During the late 1990s the CDC was under immense pressure to prove the mercury derivative thimerosal was safe in childhood vaccines. Dr. Thomas Verstraeten was commissioned to study the Vaccine Safety DataLink, (VSD) for an epidemiological study comparing outcomes to thimerosal exposure. This was the CDC’s flagship thimerosal safety study. Druing the 1st stage of the study Verstraeten begins sending emails (obtained by FOIA) to the CDC titling “It (the signal) just won’t go away (Verstraeten, 1999). During the study’s 2nd stage of revision a meeting was called at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center in Norcross Georgia outside of the CDC’s headquarters on June 7, 2000. This meeting assembly held 51 scientists, and physicians, of which five represented the vaccine industry. Through issue of the Freedom of Information Act we can read the transcripts of that meeting (Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information, 2000). Here is what they found.
• The autism relative risk to thimerosal exposure is 2.48 (statistically significant)
• Statistically significant risk to ADHD
• Statistically significant risk to ADD
• Statistically significant risk to Tics
• Statistically significant risk to speech and language delay
In the transcripts government, and pharmaceutical industry officials discuss ways to “embargo the signal” from public knowledge (Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information, 2000). One month following Simpsonwood Verstraeten expresses concern in an email to a CDC researcher (obtained by FOIA),
“I do not wish to be the advocate of the anti-vaccine lobby and sound like being convinced that thimerosal is or was harmful, but at least I feel we should use sound scientific argumentation and not let our standards be dictated by our desire to disprove an unpleasant theory” (Verstraeten, 2000).
After this conference Verstraeten was hired by GlaxoSmithKline (vaccine manufacture), and redesigned the study 3 more times before finally publishing it (Verstraeten, et al, 2003). The U.S. Congress later cited this as an ethical violation. Congressman David Weldon, M.D. (R-FL) read the Simpsonwood transcripts and the subsequent revised Verstraeten study, which led him to express his concerns to CDC director Dr. Gerderding. His concerns outlined in his letter suspected statistical cover-ups, and diminished credibility.
He also stated under oath “It appears to me, not only as a member of Congress but also as a physician, that some officials within the CDC’s National Immunization Program, the NIP, may be more interested in a public relations campaign than getting to the truth about Thimerosal” (Weldon, 2003).
"The CDC also claims the VSD data is not available for independent review, so we will never see the data prior to the manipulation" (Weldon, 2003). In a letter to the journal of Pediatrics Dr. Vestraeten expresses concerns that his study is being used to prove no correlation between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental delays.
“Surprisingly, however, the study is being interpreted now as negative [where ‘negative’ implies no association was shown] by many…. The article does not state that we found evidence against an association, as a negative study would. It does state, on the contrary, that additional study is recommended, which is the conclusion to which a neutral study must come… A neutral study carries a very distinct message: the investigators could neither confirm nor exclude an association, and therefore more study is required” (Verstraeten, 2004).
In 2006 the House Committee on Appropriations requested that the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) task an expert panel to review the CDC’s VSD study. The NIEHS was extremely critical of the CDC’s work stating,
“In light of the cumulative effect of these limitations, the panel reached consensus that an analysis comparing the rates of AD/ASD in the VSD over the time period before, during and after the removal of thimerosal from most childhood vaccines would be uninformative and potentially misleading” (NIEHS, 2006).
The CDC responded and concurred with the NIEHS findings, stating they would never use the VSD again. (Gerberding, 2006). But today on the CDC’s webpage regarding thimerosal and autism this study is listed as evidence of no correlation (CDC, 2012). What is also striking they again used the VSD to prove no correlation in a recently funded publication, which is a contradiction to earlier promises.
In 2002, the CDC was actively writing Danish researcher Poul Thorsen who was operating under CDC (taxpayer) grants to submit his own thimerosal study, which is also displayed on the CDC’s webpage regarding refuting science. By the FOIA we are able to read that the CDC had knowledge when thimerosal was removed from Denmark, autism rates declined.
“Attached I send you the short and long manuscript about Thimerosal and autism in Denmark. I need to tell you that the figures in the manuscripts do not include the latest data from 2001. I only have these figures as a paper version and they are at work… But the incidence and prevalence are still decreasing in 2001” (Redacted Author, 2002).
The opposite conclusion is reported in Thorsen’s research, which stated, “The discontinuation of thimerosal-containing vaccines in Denmark in 1992 was followed by an increase in the incidence of autism” (Madsen et al, 2003). Here again we see scientific manipulation with CDC involvement.
In recent studies independent authors from Cochrane have been submitting scathing reviews of government scientific manipulation. In a publication regarding Vaccines for preventing influenza in health adults the authors state, “The CDC authors clearly do not weight interpretation by quality of the evidence, but quote anything that supports their theory” (Jefferson et al, 2010). Also, further in the same publication Cochrane stated, “Recent examples of misquotes of this review came from page 11 of the 2009 ACIP document” (Jefferson et al, 2010). So here the CDC and their vaccine advisory oversight committee are manipulating scientific evidence that gives the wrong impression to the public.
There is also an attempt to marginalize scientific publications that are not positive toward vaccination. Even when publications undergo rigorous peer-review if they express any negative affect regarding vaccination vaccines supporters such as Dr. Paul Offit (vaccine patent holder, ACIP member) claims they “should never have been published” (Sandborn, 2012). Scientific consensus is an ever evolving nebulous. To withhold important scientific information because it makes certain groups uncomfortable because of their platform policies is criminal. We must encourage good scientific discovery, and design policy around the current understanding.
CDC. (2012). CDC: immunization safety and autism – thimerosal and autism research chart. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/00_pdf/CDCStudiesonVaccinesandAutism.pdf
Gerberding, J. (2006). Report to congress on vaccine safety datalink. Retrieved from http://evidenceofharm.com/VaccineDataLinkReporttoCongressFinal.pdf
Jefferson, T. DiPietrantonj, C. Rivetti, A. Bawazeer, G. Al-Ansary, L. Ferroni, E. (2010). Vaccines fro preventing influenza in healthy adults. The Cochrane Library. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub4. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub4/full
NIEHS. (2006). Report of the expert panel. Retrieved from http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oGdSPJEaVQ2wcAkA5XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0c2E3a21uBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0FDQlkwMl85OA–/SIG=13hifd6e1/EXP=1353024073/**http%3a//www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_p_z/thimerosal_exposure_in_pediatric_vaccines.pdf
Madsen KM. Lauritsen MB. Pedersen CB. Thorsen P. Plesner AM. Andersen PH. Mortensen PB. (2003). Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12949291
Redacted Author. (2002). Manuscript about thimerosal and autism. Retrieved from http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/imagenes_ciencia/industryweapons181_01.jpg
Sandborn, T. (2012). Responses to UBC vaccine paper a problem for free scientific inquiry and expression. The Vancouver Courier. Retrieved from http://www.vancourier.com/Responses+vaccine+paper+problem+free+scientific+inquiry+expression/6073466/story.html
Verstraeten, T. Davis, R. DeStefano, F. Lieu, T. Rhodes, P. Black, S. Shinefield, H. Chen, R. (2003). Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases. Pediatrics Vol. 112: 1039-1048. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/112/5/1039.full
Verstraeten, T. (2004). Thimerosal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and GlaxoSmithKline. Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.113.4.932. Retrieved from http://www.putchildrenfirst.org/media/5.13.pdf
Weldon, D. (2003). Special Order by U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. Congressional Record. Retrieved from http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oGdWSaXaVQiD8AlddXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0ZWtjMG5qBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNwRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0FDQlkwMl85OA–/SIG=122gfc1tg/EXP=1353043482/**http%3a//www.putchildrenfirst.org/media/6.13.pdf
SafeMinds. (2012). Vaccines and autism what do epidemiological studies really tell us? Retrieved from http://www.safeminds.org/research/library/SafeMinds%20Epidemiological%20Rebuttal.pdf
Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information. (2000). Simpsonwood Retreat Center Norcross, Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/2887572/Simpsonwood-Transcript20Searchable
Verstraeten, T. (1999). Personal email. Retrieved from http://putchildrenfirst.org/media/2.7.pdf
Vertraeten, T. (2000). Personal email. Retrieved from http://putchildrenfirst.org/media/2.20.pdf