Tag: autism studies

But If It Wasn’t the Vaccines…

Do you know why some folks still think vaccines are associated with autism?

It is simply because we can’t tell them what does cause autism.

“In the absence of a specific etiology for ASDs, and a tendency among parents of children with a disability to feel a strong sense of guilt, it is not surprising that parents attempt to form their own explanations for the disorder in order to cope with the diagnosis.”

Mercer et al on Parental perspectives on the causes of an autism spectrum disorder in their children

So if we don’t have another answer – then it must be vaccines.

That helps explain a lot of vaccine injury stories too.

For example, doctors often can’t tell you why your child has allergies, asthma, Celiac disease, diabetes, eczema, multiple sclerosis, POTS, SIDS, or thyroid problems, etc., which makes some people look to the mistaken theory that they were triggered by vaccines.

Of course, the answer isn’t that these are vaccine-induced diseases.

It simply demonstrates the limits of medical technology. Even if we don’t know what does cause many of these diseases, in almost all cases, it has been shown that they are not associated with vaccines.

Limits of 21st Century Medical Technology

Even in the 21st Century, science and medicine don’t have all of the answers.

And sometimes the answers are there, but are misinterpreted.

For example, the National Association of Medical Examiners makes the following distinctions on a medical certificate between manner of death:

  • Natural — “due solely or nearly totally to disease and/or the aging process.”
  • Accident — “there is little or no evidence that the injury or poisoning occurred with intent to harm or cause death. In essence, the fatal outcome was unintentional.”
  • Suicide — “results from an injury or poisoning as a result of an intentional, self-inflicted act committed to do self-harm or cause the death of one’s self.”
  • Homicide — “occurs when death results from…an injury or poisoning or from… a volitional act committed by another person to cause fear, harm, or death. Intent to cause death is a common element but is not required for classification as homicide.”
  • Could not be determined — “used when the information pointing to one manner of death is no more compelling than one or more other competing manners of death when all available information is considered.”
  • Pending investigation — “used when determination of manner depends on further information”

Why is this important to know?

Because many people confuse a natural cause of death as meaning that there was nothing wrong. That’s actually the opposite of what it means! A natural cause of death in a child means that they died because of a disease or condition.

Which disease or condition?

What was the underlying or immediate cause of death in these cases?

Limits and Uncertainty in Medicine

That’s where the limits of modern medicine and modern medical technology come in…

Maybe technology will change the future of healthcare – hopefully for the better, but there are still many things it can’t do.

Sure, we have indexed or mapped the entire human genome, but we still can’t often tell you why your child has a cough or runny nose, has developmental delays, or didn’t make it out of the PICU.

“…finding an underlying diagnosis for many conditions can be a very long and frustrating experience. A diagnosis can take as many as five years, and occasionally may never happen, especially with rare conditions. In addition, some experts say that between 30 to 40 percent of children with special needs do not have an exact diagnosis.”

NIH on Learning About An Undiagnosed Condition in a Child

Everyone wants answers when a child is sick or has unexplained signs and symptoms, especially when a child dies.

Unfortunately, while it may not get talked about often enough, there are many limits to modern medicine. There is often some uncertainty too.

“…when parents perceive greater uncertainty, they perceive less control over their child’s condition.”

Madeo et al on Factors Associated with Perceived Uncertainty among Parents of Children with Undiagnosed Medical Conditions

Just because futuristic medical tools like Tricorders are on the way doesn't mean that we will have all of the answers.
Just because futuristic medical tools like Tricorders are on the way doesn’t mean that we will have all of the answers.

Doctors don’t know everything.

The best doctors are the ones that actually know that they don’t know everything.

But just because they don’t know everything, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know anything.

For example, not knowing what does cause autism doesn’t mean that we don’t know many of the things that aren’t linked to autism.

And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should use this an excuse to blame vaccines or to skip or delay any vaccines. Continuing to try and associate vaccines with autism doesn’t just frighten parents and leave kids unprotected, it hurts autistic families.

What to Know About Uncertainty in Medicine

While there is much uncertainty in modern medicine and doctors don’t have all of the answers, there is no evidence that vaccines are associated with autism.

More on Uncertainty in Medicine

Who Is Poul Thorsen?

Part of the propaganda machine of the anti-vaccine movement is pushing the idea that there is some big conspiracy being hidden by doctors all over the world, the CDC, and Big Pharma – and maybe some Reptilians…

The case of Poul Thorsen is everything they are looking for.

What could be better than a fugitive CDC researcher who published studies that dispute a link between vaccines and autism?

How about a story about a story of a fugitive CDC researcher that everyone is trying to cover up and keep secret?

Or a story about a fugitive CDC researcher who used “crooked research” and tricks “to deceive the public about the evidence linking mercury laced vaccines to autism.”

Who Is Poul Thorsen?

As you might expect, as they did with the so-called CDC Whistle blower, anti-vaccine folks have gotten a little too excited about Poul Thorsen.

Poul Thorsen is one of the Office of Inspector General's most wanted fugitives.
Poul Thorsen is one of the Office of Inspector General’s most wanted fugitives.

Yes, it is terrible that he is accused of stealing grant money that had been awarded “to fund studies of the relationship between autism and the exposure to vaccines, the relationship between cerebral palsy and infection during pregnancy, and the relationship between developmental outcomes and fetal alcohol exposure.”

“Unfortunately, a considerable shortfall in funding at Aarhus University associated with the CDC grant was discovered. In investigating the shortfalls associated with the grant, DASTI and Aarhus University became aware of two alleged CDC funding documents as well as a letter regarding funding commitments allegedly written by Randolph B. Williams of CDC’s Procurement Grants Office which was used to secure advances from Aarhus University. Upon investigation by CDC, a suspicion arose that the documents are forgeries.”

Aarhus Universitet Statement regarding Dr. Poul Thorsen’s involvement in Aarhus University projects 

Over at least six years, Thorsen is said to have diverted over $1 million dollars in CDC grant money to his personal bank account and was indicted on 22 counts of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering. He is currently living and working in Denmark, but not at Aarhus University, from where he resigned in 2009.

Myths About Poul Thorsen

Is anyone trying to keep what he did a secret?

If they are, they are doing a poor job of it, as everything he did is listed on his OIG Fugitive Profile. In addition to Thorsen, who is no longer among their most wanted fugitives, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is seeking more than 170 other fugitives “on charges related to health care fraud and abuse.”

More importantly though, did his alleged Wire Fraud and Money Laundering activities affect the research with which he is associated?

As his main vaccine and autism studies were published before 2004, it is hard to understand why they would be:

  • Madsen KM, Hviid A, Vestergaard M, Schendel D, Wohlfahrt J, Thorsen P, Olsen J, Melbye M. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism. N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 7;347(19):1477-82.
  • Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB, Thorsen P, Plesner AM, Andersen PH, Mortensen PB. Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics. 2003 Sep;112(3 Pt 1):604-6

For one thing, Thorsen is not one of the lead authors in either study – the researchers who made the most significant contributions to the study. His collaborators have even said that Thorsen did not have the ability to influence the scientific results of those studies.

Andrew Wakefield was the lead author on his retracted paper.
Andrew Wakefield was the lead author on his retracted paper. His name came first.

Have subsequent studies found an increased incidence of autism in Denmark, as some Thorsen critics suggest? No. That isn’t even true. Amazingly, even the studies they cite as their evidence, like one by Grønborg, don’t show that!

And there are many other studies that have replicated and confirm Madsen’s (Thorsen’s) finding – vaccines don’t cause autism.

Show Me The Money

But where did the money go?

While “bank records show that he bought a home in Atlanta, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an Audi automobile, and a Honda SUV with funds that he received from the CDC grants,” it seems like he spent an awful lot of money building up NANEA, his research unit in Denmark – the North Atlantic Neuro-Epidemiology Alliance. For example, these folks didn’t fly coach – they traveled nicely, used limos, stayed at nice hotels, and had fancy parties, as Thorsen thought this was the way to build the world’s best research institution.

So did he really steal all of the money or simply mismanage it?

Either would have been quite easy, as it doesn’t seem like the folks in Denmark required him to file necessary financial status reports. While Thorsen should have been filing status reports after the end of each budget period, no one actually knew what he had been doing with the money for at least the first seven years of the grant period!

Is he on the run from Interpol, as his critics claim?

He doesn’t seem to be, as he is living and working in Denmark.

While he was charged at least three times with tax evasion, those charges were dismissed each time and ultimately rejected by the Vestre Landsret, the highest court in Denmark.

Will he be extradited to the United States? I have absolutely no idea how extradition treaties work, so I won’t comment on that, but it does not seem very likely that a country would extradite one of it’s own citizens to another country for charges like this…

I do know that there is no evidence that the crimes for which Poul Thorsen is accused tainted his research or change the fact that vaccines do not cause autism.

What to Know About Poul Thorsen

Poul Thorsen was a CDC researcher from Denmark who is accused of stealing grant money that was supposed to be used to study fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy, and possible links between vaccines and autism.

More About Poul Thorsen

Vaccines and Encephalitis

It is thought that vaccines can, very rarely, cause encephalitis.

“Encephalitis: Irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain, most often due to infections.”

IOM Report on Adverse Effects of Vaccines

Encephalitis is actually a table injury in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program if it occurs:

  • within 72 hours of getting a pertussis containing vaccines
  • within 5 to 15 days of getting an MMR vaccine

And since it is a table injury, then unless another cause is found, “it is presumed that the vaccine was the cause of the injury.”

Most causes of encephalitis are natural infections, including some that are vaccine-preventable. In fact, about 1 in 1,000 people who get measles can develop measles encephalitis.

So the fact that vaccines can, very rarely, cause encephalitis, shouldn’t lead anyone to think that delaying or skipping a vaccine is a good idea.

Autism and Encephalitis

Of course, it isn’t that simple.

The problem?

The misnamed Immunity Education site tries to scare parents into thinking that crying, even excessively, after a vaccine means a child has encephalitis.
The misnamed Immunity Education site tries to scare parents into thinking that crying, even excessively, after a vaccine means that a child has encephalitis.

Anti-vaccine folks claim that an awful lot of things are encephalitis, from crying excessively after getting a vaccine to autism.

Although the Vaccine Information Statement for the DTaP vaccine (it was more common after the older DTP vaccine) does state that children may uncommonly have “non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more” it is not because they have brain inflammation, and the reaction “although unnerving, is otherwise benign.” It is not even a contraindication to getting another dose of DTaP or a later dose of Tdap.

What causes this non-stop crying? It is thought to be a painful local reaction. Fortunately, it does not happen as often with the newer DTaP vaccines.

And autism is not encephalitis.

“That measles infections can cause neurologic side effects on rare occasions is known, but the complication rate for vaccinations is low. After infectious measles encephalitis, risk of an autistic regression has occurred in 1/1000 to 1/10,000 cases. If the trend toward delaying vaccination continues because parents remain misinformed about the MMR, the number of children with neurologic complications of measles or rubella will increase. ”

Chez et al on Immunizations, Immunology, and Autism

Can encephalitis lead a child to have symptoms of autism?

Sometimes.

In addition to natural measles infections, there have been reports of children developing autism after HSV encephalitis, varicella encephalitis, congenital rubella syndrome, and congenital syphilis.

But the great majority of kids with autism do not first have encephalitis. They do not have ongoing brain inflammation.

Saying that encephalitis can cause autism is not the same thing as saying that autism is encephalitis.

Do Vaccines Cause Encephalitis?

And even though encephalitis has long been a table injury for a few vaccines, the 2012 IOM report, “Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality,” found inadequate evidence to be able to conclude that encephalitis was caused by vaccines.

“Follow-up investigations in that cohort and others, however, found no evidence of a real increased incidence of encephalitis following DTwP. In addition, the most recent IOM report concludes that the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between diphtheria toxoid-, tetanus toxoid-, or acellular pertussis-containing vaccine and encephalitis or encephalopathy.”

Vaccinophobia and Vaccine Controversies of the 21st Century

That’s not surprising, because follow-up of children studied in the 1980s, from which the original claims about DTP and encephalitis were made, found no evidence of an increased risk of encephalitis.

What about the MMR vaccine?

Again, the IOM report found inadequate evidence, but the problem has always been that “acute encephalitis post-MMR is so rare that it has been impossible to distinguish from the background encephalitis rate of 1 in one million in immune competent hosts.”

Anti-NMDAR Encephalitis

Doesn’t the discovery of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate (anti-NMDA) receptor encephalitis prove that vaccines cause autism?

“Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is a disease occurring when antibodies produced by the body’s own immune system attack NMDA receptors in the brain.”

The Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis Foundation

Often associated with tumors, isolated case reports do correlate anti-NMDAR encephalitis with vaccines. There are so few cases of anti-NMDAR encephalitis though, it is hard to know what they mean, as are the reports of autism developing after anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

What to Know About Vaccines and Encephalitis

Vaccines still don’t cause autism and the latest safety studies report that vaccines probably don’t cause encephalitis, although a few are still listed as a table injury.

More About Vaccines and Encephalitis

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