy on Vaccines:

    While he insists he is not anti-vaccine, Robert F. Kennedy has for many years promoted misleading claims about vaccines, repeating incorrect themes used by anti-vaccine activists – especially that thimerosal in vaccines is dangerous and that there is a grand conspiracy to hide vaccine risks. However well-intentioned, he has become a spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement, making statements that are untrue and that can harm children’s health.

    He is not a credible source on vaccine issues.

    Thimerosal in Vaccines:
    In 2005 Kennedy published an article called “Deadly Immunity” in both Salon and Rolling Stone, claiming that thimerosal in vaccines was dangerous and connected to “childhood neurological disorders.” He also claimed that government scientists and doctors knew about this “danger”, and that the scientists and doctors engaged in a conspiracy to hide that fact. After the story was published, Salon went on to publish five corrections that completely undermined Kennedy’s main claims, and finally retracted the story completely.

    See for a discussion of the problems in the article.

    Also see Seth Mnookin, The Panic Virus, chapter 18, “A Conspiracy of Dunces” (pages 221-227) for a detailed analysis of how Kennedy misrepresented and twisted written testimony.

  12. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:26 pm

    More on Robert Kennedy for Mr. Wright:

    Numerous studies in several countries examined whether thimerosal in vaccines caused autism or other more broadly-defined neurological disorders. No connection was found. In spite of these robust studies with hundreds of thousands of subjects, Kennedy continues to insist that thimerosal is dangerous.

    • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:31 pm

      Citations please?

      Your claims of “robust studies” is erroneous. I note once again you’re speaking as if its 2005, and it’s 2015

        • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 1:13 am

          Because they have been supplanted by other studies, sir, and because, as Mr. Kennedy notes, they are epidemiological studies rather than scientific or biological.

          Pay attention to that video where Mr. Kennedy addresses about the issue of autism rates in Denmark, and how they actually dropped 33% after thimerosal was banned.

          And as for the two links you provided, in the Polish study I read:

          only the results of BSID-II at the 36th month and WISC-R at the 9th year were significantly higher for those exposed to TCVs.

          Please listen again to what Mr. Kennedy said about “statistics” and how they can be manipulated.

          And as far as the second study goes, I’m having trouble fathoming what the original Japanese said; the language in the translation is questionable, at best.

          • Heather Vee February 22, 2016 / 6:47 am

            Randy, I already criticized RFK Jr’s claim about a decline in autism in Denmark.

            It is based on one table in a study looking at the recurrence risk in families that already have one child with ASD. When you look at overall incidence, it increased from 1995-2010. But I noticed that you are ignoring all of my criticisms . . .

            • reissd February 22, 2016 / 2:33 pm

              Aside from the point about the Denmark studies, which new studies can you point to that have supplanted the existing abundant literature on thimerosal? Studies showing thimerosal in vaccines is an issue. Not Mr. Kennedy’s opinion.

              The fact that the Polish study pointed out that there was one spurious result – a result showing that thimerosal containing vaccines were, in one group, correlated with higher IQ – actually shows that there was no manipulation, just full disclosure of the results.

              The Japanese study is from Vaccine. An English language journal.

              • Chris February 22, 2016 / 10:52 pm

                How would he know? He never clicks on the links to read them, he doesn’t even read the comments.

          • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 2:44 pm

            Randy White wrote,

            Because they have been supplanted by other studies

            What studies? Cite references or you are merely parroting the opinion of others.

            • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 2:49 pm

              Wright. I apologize for misspelling your surname, Mr. Wright. I have a close friend whose name is Randy White.

    • lizditz February 21, 2016 / 4:17 pm

      These are studies on children, not primates.

      Study following 318 children: “Early exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines and children’s cognitive development. A 9-year prospective birth cohort study in Poland.” Mrozek-Budzyn D1, Majewska R, Kiełtyka A, Eur J Pediatr. 2015 Mar;174(3):383-91. doi: 10.1007/s00431-014-2412-5. Epub 2014 Sep 5.

      Case-control study in 3 managed care organizations (MCOs) of 256 children with ASD and 752 controls matched by birth year, gender, and MCO “Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of Autism” Pediatrics, Cristofer S. Price, ScM, William W. Thompson, PhD et al. (September 13, 2010)

      “Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System” Archives of General Psychiatry, Robert Schechter, MD, MSc and Judith K. Grether, PhD (January 2008) “The DDS data do not show any recent decrease in autism in California despite the exclusion of more than trace levels of thimerosal from nearly all childhood vaccines. The DDS data do not support the hypothesis that exposure to thimerosal during childhood is a primary cause of autism.”

      Study on 1047 children between the ages of 7 and 10 who had vaccine-related thimerosal exposure. . “Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years”
      New England Journal of Medicine, Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al. (September 27, 2007) “Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years.”

      Study on 321 children with autism spectrum disorders. “Lack of Association Between Rh Status, Rh Immune Globulin in Pregnancy and Autism” American Journal of Medical Genetics, Judith H. Miles and T. Nicole Takahashi (May 2007) “Rh(-) status is no higher in mothers of children with autism than in the general population, exposure to antepartum RhIg, preserved with thimerosal is no higher for children with autism and pregnancies are no more likely to be Rh incompatible. ”

      Longitudinal study on >14,000 UK children. ”Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association” Pediatrics, John Heron and Nick Andrews, PhD and Jean Golding, DSc (September 2004) Results. Contrary to expectation, it was common for the unadjusted results to suggest a beneficial effect of thimerosal exposure. For example, exposure at 3 months was inversely associated with hyperactivity and conduct problems at 47 months; motor development at 6 months and at 30 months; difficulties with sounds at 81 months; and speech therapy, special needs, and “statementing” at 91 months. After adjustment for birth weight, gestation, gender, maternal education, parity, housing tenure, maternal smoking, breastfeeding, and ethnic origins, we found 1 result of 69 to be in the direction hypothesized—poor prosocial behavior at 47 months was associated with exposure by 3 months of age (odds ratio: 1.12; 95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.23) compared with 8 results that still supported a beneficial effect.

      Retrospective study on 16,717 children in a US HMO. ”Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintance Organization Database”
      Pediatrics, Thomas Verstraeten, MD (November 2003)CONCLUSIONS: No consistent significant associations were found between Thimerosal Containing Vaccines (TCVs) and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

      Retrospective study of 467,450 Danish study, comparing children vaccinated with a thimerosal-containing vaccine with children vaccinated with a thimerosal-free formulation of the same vaccine. ”Association Between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism” Journal of the American Medical Association, Anders Hviid, MSc (October 2003) RESULTS…The risk of autism and other autistic-spectrum disorders did not differ significantly between children vaccinated with thimerosal-containing vaccine and children vaccinated with thimerosal-free vaccine.

      Retrospective case analysis of all Danish children with autism diagnoses (N=956) ”Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data”
      Pediatrics, Kreesten M. Madsen, MD (September 2003). During the period 1971-2000, there was no trend toward an increase in the incidence of autism during that period when thimerosal was used in Denmark, up through 1990. From 1991 until 2000 the incidence increased and continued to rise after the removal of thimerosal from vaccines, including increases among children born after the discontinuation of thimerosal.

      Retrospective study comparing exposure to thimerosal and autism diagnoses. ”Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: Lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association”
      American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Paul Stehr-Green, DrPh, MPH (August 2003)In all three countries, the incidence and prevalence of autism-like disorders began to rise in the 1985–1989 period, and the rate of increase accelerated in the early 1990s. However, in contrast to the situation in the United States, where the average Thimerosal dose from vaccines increased throughout the 1990s, Thimerosal exposures from vaccines in both Sweden and Denmark—already low throughout the 1970s and 1980s—began to decrease in the late 1980s and were eliminated in the early 1990s.

      Review article discussing the proposal that autism is a novel form of mercury poisoning “Thimerosal and Autism?” Pediatrics, Karen Nelson, MD (March 2003). Mercury poisoning and autism both affect the central nervous system but the specific sites of involvement in brain and the brain cell types affected are different in the two disorders as evidenced clinically and by neuropathology. Mercury also injures the peripheral nervous system and other organs that are not affected in autism. Nonspecific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irrational fears may occur both in mercury poisoning and in children with autism, but overall the clinical picture of mercurism— from any known form, dose, duration, or age of exposure—does not mimic that of autism. No case history has been encountered in which the differential diagnosis of these 2 disorders was a problem. Most important, no evidence yet brought forward indicates that children exposed to vaccines containing mercurials, or mercurials via any other route of exposure, have more autism than children with less or no such exposure.

      Case controlled study on 61 infants comparing infants receiving TCV and TFC. ”Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: A descriptive study” The Lancet, Michael Pichichero, MD (November 2002) Administration of vaccines containing thiomersal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants. Ethylmercury seems to be eliminated from blood rapidly via the stools after parenteral administration of thiomersal in vaccines.

    • lizditz February 21, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      Two related recent primate studies:

      “Administration of thimerosal-containing vaccines to infant rhesus macaques does not result in autism-like behavior or neuropathology.” Gadad BS, Li W, Yazdani U, Grady S, Johnson T, Hammond J, Gunn H, Curtis B, English C, Yutuc V, Ferrier C, Sackett GP, Marti CN, Young K, Hewitson L, German DC. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 6;112(40):12498-503. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1500968112. Epub 2015 Sep 28. Discussion: hese data indicate that administration of TCVs and/or the MMR vaccine to rhesus macaques does not result in neuropathological abnormalities, or aberrant behaviors, like those observed in ASD.

      “Examination of the safety of pediatric vaccine schedules in a non-human primate model: assessments of neurodevelopment, learning, and social behavior.”
      Curtis B, Liberato N, Rulien M, Morrisroe K, Kenney C, Yutuc V, Ferrier C, Marti CN, Mandell D, Burbacher TM, Sackett GP, Hewitson L. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jun;123(6):579-89. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408257. Epub 2015 Feb 18. Conclusions: This comprehensive 5-year case-control study, which closely examined the effects of pediatric vaccines on early primate development, provided no consistent evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits or aberrant behavior in vaccinated animals.

    • lizditz February 21, 2016 / 4:30 pm

      Meta analysis of studies to date. “Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies.” Taylor LE, Swerdfeger AL, Eslick GD. Vaccine. 2014 Jun 17;32(29):3623-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. Epub 2014 May 9. Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.

  13. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:28 pm

    More on Robert Kennedy for Mr. Wright:

    In his new book, “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak”, Kennedy accepts uncritically articles by the father and son team of David and Mark Geier. The Geiers’ research methodologies have been widely criticized . Dr. Geier has now been delicensed in all twelve states he was licensed in for unethical medical practices, including prescribing medicine that chemically castrates to autistic children, and the Geiers’ work is universally rejected by scientists. But Kennedy relies on them to reject a large body of work to the contrary, work done by scientists from different teams in different countries.

  14. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    More for Mr. Wright on Kennedy’s counterfactual views on vaccines.

    In his 2005 article mentioned above, “Deadly Immunity,” Kennedy promoted the view of a meeting of scientists to discuss preliminary findings of a study of thimerosal in vaccines as a conspiracy to hide data – against the facts.

    Paul A. Offit, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, And The Search For A Cure discusses the actual facts of the Simpsonwood meeting and Verstraten’s papser and revisions on pages 91 to 91-95 (Columbia University Press. 2010).

  15. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 4:36 pm
  16. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 5:55 pm

    The Natural News article quoted Lisa Sykes of Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD).

    Dr. Mark Geier has a number of business interests which are all predicated upon the disproved hypothesis that the vaccine preservative thiomersal causes autism spectrum disorders. The corporate headquarters of:

    ASD Centers, LLC (,
    CoMed ( and
    Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc. ( a

    re located at a home owned by Mark Geier. David Geier, Janet Kern, James M. Love, Carmen G. Chaigneau and Lisa Sykes all hold various positions in these businesses/charities. Additionally, Janet Kern is on the Board of Directors of Geir Bjørklund’s Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM) which also has a strong focus on a mercury causation for autism.

    Mark Geier, David Geier, Janet Kern and Lisa Sykes are all involved with an elaborate scheme to pay themselves for their own studies with monies from their own non-profit businesses as evidenced from their funding declaration for this study and several other studies along with three years of tax returns, 2011, 2012 and 2013 so far.

  17. lizditz February 19, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Randy Write wrote:

    I would like to see more in-depth discussion of the thimerosal issue (for the lay people out there, it’s a mercury compound that was used as a preservative for generations and was mostly removed from usage quite some time ago, but it persists in multi-dose applications because of the difficulty of providing refrigeration in hot climate regions).

    Mr. Wright is incorrect in asserting that thimerosal is only needed in “hot climates” that lack access to refrigeration. Thimerosal is used in multi-dose vials in the US because:

    Thimerosal is added to vials of vaccine that contain more than one dose (multi-dose vials) to prevent growth of germs, like bacteria and fungi. Introduction of bacteria and fungi has the potential to occur when a syringe needle enters a vial as a vaccine is being prepared for administration. Contamination by germs in a vaccine could cause severe local reactions, serious illness or death. In some vaccines, preservatives, including thimerosal, are added during the manufacturing process to prevent germ growth.

    Randy White went on to write, [people]

    have questioned the research and suggested that special interests have stifled inquiry into that area.

    Stifled the inquiry? On what planet? I’m looking at I think 15 studies with thousands of subjects specifically on thimerosal’s effect on children.

    Stand by while I re-format the study citations to include the number of subjects in each study and the studies’ findings.

    • Randy Wright February 21, 2016 / 12:44 pm

      Wrong football player, dear. Randy White played for the Cowboys.

      My namesake played for the Packers, and the University of Wisconsin. And yes, the few times I’ve traveled to the Badger State, I’ve been treated like royalty.

      My advice is reformat your cognitive operations upstairs and perhaps acquire an open mind.

      • Heather Vee February 21, 2016 / 1:12 pm

        . . . . but not so open that your brain falls out.

        Randy, are you planning to respond to the specific sampling of criticisms I gave on your link to RFK, Jr.’s recent website?

      • lizditz February 21, 2016 / 4:31 pm

        I have no idea what “Wrong football player, dear. Randy White played for the Cowboys.” refers to.

        • Chris February 22, 2016 / 1:33 am

          You spelled his last name wrong, it is “Wright.” An English exception that confuses many for whom English is a second language.*

          Which is funny, because his responses on this blog reveal he has several reading comprehension issues. Even though he was told that RFK, jr is a crank and to bring up real citations… he continually cites an idiotic lawyer on this continent and references stupid websites as citations.

          English is my second language, Mr.. Wright do not make me express myself in my first language, which I speak as well as any three year old. Yes, that is what I think of your “arguments.” Especially after you continue to evoke the idiotic “argument from authority RFK, jr” argument even though we have repeatedly asked you for PubMed indexed studies from reputable (not a Geier) qualified (not a lawyer) researchers.

        • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 1:42 am

          Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I made a one-time error in spelling his surname and he goes off on that? While ignoring many other substantive challenges?

          • Chris February 22, 2016 / 12:29 pm

            Yep. It really does reveal his honesty and intentions. He has been told repeatedly that RFK, jr is not an authority, but has been making the same idiotic outdated false claims for a decade, and to not mention him. But there he goes again and again. He seems to be an RFK, jr fan boi.

            • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 3:49 pm

              Seriously, are personal attacks all you have?


              • reissd February 22, 2016 / 3:52 pm

                The fact that people have written long, substantive responses to your comments shows that no, that’s not all they have.

              • Chris February 22, 2016 / 10:57 pm

                It is an observation of your behavior, not an “attack.” Despite us providing several links on RFK, jr showing his idiocy the subject, you continue to push his flawed and very outdated agenda.

                Now where are those several PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers done using actual humans showing thimerosal in vaccines cause the harm you claim.

                • Randy Wright February 23, 2016 / 8:31 am

                  See Orwell, George, for my take on your posts.

                  “Most political language and writing are defence of the indefensible.”

  18. lizditz February 21, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    Relative to his claims of harm from thimerosal in vaccines, I wonder if Mr. Wright is familiar with the Omnibus Autism Hearing? This combined hearing examined three autism causation theories.

    Here is a helpful summary, as each of the decisions is quite long.

    Each claim rested on one of three theories of causation: (Theory 1) that measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines and thimerosal-containing vaccines can combine to cause autism; (Theory 2) that thimerosal-containing vaccines, by themselves, can cause autism; and (Theory 3) that MMR vaccine, by itself, can cause autism (this third theory was later abandoned). In 2007, three Special Masters heard three test cases

    Theory 2 test cases

    From Patricia Campbell-Smith, Special Master, in the case of William P. Mead, No. 03-215V: “The underpinnings for the opinions of petitioners’ experts are scientifically flawed, and in the absence of a sound basis for the offered opinions of causation, those opinions cannot be credited.… Based on the developed record in this proceeding, the undersigned is unpersuaded that the thimerosal content of the prescribed childhood vaccines contributes to the development of autism as petitioners have proposed under this theory of general causation.” See page 165:

    From Denise K. Vowell, Special Master, in the case of Colin R. Dwyer, No. 03-1202V: “In essence, petitioners propose effects from mercury in TCVs [thimerosal-containing vaccines] that do not resemble mercury’s known effects on the brain, either behaviorally or at the cellular level. To prevail, they must show that the exquisitely small amounts of mercury in TCVs that reach the brain can produce devastating effects that far larger amounts experienced prenatally or postnatally from other sources do not. In order to account for this dichotomy, they posit a group of children hypersensitive to mercury’s effects, but the only evidence that these children are unusually sensitive is the fact of their ASD [autism spectrum disorder] itself. In an effort to render irrelevant the numerous epidemiological studies of ASD and TCVs that show no connection between the two, they contend that their children have a form of ASD involving regression that differs from all other forms biologically and behaviorally. World-class experts in the field testified that the distinctions they drew between forms of ASD were artificial, and that they had never heard of the ‘clearly regressive’ form of autism about which the petitioners’ epidemiologist testified. Finally, the causal mechanism petitioners proposed would produce, not ASD, but neuronal death, and eventually patient death as well. The witnesses setting forth this improbable sequence of cause and effect were outclassed in every respect by the impressive assembly of true experts in their respective fields who testified on behalf of respondent. Therefore, I hold that petitioners have failed to establish their entitlement to compensation, and their petition is denied.” See page 3:

    From George L. Hastings, Jr., Special Master, in the case of Jordan King, No. 03-584V: “…I conclude that the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ contentions. The expert witnesses presented by the respondent were far better qualified, far more experienced, and far more persuasive than the petitioners’ experts, concerning the key points. The numerous medical studies concerning the issue of whether thimerosal causes autism, performed by medical scientists worldwide, have come down strongly against the petitioners’ contentions. Considering all of the evidence, I find that the petitioners have failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to the causation of autism. I further conclude that while Jordan King has tragically suffered from autism, the petitioners have also failed to demonstrate that his vaccinations played any role at all in causing that condition.” See page 2: King%20Decision.pdf

    Conclusion It is important to realize that the six test cases were those that, in the petitioners’ judgment, presented the clearest and strongest arguments for the proposition that vaccines had caused autism. It is therefore unlikely that any of the thousands of other Omnibus cases contain facts or circumstances that would lead to decisions different from those already rendered by the Special Masters and reviewing judges.

    In summary, parents’ attorneys chose the strongest possible cases they had, with the strongest possible testimony, and it was found wanting in the very low standard-of-evidence setting of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 1:16 am

      I thought we weren’t going to involve lawyers and legal decisions, but rather discuss the science.

      Did I miss something?

      Seriously, I remember an old mentor mine scolding me and saying “pay attention to what I’m saying.”

      That was over 25 years ago, and he’s still around, and since then, I’ve won a few rounds.

      Thanks for playing.

      • Chris February 22, 2016 / 1:23 am

        Yay! You finally figured out a lawyer like Kennedy is not a scientist. So where are the several PubMed indexed studies from qualified reputable researchers that the thimerosal that was never in the MMR vaccine is the source of your concerns? Just lay them out for us, just make sure they are not done in petri dishes, mice or conducted by lawyers, finance professors, journalist, chemical engineers or geologists. We seriously only want those that are qualified.

        Plus doctors who have been legally stripped of their right to practice medicine like Wakefield, Fudenberg and Geier are not reputable. Make sure nothing you link to references any of them.

  19. lizditz February 22, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    Relative to Thompson for Randy Wright:

    On August 25, 2015, Kevin Barry published a book, Vaccine Whistleblower: Exposing Autism Research Fraud at the CDC, which consists of transcripts of conversations between Thompson and Hooker.

    Vaccine Whistleblower is mostly a collection of transcripts of four telephone conversations recorded between Brian Hooker and William Thompson on May 8 (Transcript #1), May 24 (Transcript #1), June 12 (Transcript #3), and July 28, 2014 (Transcript #4).

    The book was reviewed by a group composed of scientists, autism parents, and legal scholars:

    August 24, 2015 LB/RB, Matt Carey The Brian Hooker/William Thompson conversations
    August 24, 2015 Science Based Medicine (SBM), David Gorski MD Vaccine Whistleblower: An antivaccine “exposé” full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
    August 24, 2015 Science Based Medicine (SBM), Rene Najera (epidemiologist) Vaccine Whistleblower: BS Hooker and William Thompson try to talk about epidemiology
    August 24, 2015 SBM, Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law, Review of Vaccine Whistleblower: A Legal Perspective
    August 27, 2015 LB/RB, Matt Carey The Hooker/Thompson conversations: were significant analyses omitted from Hooker’s paper?
    September 3, 2015 LB/RB, Matt Carey Here’s a statement by William Thompson that they won’t be quoting
    September 4 2015 LB/RB, Matt Carey Another William Thompson quote they won’t tell you: “I will say the Geiers were not right”

    Dr. Gorski summarized the book as follows:

    The bottom line is that this book is nothing more than propaganda, and deceptive propaganda at that. The sad thing is that a formerly reputable scientist, William Thompson, provided the grist for the propaganda because he apparently has an ax to grind against his former co-investigators. In any other organization besides a government organization, Thompson would have been fired a long time ago for incompetence and being a troublemaker, and he would have deserved it. Instead, Thompson has kept his job and is, of necessity, treated with kid gloves.

    • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 4:16 pm

      Unlike anyone above (okay, that’s just a guess, but an educated one), I watched Mr. Kennedy’s program in its entirety, often backing up to make sure I was transcribing it correctly in the few notes I took. I’m going put up a few links to actual peer-reviewed material, and I note I’ve stayed away from popular media, and I note again, the attacks are on Geier, and not Thompson.

      We’ll start here, however. The author of the quotation was a scientist.

      “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

      Depending on the vaccines administered, at six months of age, infants today born to mothers who received flu vaccine during pregnancy could receive up to 71 mcg of ethyl mercury compared to 187.5 mcg prior to efforts to decrease the amount of thimerosal in infant vaccines. Additionally, the new CDC guidelines recommend that all children from 2 to 5 years of age receive an annual influenza vaccine. As a result, the total amount of thimerosal given to children under 5 years of age is almost what it was prior to 2000.

      There are other sources of mercury exposure in infants. Specifically, it should be recognized that influenza vaccine recommended for pregnant women and some rhogam preparations contain ethyl mercury in the form of thimerosal. Total mercury burden include other sources including dental amalgams (silver fillings), food especially some types of fish, and air pollution from coal-fired power plants and wildfires.

      A higher percentage of the total Hg in the brain was in the form of inorganic Hg for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys (34% vs. 7%). The results indicate that MeHg is not a suitable reference for risk assessment from exposure to thimerosal-derived Hg. Knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental toxicity of thimerosal is needed to afford a meaningful assessment of the developmental effects of thimerosal-containing vaccines.

      And unlike that “straw man slaying operation” above, the source for the following is not Andrew Wakefield.



      My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and
      Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.

      I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

      I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

      My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub­ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.

      I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his beliefthat CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.

      I would like to see if that citation above, referring to MMR comparisons with Thimerosal, and I’ll conclude with this “introduction” to Dr. Brian Hooker, the individual Dr. Thompson said “was recording his conversations.”

      Last item:

      I was ready to throw the Geiers under the bus, but after reading this, I’m not sure.

      In short, the State of Maryland Board of Physicians has no case, what-so-ever, against the Geiers, and certainly without any doubt, there was no reason for any immediate suspension, nor a suspension of any kind, of Mark Geier’s license to practice medicine. The charges that David Geier has been practicing medicine without a license are not well founded.

      And of course I am dismayed that they are linked with Wakefield, and I’ll be “following this with an open mind,” honest.

      BTW, pay no attention to that statement about Dr. David Gorski near the bottom…

      • reissd February 22, 2016 / 4:32 pm

        A. The studies above do address that. I would add that in California and other states – a point already stated, and that you ignored – laws forbid giving thimerosal containing vaccines to pregnant women – and the rate of autism is not lower. Here is another study that finds no link between prenatal mercury exposure and autism.

        B. If you had read Ms. Liz Ditz’ comments, she cited the statement above. And the links provided about this story addressed that statement. In detail.

        C. The events described in Mr. Bolen’s article had nothing to do with the proceedings that ended in removal of Dr. Geier’s license to practice and finding that his son practiced medicine without a license. This is an unrelated issue.

      • Chris February 22, 2016 / 5:08 pm

        “Unlike anyone above (okay, that’s just a guess, but an educated one), I watched Mr. Kennedy’s program in its entirety,…”

        That is because we know not to waste our time on a crank.

        “I’m going put up a few links to actual peer-reviewed material,…”

        I saw only on PubMed link, and that is to an eleven year old primate study paid for by SafeMinds. Here is a more recent better one done on primates also paid for by SafeMinds:

        You are revealing that you are not even reading the responses when you repeat both the verbiage and link that Liz Ditz posted to you. Also, the rest of the links are to known anti-vaccine sites, that are not exactly known for their scientific expertise or veracity.

        Mark Geier lost his medical license after several complaints by parents of children he “treated”, plus his son did procedures that require a medical license (he only has an undergraduate degree). Why would you think chemically castrating children just because they have autism is a good thing?

        • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 5:20 pm

          Chris, the link went to Burbacher 2005, “Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal”, which was not paid for by SafeMinds. You were thinking of one of the earlier Hewitson studies, which as you rightfully note have been superceded by the later, full-scale studies.

          • Chris February 22, 2016 / 5:32 pm

            Are you sure about that? Checks, yep, you are right. It was the Dr. Mady Hornig’s autistic mice study that was paid by SafeMinds, now I know which study Sallie Bernard was trying to get DTaP vaccines with thimerosal in 2001 (another comment that Mr. Wright ignored on this page). I know when the 2005 study came out it was noted to have serious flaws, but that was so long ago those blog posts have disappeared (Autism Diva, Bartholomew Cubbins and Prometheus). The only thing I saw was:

            Still the irony is the conclusion of the most recent study, and how much publicity SafeMinds is giving it. Really, Mr. Wright, you need to click on the link I posted. Click on it, read it, and report to us on what it says.

            • Chris February 22, 2016 / 5:50 pm

              Just another reason for my confusion. Also, I linked to that LBRB article above. Something else that Mr. Wright totally ignored.

              Though I find it highly amusing that he thinks NVIC, HealthImpact News, RFK, jr and Tim Bolen are reliable sources of information.

  20. lizditz February 22, 2016 / 4:43 pm

    Mr. Wright, what is your evidence that Tim Bolen, who publishes the Bolen Report, is a reliable, knowledgeable, and unbiased reporter on health issues and health policy?

  21. lizditz February 22, 2016 / 5:08 pm

    Interesting that Mr. Wright approvingly quotes Burbacher et al. 2005, Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal

    From my files, from a blogs that have gone off the web (although you can find most of the content in the WayBack Machine); critiques of Burbacher.

    Science researcher NotMercury* at Autism Street:

    In an earlier study, Burbacher describes the effects of high dose mercury toxicity and specific changes within the very types of brain cells studied by the Vargas group. He reports an increase in the number of microglial cells and a steady decline in the numbers of astrocytes. These findings are completely inconsistent with data from both Vargas et al. and Rezaie et al. studies. Number of microglia does not reflect state of activation.

    In fact, Burbacher reported no ill health effects to monkeys when injected with thimerosal at 1990s levels. A figure, by the way, that would have little bearing on children born after 1999. Burbacher must have recognized the difficulty in obtaining thimerosal-containing vaccines when he did this study, since he chose to add thimerosal to vaccines that were never designed to contain thimerosal. Conditions may have allowed for premature dealkylation and generation of inorganic mercury species prior to injection.

    ….While it’s true that it would have been accurate to describe thimerosal as 50% mercury by weight, molecular weight is probably meaningless in terms of toxicity (which is determined by the biological effects of a chemical compound on a given organism). While the work of Burbacher does provide insight into the rates at which different forms of mercury are removed from a primate’s brain and bloodstream. As far as proof of toxicity, or specifics of mercury actually causing autism go, conclusions based on this research, seem about a solid as a paper cup.

    Another longer article on the vagaries of the Burbacher 2005 study, cowritten by NotMercury and Do’c* (a physician)

    The sole conclusion to be drawn from Burbacher, 2005 is, and we quote:

    “The results indicate that methylmercury is not a suitable reference for risk assessment from exposure to thimerosal-derived Hg.”

    Which, when applied to Burbacher, 1996, renders any conclusions drawn from this study as irrelevant. Setting that aside for the moment, the Burbacher, 1996 study used more than 5 times the concentration of mercury before changes in brain cells were observed and those changes looked very different from those reported by Vargas, et al.

    So assuming that chronic exposure to methylmercury, not thimerosal, does result in an accumulation of inorganic mercury, Burbacher, 2005 shows a steady decline in the inorganic mercury fraction which never achieves levels required to induce changes in neuroglial populations that may, or may not, be associated with autism in some individuals.

    So. Does this paper “demonstrate that thimerosal in vaccines can cause autism”? No. The double weight of flaws in the study design and the the slender conclusions of the paper do not support the vaccine-causation hypothesis.

    Note: recall that NotMercury and Do’C (standing for Dad of Cameron) were both writing in 2005 and prior. Both have autistic children and used pseudonyms to protect the privacy of their children.

  22. Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 8:37 pm

    Well, one thing I’m not is a person who can evaluate statistics, so I’ll leave that to others. I did find this little video, however, of those evil, nefarious Geiers, père et fils…

    Those guys are awfully smooth and composed for such vile and deceitful sorts.

    Thanks, Colin and Jennifer, for this forum. I invite you to review the material I’ve cited, and as noted, I have no financial iron whatsoever in this particular bonfire.

    • reissd February 22, 2016 / 8:45 pm

      Of course they are smooth. They managed to convince parents to chemically castrate their children and lawyers to hire them as experts after the courts criticized them severely.

      If your measure is how smooth is the delivery you’re setting yourself up to be conned.

      I would like to remind readers that your claims and sources were addressed in depth and you ignored those answers and did not engage with them.

      YouTube are not good sources for science. Nor are Mr. Kennedy’s opinions.

      I suggest readers examine your sources – and examine the problem pointed out in them. It would be nice if you did that too.


      • Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 9:15 pm

        Well, my take is you’re putting your narcissistic expectations on me–and from my days as treatment pro, I am an expert on that subject, as is my mentor–and expecting me to agree with you.

        Nice of you to “Attack YouTube” rather than what the Geiers are saying.

        • Chris February 22, 2016 / 11:08 pm

          Because we have known what the Geiers have been saying for the past fifteen years. We don’t need to watch them do their typical sociopath lying on video.

          What we have been asking you for several days are PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers. The Geiers are neither reputable nor qualified. The latter part is discussed by special masters in several decisions, like this one:

        • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:09 am

          Randy, nothing Dorit wrote was narcissistic. And I think she’s correct that you haven’t addressed the information she provided. Are you sure that you’re evaluating sources evenhandedly, rather than giving a pass to those sources that confirm your beliefs?

    • Chris February 22, 2016 / 10:46 pm

      “Those guys are awfully smooth and composed for such vile and deceitful sorts.”

      That is a common trait among sociopaths. Ted Bundy was a very smooth character, and so is Bernie Madoff. Being smooth and composed is how these confidence men (and women) pull in their victims, who don’t realize they have been scammed until it is too late.

      • Randy Wright February 23, 2016 / 8:25 am

        Bundy smooth, my aunt Sadie. My mentor was the individual the State of Utah first sent to interview him when they caught him way back when. I was in my friend’s office the morning the State of Florida executed him. Dr. J described going to the prison with a female associate with Bundy walking by, and Ted fixating on the girl (the “ego states” within such individual’s personality structures are easily noticed when they are “in a trance”). My friend’s, “Hi Ted,” greeting went unnoticed. The lady was totally creeped out of course.

        Calling Bundy a sociopath is a simplistic dismissal and in addition to signaling your desperation, indicates an utter unfamiliarity with the subject (the old “multiple personality disorder” would’ve been more accurate, but “pathological narcissist” would be my choice at his point, and it is a subject I’m well-educated in).

        Law enforcement here in Utah knew what they had from the beginning; the issue was getting enough facts to identify him as a serial killer.

        Now try speaking to the facts, please. I’m not familiar enough with Madoff to make any in-depth analysis, but a good chunk of his success doubtless rested in the “gullibility of his victims,” and he was clearly an expert at spotting them. Add a lot of denial, and that’s how he was able to maintain his ponzi scheme. There were those who spotted him from the beginning, I understand, but they were ignored.

        Just a little lesson in “actual human evil” for you, not the junior high stuff you learned on television…

  23. Randy Wright February 22, 2016 / 9:26 pm

    And I’m going to order this book from Amazon as soon as I finish this post.

    I note that this one does have William Thompson’s conversations to Brian Hooker, and attempts to “derail those claims” have a) focused on Andrew Wakefield as the source, which is essentially irrelevant, and b) Dr. Thompson does not appear to have denied them, but rather has remained silent while invoking “Whistle Blower Protection.” Apparently, in these conversations, the subject of Thimerosal does come up, and there are claims that Thompson’s bosses saying, ““People that have been my supervisors have broken laws.”

    I recognize the link above is from a “biased source,” but I rate it higher than Discover magazine.

    • Heather Vee February 22, 2016 / 9:50 pm

      Wouldn’t want to give you too many spoilers, but the “Vaccine Whistleblower” book has also already been heavily criticized – making it pretty obvious that Thompson’s grasp of statistics isn’t so great, either. For example:

      Here’s a favorite quote: “If you accept that thimerosal ’causes’ tics, then you have to accept that it also increases IQ. There is no basis to accept one correlation and reject the other. The most parsimonious explanation is that this study found no differences not attributable to random chance.”

      • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 10:03 pm

        Earlier today (search for February 22, 2016 / 2:22 pm) I gave Mr. Wright the annotated list of reviews of “Vaccine Whistleblower”. An actual epidemiologist taking a dim view of Hooker’s grasp of epidemiology somehow prompts him to buy the book.

        • Chris February 22, 2016 / 11:10 pm

          I believe it has been soundly established that Mr. Wright neither reads our comments nor clicks on any of the links.

          • Randy Wright February 24, 2016 / 5:59 pm

            Once again, your vocabulary term from this old English teacher is ad hominem.

            From my point of view, all you have is cherry-picked–and biased–information, and perhaps I didn’t reply to them because I didn’t consider them worthwhile. I could make the same charges against all of you, of course.

            I’ll have more to say at an appropriate time.

      • lizditz February 22, 2016 / 10:12 pm

        Oh, and Heather Vee, relative to Hooker’s reanalysis of the deStefano 2004 data, I am wondering if you were familiar with Jim Frost’s (the statistician) analyses of the Hooker paper?

        The criticism that the study discarded data from African American subjects just doesn’t hold water. No data was discarded. For the subjects who were linked to birth certificates, the researchers performed additional analyses. In this light, I see a careful observational study that assessed the role of potential confounders.

        Thanks to the tiny sample and the uncontrolled confounding variable, Hooker’s results are both imprecise and biased. Consequently, my personal opinion is that Hooker’s results have no scientific value at all.

        • Heather Vee February 22, 2016 / 10:37 pm

          Yes, I had read Frost’s analyses before, but thank you for refreshing my memory. Hooker makes his claim about increased risk based on a subset sample size of less than 15 children, all vaccinated with the MMR much later than the recommended 12-15 month window. If there was any value to Hooker’s results, then he and his buddy Wakefield should be pushing for on-time vaccination!

          That is a comprehensive list of reviews re: the “Vaccine Whistleblower” book. I’ll have to read more tomorrow . . .

  24. Randy Wright February 24, 2016 / 8:55 pm

    I’ve sent “an e-mail through channels” to RFK, Jr. (Jennifer has been apprised of the identity of “my contact”), but while I was sifting through things I came across this physician, F. Edward Yazbak, and I noticed some really troubling aspects in his writings.

    The first was that he was a particularly lucid and skilled writer, probably more so than I am (I was getting things in print regularly in my teens, and my AP English Score was a coveted “5”; they didn’t have 6’s then). Fair enough; I always welcome “authentic humble fixing.”

    The second is that he boldly asserts there is considerable evidence that thimerosal in vaccines does cause harm, and he provided a huge list of citations, some exonerating it, and some that well, are liable to really upset my detractors above (see Dissonance, Cognitive).

    I’ll do the other folks’ work for them, and point out that yeah, this is from Ohmstead’s site. Please address the claims, however; it amounts to scattergun lazythink to attack Ohmstead.

    Thimerosal is not my primary area of interest. I therefore promise to be extra careful documenting the facts and even more careful commenting on them.

    I found 396 citations, the most recent of which (listed as # 1- PMID: 21350943) published on-line February 25, 2011. It was titled “Integrating Experimental (In Vitro and In Vivo) Neurotoxicity Studies of Low-dose Thimerosal Relevant to Vaccines” and authored by Dr. J G Dórea of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil. This article will be discussed in some detail later.

    Carry on, Dr. Ed…

    The statement suggests that before thimerosal was added to vaccines, Powell and Jamieson had shown that it was safe and effective. This is not exactly true because the FDA clearly states in the same document that Powell and Jamieson’s 1931 study “was not specifically designed to examine toxicity; 7 of 22 subjects were observed for only one day, the specific clinical assessments were not described, and no laboratory studies were reported.”

    And then there is the mention about thimerosal being the subject of “several studies” and the annotation “see Bibliography” immediately followed by “and has a long record of safe and effective use preventing bacterial and fungal contamination of vaccines”, all in a chapter about “Thimerosal in Vaccines”.

    Unlike most readers in a rush, I clicked on “Bibliography” to look at those studies I had never heard about. They were listed under the title:

    “Studies on Safety and Effectiveness of Thimerosal”

    The words “in vaccines” had disappeared and there were only 8 studies listed.

    The statement suggests that before thimerosal was added to vaccines, Powell and Jamieson had shown that it was safe and effective. This is not exactly true because the FDA clearly states in the same document that Powell and Jamieson’s 1931 study “was not specifically designed to examine toxicity; 7 of 22 subjects were observed for only one day, the specific clinical assessments were not described, and no laboratory studies were reported.”

    And then there is the mention about thimerosal being the subject of “several studies” and the annotation “see Bibliography” immediately followed by “and has a long record of safe and effective use preventing bacterial and fungal contamination of vaccines”, all in a chapter about “Thimerosal in Vaccines”.

    Unlike most readers in a rush, I clicked on “Bibliography” to look at those studies I had never heard about. They were listed under the title:

    “Studies on Safety and Effectiveness of Thimerosal”

    The words “in vaccines” had disappeared and there were only 8 studies listed.

    The extensive statement on the FDA web site did not include the most important fact of all: A safe range of level of exposure to ethyl mercury.

    It is worth mentioning that in spite of the present obsession with the subject, responsible agencies have yet to agree on the supposedly safe levels for methyl mercury: The EPA estimate of 0.1 µg/kg body weight/day is only a fraction of the WHO estimate of 0.47 µg/kg body weight/day.

    Okay, here’s a partial list of the PubMed articles I copy-and-pasted from the 396 he provided. As I said, some said no harm; others identified Thimerosal’s toxicity (and as I noted, it’s still present in flu vaccines, and many other medicines as well, and autism rates, well…)

    The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of thiomersal (TM) and its breakdown product ethylmercury (EtHg) on the thioredoxin system and NADP(+)-dependent dehydrogenases of the pentose phosphate pathway. Results show that TM and EtHg inhibited the thioredoxin system enzymes in purified suspensions, being EtHg comparable to methylmercury (MeHg). Also, treatment of neuroblastoma and liver cells with TM or EtHg decreased cell viability (GI50: 1.5 to 20μM) and caused a significant (p<0.05) decrease in the overall activities of thioredoxin (Trx) and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) in a concentration- and time-dependent manner in cell lysates. Compared to control, the activities of Trx and TrxR in neuroblastoma cells after EtHg incubation were reduced up to 60% and 80% respectively…

    Conclusion: The culmination of the research that examines the effects of Thimerosal in humans indicates that it is a poison at minute levels with a plethora of deleterious consequences, even at the levels currently administered in vaccines.

    2015 date on that one, folks…

    Conclusion:Though routine childhood vaccination may be an important public health tool to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases, the present study supports an association between increasing organic-mercury exposure from Thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines and the subsequent risk of specific delays in development among males and females.

    Thimerosal compromises human dendritic cell maturation, IL-12 production, chemokine release, and T-helper polarization.

    Environmental chemical exposures and autism spectrum disorders: a review of the epidemiological evidence.

      • Chris February 25, 2016 / 11:58 am

        Especially one that defended Alan Yurko who shook his girlfriend’s infant to death:

        It is a tossup which is more despicable: the defenders of baby killers (Yazbak and the late Buttram) or those who think autistic children should be chemically castrated (the Geiers).

        By the way, my firstborn had seizures as a two day old newborn. I know seizures can cause death by stopping breathing and/or the heart, but they cannot cause broken bones and brain bruising. Which is why this is a sensitive subject for me (and I cannot tell you how many times it has been “helpfully” suggested that the seizures were caused by a vaccine, even though he was two days old and it was almost five years before the HepB vaccine was given to infants).

      • Randy Wright February 25, 2016 / 11:38 pm

        Claimed that “Shaken Baby Syndrome is actually a ‘vaccine injury,” as Yazbak does?

        Please re-read my post about “Straw man Slaying” above:

        Dr. Yazbak knows how to phrase something, and to suggest that some of the “Shaken Baby Syndrome” cases may be from other causes is nothing but reasonable, open-minded analysis.

        Mid three-figure I.Q. stuff, in other words.

        Child abuse is a terrible crime and the failure to recognize it is unforgivable. An erroneous diagnosis of inflicted head trauma is just as tragic and the resulting destruction of a family is one of the gravest injustices of modern times. Many have recently questioned the existence of the so-called “Shaken Baby Syndrome” and the concept that the last caretaker must have been guilty. Careful reviews often uncover relevant findings that were missed or ignored. Recent pediatric vaccinations have been suspected as precipitating factors. A recent combination of seven antigens is the focus of this investigation.

        The problem:
        I have recently reviewed several pediatric records in order to determine whether infants diagnosed with “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS) had underlying medical conditions that could explain the findings attributed to inflicted trauma.

        As for Yurko, according to Rational Wiki, he was returned to prison for his 1996 offenses after a parole violation. I don’t have any further information, but I understand the parole violation was for going to Florida? I welcome more information if the following is inaccurate.

        Meanwhile, in Dr. Yazbak’s own words, and speaking only to the Yurko case, apparently many others were persuaded that Yurko’s guilt wasn’t “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Please, Colin, there’s your opening: I’m not a lawyer, and I definitely don’t play one on the Internet.

        In May 2003, the infant’’s mother filed a detailed complaint with the Florida Department of Health in which she listed 25 specific problems and charges against the pathologist/ME. An amended complaint by the father to the state Medical Examiners Commission followed in November 2003.
        After a probable-cause panel sustained 12 of the 25 complaints, the Commission met on Feb 12, 2004, placed the pathologist on probation until his appointment ended, and prohibited him from performing autopsies. On Apr 1, 2004, the Commission finalized the decision and informed the infant’’s mother. The disciplinary action was unprecedented in the history of the statewide ME
        system, which was established in 1970.
        At an evidentiary hearing in August 2004, the presiding judge reversed the verdict based mostly on errors and problems with the autopsy, the autopsy report, and the ME’’s own testimony at the
        original trial.


        • Chris February 26, 2016 / 12:03 pm

          I am ignoring you. I usually do that to those that use the term “ad honimen” wrong (I not saying you were wrong because of who or what you are, but because you are not answering questions from others, plus you do not seem to be reading their replies honestly).

          But I should tell you that along with using every bad anti-vaccine trope used over the past twenty years that you have now just invoked Scopie’s Law:

          In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing as a credible source loses you the argument immediately… and gets you laughed out of the room.

          By the way, that is not an “ad hominem”, it is actually an insult. The latter is something you seem to feel is a valid substitute to providing PubMed indexed studies by reputable and qualified researchers.

          • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 12:25 am

            Here’s a little math/logic lesson for you: An insult is a subset of of ad hominem.

            Unfortunately, your narcissism–and I am well-trained in that area and qualified to speak to the subject creates perceptual blinders that probably leaves you unable to realize that essential truth.

            Per the great Scottish Poet, Bobbie Burns, “Wud the gift the Giver givest, to see ourselves as others see us.”

        • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:15 am

          “Beyond the shadow of a doubt” is not the standard for criminal guilt. It’s a common error, and one I’ve made myself, but the standard is actually “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I have not reviewed the facts of the case carefully enough to know whether I would agree that Yurko is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; I certainly would not trust Whale.To, which seems to have no filter whatsoever for distinguishing reasonable from unreasonable commentary.

    • Heather Vee February 28, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      Just in case you missed it, Randy, I’ve offered comments on all the studies you linked so far (except for the last “Vaccination News” link) in reply to your comment from 8:18 AM on February 26th.

  25. Randy Wright February 26, 2016 / 8:18 am

    And while we’re attempting to vilify Dr. Yazbak for his work on behalf of Yurko, perhaps some would care to respond to this one about Dr. Paul Thoreson, an “autism researcher” who was a co-author of a study “A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism.

    Yazbak: That relatively inconsequential publication is still given a big play on pro-vaccination websites.

    Uh oh…

    On April 13, 2011, The United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia issued a Press release [14] titled


    The Press Release went on:

    Thorsen Allegedly Absconded With Over $1 Million

    ATLANTA, GA – POUL THORSEN, 49, of Denmark, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and money laundering based on a scheme to steal grant money the CDC had awarded to governmental agencies in Denmark for autism research.

    From my past years as an educator, I remember this expression:

    Hoisted on one’s own petard.

    • Heather Vee February 26, 2016 / 8:41 am

      Yep, Thorsen is a bad dude for stealing money from the CDC. But, he wasn’t the only author on the study, and the findings have been reviewed and verified by the other authors. Oh, and replicated by other studies.

      I’m still looking at the studies you linked, Randy – but here’s something to start with:

      In his overview of the FDA’s information on thimerosal, Yazbek glosses over the five epidemiological studies that the IOM reviewed in their 2004 report that showed no association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.
      Here is the full report from the IOM:

      The thimerosal-related studies that the IOM reviewed in their 2004 report that showed are discussed on pages 42 – 65 and summarized in Table 9 of the report. This overview also contains a description of why the ecological studies from Blaxill and the Geiers were seriously flawed and/or uninterpretable. In summary:

      “Epidemiological studies examining TCVs and autism, including three controlled observational studies (Hviid et al., 2003; Miller, 2004; Verstraeten et al., 2003) and two uncontrolled observational studies (Madsen et al., 2003; Stehr-Green et al., 2003), consistently provided evidence of no association between TCVs and autism, despite the fact that these studies utilized different methods and examined different populations (in Sweden, Denmark, the United States, and the United Kingdom). Other studies reported findings of an association. These include two ecological studies (Geier and Geier, 2003a, 2004a), three studies using passive reporting data (Geier and Geier, 2003a,b,d), one unpublished study using VSD data (Geier and Geier, unpublished), and one unpublished uncontrolled study (Blaxill, 2001). However, the studies by Geier and Geier cited above have serious methodological flaws and their analytic methods were nontransparent making their results uninterpretable, and therefore noncontributory with respect to causality (see preceding text for discussion). The study by Blaxill is uninformative with respect to causality because of its methodological limitations. Thus, based on this body of evidence, the committee concludes that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.

      As I previously mentioned, you need to keep in mind the hierarchy of evidence, Randy. Here’s a quick reference for you:

      So animal and cell studies rank well below human observational studies – observational studies like the five studies reviewed in the 2004 IOM report that showed no association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Cell and animal studies are important in understand how a substance might affect humans, but if the effects are not replicated in human studies, they aren’t particularly valuable on their own. I can’t remember the exact statistics, but its something like lss than 10% of animal studies end up having any relevance on a human scale; I’m sure it is even less for cell studies.

      To be continued . . .

      • Chris February 26, 2016 / 11:48 am

        I admire your patience. Personally I start ignoring those who refuse to answer questions and don’t seem to be actually reading the replies. He totally ignored the latest SafeMinds funded study,while still posting stuff by the Geiers (neither reputable nor qualified) and one by Blaxill (whose MBA does not qualify him to do medical/science studies).

        Plus I have a deja vu issue in this review of the almost twenty years of bad anti-vaccine arguments.

        • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 1:01 am

          Still more personal attacks? As I said, your narcissism extends to actual anger at those who would have the audacity to disagree with you, and you’ve offered an apple display of that reality from the get-go.

          (and yeah, calling you a narcissist is personal, but as I said, it’s a subject I’m familiar with, along with the perceptual blinders narcissists bring to the table)

          • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:17 am

            I ask that all the commenters refrain from insults, whether or not they are fallacious ad hominem arguments. For what it’s worth, I disagree that Chris is being narcissistic. I will not entertain further discussion of the point.

    • Heather Vee February 26, 2016 / 9:22 pm

      . . . Continued from above . . .

      Here’s a look at the first two specific studies you linked:


      This is an in vitro cell study using neuroblastoma (brain cancer) and hepatoma (liver cancer) cells to investigate the toxicity of thimerosal/ethylmercury. The study appears to investigate how thimerosal/ethylmercury inhibits the growth of cells.

      As an in vitro cell study, the strength of this evidence is not enough to challenge the conclusions of studies cohort studies in the IOM review.


      The authors on this review include the Geiers and Hooker – all repeatedly criticized in their previous work because of their flawed methodology, biases, often-undisclosed conflicts of interest (if I recall correctly, Hooker has a son with autism, and he has filed a case with the NVICP because he believes his son is “vaccine-injured”), lack of experience in any related fields, etc. But instead of dismissing the review outright, let me show you an example of why the review should be dismissed, based on which studies the authors chose to include – and which studies the authors failed to include – presumably due to their biases.

      Section 3 of the review (Thimerosal and Fetal/Infant/Childhood Death) is based heavily upon a “study” by Gary Goldman (Reference #20). You can read a thorough critique of the “study” here:

      The primary, specific criticism is that Goldman’s two data sources for this “study” are VAERS and an Internet survey conducted by an anti-vax web group. Not particularly reliable data sets. Generally speaking, Goldman is a computer scientist who is not qualified to conduct vaccine research, publishing his “studies” in questionable journals that lack a decent peer-review process:

      Four other references in Section 3 (References 31 – 34) that deal with “mercury poisoning” are based on dosages and routes of exposure that are not relevant to the administration with vaccines.

      Notice too that this section neglects to mention any of the other studies that have been conducted on the safety of the flu vaccine in pregnant women, as referenced here:

      To be continued . . .

    • Heather Vee February 27, 2016 / 10:02 pm

      . . . Continued from above . . .


      This is another study from the Geiers and Hooker. It looks like the Geiers have finally heeded some of the criticism that the IOM and others made on their earlier work and have shifted from looking at general populations to looking at a more individual level.
      This study is a case-control study that looks at the risk of children having a diagnosed developmental delay based upon their receipt of thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines.
      Let’s look at the two major weaknesses that I see in this study:

      #1 – The study did not make any adjustments to account for potential confounding factors. Per the authors, “the present study is limited in the [examination of] types of . . . covariates such as race, birth weight, etc., that may affect the magnitude of the adverse effects found.” These are really important factors to consider in examining the risks between the groups since factors like advanced maternal age and pre-term birth can greatly affect the risk of later being diagnosed with a developmental disorder. High-quality studies will try to account for confounding by matching the cases and controls based on other relevant factors or using a statistical adjustment in their analysis. Not done in this study.

      #2 – The study did not include thimerosal exposure from any other vaccines and it only examined the extreme ends of the hepatitis B vaccine exposure (either all 3 thimerosal-containing doses or no thimerosal-containing doses). Per the authors, “in addition, another potential limitation of the present study is that exposures to other sources of Hg were not evaluated.” Other studies (for example this one: examined total thimerosal exposure from all vaccines. Just selecting one vaccine to examine doesn’t really make much sense when overall thimerosal exposure might be substantially different when all the children (cases and controls) were born before 2000. It makes me suspicious that the authors chose to use the dataset for just that particular vaccine because it was the only dataset that fit their desired results.

      Others with the appropriate background might be able to offer more insights (Would it be more meaningful to examine the risk associated with each type of developmental delay individually rather than lumping them all together? Were the statistical tests used appropriate for the type of data comparisons? etc.)

      This is an ex-vivo cell study, examining the issue of how thimerosal might interfere with the immune response during vaccination. While this is a legitimate concern (researchers want to make sure that the preservative does not negatively affect the ability of the vaccine to induce an appropriate immune response), this research has nothing to do with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders.
      This is the same research group and the same line of research as the 6th study you linked:

      To be continued . . .

      • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:18 am

        I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get involved in these comments–I’ve been traveling for work, and mostly out of pocket. Thank you for doing the work to provide these thoughts and references. I am very grateful for the effort you and the other commenters have put in to documenting your opinions with serious, well-validated scientific research.

    • Heather Vee February 28, 2016 / 2:31 pm

      . . . Continued from above . . .

      I was able to download the full-text of this review from this site:

      I’d like to read the whole review at a more leisurely pace when I have time, but I’ve read through the section on thimerosal exposure, pages 18-21. Probably the most concise statement is on page 21 of the review: “In summary, the published literature on thimerosal, although not consistently adjusted for some potential confounders and with other potential biases, does not suggest an association with autism.”

      As the authors also conclude, “This assessment is consistent with previous reviews, including the Institute of Medicine review from 2004, which concluded that ‘the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism,’ several other reviews, and a meta-analysis published in 2014.”

      So, Randy, this review that you linked actually came to the same conclusions that the IOM did in 2004, after including additional evidence that had accumulated between 2004 and 2014.

      As I mentioned previously, this research has nothing to do with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. See 4) above.

      To be continued . . .

    • Heather Vee March 1, 2016 / 2:08 pm

      . . . Continued from above . . .


      This is the study referenced in the “Vaccination News” link. I was able to access the full text of the review through my school account. The authors of this review focus on the cell and animal studies and virtually ignore the observational studies in humans – except for a few observational studies completed by the lead author of this same review, with results that have not been replicated by other researchers. Ignoring the results of these large observational studies (which are stronger evidence than the cell and animal studies – remember the hierarchy of evidence) make the quality of this review questionable.

      There is much more that I could say, but I think I’ll finish up with this quote from the WHO:

      “Based on the current evidence, GACVS [Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety] considers that no additional studies of the safety of thiomersal in vaccines are warranted and that available evidence strongly supports the safety of the use of thiomersal as a preservative for inactivated vaccines. GACVS believes that consideration of additional evidence suggestive of the contrary should be based on studies using the same high standards of epidemiological and causal inference needed for scientific research. Thiomersal allows millions of people worldwide to have access to life-saving vaccines and to date, no other safer and equally efficacious alternative has been identified for many vaccines.”


      That pretty much sums it up. Before researchers can say, “A causes B,” they need to meet certain criteria for causation (look up Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation if you want a rough overview), and these criteria have not been met. And the hypothetical risk of thimerosal exposure from vaccines is greatly outweighed by the well-established risks of the diseases vaccines protect against, particularly in developing countries that would be most affected by the removal of thimerosal.

      And . . . I’m done!

  26. shay simmons February 26, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    Hoisted on one’s own petard.

    That would apply to anyone trying to make the cause for vaccines causing harm, using Thorsen’s fiscal shenanigans as proof.

    • Randy Wright February 26, 2016 / 6:16 pm

      Make sure you have the buttons fastened on that straw man, okay?

  27. shay February 26, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    Says the poster who brought Thorsen into the discussion.

    How do the charges against Thorsen relate in any way to the multiple studies (by researchers world-wide) that have failed to establish an autism/vaccine nexus?

    • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 12:31 am

      Somehow it’s alright to vilify Dr. Yazbak, whose writings I cited, but it’s not okay to discuss Thoresen, who was one of the disseminators of the original findings claiming no connection between the autism epidemic and either Thimerosal or the MMR vaccine.

      I’ll mostly forego the personal information on you out there, but it does strike me that your career wasn’t conducive to outside-the-box thinking, and you find others’ talking points convenient. Some of us have a lot of practice, however, in recognizing straw man arguments, and your denial and deflection don’t make it any less of one.

      • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:21 am

        Shay did not say it was “not okay to discuss Thorsen.” He or she only asked how the charges against Thorsen relate to the Geiers’ faulty work. It’s a reasonable question, and you don’t seem to have addressed it.

        On a broader point, no one seems to have taken the position anywhere here that it’s not okay to discuss Thorsen, or that the allegations against Thorsen aren’t serious. They’ve said, rather, that those allegations are irrelevant to the study on which he was not the primary author or even, if I understand it, the custodian of the data. What, then, is the relevance of Thorsen’s alleged misdeeds?

        This is distinct from the Geiers; the allegations against them go directly both to their understanding of autism and their willingness to confront the facts when their theories are unsupported by data.

  28. Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 12:53 am

    Okay, I’ve been minding my manners to the best of my abilities, but perhaps some would like to speak to the following questions I have. I’ve shared my own background with Jennifer as an “occasional science editor” (mostly confronting “Mormon Apologists” whose personal attacks and lame-o logic appear to me to have a lot in common with what’s presented here; note please, that I’m “attacking the argument,” and not the person).

    Item: The CDC and others are claiming that “Autism is genetic,” right? More or less, at least…

    Item: Yet the current “epidemic of Autism Spectrum Disorders” didn’t appear until what, beginning in the 80’s or 90’s. I note that Robert F. Kennedy worked with his family’s charitable activities involving “mental retardation” (to use a crass and probably incorrect term; I’ll welcome suggestions on that one, recognizing that Down’s Syndrome doesn’t cover everything).

    Why weren’t we seeing it before? At least at the levels we’re seeing it at today? That suggests to me me a “nurture” factor rather than a “nature” one (per my old slightly boring education classes as part of my student teaching cohort here).

    I’ll accept as a possible hypothesis that some may be susceptible to possible “toxin” (using a very broad definition of toxin; peanuts, for example, are toxic to a friend of mine), and that’s probably genetic, but the rise in autism rates strongly suggests an external factor acting on possible genetic “weakness.”

    And given the reality that Thimerosal is still being used as a preservative for multiple doses of flu vaccines as well as in tetanus shots and other inoculations, I’ll suggest that it’s invalid to claim children still aren’t being exposed to it.

    I’ll go further, borrowing on a claim I saw suggested elsewhere, that since the Amish people in Pennsylvania, etc. have very low vaccination rates, they ought to be studied for Autism rates.

    Frankly, I expect the “autism is genetic” crowd to scream loudly in opposition to that suggestion, but I’m going to write my congressman with these ideas, even if he is a Tea Party conservative, and I’m a fairly liberal tree-hugging sort.

    • Colin February 28, 2016 / 3:25 am

      You are making quite a lot of assumptions here:

      • That autism began, or began in earnest, in the 80s/90s
      • That autism has an environmental cause
      • That thimerosal is such a cause
      • That kids are still getting thimerosal from some unknown source
      • That kids are getting more thimerosal over time, tracking the increase in autism rates
      • That the Amish don’t vaccinate
      • That the Amish don’t get autism
      • That mainstream science believes that autism is genetic

      I’m not sure that any of these assumptions are well supported, especially given that thimerosal exposure in children is virtually nonexistent in children while autism diagnoses are increasing.

      Are there any neurodevelopmental experts, or autism experts in particular, who agree with your position? If so, who? If not, why not?

    • Heather Vee February 28, 2016 / 2:58 pm

      Randy, this articles does a pretty good job of reviewing the recent research on the whys of the increase in autism diagnoses:

      As is mentioned in the article, the prevalence of autism varies significantly from state to state in the U.S., most likely because of difference in accessibility of services:

      Most states have pretty much the same required vaccination schedule, based on ACIP/CDC recommendations.

      • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 3:44 pm

        No Colin, I’m not making any assumptions; I’m asking some tough questions, that’s all. I don’t know if the Amish have low autism rates or not, and I am doubtful that vaccinations are widespread in their population, but I don’t know for certain, obviously. I think I recall studying them was useful to determine that bipolar disorders–we have them in my family, BTW–are probably genetic, and what I’m doing is issuing a “call for more science, not less.”

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to compare vaccinated populations with unvaccinated ones, and I would be particularly suspicious of those who tried to put the kibosh on investigations in that area.

        And Heather, I’m “moving as fast as I can” with my own investigations in that area even though I have a full-time job, some aging parents, and the usual troubles that bedevil us all as grown-ups.

        I would request that both of you cease “trying to one-up me” because it’s toxic to effective communication and dialogue (that’s a metaphor, folks). It can also “be a barrier to open-mindedness.”

        I want to hear what William Thompson has to say; the Kevin Barry book arrived yesterday, and I’ve found it slow going and “troubling to read” because of how inflammatory the charges are. Like others, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to believe them, and I am looking at them with my best analytical skills. As noted above, I don’t “read something from the authority of print,” per an old mentor of mine who’s still around at age 91. Reminds me, I need to go see him…

        One claim about the CDC in the book I find credible is that that organization is “paralyzed” on this subject, and I will be contacting my congressman about investigating Thompson’s claims. Haley claims that Thomas “wants to testify.” That strikes me as exactly the sort of politics we would find in such “systems,” and that’s something I talk about regularly with my other friend mentioned above–who’s generally “agreeing” with you right now; I don’t narcissistically seek out those who reinforce my own points-of-view.

        And now, a bit of history homework for you both about the CDC: Take a look at the “Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments” which were conducted under the “CDC Umbrella.” As a historian, I’m familiar with the concept of “presentism” in looking at that horror from modern eyes, but it also points to “evils within government bureaucracies” which are something that concerns us all.

        It may be unfair to “paint the modern CDC with that brush,” but it is something to consider.

        • Heather Vee February 28, 2016 / 8:17 pm

          Regardless of their vaccination rates, I don’t think that comparing rates of autism in the Amish population to the rest of the U.S. is particularly valuable since their genetic profile and their environmental exposure profile is so different from the average American.

          The Amish have a much higher than average prevalence of some specific genetic disorders due to their restricted “gene pool” – and their diets and lifestyle make their environmental exposures quite unique, too.

          They don’t have health insurance, so families with children who have special needs have a particularly rough time:

            • Chris February 28, 2016 / 10:03 pm

              That is the clinic that Olmsted missed seeing when he wandered around that county as he “gathered” evidence for his article in 2005.

  29. Heather Vee February 28, 2016 / 8:11 am

    Randy, I’m still working on the list of studies/articles you linked from your Pubmed search – but have you read what I’ve responded with already?

    If you would like to better understand the evolution of how autism has been diagnosed and how criteria have changed over time, I’m sure there are a few of us who could recommend reading material.

    • Chris February 28, 2016 / 3:14 pm

      My suggestions would include:

      Not even Wrong: Adventures in Autism by Paul Collins (unfortunately it is out of print)

      Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker

      NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman and Oliver Sacks

      I would also add several of Dr. Sacks’ books, including his recent memoir On the Move since he writes about one of his brothers who seemed to have some issues.

      I have read most of his books, because I was trying to fathom the neurology to understand my son’s seizures and lack of speech. We were directly affected by the changes in the various versions of the DSM. In 1991 I was assured that my non-verbal three year old was definitely not autistic, then fast forward to when that young man is a senior in high school. The school psychologist thought he was autistic, but was not one to give a diagnosis, plus while the school had an autism program he would lose services if he was in it. Instead he received the services he needed, not those defined by a diagnosis.

      We were told for years by the neurologist, therapists and teachers that he would be okay. But he is not, and I finally had “enough!” He needed services, but we had no idea what we were dealing with — so I got him diagnosed. He is indeed autistic under both DSM IV (1994) and DSM V, and will be getting services like supported employment and housing because he qualifies for the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration.

      (by the way, I also tried getting information from UseNet newsgroups starting in the late 1990s, which is where I encountered Mr. John Scudamore several times… at first I could not believe that there were such persons on this planet, now I know better)

      • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 3:48 pm

        Colin, I certainly understand where you’re coming from with your child. My own daughter is in crisis right now, and her half-brother’s Asperger’s has a “huge role in the drama.”

        I’ll be working the next few days, so please attribute any absence to any other factors.

        • Randy Wright February 28, 2016 / 3:49 pm

          D**m, another Freudian… Should read “please don’t attribute.”

        • Chris February 28, 2016 / 4:58 pm

          Something I learned last year while going through the diagnosis: biggest difference between DSM IV and DSM V is that Asperger’s was removed … and that my son would had never received an Asperger’s diagnosis because he had no speech as a three year old, and needed about ten years to accomplish his present somewhat different to understand speech.

          So in the next few years you may see a incredible drop in Asperger’s diagnoses, it was dropped because research showed that some with autism who cannot speak without extensive intervention do have at least normal intelligence (along with the social/anxiety issues). It is no longer assumed that those who cannot speak are mentally retarded (which his special ed preschool teacher told me this was a very common notion in the 1960s/1970s, when kids who could not speak were denied access to public education, but were sent to institutions to be forgotten).

          Also, when I was searching for information before there was the internet I checked most of what I could find in the library. It was mostly on deaf education, and Oliver Sacks books. Plus there was one horrible terrible book length advertisement called What To Do About Your Brain-injured Child. It was advertising some “institute” in Pennsylvania that one had to travel to learn how to do extensive physical therapy, and if it did not go right it was the parents’ fault. The antidote to that was No Time for Jello by Berneen Bratt who tried the system for her son with cerebral palsy. It is also unfortunately out of print.

          • Randy Wright March 1, 2016 / 5:33 pm

            Neither my PhD friend nor I were happy with the decision to remove Asperger’s Syndrome from the DSM; my friend felt the omission would become an obstacle to the help these individuals clearly need.

            I can tell you from my grad training in addictions counseling that the DSM is strictly a “consensus” manual for insurance billing purposes. As such, there are reasonable individuals who disagree with its stipulations, and as I understand it, most of the individuals consulted were psychiatrists rather than psychologists. Psychiatrists are generally excellent where medications are indicated, but where psychotherapy is probably more effective, I’ll take a “cowboy boot wearing bull**** stomping rodeo sort” almost every time.

            That of course doesn’t apply to autism or Asperger’s, it’s just merely a “process observation” on how consensuses operate. Here’s an example I am familiar with:

            Back in my rehab days, the psychologist was discussing an adolescent patient and remarked he wasn’t going to “give this one a borderline jacket.” He said it was “too heavy,” and would follow the patient “down the road” in further treatment. Too, per my own familiarity with adolescents–and borderlines–we had an entire quarter on the subject–a lot of “typical” adolescent behavior is also found in “authentic borderlines” (which, according the schooling I received, fall under the “narcissist” umbrella; opinions vary).

            So my friend was and is a pragmatist, and I like the flexibility it offered, and it had no effect of the treatment plan, anyway. Similarly, another said if we were having trouble with insurance billing, a catch-all “dysthymic disorder” (depression) was always useful.

            A final anecdote from another PhD supervisor I had: It was “popular” for a time to make a Dx of “multiple personality disorder” (now called “Dissociate Identity Disorder) because the insurance criteria allowed for particularly “long term therapy.” As soon as that occurred, there was a “spike” in the number MPD’s identified.

            I wish you well, and I trust your sentiments are the same for my daughter (who doesn’t have autism or Asperger’s, thankfully, but as noted, her brother certainly does).

            More later as I’m able.

            • Chris March 1, 2016 / 11:06 pm

              Read Neurotribes. It goes through the changes in diagnostic criteria, especially the work of Lorna Wing.

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