By Adriana Gamondes
In the United States, anti-vaccine groups have advanced other theories since then to explain why they think vaccines cause autism. For years, they blamed thimerosal, a vaccine preservative containing mercury. Because of concerns over the preservative, vaccine makers in 2001 largely eliminated thimerosal from routinely administered childhood vaccines.
But this change has had no apparent impact on childhood autism rates. Anti-vaccine groups now suggest that a significant number of children have a cellular disorder whose effects are set off by vaccinations.”
First off, I assume the unnamed “cellular disorder” in this article is mitochondrial disorder, which Harris himself reported on in 2008 when he covered the Poling concession. Secondly, if I don’t want to fill my kids’ sippy cups from the Hudson River, am I “anti-water”?
Remember, Harris is not reporting his own beliefs in the above excerpt: he’s supposedly reporting what he understands of vaccine injury proponents’ beliefs. He knows the vast majority aren’t “anti-vaccine”; and there’s good reason to suspect Harris is only feigning confusion about ways in which vaccine injury science has integrated cause hypotheses. In 2008, I was copied to an email exchange between the Times’ public editor and others in which Harris and this editor were informed in no uncertain terms what vaccine injury scientists and proponents generally believe regarding immunomodulatry interactions between heavy metals, injected viruses and mitochondria. And the theory integration hasn’t exactly been kept secret .
At least Harris presently opts for more ambiguous phrasing when describing that autism rates are still “going up” despite thimerosal being “largely” removed from vaccines, rather than arguing—as he has in the past—that thimerosal has been entirely removed from the childhood schedule.
Not to get into the trap of focusing solely on thimerosal (or to bore those who already know the drill)—after all, there are plenty of vaccine ingredients aside from ethylmercury which have never been studied for safety in infants or in combination . But the issue of ethylmercury is a trap for vaccine defenders too: it’s never been independently investigated for safety in infants or in comparison to unexposed populations; there’s always that missing original Verstraeten data and Simpsonwood; it’s also fascinating how defense of it relies so much on misreporting. And in light of recent reports of something rotting in Denmark, some existing studies of vaccine mercury—upon which the CDC strongly base their thimerosal-doesn’t-cause-autism mantra— appear to be more deeply compromised than anyone previously suspected .
As usual, Harris fails to mention that many infants could still get a full, 1990’s complement of vaccine mercury from regular shots as well as the then-newly recommended full mercury flu shot as late as 2003 or even 2006. Parents were still seeing full-thimerosal vaccines in pediatrician’s offices in 2006 and beyond . GlaxoSmithKline’s Hepatitis B vaccine, Engerix B, was produced with full thimerosal until 1/30/07 , though the thimerosal-preserved version of the vaccine continued to be distributed well into August, 2008. Harris doesn’t report that children born after 2003 (not to mention those born after 2006) were below the age of ascertainment when autism rates between age groups were last compared .
I’m terrified to find out what happened to the under-ascertainment-age infant “cohort” from last year’s mostly mercury-preserved swine flu shot fest. Certainly the recommended and massively increased uptake of seasonal flu shots in pregnancy and for six month old infants which began in 2002-2003—much of which is also still full mercury—made the timing of exposure far more dangerous. The addition of swine flu shots may “put off” yet again the moment when we can see what this supposed reduction in vaccine mercury has afforded. Sadly, there could be a “novel” disease scare every year which somehow leads to the “emergency measure” of adding an extra dose or two of mercury to the infant/prenatal load. And reporters like Harris can always be counted on not to do the math, check dates or the timing of exposure as they continue to euphemize that thimerosal has been…“largely removed”.
As for other inaccuracies in the recent article, Harris falsely validates speculations that the Lancet study was funded by attorneys and parents as part of a lawsuit—when, in actuality, the Legal Aid Board research grant was intended as a separate study, the money for which was not made available until after the Lancet study had already been published. The LAB grant was then donated to the Royal Free to build a gastroenterology care and research center which never materialized because Dr. Wakefield was forced out. Presumably, the Royal Free then kept the money.
Harris also parrots an empty rumor generated by Brian Deerest, which was quite bizarrely taken up by the GMC— the idea that Dr. Wakefield had patented a measles vaccine in 1997. In point of fact, Dr. Wakefield had looked into a type of transfer factor in the hopes of relieving discomfort in patients with chronic intestinal viral infections; and the patent belongs to the Royal Free . It was used once with parent consent, showed neither benefit nor adverse effect and was then abandoned. Even the government’s own Glaxo-conflicted witness Peter Lachmann was forced to defend Wakefield on the issue, arguing that this transfer factor could never constitute a vaccine .
Harris predictably fails to mention that uptake of measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations in England didn’t plummet after Dr. Wakefield publically recommended monovalent vaccines until more was understood. Instead, demand for monovalent vaccines for the three diseases rose—upon which the government swiftly withdrew approval for these single shots. And it was at that point—and only at the point when health authorities said “our way or the highway”—that uptake of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines plummeted.
Also in his Lancet retraction article, Harris casts his usual aspersions on the mental competence of parents who report their children’s autism stemmed from vaccine injuries. Harris writes: “Despite a wealth of scientific studies that have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism, the parents fervently believe that their children's mental problems resulted from vaccinations”. And “Dr. Wakefield is part of a small but fervent group of doctors who discourage vaccinations because of a seeming link with autism”.
Aside from the typically dismissive “mental problems” reference, or the fact that Dr. Wakefield never once generally “discouraged vaccinations”; here’s that word “fervent” again. Harris first shared that lugubrious little double-edged cutie on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” with Neal Conan .
On the NPR broadcast, Harris goes on about how well the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program works, its necessity to protect industry from injury suits, and without which it would be “much, much” harder to encourage more drug makers to manufacture vaccines (never noting that the vaccine industry is more of an oligopoly than ever). Then Harris says,
“And you have an extraordinary collection, an extraordinary community, really, of parents who believe something fervently, that nearly all available science says is not true”.
Fervent: adjective; from “fervere”—to boil or froth. Very hot. Glowing. Exhibiting great intensity of feeling. Zealous. Synonym: IMPASSIONED.
Harris appeared along with Peter “water is toxic” Hotez of the Sabin Institute (Sanofi-Pasteur, Chiron, GSK, Merck, Medimmune, Wyeth, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Hotez, before stating that there is no rise in autism rates and it’s just better recognition, echoed the “fervent” remark in what seemed like a poorly rehearsed attempt to help catapult Harris’s buzzword to the status of meme.
Isn’t tireless repetition of “emotional words” a technique of advertising and political propaganda? Or is Harris too bored with the issue to come up with fresher adjectives? I suppose that could explain the—cough— inconstant reporting.
Inconstant: adjective; likely to change frequently without apparent or cogent reason— in•con•stant•ly adverb
Synonyms: INCONSTANT, FICKLE, CAPRICIOUS, MERCURIAL, UNSTABLE, lacking firmness or steadiness.
Like Two Drunks Holding Each other Up
To be fair, Harris has dipped toes in the water of questioning the “perfect safety” of vaccines, though he tends to heavily quote “experts” on only one side of the issue.
In fact, Harris’s report on conflicts of interest among CDC advisors —in which not one conflicted advisor is named—was ironic considering the number of times which Harris himself refrains from mentioning the conflicts of vaccine promoters he frequently quotes. Harris seems careful enough to feature vaccine pitchmen who may be buffered by a deceptive and slim-as-a-credit-card degree of separation from their industry conflicts, but not always. For instance, William Shaffner’s role as paid “advisor or consultant” to Wyeth, Sanofi-Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Merck constitutes pretty blatant conflicts of interest—which are also blatantly not mentioned in an article on swine flu .
For another stroke of irony, when reporting on the Hannah Poling concession , Harris quotes a certain Dr. Darryl De Vivo, professor of neurology and pediatrics at Columbia University and CDC advisory panel member. De Vivo claims that, “After caring for hundreds of children with mitochondrial disease, I can't recall a single one that had a complication from vaccination”.
Harris didn’t report that De Vivo had been president of the Child Neurology Society, whose “outreach” and “philanthropic” arm, the Child Neurology Foundation, receives grants by Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Ortho McNeil, Shire USA, and others.
This all begs the question: do conflicts matter? If they mattered enough to distort the contingency of Dr. Wakefield’s involvement with Legal Aid in order to insert the appearance of greed into his motives for performing the Lancet study, it should matter that neurologist who defended vaccines in contradiction to a government concession for a vaccine injured child had actual conflicting interests at any time.
On the subject of perceived conflicts, Harris quoted Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health in the same article: “We’re talking about two things we don’t understand very well, mitochondrial disorder and autism, and putting them together… It’s like two drunks holding each other up.” Harris might have mentioned that the class of drugs historically promoted by the NIMH—psychopharmaceuticals— are increasingly among the top suspects for inducing iatrogenic mitochondrial disorders. It’s already understood that certain vaccine toxins induce mitochondrial dysfunction .
As it happens, the National Institute of Mental Health is now being investigated by Senator Chuck Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee. In a letter to the National Institute of Health director Francis Collins , Grassley demands copies of all of Insel’s correspondences due to emerging reports of industry conflicts of many NIMH-funded academic researchers:
“In each of these cases, the researcher(s) involved received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Because I have uncovered so many problems at the NIMH, I wonder if there is something in particular about this institute
We have to wonder if there’s something particular about the New York Times that leads to so many problems citing the conflicts of vaccine defenders. In his article on the Lancet retraction, Harris quotes Lancet editor Richard Horton’s condemnation of Wakefield without mentioning that the Lancet is published by Elsevier, a publishing partner with Merck— maker of the US MMR and other vaccines including Paul Offit’s Rotateq. Harris didn’t report that Elsevier Publishing’s director up to 2009 was Sir Crispin Davis, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (maker of the British MMR, Engerix B and more than 25 other vaccines for the global market), also brother to Judge Nigel Davis who halted MMR injury suits in Great Britain. Harris doesn’t mention any of the spider-webbing conflicts of any of the figures leading the legal attacks on Drs. Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith .