October 29, 2014

The debate regarding a possible link between vaccines and autism took a surprising turn when Dr. William Thompson issued a statement admitting that evidence suggesting that African-American children who received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shot prior the age of 36 months were 340% more likely to receive an autism diagnosis. More on this story can be read on Autism Daily Newscast here and  here.

Dr. Thompson, a CDC epidemiologist and statistician and senior scientist at the CDC, issued a statement on August 27, 2014, alleging that the findings of a study presented at the Feb. 9, 2004 Institute of Medicine meeting of the Immunization Safety Review (ISR) committee failed to disclose evidence that the MMR vaccine was correlated with a higher incidence of autism diagnoses in African American children who received the shot prior to the age of 36 months. It read,

“I regret that my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

Dr. Thompson went on to say,

“The CDC knew about the relationship between the age of first MMR vaccine and autism incidence in African American boys as early as 2003, but chose to cover it up. We’ve missed ten years of research because the CDC is so paralyzed right now by anything related to autism. They’re not doing what they should be doing because they’re afraid to look for things that might be associated.”

The news comes as a shock to a community already strongly divided between those who believe vaccinations harmed their children and others who argue that vaccines are essential for public safety. Actress Jenny McCarthy has been the target of criticism for her public stance that her son’s autism diagnosis was caused by a reaction to a vaccine, a stance that many parents of children diagnosed with the disorder maintain, in spite of public resistance.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor whose medical license was revoked due to his anti-vaccination stance, and Dr. Brian Hooker filed a formal complaint against the CDC on October 22, accusing the organization of alleged research misconduct: falsification by omission of material results. Here is a link to the full complaint http://www.autismmediachannel.com/#!cdcwhistleblower/cmmo.

Many in the autism community see this as validation, while others believe it is just another conspiracy theory. It is clear that the implications of these accusations are staggering. If it is determined that scientists in the CDC knowingly tampered with data, later studies based on that data will also be compromised. Research based on accurate data could have led to discoveries that may have curbed the increasing incidence of autism, which rose considerably during the decade between the initial report and the current allegations. For now, it is clear that the vaccine debate will not be settled anytime soon.

About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog www.remediatingautism.blogspot.com. She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on https://twitter.com/speaking_autism and https://www.facebook.com/speaking.autism.ca

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