Top 10 Things You Must Know About the Autism/Vaccination Question

Emotional, disparaging comments from those who believe they know the science that appears to show that there is no causal link between thimerosal in vaccines and the increased rates of autism include name-calling “Anti-vaxxers”, charges of “over-emotionalizing” the issue, and,  “distracting” the families who should be focused on caring for their autistic child or children.

During my research for my second book, “Cures vs. Profits: Success Stories in Translational Research”, I have found wonderful advances in the care of cancer, in brain surgery, in robotic surgery, and forthcoming advances in early Alzheimer’s diagnosis. My approach was unbiased: I wanted to find bona fide advances in medical care made possible via biomedical and clinical research.

I also uncovered a number of accounts of unsavory and illegal activities undertaken by researchers and by medical doctors. This led to four chapters covering such acts, two of which I wrote intentionally to provide a framework of contract of clear evil-doers (Abuses in Medicine, and Outrageous Acts of Pseudoscience). The third and fourth chapters surprised me: They involve Overdiagnosis in ADHD and Vaccinations.

I will blog on the the problem of ADHD Overdiagnosis at a later date: for now, the story of how Pharma reached into academic clinical research center activity is not pretty. I went into the Vaccine chapter to advocate for Vaccines, to review some of this history of this most clear of all translational successes. How could vaccines be bad? They stop the spread of disease, after all. No one gets polio anymore. Practically no one dies from measles in the US anymore. Most of my colleagues clearly stand on the side of protecting the population from diseases with vaccines.

In taking the time to really look at the published data on the possible links between Autism and Vaccines, I have become convinced not only that there is a likely direct cause of Autism, but that the US CDC has repeatedly acted in a manner that is as egregious, if not more, than those actors in the  Abuses in Medicine and Outrageous Acts of Pseudoscience chapters.

So, to help others who, like me, had extolled the virtues of vaccines over the possible, but apparently unlikely risk of adverse events such as brain damage leading to autism, understand the reality that our society is experiencing, and will experience for some time, I decided to share the Top 10 Things You Must Know about the Autism/Vaccination Question.

(1) The science behind the causal link between thiomerosal and neurological damage is both strong, and vast.  We know precisely how ethyl mercury harms neurological development. In brief, nerve cells grow at the tips of their axons via extension of tubulin proteins. Ethyl mercury robs the energy molecule for that extension, thus the growth does not occur.

(2) Ethyl mercury is more, not less toxic than methyl mercury. Studies in monkeys have shown that ethyl mercury is deposited in the brain at a greater rate, and remains in the brain, far longer than methyl mercury. Forget everything you thought you knew about the relevance of EPA guidelines for methyl mercury exposure: they are irrelevant as the mechanisms of damage of the two forms, and the metabolism of the two forms, are significantly different.

(3) Wholescale changes to the vaccination schedule are not subject to testing by the FDA. Between 2003 and 2013, the dosage of ethyl mercury to children via the national vaccination program increased from 75 ug to 575 ug due to additions of new vaccines to the schedule, and to accelerations of the rate of vaccination to fit new vaccines into the schedule. This increase in dosage should be a cause for concern by the FDA even if the question of autism did not exist.

(4) The rates of autism have increased from 1 in 2500 in 1970 to 1 in 68 in 2010. The CDC reports 1 in 50. That’s 2% of the population diagnosed with frank autism. The CDC has argued that the rates reflect an expansion of autism into a spectrum that include Aspberger’s. However, those factors do not account for the exponential increase in the rates of autism.

(5) People in charge of the vaccination schedules have had serious conflicts of interest and have personally profited from the decisions they helped make in terms of which vaccines to add to the schedule. The committee that makes the decisions about the health of our entire country has serious financial conflicts of interest. Watch Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s testimony on this in Vermont earlier this year, arguing why parents should still have say over what goes into their children’s bodies:

(6) The press has a conflict of interest as well. As Kennedy points out, Pharmaceutical industry now represents the number one source of advertising revenue for major media outlets. Direct to consumer market is legal in two countries in the world: the US and New Zealand. Thus, the things you may read or hear about Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s presence of mind are ruthless, irresponsible pandering, and are likely a direct consequence of this influence.

(7) Parents can easily request thimerosal-free vaccines. The CDC is quick to say that thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines except one (the flu vaccine, for pregnant women, of all people!). This is not true. Thimerosal is included at doses of at least 24.5 ug of mercury in the following:

Tdap (Boostrix)

Influenza (Affluria, Fluvirin)

Meningococcal (Menomune)

these brands about be avoided by anyone concerned about exposing their children the mercury. There are thiomerosal-free alternatives for each of these vaccines listed by Vaccine Safety.

Nevertheless, the FDA reports that many vaccines still use thiomerosal early in the production process, leaving behind “trace amounts”. They also report that vaccines now include aluminum (another known neurotoxin, which can act synergistically with thimerosal), and, of all things, MSG. Some people (like myself) are highly sensitive to MSG (it, like nitrates, can cause migraines).

(8) Most so-called “Anti-Vaxxers” are not against vaccines. Rather, they for vaccines, they just want safe ones. They are castigated, ridiculed, called crazy, all for wanting to protect their own, and others’ children, from being poisoned by mercury and other neurotoxins.  They should be referred to as “Pro-Safe Vaccineers”, or “Anti-Toxins”.

(9) Certain state governments want to take the Parent’s right to say “No” out of the equation. California just passed a law that only allows religious exemption for refusal of vaccines. (CORRECTION BY READER: California just passed a law that dispensed with the “Personal Beliefs Exemption. Now only Medical Exemptions are allowed with the recent passage of SB 277. This law did away with the Personal Beliefs Exemption if you want your children to be able to attend both public and private schools. Home-schooled children will not have to comply with the new law.” The measles outbreak of 2014 has helped bouy the sense that parents who refuse vaccines are irresponsible hacks who need a paternalistic government intervention in their lives. As I wrote my chapter on vaccines, I advocated for the CDC, and medical doctors, to outline the risk that parents place others at by choosing to not vaccinate their child. I stand by that recommendation. There are young (6 mos), the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems whose lives could be devastated by an outbreak of childhood diseases.  However, I also emphasize that the vaccines should be safe.

(10) Which side your choose as a scientist, a doctor, a parent, a lawyer, and a citizen matters. The Autism movement does not trust the government. This mistrust is well-earned. Until there is an other hearing on the CDC cover-ups, including their manipulation of the data via repeated analyses, and their hiding results that showed potential significant association, it is up to the public to communicate our concerns to our law makers, and our doctors.

Listen to (part) of Dr. William Thompson’s admission. If you find it distateful, you may choose to ignore Dr. Wakefield’s dramatic linking of this issue to Tuskegee. The issue, for me, stands on its own. if you cannot understand that Wakefield was trying to study to problem of whether the age of vaccination increased the risk of autism – the very question of whether the accelerated vaccine schedule – the CDC’s schedule – increased the risk of autism.

I am appealing to my colleagues in science, and in medicine. If you are so moved by Dr. Thompson’s admissions of fraud by the CDC, contact your Congressional representative, and demand that Congress subpoena Dr. Thompson for a new hearing (as of July 14, thousands of pages have been sent to the Congressional Science Committee). Dr. Thompson has released a statement via his lawyer [UPDATED LINK] (one of the best Whistle-Blower lawyers in the country) in which he further admits wrong-doing by the CDC.

To learn more, I strongly recommend Robert F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s book, “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak for Itself” (173 pp, Skyhorse Publishing) on Amazon.


Targeting Ebola 2015 Meeting: Upcoming (May 28-29, 2015)

NEAR THE END OF THIS MONTH there will be an exciting, important and informative conference bringing together many of the world’s scientists and medical doctors who are focused on Ebola.


The title of the conference is Targeting Ebola: Recent Advances and Strategies.

There will be presentations by epidemiologists, drug developers, vaccine developers and a presentation on early detection (diagnostics), molecular biologists, structural biologists, results from clinical trials, information on immune responses in bats, and more.

I am very interested to learn the possibility of late-stage EVD treatment of vascular leak by Petra Wülfroth of F4 Pharma in Germany.  This is really new.

From the program:

“While there is no licensed treatment yet available for EVD, a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development and two potential vaccine candidates are undergoing evaluation, according to the WHO. Targeting Ebola 2015 will provide a unique and cutting edge conference to discuss the recent advances, strategies and challenges of all Ebola fields. The keynote lectures given by leading scientists, as well as poster presentations covering various aspects of Ebola infection. During Ebola 2015 a Practical approach will address and discuss different strategies and challenges (short and long term) across the entire innovation cycle. We will discuss about the vaccine candidates available and the ability to roll out clinical trial vaccination programmes in EU / Africa, and how to conduct studies in areas where Ebola virus disease is endemic. We will highlight how a rapid diagnostics can detect EVD at acceptable costs and with very high sensitivity and specificity. We will invite academics and industrials to discuss strategies to treat Ebola infection by innovative drugs, Immunotherapy and others. We will take en consideration the Ethical and political issues of this strategic problem. The topics of the Ebola 2015 cover many sessions:

*Ebola virus disease: where are we now and where do we go?

*The Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses: Recent Advances

*Virus-Host Interactions: State-of-the-Art

*Epidemiology: The Current Situation

*The Diagnostic Tools

*Treatment & Vaccines

*Operational Researches: Present & Future”

I have been asked to write a summary of the proceedings of the meeting for the web, so watch this space!

Getting A Feel for Authoring

Recently had the pleasure of going over the galleys of “Ebola”, and nearly 3/4 of the ways done with “Cures”, I’m getting to experience some of the perks of the life of an author.  For some reason, people open up to authors more, and want to share more ideas (which of course, I love).  I think part of it is that during the process of writing “Ebola”, I became a much better listener.   I had years of experience listening to investigators discuss their research plans, but I had a particular vested interest in those discussions: I wanted to effect the outcome of their research, and was trying to sell them my collaboration as a service.   I think being an author tells people that you’re interested in the human condition.

As an author, I’m finding that people from all walks of life open up to me, and really want to share all of their thoughts about a particular topic.  And I’ve found that I’m getting very good at bridging political, ideological and religious barriers.   There is something about the status of being an author on a scientific topic that causes most – emphasis on “most” – to afford one a tad more credibility.  I emphasize “most” because the reverse is true among experts in biodefense: they want me to prove that I have sufficient knowledge before they will brook a conversation!  Hopefully thus far I have not dissatisfied too many.

People from all walks of life know a lot more about some fairly complex issues than most in the biomedical field give them credit for.  They are aware of the issues – and they want to share their own understanding.  That’s why I think “Cures” will be very well received.  There are plenty of myths, and rumors about the evils of biomedicine – but there are just as many truths that are worth learning about.  Not all of the truths are pretty, but many are.  So in “Cures”, I’m focusing on finding the ever-elusive silver linings in tough topics like ADHD overdiagnosis.  It’s all too easy to sit on a rocking chair on my figurative front porch and complain to Gracie, or my neighbor, who sometimes comes over for iced tea, about how bad it is, and end the conversation with “Well, whaddya gonna do about it”?

The fact is, writing on these topics is empowering for me.  I have found a particular niche, and a particular combination of writing style that people say they like.  I mix the scientific literature with citations from the media – and quotes from experts – get all the peer-reviewed research results I can, and, using the combined powers of logic and passion for ending human pain and suffering, strive for a conversational, non-condescending tone, and somehow it comes out… interesting and informative.

People constantly ask me what my next book project will be, and right now, with “Cures”, when I describe the content, every person I have discussed it with has affirmed that they have heard that doctors don’t want cures, they want treatments, because treatments make them money.  Talk about taking a bull by the horns!  ADHD overdiagnosis and overtreatment, grapefruit and blood pressure, fecal microbiota transplants, mammograms, with an eye on history, and evolutionary biology, all open topics with plenty of confumantission among the public given discordant results from studies.  A contemplative, meditative, thorough treatment of the topics with the goal of identifying the positives… well it’s hard work, but it’s rewarding in its own right.  I’m learning a lot, too, which of course makes me happy.  The work will no doubt not be the last word on these complex topics, but I hope that my effort will help others understand what is known, what is not known, what is fact, and what is myth, when they hear that doctors don’t want to help patients with cures.  (Hint on the bottom line: there are attributes that tend to common to successful translational research studies, so motives be damned, I get to call out the good guys AND the bad guys – and I celebrate the good ones more than dwell on the bad).

If you’re an author, feel free to share w/me your transformative experiences as the world reacted to your “author” personality as opposed to your “scholar” personality.