Important developments have come to light in the
long-running measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine controversy, but practically
no mainstream media are covering the story; and if they do, they tell a very
William Thompson, a senior
scientist with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released
a statement via a law firm saying : "I regret that my coauthors 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."
Meantime, pharmaceutical Merck is facing at least
two federal court cases over the MMR vaccine, and may well also have to defend
itself in US Congress . Representative Bill Posey (a longtime critic of the
CDC) and his staff are now reviewing a thousand documents that William Thompson
has turned over to Congress.
The controversy was ignited by UK pediatrician
Andrew Wakefield in the late 1990s (see  The MMR vaccine Controversy*, SiS
13/14). As a result, Wakefield not only lost his job, the paper he coauthored
with 12 other researchers reporting a potential link between MMR vaccine,
autism, and gastrointestinal inflammation was unilaterally retracted by the Lancet
and "discredited", and he was struck off by UK's General Medical Council for
serious professional misconduct . Since then, Wakefield has been subject to
almost universal vilification by the medical/scientific establishment and the mainstream
media. He is still blamed for "measles epidemics", including the current one
that appeared to have started in California, but has actually been traced to
the Philippines . Wakefield is consistently wrongly accused of being
‘anti-vaccine' . He had only advised against the MMR triple vaccine,
recommending instead the single vaccines including the one for measles, which
governments have since withdrawn. Merck, the sole manufacturer of MMR vaccine
had stopped making the single vaccines since 2008 .
Senior scientist went public 10 years after publication
In 2004, William Thompson was one of the five scientists who
coauthored a paper entitled, "Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in
children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based
study in metropolitan Atlanta" published in the Journal Pediatrics .
It reported a case-controlled study in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, in which
624 case children (diagnosed with autism and identified from multiple sources)
were matched to 1 824 control children on age, gender and school. Vaccination
data were abstracted from immunization forms required for school entry. In a
separate subgroup, records of children born in Georgia were linked to Georgia
birth certificates for "information on maternal and birth factors."
The team used conditional logistic
regression to assess the relative risk of autism diagnosis with the age of
first MMR vaccination as the independent variable and the incidence of autism
the dependent variable. The relative risks were assessed for children receiving
the first MMR vaccine before and after 18 months, 24 months and 36 months
respectively. The results showed more case than control children were
vaccinated before 36 months: 93.4 % vs 90.6 %; the odds ratio (OR) for
diagnosis of autism was 1.49, with 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.04-2.14for
the total sample.
This association was explained away
by noting that, "vaccination before 36 months was more common among case
children than control children, especially among children 3 to 5 years of age,
likely reflecting immunization requirements for enrollment in early
The analysis of the birth
certificate subsample was ostensibly to adjust for "potential confounding
variables", i.e., "maternal and birth characteristics", but "the ORs were not
different from unadjusted results for the birth certificate sample." In other
words, those potentially confounding variables did not account for the statistically
significant increased risk of autism diagnosis.
From Table 3 in
the paper summarizing the results in the birth certificate sample, the adjusted
analyses (for birth weight, multiple gestation, maternal age and maternal
education) gave OR 1.64 (95% confidence interval 0.77 – 3.49) for boys and OR
2.63 (95% confidence interval 0.51 – 13.45 for boys aged 3-5 y. From Table 5
again for the birth certificate sample, the OR adjusted for black race
vaccinated <36 months was 1.68 (CI 0.52-3.47), not too different from the
turns out that the subgroup appears to have been introduced specifically to
omit data from hundreds of black boys who did not have birth certificates (see
There, the matter might have rested,
had William Thompson not gone public over the omitted data.
Re-analysis highlighted increased risk to black boys
Another player enters the fray. Californian biomechanical
engineer Brian Hooker had spent 10 years battling the CDC, having submitted
over 1 000 Freedom of Inf0rmation Acts to obtain the raw data of the 2004 paper
from the CDC. In February 2014, he succeeded with the help of Congressman Bill
Posey . Hooker did a re-analysis of the study, restoring the 260 black
boys that were omitted because they did not have a Georgia birth certificate .
He replicated the earlier results for the total sample, i.e., a statistically
significant effect at 36 months (relative risk (RR) 1.49 95% CI 1.04-2.14, p =
0.0289) . However, he also showed that the result appears to be due almost
entirely to a stronger risk in boys (RR 1.69, 95% CI 1.11-2.57, p = 0.0138),
with girls showing no increase in risk for autism and timing of MMR vaccination
at any age group.
Although Hooker used a "more conservative" Pearson's
chi-squared method, repeating the analysis with the original conditional
logistic regression gave the same results.
specifically at African American children, the results were striking (see Table
2 of the paper). The relationship between the timing of MMR first vaccination
and autism becomes more profound, and again it was exclusively in boys. There were
statistically significant effects at both age 24 months (RR 1.73 95% CI,
1.09-2.77, p = 0.0200) and 36 months (RR 3.36, 95% CI 1.50-7.51, p = 0.0019).
No statistically significant effects were found in girls.
African American children were excluded in a third analysis, no significant
risks were found for any age group or gender.
commented (p.3) : "The results show a strong relationship between child age
at the administration of the first MMR and autism incidence exclusively for
African American boys which could indicate a role of the vaccine in the
etiology of autism within this population group. The particular analysis was
not completed in the original Destefano et al (CDC) study…the CDC study limited
the total African American cohort to include only those individuals who
possessed a valid State of Georgia birth certificate which decreased the
statistical power of their analysis. Although a statistically significant
relationship between the first MMR age and autism incidence was seen in the
general (all races) population within the earlier Destefano et al… study, the
coauthors interpreted this result as an artifact of "healthcare seeking
behavior" citing that autistic children would receive their vaccines earlier in
order to enroll in State of Georgia early intervention programs. However, it is
highly unlikely that this type of behavior would be seen exclusively in African
American males and thus, alternative hypothesis must be explored, including the
possibility that the MMR vaccine may be causally linked to autism in African
cited a previous study  that found the prevalence of autism in African
Americans nearly 25 % higher than that of the white population, and suggested
it might be linked to vitamin D deficiency. Another study Hooker cited  reported
vitamin D sufficiency among whites between 30 and 50 %, but only 5 to 1o %
among African Americans. This is an interesting hypothesis that should be
Hooker's study was published online
8 August . On 27 August, the journal removed the article and replaced it
with the statement: "This
article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns
about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that
its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive
editorial action will be pending further investigation."
October 2014, the journal issued an official retraction:
"The Editor and Publisher
regretfully retract the article as there were undeclared competing interests on
the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore,
post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods
and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in
the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the
But the retracted article was again posted on line (with
the "RETRACTED" shadow over all its pages). The grounds for retraction are by
no means clear. As far as statistical methods are concerned, Hooker has already
stated that both methods gave the same results. As for undeclared "conflict of
interest", Hooker has explicitly declared his involvement in "vaccine/biologic
litigation"; not surprisingly, as he is father of an autistic son. Counting
this as a "conflict of interest" is surely adding insult on misfortune, if not
Meanwhile, the original findings
reported in the retracted Lancet paper  had been replicated
worldwide. A recent follow up paper  by Stephen Walker and colleagues at
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina USA highlighted
the fact that prospective , controlled studies now suggest as many as 70 % of
autistic children exhibit chronic gastrointestinal (GI)symptoms, and endoscopy
examination of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) children with GI symptoms finds
high frequency of inflammatory pathology. It appears that the immunologic and
inflammatory activity in the bowel may be part of a larger, systemic
The team carried
out transcriptome profiling of GI muscle biopsy tissue from ASD children and
three non-ASD control groups: Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and
histologically normal. Comparison of differentially expressed transcripts
between the groups demonstrated that normal tissue segregated almost completely
from inflamed tissue in all cases. Gene expression profiles in intestinal
biopsy tissue from patients with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and ASD,
while having significant overlap with each other, also showed distinctive
features for each group. Taken together, the researchers concluded, the results
demonstrate that ASD children with GI inflammation have a gastrointestinal transcriptome
that "overlaps significantly with known inflammatory bowel disease, yet has
distinctive features that further supports the presence of an ASD-associated
Earlier in 2006,
Walker was reported examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel
disease; and of the 82 tested then, 70 proved positive for the measles virus .
He was also reported to have said: "What it means is that the study done
earlier by Dr Wakefield and published in 1998 is correct. That study didn't
draw any conclusions about specifically what it means to find the measles virus
in the gut, but the implication is it may be coming from the MMR vaccine. If
that's the case, and this live virus is residing in the gastrointestinal tract
of some children, and then they have GI inflammation and other problems, it may
be related to the MMR."
however, Walker was described reporting his findings at the International
Meeting for Autism Research, and saying that an actual link between the MMR
vaccine and regressive autism is "tough to prove", and even if a link can be
found between the MMR virus and bowel disease, the conclusion will be simply
that the measles virus is in the gut of a large number of children who have
regressive autism and bowel disease. We haven't done anything to demonstrate
that the measles virus is causing autism." This reassured the journalist who
reported, wrongly, that there was "no link" .
General Medical Council's decision quashed and criticized
Prof. John Walker-Smith, Wakefield's coauthor of the
retracted Lancet paper was struck off by the General Medical Council
along with Wakefield. But unlike Wakefield, he decided to appeal his case, and
won . Justice John Mitting ruled the GMC decision that Walker-Smith was
guilty of serious professional misconduct "cannot stand". Calling for changes
in the way GMC ‘fitness to practice' panel hearings are conducted, the judge
said of the flawed handling of Walker-Smith's case: "it would be a misfortune
if this were to happen again." Walker-Smith was supported by parents of some of
the children with autism and bowel disease he treated at the Royal Free
hospital until his retirement in 2001.
Wakefield is reported to have filed a
defamation lawsuit against Brian Deer (the journalist whose accusation of
professional misconduct caused him to be struck off by the GMC), the British
Medical Journal (BMJ), which featured articles by Brian Deer, and Fiona Godlee,
BMJ's editor, for falsely accusing him of "fraud" . The suit is currently
underway in Texas, where Wakefield now lives.
Merck faces multiple charges over its MMR vaccine
Merck is meanwhile embroiled
at least in two federal court cases . The first court case, United States v.
Merck & Co., arises from two former Merck scientists claiming that Merck
"fraudulently misled the government and omitted, concealed, and adulterated
material information regarding the efficacy of its mumps vaccine in violation
of the FCA [False Claims Act]." According to the court documents, Merck "(i)
failed to disclose that its mumps vaccine was not as effective as Merck
represented, (ii) used improper testing techniques, (iii) manipulated testing
methodology, (iv) abandoned undesirable test results, (v) falsified test data,
(vi) failed to adequately investigate and report the diminished efficacy of its
mumps vaccine, (vii) falsely verified that each manufacturing lot of mumps
vaccine would be as effective as identified in the labeling, (viii) falsely
certified the accuracy of applications filed with the FDA, (ix) falsely
certified compliance with the terms of the CDC purchase contract, (x) engaged
in the fraud and concealment describe herein for the purpose of illegally
monopolizing the U.S. market for mumps vaccine, (xi) mislabeled, misbranded,
and falsely certified its mumps vaccine, and (xii) engaged in the other acts
described herein to conceal the diminished efficacy of the vaccine the
government was purchasing." These fraudulent activities, say the
whistleblowers, were designed to produce test results that would meet the FDA's
requirement that the mumps vaccine was 95 % effective.
second court case, Chatom Primary Care v. Merck & Co., is a class action
suit that relies on the same whistleblower evidence, claiming damages because
Merck had fraudulently monopolized the mumps market. Doctors and medical
practices in the suit would be able to obtain compensation for having been sold
an overpriced monopolized product, and a defective one at that, for the mumps
vaccine was not effective. The suit alleges that Merck expected outbreaks to
occur, and they did. Mumps epidemics occurred in 2006 in a highly vaccinated
population and again in 2009-2010.
provided by the Courthouse News Service back in 2012 provides additional
information. The complainant Chatom claims that staring in the late 1990s,
Merck set out on its sham testing program with the objective of reporting an
efficacy of 95% or higher regardless of the vaccine' true efficacy . Chatom
says Merck initially called the testing program Protocol 007. Under Protocol
007, Merck did not test the vaccine's ability to protect children against a
wild type mumps virus, "the type of real-life virus against which vaccines re
generally tested". Instead, Merck tested children's blood using its own
attenuated strain of the virus. "This was the same mumps strain with which the
children were vaccinated."
has granted immunity to William Thompson, CDC whistleblower who is planning to
testify before Congress . The senior scientist is still employed by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, and is working closely is Bill Posey's
office to tell his story.
mae-wan Comment left 24th February 2015 10:10:17 John Wilson,
Research by William Thompson et al did not involve random sampling. It was not possible, as over 90% of children had been vaccinated with MMR. So they did a very good alternative, using cases and matched controls, for age, gender and school, i.e., those that had received diagnosis of ASD and those that had not, and compared the numbers in age groups identified by first vaccination, ie, before 18 months, before 24 months and before 36 months. The only wrong-doing was to omit large numbers of cases with ASD, which limited the analysis to those with a Georgia birth certificate, thereby concealing the highly increased risk for ASD diagnosis for African American boys.
tony villar Comment left 24th February 2015 09:09:25 The Vaccine industry is one BIG CORRUPT CRIME SYNDICATE CREATED BY THE US GOVERNMENT.
Walter Carpenter Comment left 23rd February 2015 18:06:00 This is real science reporting. thank you for taking the time to explain the whole situation.
Rory Short Comment left 23rd February 2015 18:06:57 Sadly when money is involved the truth becomes a fatality.
Karen Adler Comment left 23rd February 2015 21:09:27 Thank you for this important article. I thought there must have been more to this story after mainstream media went quiet on it.
As Mahatma Gandhi said "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
And as the bard said "at length, Truth will out"
John Wilson Comment left 24th February 2015 09:09:55 Re: Andrew Wakefield. His book " Callous Disregard" is well worth reading. It is a very clear response to the many serious accusations laid against him by the medical establishment.
Re: Research by William Thompson. A complicated piece of research which I don't fully understand. What about this for a trial. You take a random sample of 1,000 children aged 10 to 12 who have had the MMR jab and count the number who have been diagnosed with autism. You take another random sample of children who have never had the MMR jab and record the incidence of autism in this group. Compare the two. Too simple?
Brian Sandle Comment left 25th February 2015 08:08:28 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brady_disclosure
â€œthe prosecutor must disclose evidence or information that would prove the innocence of the defendant or would enable the defense to more effectively impeach the credibility of government witnesses. Evidence that would serve to reduce the defendantâ€™s sentence must also be disclosed by the prosecution.â€
That should be considered in the light of drug companies who may be turning arguments like vaccination into facets of their responsibilities to their shareholders. They should not be allowed to selectively disseminate information they are in possession of. Life should not be treated cynically as a pawn for shareholders.
Todd Millions Comment left 1st March 2015 11:11:23 Now that the Merck mmr test details are public ally available(court sealed previously) we also have inside reports that the test plates the FDA allowed MERCK to destroy,where smeared with rabbit sourced antibodies,too make the effectiveness appear higher.Serum from such sources-isn't used in treatment nor vaccines due to shock reactions last I checked.Merck could not have being unaware of this.So why has the court submissions being sealed for 5 years?
Oliver Tickell Comment left 1st March 2016 07:07:12 I came across this article thanks to mark Lynas, whose article in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/alert-theres-a-dangerous-new-viral-outbreak-zika-conspiracy-theories) describes it as 'anti-vaccine misinformation'. But on examination at appears thoroughly cogent, well argued and well referenced. Lynas's disgraceful slur should not pass unchallenged.