Who Was First With Shocking CDC Autism Data?

Mar 1 2014, 8:00pm CST | by

It’s been interesting watching those committed to selling mercury-vaccines as causation for autism try to gain traction for their message–and engage in a little infighting (grabs popcorn). AutismOne, which has a conference coming up, has been co-supporting outlay to PR Newswire to distribute marketing materials flogging their claims of a mercury-autism link. For the uninitiated, this is the group that features an autism “cure” in the form of bleach enemas administered to autistic children and tends to focus a whole lot on mercury.

In a previous post, I wrote about their news release making the rounds, claiming the discovery of a smoking gun of sorts implicating the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a conspiracy to hide data connecting thimerosal in vaccines to autism. Describing the heroic efforts of “Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D.,” who has presented previously at AutismOne along with Tim Bolen, who helps Hooker “with strategy and publicizing,” the news release says that

For nearly ten years, Brian Hooker has been requesting documents that are kept under tight wraps by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). … Dr. Hooker, a PhD scientist, worked with two members of Congress to craft the letter to the CDC that recently resulted in his obtaining long-awaited data from the CDC, the significance of which is historic. According to Hooker, the data on over 400,000 infants born between 1991 and 1997, which was analyzed by CDC epidemiologist Thomas Verstraeten, MD, “proves unequivocally that in 2000, CDC officials were informed internally of the very high risk of autism, non-organic sleep disorder and speech disorder associated with Thimerosal (sic) exposure.”

All that Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., really needed to do to obtain these “long-awaited data” was to check out this January 2005 PowerPoint presentation from David Kirby, whose book Evidence of Harm created some true mercury-autism believers. The presentation cites on slide 41 these same “long-awaited” data, from an “unpublished study obtained through FOIA (freedom of information act)” request. For those not wanting to download the PowerPoint–although it certainly is an interesting walk through how the mercury-vaccines-autism argument solidified–here’s what slide 41 says:

Recently rediscovered. First run of the numbers. Very high relative risks for outcomes.

Autism RR = 7.6

UNPUBLISHED STUDY OBTAINED THROUGH FOIA

Italics mine. This slide was presented in January 2005 and specifically references the “recently rediscovered” data as resulting from a “first run of numbers.” There’s a reason Kirby said “recently rediscovered.” Nevertheless, Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., and his co-sponsor AutismOne make the claim that

When the results of the Verstraeten study were first reported outside the CDC in 2005 (italics mine), there was no evidence that anyone but Dr. Verstraeten within the CDC had known of the very high 7.6-fold elevated relative risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy. But now, clear evidence exists. A newly-acquired (sic) abstract from 1999 titled, “Increased risk of developmental neurologic impairment after high exposure to Thimerosal containing vaccine in first month of life” required the approval of top CDC officials prior to its presentation at the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference.”

Kirby, in his January 2005 slide presentation, cites having gotten the data from an “unpublished study” obtained via a FOIA request. Kirby provided the same value of 7.6 RR that everyone’s touting. Not exactly fresh smoke coming out of Dr. Brian Hooker’s 2014 abstract gun.

Indeed, even AutismOne, in 2009, heard this information straight from Kirby himself, as the transcript from his 2009 presentation at an AutismOne conference details:

Now, people keep saying there’s never been any evidence to support a link between thimerosal or mercury and autism. This was a preliminary study done by the CDC. And what they did was, they took the kids and they split them in half. Kids who got 25 micrograms or more by 1 month of age, and kids who got less than that by 1 month of age. And they found out that the kids in the higher exposure group were 7.6 times more likely to have autism, and much more likely to have ADD, ADHD, tics, etc.

In spite of this evidence that even they knew this information had been available for years, AutismOne then made another effort along with Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., to freshen things up with this abstract. They open their second news release, again paying PR Newswire for dissemination of their marketing material, with the following:

Last week, PhD biochemist Brian Hooker created a stir when he announced he had obtained sensitive documents from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. According to Hooker, these documents implicated the vaccine preservative Thimerosal (50% mercury by weight) in causing autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, revealing what he says CDC officials had long known, but never disclosed publicly (italics mine): a 7.6-fold increase in autism during infancy after exposure.

Depends on how you define “long” and “disclosed publicly,” I suppose, but David Kirby, David Gorski, Paul Offit, Seth Mnookin, and others have been talking about it for many years. Gorski, as he has pointed out, used it in 2005 as an example of how preliminary results change over time as data collection and analysis are completed. The data were even published in Medical Veritas, that repository of dubious science, in a 2008 article, and have been under extensive discussion in the blogosphere for years.

In spite of the not-newness of this “shocking” 7.6 value and related findings, groups invested in convincing people that vaccines and/or mercury cause autism are staking claim to first discovery of the considerably cooled, not-really-smoking gun. Hooker is affiliated with Shot of Truth, which lists an in-house media contact on the Hooker/AutismOne release, and he’s also a board member for Focus Autism. Both organizations attempt to assert that vaccines are causative in autism. SafeMinds, an organization dedicated to the idea of a mercury-autism link, published a news release on its own site that appeared to tout the CDC’s release of the abstract as a “result of oversight by Congress” and doesn’t mention Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., or these other organizations at all.

Indeed, and speaking of “rediscovery,” SafeMinds traces their discovery of these data–although eliding specific mention of any 1999 abstract–all the way back to their FOIA filing in the year 2000, which yielded, among other things, a pretty famous document they posted in 2004 detailing very specifically the data underlying the 1999 abstract, including tables, graphs, and analyses, in the hope of damning the CDC. They appear to be accurate when they say about Hooker’s claim that

The newly released document mirrors an earlier analysis obtained by SafeMinds through a Freedom of information act (sic) request filed in early 2000.  This is when SafeMinds obtained hundreds of emails, minutes to the now famous Simpsonwood meeting and the “Generation Zero” data, the first computerized run of the Vaccine Safety Datalink investigation into thimerosal containing vaccines and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Kirby also refers to these data as the “Generation Zero” data and cites them [cache of ppt file] as the first in a series of data generations in the Vaccine Safety Datalink study that Verstraeten conducted. In keeping with what appears to be a history of some internal disagreements among mercury/vaccines=autism proponents, Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D. and AutismOne didn’t take too kindly to the SafeMinds claim, observing in their own first news release, distributed by PR Newswire:

Referring to an organization that has seen its share of controversy this past year, Dr. Hooker remarked, “It is unfortunate that SafeMinds issued a press release on my information, is accepting credit for my work and has not supported a worldwide ban on Thimerosal (sic).”

So perhaps there’s some small question of who was the first person or entity outside the CDC to lay eyeballs on this conference abstract or its related data. The abstract, by the way, appears to have been submitted online. In 1999. That must be fun to try to dig up these documents over and over and over again as all of these various invested entities keep demanding it over the years, along with the other thousands of pages of documents they’re requesting. But who was first: The audience of Verstraeten, the study author, presenting at a conference, showing his data to a SafeMinds representative, or revealing all of the details at another conference that’s on the public record or by email acquired by FOIA in 2000? David Kirby in 2004/2005 (or likely earlier), following on his own FOIA request and resulting reportage of that so-shocking 7.6 RR? Was it Congress? SafeMinds in 2000 or 2004? AutismOne at least in 2009? Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., in 2014?

Doesn’t matter, really. What does matter is that the information it contained is not new in 2014. It wasn’t new even in 2005. What matters is that in 1999, last century, it was preliminary, an opening analysis from a study that continued on through two phases and subsequently found no evidence linking thimerosal and autism. What matters is that in the ensuing 15 years after those preliminary data were submitted for a conference presentation, in the second decade of this century, the accumulation of evidence worldwide showing no link has been compelling. Indeed, it is was so substantial by 2002 that the American Academy of Pediatrics retired that year a recommendation that thimerosal be removed from vaccines, a recommendation made in 1999 in spite of no evidence of harm.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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