Tag: thimerosal

Competing Anti-Vaccine Autism Theories

Vaccines don’t cause autism.

We know that.

donald-trump

Well, most of us know that.

But did you know that there are actually competing theories from anti-vaccine folks about how they think vaccines ’cause autism?’

Wakefield and MMR Causes Autism Theory

On one side, you have the followers of Andrew Wakefield who think that the MMR vaccine is to blame.

To be clear, they seem to think that the problem isn’t necessarily vaccines, but rather the combination of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines into one.

“Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.”

Andrew Wakefield

Wakefield had even filed a patent on his own vaccine replacement – a measles vaccine.

No, Thimerosal Causes Autism Theory

Then you have folks like Robert F Kennedy, Jr who claim that it is thimerosal in vaccines, which was actually removed in the late 1990s, that is to blame.

The thing is, although RFK, Jr believes that kids are still exposed to lots of thimerosal in vaccines, the MMR never ever contained thimerosal. So, if the MMR vaccine causes autism, it isn’t because of thimerosal.

And if thimerosal causes autism, then you can’t really blame the MMR vaccine…

No, Glyphosate Causes Autism Theory

And believe it or not, some folks don’t even blame vaccines!

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, with a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, believes that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is causing kids to become autistic.

“Is there a toxic substance that is currently in our environment on the rise in step with increasing rates of Autism that could explain this?… The answer is yes, I’m quite sure that I’m right, and the answer is glyphosate.”

Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D.

Well, they still blame vaccines.

They think vaccines are contaminated with glyphosate.

Stephanie Seneff actually believes that autism will “afflict 50% of American children by 2025.”

That’s right, she thinks half of all kids will be autistic in just 8 years.

It’s Everything About Vaccines That Causes Autism Theory

And lastly, you have folks who just want to blame anything and everything about vaccines.

They may have blamed the MMR vaccine or thimerosal at one time, but may have moved on to other vaccine ingredients, like aluminum or formaldehyde, or simply getting too many vaccines at the same time.

Or they may believe in combinations of theories, with all of the ‘toxins‘ in vaccines supposedly having a synergistic effect – causing autism.

In many cases, they might not even be sure what it is about vaccines that causes autism, but they are still sure it is vaccines.

Why are there so many competing theories about how vaccines could cause autism?

Could it be because vaccines don’t cause autism?

What To Know About Anti-Vaccine Autism Theories

Whichever anti-vaccine expert is pushing their theory, remember that vaccines still don’t cause autism.

For More Information on Anti-Vaccine Autism Theories

What is the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute?

What do folks discuss at a CMSRI sponsored vaccine conference?
What do folks at a CMSRI sponsored vaccine conference discuss?

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI) was created by and is funded by the Dwoskin Family Foundation.

The Geiers, well known for doing studies that misuse VAERS data, are regularly funded by the CMSRI.
The Geiers, well known for doing studies that misuse VAERS data, are regularly funded by the CMSRI.

It provides grants to folks who will do research on “vaccine induced brain and immune dysfunction” and on what they believe are other “gaps in our knowledge about vaccines and vaccine safety”, including:

While they claim that they are not an anti-vaccine organization, it should be noted that  Claire Dwoskin once said that “Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

And while most folks talk about the many benefits of vaccines, in fact calling vaccines one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century, Claire Dwoskin thinks that CMSRI funded research proves the “costs for harm caused” by vaccines and that her organization needs to raise “public awareness about the true cost of vaccines” to change “attitudes about vaccine safety.”

CMSRI Funded Scientists

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute funds the work of many scientists whose work is used by the anti-vaccine movement to help push misinformation about vaccines:

  • Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld – an immunologist, he now heads the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, and claims to have discovered a novel vaccine-associated autoimmune disease
  • Dr. Christopher Shaw – a neuroscientist in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia, his focus is on the ALS-parkinsonism dementia complex and also on the role of aluminum as a neurotoxin
  • Dr. Lucija Tomljenovic – a post doctoral research fellow that works in Dr. Shaw’s lab in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Anthony Mawson – an epidemiologist, he is a visiting professor at the Jackson State University School of Public Health and has “special interests in the evolutionary-adaptive origins of health disparities, the perinatal origins of chronic diseases, and the role of psychosocial factors in health and disease”
  • Dr. Martha Herbert – a pediatric neurologist, she was once an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (maybe she still is, but she isn’t listed on their websites and no good response from either institution about her status), and has written a book about biomedical treatments for autism
  • Dr. Stephanie Seneff – a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, she does research to try and show that glyphosate (Roundup) causes modern day diseases, such as Alzheimers and autism
  • David A. Geier and Dr. Mark R. Geier – have long misused the VAERS database to try and show that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism
  • Brian Hooker – most well known for secretly taping CDC Whistleblower and his retracted papers, he also does research with the Geiers for the CMSRI

Have these scientists changed any attitudes about vaccine safety? Certainly not among those who have really done their research about vaccines, but their studies do seem to throw fuel on whatever fire there is in the anti-vaccine movement.

It should be clear why few people take the work of these scientists seriously.

“At present, there is no evidence to suggest that ASIA syndrome is a viable explanation for unusual autoimmune diseases.”

David Hawkes Revisiting adverse reactions to vaccines

While some of their studies have been retracted, others have been published in what experts describe as predatory open access journals, have been published in journals on which the researchers may sit on the journal’s editorial board, a potential conflict of interest, or are simply poorly done.

You seem to hear the term “junk science” a lot when folks review their studies…

This paper on aluminum adjuvants and the HPV vaccine was withdrawn by the journal Vaccine.
This paper on aluminum adjuvants and the HPV vaccine was withdrawn by the journal Vaccine.

Most recently, the quickly retracted study on the health status of vaccinated vs unvaccinated homeschoolers, was partly funded by the CMSRI.

Many of the scientists have also been involved in lawsuits involving vaccines, sometimes testifying about the very cases that they write about in their papers!

Other CMSRI Activities

The Dwoskin Family also helps support its scientists and their work by sponsoring a number of “vaccine safety conferences,” including the:

  • 2011 Vaccine Safety Conference in Jamaica that featured Andrew Wakefield
  • 2012 2nd International Symposium on Vaccines
  • 2013 3nd International Symposium on Vaccines
  • 2016 4nd International Symposium on Vaccines

And they provided the funding for the Greater Good movie, which has been described as “Pure, unadulterated anti-vaccine propaganda masquerading as a “balanced” documentary”.

What to Know About the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, through the Dwoskin Family Foundation, funds the work of many scientists that are said to be anti-vaccine, which can then used by the anti-vaccine movement to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More About the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

Save

Simpsonwood and Vaccines

Simpsonwood refers to the Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information conference by 51  vaccine and vaccine safety researchers and experts. A CDC conference to discuss thimerosal and vaccines, it was held over two days at the Simpsonwood Methodist retreat and conference center in Norcross, Georgia (near Atlanta) in June 2000.

The AAP and FDA had called, as a precautionary measure, for the removal of thimerosal from vaccines the previous year.

Although a report and transcripts of the Simpsonwood meetings are available, that hasn’t led some, including Robert Kennedy, Jr. to allege that Simpsonwood was part of a big conspiracy to hide a link between vaccines and autism.

It wasn’t.

For more information:

 

Thimerosal in Vaccines

Although it was never actually linked to any real side effects, thimerosal (mercury) was removed from almost all childhood vaccines in 1999.

Thimerosal, a preservative, only remained in flu vaccines for a few years, but thimerosal free flu vaccines have been available since 2003.

That’s also the year that the remaining non-flu vaccines with thimerosal expired – January 2003.

And this year, at least “120 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free influenza vaccine will be produced.” That means that over 75% of flu shots are thimerosal free, leaving only some multi-dose vials of flu shots to still have thimerosal, but making it easy to avoid if you want to.

Myth of Continued Exposure to Mercury in Vaccines

Although thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 1999, some anti-vax folks still claim that many vaccines contain mercury.
Although thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 1999, some anti-vax folks still claim that many vaccines contain mercury. Photo courtesy of Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes

Although most anti-vaccine groups have moved on to other conspiracy theories to scare parents, some still falsely claim that vaccines continue to be made with thimerosal and that thimerosal is dangerous.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., for example, continues to claim that even though thimerosal has been removed from pediatric vaccines, “thimerosal levels remain virtually unchanged.” This is mostly, he claims, because of flu shots with thimerosal. Also, when a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, Kennedy claims that the fetus gets a bolus of thimerosal “that’s about 800 times the amount of mercury the CDC recommends.”

First, it is important to remember that the original concerns about thimerosal were because children who received a complete set of thimerosal containing vaccines (only hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib ever had thimerosal) could get up to 187.5 micrograms of ethyl mercury by the time they were six months old, which exceeded the EPA limits for methyl mercury ingestion (but was less than the FDA limits). They aren’t the same type of mercury though, and thimerosal free versions of DTaP and Hib were already available in the late 1990s, so many kids likely got less than 187.5 micrograms of ethyl mercury.

Since thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines beginning in 1999, that left flu vaccines as the main pediatric vaccine that still used thimerosal as a preservative. So did expanded flu shot recommendations for kids mean that they still got a lot of thimerosal over the years?

It is extremely unlikely that many kids have gotten each and every one of their yearly flu vaccines with thimerosal. It is more likely that they got just a few with thimerosal and the rest without, as thimerosal free flu vaccines became more widely available. After all, a flu vaccine with reduced thimerosal was available as early as 2002.

In 2003, thimerosal free flu shots became available and Flumist, a thimerosal free flu nasal spray vaccine was also approved. The supply of thimerosal free flu vaccines increased each and every year. For the 2014-15 flu season, over 100 million doses of flu vaccine are available that are thimerosal free or preservative free (with only trace amounts of thimerosal).

Even if kids did get flu vaccines with thimerosal each year though, would it matter? A 2008 study in Pediatrics, “Mercury Levels in Newborns and Infants After Receipt of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines,” found that the half-life of ethyl mercury was about two days, “suggesting that exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines does not result in an accumulation of mercury in blood.” And the highest blood level they found was less than 5-8 nanograms/ml, which is far less than the 187.5 micrograms that anti-vax groups continue to talk about, even in infants who had already received a cumulative dose of 162.5 micrograms of thimerosal.

What about flu shots in pregnancy?

A 2010 study in Pediatrics, “Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of Autism,” found that “prenatal and early-life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was not related to increased risk of” autism spectrum disorders. Two other studies have also found that prenatal exposure to thimerosal from immunoglobulin preparations, like Rho(D) immune globulin, during pregnancy were not associated with an increased risk for autism.

And also consider that fewer than 15 to 30% of pregnant women got flu shots before 2009. After 2009 and the H1N1 pandemic, rates did increase, but only to about 38 to 52%.

Although current recommendations don’t state a preference for the type of flu shot for pregnant women, it is likely that at least some of them got thimerosal free flu shots. In California, for example, since the passage of their Mercury Free Act in 2006, pregnant women and children younger than age 3 years have to get vaccines that are ‘mercury free.’

What To Know About Thimerosal in Vaccines

Thimerosal is a preservative that was removed from vaccines beginning in 1999, which means that most teens today got little or no exposure to thimerosal from vaccines.

More Information About Thimerosal in Vaccines:

Updated April 8, 2017