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On Vaccines and Autism, Gates and Gupta are an Odd Pair

Posted Feb 01 2011 12:00am

Odd couple By Anne Dachel

February 4, 2011, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed Bill Gates about his plan to eradicate polio by 2012.  (HERE) Gates went into great detail about the benefits of vaccines and how he plans to distribute them around the world. 

In the midst of the interview, Gupta posed a question about the possibility of a link between vaccines and autism.  Seemingly perplexed about the whole thing, Gupta asked, “There has been a lot of news about is there a connection with autism, for example. What do you make of all that? Dr. [Andrew] Wakefield wrote a paper about this [in The Lancet in 1998] saying he thought there was a connection. And there were lower vaccination rates over a period of time as a result in Britain, then the United States. What are your thoughts?”

This opening gave Gates a chance to attack Wakefield for, as he described it, faking his data.  He called the idea of a link as “an absolute lie.”  That said, Gates went on to talk more about the “miracle of vaccines.”

While autism was only a one small part of the total interview, the title of CNN story was, Bill Gates: Vaccine-autism link 'an absolute lie.'  It seems that Gates' plan to promote vaccinations around the world was another opportunity to blame the controversy on Andrew Wakefield.  It's not going to work however.  Thousands and thousands of parents everywhere will never stop talking about how their normally developing, healthy children went in for routine vaccinations and suddenly got sick with things like seizures, bowel disease, and life-threatening allergies.  They stopped talking and lost learned skills and were eventually diagnosed with autism.  Doctors call it a coincidence.  They can't explain what happened to these children.  The only thing they're sure of is that it's not connected to the ever-expanding vaccine schedule. 

Bill Gates may call the autism-vaccine link 'an absolute lie,' but he doesn't ask for the one simple study that would answer the question once and for all.  WHY HAS THERE NEVER BEEN AN OFFICIAL STUDY COMPARING THE AUTISM RATE IN CHILDREN WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED WITH CHILDREN WHO'VE NEVER BEEN VACCINATED?  One percent of US kids now have autism, including almost two percent of boys.  If one percent of never-vaccinated kids are also autistic, the evidence would be there for all to see.  With so many parents now exempting their children from vaccinations, the study group is out there.  Gates, Gupta, and everyone else denying a link should be demanding to see such a study done.

I'm amazed that SanjayGupta can sit with Bill Gates and allow him to call the link between vaccines and autism 'an absolute lie,' when in April 2008, in an interview with Dr. Jon Poling,  he did not dispute Poling's claim that vaccines had caused his daughter's regression into autism. 

Gupta: “We are here with Dr. Jon Poling, …he’s the father of Hannah Poling…  Her case of autism diagnosis was conceded by the federal government as having been contributed to by vaccines.  That was a pretty startling thing, I think, for a lot of people to hear.  We talked to a lot of experts about this.  They say vaccines in no way cause autism.  You’re a neurologist.  You’re also the father of Hannah.  What do you say?”

Poling: “I think you bring up a really important point. The government, actually the Dept. of Health and Human Services, conceded that my daughter’s medical problems, which are autism encephalopathy, seizures, were brought on by vaccination.”

Gupta: “That’s startling for a lot of people to hear that because we’ve been taught for so long—I’m a doctor, you’re a doctor, we go to medical school…There’s so many good things about vaccines.  They prevent life-threatening illnesses…  But in your daughter’s case, it turned out to be a problem.”

Poling: “I wouldn’t have believed it until it happened to me.  To be honest with you, as a doctor, until it happened to me, until I saw the regression, until I saw a normal eighteen month old toddler descend into autism, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible.”

Gupta: “The experts that I’ve talked to, including the director of the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding says, ‘That was a rare case.  That’s likely to be an exception.’  What do you say to that?”

Poling: “I think a lot of the media outlets have put out a statement that says rare, underlying, genetic, mitochondrial disease.  Now that’s five words.  Four of those are not accurate in the sense …that mitochondrial dysfunction is not rare.  We don’t know if it was underlying or if it was something that developed later.  Certainly, there are some genetic underpinnings to it.  And the only word correct is mitochondrial. …”

Gupta: “So did Hannah have some sort of predisposition and then the vaccines tipped her over the edge into developing autism?  What is your belief now?”

Poling: “I don’t believe that vaccines are the only way that you can tip over a child like Hannah to regress and have an encephalopathy, and regress into autism.  There are probably multiple triggers.  In my daughter, it was clearly the vaccinations. That was our experience.  In other families’ experiences, it may be different.  The other cases that were at Johns Hopkins, there were only a few like Hannah and then others regressed for other reasons. It’s not really a known entity.”

Gupta: “You know the thing that a lot of parents—and I have to tell you as doctor—now as a parent, as you know, I have two daughters.  So I have a two and a half year old and a thirteen month old, what does that mean for me?  …They’re perfectly normal.  They seem to be.  And they’re delightful.  And I plan on getting them vaccinated.  I got my two and a half year old vaccinated on time.  What advice would you have now having gone through what you’ve gone through?”

Poling: “First and foremost, I’m pro vaccine.  I’m in favor of safe vaccination.  I’m the last person who wants to see measles or polio come back.  ….

I think what a parents needs to do now is to talk with their pediatrician.  And pediatricians need to actually have a grass roots movement amongst the pediatricians and the AAP to develop safe vaccine schedules for each individual patient.  You and I are physicians.  We took an oath to our individual patient.  We didn’t take an oath for the public health or for the greater good, so each individual pediatrician has to focus on that.”

In closing Gupta talked about they were going to be following this story “all day long” on CNN. 

So, after all that he learned in 2008 from Jon Poling about how vaccines caused his daughter’s autism, he brought up none of it in this latest interview with Bill Gates.  He seems to have forgotten it all.  In 2008, he was concerned about vaccinating his own daughters in light of the Poling concession. Today, he pretends, along with Bill Gates, that it’s all ‘an absolute lie.’

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism. 

Posted by Age of Autism at February 05, 2011 at 7:39 AM in Anne Dachel , Vaccine Safety Permalink

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