Tag: Verstraeten

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

What Happened to Kennedy’s Vaccination Safety Committee?

Many folks were surprised by the reports that Donald Trump had selected Robert Kennedy, Jr to head a committee on vaccine safety.

RJK, JR has made a number of outrageous claims about vaccines and autism.
RJK, Jr has made a number of outrageous claims about vaccines and autism.

Or maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, once wrote a discredited article on the dangers of mercury in vaccines, and like Trump, continues to believe that vaccines are linked to autism.

But what can we expect from a Kennedy vaccine safety committee?

Robert F Kennedy, Jr on Vaccines

Vaccines have been proven safe and necessary time and again. If this vaccine safety commission happens, most people expect Kennedy to push his conspiracy theories to even more people.

In addition to wasting a lot of time and money, Kennedy has the potential to scare parents away from getting their kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“The CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.”

Robert F Kennedy, Jr

This is one of RFK, Jr statements about vaccines.

Surprisingly, some parts of this statement are true.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does own some vaccine patents. And the CDC does buy about $4.1 billion in vaccines each year.

They don’t sell those vaccines though. They are distributed through the Vaccines for Children program to children who can’t afford vaccines.

Other Robert F Kennedy, Jr Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

What else does Kennedy believe?

While many anti-vaccine folks believe in Big Pharma conspiracies, Kennedy takes it to an extreme and believes that they have a “broad reach” and that “virtually all the institutions that are supposed to stand between a rapacious industry and vulnerable children have been compromised,” including “Congress, the regulatory agencies, FDA and CDC, the IOM, the NIH, the AAP, the science journals, the university science departments and the press.”

Kennedy has also stated, or to be more precise, misstated that:

  • “Pharma’s stranglehold on the journals keeps independent vaccine safety science from ever getting published. Just this month, the Swiss journal, Frontiers in Public Health, cancelled publication of the first vaccinated/unvaccinated study. The study showed that vaccinated children had less measles and rubella, but four times as many neurological disorders—including autism –and 30 times the incidence of allergies.” – The very small study had been only provisionally accepted and was rejected upon further review. It wasn’t even the first vaccinated/unvaccinated study. That would be the “Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS),” which looked at “whether unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from those vaccinated in terms of health.” And not surprisingly, they do. The unvaccinated kids get more vaccine preventable diseases. So what happened to the study? Like many retracted anti-vaccine studies, they republished it in another journal.
  • “…there is an overt conspiracy by a small group within the CDC vaccine division. It’s explicit. You can watch it unfold if you read the Simpsonwood transcripts and the related emails…” – Kennedy wrote extensively about Simpsonwood, the 2000 Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information conference, in his article Deadly Immunity, which was so full of obvious errors (some described them as lies), that it was eventually retracted. In addition to the obvious errors, Kennedy “quote mined the IOM report to make it seem that it said the exact opposite of what it really said.”
  • “…the CDC’s best and most recent science shows that autism spectrum disorder rates in Scandinavia dropped 33 percent following the removal of thimerosal in 1993.” – the article Kennedy cites is actually about recurrence risk, how likely you are to have another child with autism and “supports the role of genetics in ASDs,” and although rates seemed to decrease after a peak, they were still the same as before thimerosal was removed
  • “Vaccine mercury exposures to children today are comparable to exposures in the 1990s, and, for the first time, thimerosal vaccines are being administered to pregnant women in America.” – this is perhaps Kennedy’s most ridiculous claim. I think he mostly bases it on the fact that pregnant women get flu shots, but with the availability of thimerosal free flu vaccines (70% of flu vaccine dosages available this year) and the fact that only about 40% of pregnant women get the flu vaccine during flu season, it is impossible to think that “vaccine mercury exposures to children today are comparable to exposures in the 1990s,” when the hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib vaccines could all have thimerosal and were all given to infants multiple times.
  • Kennedy has compared getting vaccinated to “a holocaust” and in his mind, there is a conspiracy among the CDC, doctors, and the press that is “akin to what happened to the Catholic Church during the pedophile scandal. The institution suddenly became more important than the children it was supposed to protect. Only a few individuals were actively involved in raping children and shuffling known pedophile priests to unsuspecting dioceses.” – he apologized for the holocaust statement, but not for anything else he has ever said.
  • “I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word to describe the autism epidemic. I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism, which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families.” – of course, his “apology” was just as offensive to many people
  • “First of all, vaccines are not subject to the safety rigors undergone by other pharmaceuticals in the FDA approval process. There are no large scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.” – there actually are
  • “…in the one 1930 human study of thimerosal that predated its use in vaccines, all the subjects injected with thimerosal died.” – all of the subjects had meningococcal meningitis, a now vaccine-preventable disease that is life-threatening even today
  • “Verstraeten’s original analysis of those datasets found that thimerosal exposures increased autism risk by 760%. The CDC now knew the cause of the autism epidemic.” – it didn’t, although this is a common anti-vaccine conspiracy that involves the CDC hiding data about thimerosal, vaccines, and autism

Ironically, Kennedy is the nephew of President John F Kennedy, who signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act). President Kennedy’s vaccine law started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, and has been continuously reauthorized ever since.

What Happened to Kennedy’s Vaccination Safety Committee

Kennedy never did get appointed to head Trump’s vaccine safety commission.

“In both of those two meetings he asked me if vaccines weren’t a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines,” Gates recalled, noting that Robert Kennedy Jr. had been urging Trump to launch such an effort. Gates said he told Trump, “that’s a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don’t do that.”

In fact, Trump never even created a vaccine safety commission, perhaps because he got some good advice from Bill Gates.

What to Know About Robert F Kennedy, Jr’s Vaccination Safety Committee

Plans for a Vaccine Safety Commission, which would help Robert F Kennedy, Jr gain a bigger audience for his ideas about thimerosal and autism, seem to be on hold.

More on Robert F Kennedy, Jr’s Vaccination Safety Committee