Tag: Simpsonwood

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Need some advice about preparing for a public debate about vaccines?

That’s easy.

“If you are invited for a public discussion you must first decide whether or not to accept the invitation.”

How to respond to vocal vaccine deniers in public

Don’t do it.

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Wait, why wouldn’t you want to have a debate about vaccines?

Remember, a good debate implies that there are two valid sides to the issue. Or at least that one side has some arguments that aren’t based on myths and misinformation.

What are you debating?

That vaccines are safe, with few risks, and that they are necessary.

What’s there to debate?

Don’t allow false balance to create a fake debate.

Think about it.

Should Robert F. Kennedy, Jr be given an opportunity to tell folks his opinions about the “perceived dangers” of vaccines, when those perceived dangers include that vaccines are associated with autism, have been untested on pregnant women, are sold by the CDC, and a lot of other conspiracy type stuff?

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

Remember, Kennedy is the guy who published the retracted Deadly Immunity article. And he continues to focus on the dangers of mercury in vaccines, even though only a very small minority of flu shots still contain thimerosal and studies have shown that the thimerosal that kids have been exposed to in vaccines is not a danger.

He’s an environmental lawyer who continues to focus on vaccines in the age of climate change and as EPA regulations are being rolled back.

Neither Kennedy nor anyone else in the anti-vaccine movement should be given a stage to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

The debate was canceled because of negative attention.

Update – Fortunately, they weren’t. The “debate” was canceled.

More on Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Does Congress Really Agree About Vaccines?

Believe it or not, Congress has a lot to do with whether or not folks get vaccinated.

“As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly disease.”

Sens. Lamar Alexander et al Dear Colleague Letter

We saw what happened in the mid-1980s when Federal funding for vaccine programs went down – we got measles outbreaks.

Congress and Vaccines

But it isn’t just that members of Congress have their fingers on the purse strings.

Over the years, while the great majority of lawmakers do agree that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary, a few have created unnecessary fear about vaccines and have likely scared parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?
Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?

And then there are the Congressional hearings…

Remember Dan Burton?

The former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana (1983-2013) has been described as being “antivaccine through and through” and “organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.”

Dan Burton held over 20 Congressional hearings trying to prove that there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.
Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.

Hearings that gave a high profile platform to Andrew Wakefield and are best described as:

“carefully choreographed to generate as much negative feeling toward the vaccination system as possible.”

Arthur Allen on Vaccine The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver

Who replaced Dan Burton?

It seems to be U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), who has been described as “vying to take over the title of the most antivaccine legislator in the U.S. Congress since Dan Burton retired.”

He got a little help from Rep. Darrell Issa, who conducted a meeting of the Subcommittee of Government Operations in 2014, Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Okay. Let’s stop it right there. Because every time we have ever talked about doing one of those studies, some idiot in the media says I am suggesting that children intentionally don’t get vaccinated. And I don’t know that anybody ever has ever proposed that. But there are plenty of children whose parents will not allow them to be vaccinated. There are plenty of cultures where children are not vaccinated. And there are other reasons children are not vaccinated. And there are children who take large doses of vaccination, and children whose parents decide to have them take one vaccination at a time to avoid thimerosal. And I have not been able to ascertain that there has actually been a legitimate study done that wasn’t tainted by the touch of the international colossal scumbag Poul Thorsen.”

Rep. Bill Posey questioning NIH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. in the Congressional hearing on Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Who else might be joining him?

Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can't just space out the vaccines kids get...
Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can’t just space out the vaccines kids get…

There is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Maloney also spoke at a 2012 hearing planned by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on the federal response to rising autism rates.

“Are you looking at vaccination? Is that part of your studies? I have a question. Are you looking at vaccination? Are you having a study on vaccination and the fact that they’re cramming them down and having kids have nine at one time. Is that a cause? Do you have any studies on vaccination?”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in a hearing on Rising Autism Rates

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was also a co-sponsor of Rep. Bill Posey’s 2015 Vaccine Safety Study Act bill, which called for “a comprehensive study comparing total health outcomes, including risk of autism, in vaccinated populations in the United States with such outcomes in unvaccinated populations in the United States, and for other purposes,” even though many experts have long pointed out the problems with using intentionally unvaccinated folks as a comparison group.

But Rep Maloney got her start long before Bill Posey ever came to Congress…

In 2006, in response to a series of articles by Dan Olmstead, who later created the website, Age of Autism, Rep Maloney held a briefing at the National Press Club where she proposed the Comprehensive Study of Autism Epidemic Act of 2006, a bill that sounds awfully similar to Posey’s Vaccine Safety Study Act.

Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) was another co-sponsor.

But we shouldn’t forget Rep. Dave Weldon MD (R-Fl), who introduced the Mercury-Free Vaccines Act of 2004 and the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act of 2007. Weldon also sent a number of letters to Julie Gerberding questioning a study about thimerosal by Thomas Verstraeten, a study that was investigated and cleared by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in 2005. Because he was a doctor, Rep. Burton also had Weldon do a lot of the questioning during his hearings.

And there is also Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), who was a cosponsor when  Maloney reintroduced the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act in 2009.

Not surprisingly, many of these members of Congress have been getting donations from anti-vaccine organizations.

Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.
Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.

In contrast to all of the folks above, there was Rep. Henry A Waxman (D-CA), who retired after 40 years in Congress, but not before:

  • fighting back against Dan Burton’s misinformation in his hearings about vaccines
  • introducing the Vaccine Access and Supply Act of 2005
  • authoring the stand-alone Vaccines for Children legislation that was included in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 that created the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program
  • introducing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986

But his work on vaccines has probably been the most low-profile thing that Waxman did, which is why he is often described as “one of the most important Congressman ever.”

You’ll never hear that said about Dan Burton, Bill Posey, Dave Weldon, or Carolyn Maloney…

More on Congress and Vaccines

Has the CDC Been Hiding and Destroying Evidence About Vaccine Safety?

Has the CDC ever been caught destroying and hiding evidence about vaccine safety?

Have you seen the movie Vaxxed? They talk about a big coverup over a study about vaccines and autism, don’t they? And how the CDC whistleblower’s coauthors destroyed a bunch of evidence…

Except that they didn’t.

And no, the CDC never hid data about mercury, vaccines, and autism either.

Has the CDC Been Hiding and Destroying Evidence About Vaccine Safety?

Why do some folks continue to bring up these anti-vaccine talking points that have been refuted a thousand times already?

Does anyone else think of the word irony when Kelly Brogan accuses other folks of fraud?
Does anyone else think of the word irony when Kelly Brogan accuses other folks of fraud?

There are a few reasons, none of which are true.

The Verstraeten Study

First is a presentation of two abstracts about thimerosal containing vaccines (TCVs) by Thomas Verstraeten in 1999 at a Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference, which were discussed at the Simpsonwood Conference, and were later published, finding “no consistent significant associations were found between TCVs and neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

The Verstraeten abstracts.

So what’s the problem?

Anti-vaccine folks think that Phase I of the trial found statistically significant evidence of adverse events after getting thimerosal containing vaccines and that they manipulated the data to make it go away in Phase II.

“Although the analysis says the increased autism risk is not significant, testimony by Dr. Mark Geier before Congress in December 2002 said that the slope of the curve was in fact statistically significant.”

VSD Subgroup Analysis of Spring 2000 Obtained by SafeMinds from The Center for Disease Control – Summer, 2001

Many folks will find it ironic that Dr. Geier is considered an expert on manipulating data about vaccines and thimerosal, but that’s not what happened in the Verstraeten study.

The CDC Whistleblower

Of course, the other big conspiracy about the CDC destroying and hiding evidence comes from the CDC Whistleblower story.

A story in which the “whistleblower” has stated that:

“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub ​ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.

I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his belief that CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.”

William W. Thompson, Ph.D.

Remember, Dr. Thompson disagreed with his coauthors about how they handled some of the data, and he wanted folks to know about it.

The data wasn’t thrown out in a trash can, as some have suggested.

And unlike Brian Hooker’s study, which has been retracted, the original DeStafano study, which Thompson was talking about, has been reanalyzed and found to be sound.

Myths of Fraud at the CDC

Of course, there’s more.

At least more accusations, most of which come from the same person – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the guy who’s Deadly Immunity article was retracted because it contained so many errors (some described them as lies).

Enzi's investigation made it clearn that there was no conspiracy at Simpsonwood and it cleared Verstraeten too.
Enzi’s investigation made it clear that there was no conspiracy at Simpsonwood and it cleared Verstraeten too.

What Kennedy never mentions though, is that in 2005, Senator Mike Enzi and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee conducted an 18-month investigation into allegations of misconduct by the CDC, especially in connection with the CDC’s study of vaccine safety and thimerosal.

“Our investigation shows that public health officials conducted thorough, science based studies on autism and vaccines.”

Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY)

But why continue to attack the CDC?

Because that’s how propaganda works.

More on Myths of Fraud at the CDC

Thimerosal Hype or Hazard

You know the story about vaccines and thimerosal, right?

Unfortunately for the movie Trace Amounts, simple calling something a fact doesn't make it a fact.
Unfortunately for the movie Trace Amounts, simple calling something a fact doesn’t make it a fact. In addition to mischaracterizing how the process started, they seem to think that kids have been getting exposed to even more mercury in vaccines today…

Are you sure?

Thimerosal Timeline

Although it was never actually linked to any significant side effects, as a “precautionary measure,” the AAP recommended that thimerosal (mercury) be removed from childhood vaccines in 1999.

That’s not when the hype over thimerosal started though.

A few years before that, in 1997, an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Modernization Act called on the FDA to compile a list of foods and drugs with added mercury.

“At the time the FDA Modernization Act was passed, it was recommended that infants receive 3 different vaccines that contained thimerosal: diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP), hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). Infants who received all of these vaccines could have been exposed to a cumulative dose of mercury as high as 187.5 μg by 6 months of age. This value exceeded guidelines recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but did not exceed those recommended by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) or the FDA.”

Offit et al on Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Vaccines Contain Harmful Preservatives, Adjuvants, Additives, or Residuals?

And it was found that in some circumstances, infants could get 187.5 μg of mercury from vaccines by 6 months of age, which exceeded some, but not all regulatory guidelines.

Which regulatory guidelines?

  • EPA – 89 µg
  • ATSDR – 266 µg
  • FDA – 354 µg

That led to the recommendation from the AAP, in July 1999, to remove thimerosal from vaccines, including the hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib vaccines, the only routinely used, non-flu vaccines that had ever had thimerosal. Specifically, the AAP asked vaccine manufacturers “for a clear commitment and a plan to eliminate or reduce as expeditiously as possible the mercury content of their vaccines.”

“There is a significant safety margin incorporated into all the acceptable mercury exposure limits. Furthermore, there are no data or evidence of any harm caused by the level of exposure that some children may have encountered in following the existing immunization schedule. Infants and children who have received thimerosal-containing vaccines do not need to be tested for mercury exposure.”

Notice to Readers: Thimerosal in Vaccines: A Joint Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service

It is important to note that thimerosal-free versions of the DTaP and Hib were already available at the time though.

So we had:

  • DTP vaccines – contained 25μg thimerosal, but had largely been replaced by DTaP vaccines at this point
  • Infanrix – a DTaP vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was first approved in 1997 (most folks incorrectly state that Infanrix first contained trace amounts of thimerosal)
  • Tripedia – a DTaP vaccine that was first approved in 1992 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, a thimerosal-free formulation became available in March 2001 – it was discontinued in 2011
  • Acel-Imune – a DTaP vaccine that was approved in 1991 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2001
  • Certiva – a DTaP vaccine that was approved in 1998 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2000
  • TriHIBit – a DTaP/Hib combination vaccine that was approved in 1997 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2011
  • Tetramune – a DTP/Hib combination vaccine that was approved in 19 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was later discontinued
  • OmniHib – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1993
  • ActHIB – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1993
  • ProHIBIT – the first Hib conjugate vaccine licensed in 1987, it contained 25μg thimerosal
  • PedvaxHIB – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1989
  • HibTITER – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1988, except in multidose vials (25μg thimerosal)
  • Comvax – a Hib/hepatitis B combination vaccine that never contained thimerosal
  • Recombivax HB – a hepatitis B vaccine  with 12.5μg  thimerosal that was approved in September 1983, but a thimerosal-free formulation became available in September 1999
  • Engerix B – a hepatitis B vaccine with 12.5μg  thimerosal that was approved in 1989, but a form with only a trace amount of thimerosal became available in March 2000, followed by a thimerosal-free formulation in January 2007

And of course, the other vaccines that younger kids got at the time never contained thimerosal, including hepatitis A, MMR, Varivax, polio, and Prevnar.

By January 2003, remaining stocks of vaccines with thimerosal expired.

Also in 2003, thimerosal-free flu vaccines became available, including thimerosal-free flu shots and FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Thimerosal Hype or Hazard

So what was the big concern about thimerosal?

It wasn’t that infants were getting exposed to thimerosal in vaccines, but rather that they might get exposed to too much thimerosal.

Looking back at the available vaccines at the time, it is fairly obvious that most infants didn’t get that much thimerosal though, as there were already plenty of thimerosal-free versions of all routinely used vaccines. To get to the higher doses that some folks were concerned about, they would have to get the hepatitis B vaccine, plus thimerosal containing versions of both DTaP and Hib, and a flu shot.

Because young, otherwise healthy children are at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalization, influenza vaccination of healthy children aged 6-23 months is recommended.

Also, keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1991 that hepatitis B and Hib vaccines were added to the immunization schedule to be given to all infants.

And many kids didn’t get flu shots yet.

Remember, it was until the 2004-05 flu season that we started to see strong recommendations to give flu shots to anyone who wasn’t at high risk for complications from the flu. And by that time, thimerosal free flu shots were beginning to appear.

Still, the most important takeaway from all of this is that even though thimerosal was removed from vaccines, it was done as a precautionary measure and not because these kids were harmed. In fact, some kids were harmed in the process, especially as some infants didn’t get their newborn hepatitis B vaccine and at least one went on to get a fatal hepatitis B infection.

What to Know About Vaccines and Thimerosal

Even at the height of the thimerosal scare, most vaccines didn’t contain thimerosal.

More on Vaccines and Thimerosal