Best of Age of Autism: Paul Offit’s Message: CDC, FDA, NIH, IOM, AAP, WHO and Merck Engaged in Pseudoscience
Posted Oct 01 2011 12:00am
Managing Editor's Note: Dr. Offit has been appointed to the IOM.
By Jake Crosby
Did Age of Autism move the goalposts? Paul Offit says yes, but statements from the CDC, FDA, NIH, IOM, AAP, WHO and even Merck say otherwise. In the PBS documentary Frontline, responding to concerns about vaccine-related factors in the etiology of autism other than just thimerosal or the MMR vaccine, millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit said “So now this is classic for pseudoscience, is you just keep moving the goalpost. So now the goalpost is, no, we didn't mean actually MMR caused autism or thimerosal caused autism”
First of all, we continue to mean that the MMR and thimerosal clearly do cause autism as actual science shows - even if routinely denied by the tobacco science Offit regularly cites.
Secondly, his dismissal of any further criticisms of vaccines beyond these two factors as “pseudoscience” conflicts with the expressed concerns of many high-ranking members of public health and the pharmaceutical industry. They voiced opinions that other factors such as aluminum and receiving too many vaccines at once may cause autism and related disorders.
At the secret Simpsonwood meeting 10 years ago, Dr. Richard Johnston - a pediatric immunologist funded by SmithKline Beecham - said (on page 20) “Aluminum and mercury are often simultaneously administered to infants, both at the same site and at different sites.
However, we learned that there is absolutely no data, including animal data, about the potential for synergy, additively or antagonism, all of which can occur in binary metal mixtures that relate and allow us to draw any conclusions from simultaneous exposure from these two salts in vaccines…”
Dr. Johnston would later serve as liaison to the IOM panel that cut federal funding to studies examining mercury as a possible cause of autism.
As a point of interest, Johnston also said he did not want his grandson to be given vaccines with thimerosal “until we know better what is going on.”
Dr. Bill Weil, a pediatrician representing the AAP, raised further concerns about aluminum (page 24 of the Simpsonwood memo) “The second point I could make is that in relationship to aluminum, being a nephrologist for a long time, the potential for aluminum and central nervous system toxicity was established by dialysis data. To think there isn’t some possible problem here is unreal.”
On page 77, when Dr. Bill Egan, the head of FDA’s division of vaccines and related products, asked CDC Epidemic Intelligence Surveillance Officer Tom Verstraeten “Could you do this calculation for aluminum?”
Dr. Verstraeten, who found that thimerosal was responsible for very high rates of neurological disorders including autism, responded “I did it for aluminum…Actually the results were almost identical to ethylmercury because the amount of aluminum goes along almost exactly with the mercury one.”
On that same page, Dr. Harry Guess of Merck said yet another problem with vaccines contributes to such neurological disorders "So this essentially is a 7% risk per antigen, an antigen is like in DPT you've got three antigens."
WHO vaccine advisor Dr. John Clements said on page 206 “Aluminum is not perceived, I believe, by the public as a dangerous metal. Therefore, we are in a much more comfortable wicket in terms of defending its presence in vaccines.”
Note that he did not say it isn’t a dangerous metal, nor that its presence in vaccines is less dangerous than that of mercury.
Eight years later, former NIH director Dr. Bernadine Healy told Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News "There is a completely expressed concern that they don't want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. First of all, I think the public’s smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show."
That same year, then CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding who now works for Merck, said to CNN medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta "If a child is immunized and has a fever or other complications from the vaccine, then if you're predisposed with a mitochondrial disorder, it could certainly set off damage. Some of the symptoms can be characteristics of autism."
These concerns about vaccines causing autism and similar conditions - which do not necessarily point to thimerosal or the MMR specifically as the prime culprits - are clearly serious concerns of leaders in the CDC, FDA, NIH, IOM, AAP, WHO and the vaccine industry. But to Paul Offit, “this is classic for pseudoscience.”
Autism science is a mere political game to the millionaire vaccine industrialist. The possibility of autism having multiple causes – if it further implicates vaccines – is “shifting goalposts” to Offit. Only that which supports his biased preconceptions gets the honorable title of “science.” Though Paul Offit does not begin to qualify as a scientist concerning the issue of vaccines causing autism, he is a dedicated lobbyist. He’s Nick Naylor from “Thank You For Smoking” with an MD.
Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Policy, and is a contributing editor to Age of Autism.