Background & Current Climate in the Vaccine Wars (Part A)

In medicine, the most important clue to resolving the cause of a disease is to identify the trigger. In the case of autism, the exponential increase in the epidemic began in the 1990s is readily documented. In California, the autism prevalence rate increased 600% between 1990 –2002. Is it sheer coincidence that beginning in 1991, CDC recommended universal vaccination of newborn infants with thimerosal-laced Hepatitis B vaccine? This was the first in a series of three vaccinations to be administered during the first year of life. The argument that correlation is no proof of causation has been used to prevent meaningful research that could identify the triggers of the autism epidemic. Instead, the focus of vaccine research has been tightly controlled to searching for a genetic cause, or population surveys in epidemiological studies, neither of which have come close to identifying the triggers for autism.

Autistic children’s severe bowel problems were overlooked by doctors until they were highlighted in the Lancet article (1998)

they dismissed parents’ accounts as incongruent with the prevailing medical opinion

Although earlier studies had reported the presence of severe bowel problems in autistic children as early as early as 1972,[1] clinicians were uninformed about the phenomenon. Thus, all too often, they dismissed parents’ accounts as incongruent with the prevailing medical opinion. As a result, these children were consigned to the ministration of psychiatry, whose treatments – i.e., anti-psychotic drugs – precipitated serious adverse effects, without ameliorating the children’s plight.

The corrupting influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medical research and its published literature, has derailed the medical profession from its humanitarian mission and its professional objectivity. A recent review by the Hastings Center (June 2017)[2] confirms industry’s corrosive influence.

“what we can say for certain is that, in medicine, conflict is generally ubiquitous and penalties absentin the case of financial conflict of interest in medicine, many well done epidemiological studies have demonstrated a bias—that financial relationships between physicians and pharma consistently cause a distortion of the evidence or its interpretation.

However, the Hastings report, like all academic reviews, provides an abstract view of the landscape, leaving out the people who are affected by those financial relationships. Although Dr. Wakefield was the lightning rod for an unprecedented vilification campaign that has cast him as a pariah, and has disparaged the Wakefield et al, Lancet paper (1998) as “fraudulent”, the campaign has served a far greater objective than “merely” ending Dr. Wakefield’s career as a doctor and researcher. The Wakefield MMR saga is a case study that encapsulates how various, ubiquitous corrupting financial influences have merged, forming an insurmountable coalition: a coalition capable of terrorizing, and, if need be, annihilating anyone who dares to challenge their enormously profitable, inter-dependent enterprises.

The objective of those who fomented the witch hunt against Dr. Wakefield was to protect their financial stake in the MMR, and to safeguard public policies that ensure high utilization of vaccines. Vaccine stakeholders were (and are) determined to suppress independent vaccine safety research that might reveal inconvenient safety problems that could threaten vaccination rates, resulting in decreased profits.

When Dr. Fiona Godlee took principled positions on issues, I admired her. For example, her leading role in the campaign for data sharing; her criticism of the US dietary guidelines which favor Big Agra and its sugar-laden food products; her 2006 editorial Of Measles and Flu,[3]criticized governments for stockpiling of the largely worthless anti-viral drug Tamiflu and for going “to great lengths to promote and provide [the flu] vaccine in the absence of valid evidence that it does any good.

the entire ecosystem of drug evaluation and regulation is deeply flawed.”

In the same editorial, Dr. Godlee strongly opposed “plans to pursue Wakefield for misconduct through the General Medical Council,” calling it “doomed and dangerous”, because, she acknowledged, “so much [overall] research is flawed.” She further stated: “Part of the problem is the perception that no one in an official position has taken seriously the concerns of families who believe their children have been damaged by the vaccine.” In 2014, Dr. Godlee lent support for the release of company documents that substantiate the conclusion that “the entire ecosystem of drug evaluation and regulation is deeply flawed.”[4]

Therefore, it strikes me as especially appalling that Dr. Godlee stepped so far beyond her legitimate editorial role, and used the authority of her office as the editor-in-chief of a widely read medical journal to pronounce Dr. Andrew Wakefield guilty of “fraud”, the most noxious accusation ever leveled against a medical scientist. She did so, despite having outlined the limits of a medical journal’s role in 2004: “Journals are ‘in the uncertainty business’: debate rather than pronouncement.’[5]

Journalist Brian Deer

Journalist Brian Deer

In 2010, Dr. Godlee commissioned a series of three articles by Brian Deer, a freelance journalist who had been hired by a Murdoch publication editor (in 2003); the editor stated that he required “something big [about] MMR.” [6] Although Deer is neither a scientist, medical researcher, nor a scholar – and despite the knowledge that a complaint had been lodged against him for using “gutter tactics[7] – Deer was given the BMJ bully pulpit to fan the flames against Dr. Andrew Wakefield within the broad medical-scientific community.

As will be documented, Dr. Godlee’s repeated assertions that Deer’s BMJ series “has been intensely scrutinized” and that his articles had undergone “external peer review” are contradicted by internal BMJ email correspondence and the sworn testimony of the BMJ Deputy Editor who acknowledged in her deposition (in 2012) that Brian Deer’s series of BMJ articles had not ever been subjected to external peer review – as would be expected of an academic medical journal.

Those sensationalist series of articles[8] were published by the BMJ under the banner “Secrets of the MMR Scare”, and they were accompanied by an equally brazen editorial framed in the same sensational tabloid journalism style, as is characteristic of a Rupert Murdoch publication. The title of this muckraking editorial declared: Wakefield’s Article Linking MMR Vaccine And Autism Was Fraudulent.[9]

The opening sound bite of the editorial was: “Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.” Dr. Godlee hurled the accusation of “fraud” 10 times in that editorial. Clearly, the editorial and accompanying articles by Deer were crafted for maximum injurious impact, aimed at destroying Dr. Wakefield’s reputation.

For a medical journal to make such serious accusations against a doctor is unprecedented.
It is both egregious and ominous that the editor-in-chief of the BMJ, an influential medical journal, made those accusations without ever providing any substantiating evidence; the accusations were based on a Murdoch-hired reporter’s say-so. The dissemination of the BMJ editorial was steered by a coordinated public relations blitzkrieg of articles, editorials, press releases and CNN interviews that reverberated around the globe. Television viewers were alerted to the BMJ charge as “breaking news”.

“Breaking news tonight: Just hours ago, The British Medical Journal (BMJ), did something extremely rare for a scientific journal. It accused a researcher, Andrew Wakefield, of outright fraud.”[10] (CNN, Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, January 5, 2011)

The uncritical feeding frenzy was not limited to the mass media. Every major science and medical journal disseminated the vilifying claims in BMJ’s editorial without questioning the veracity of the “fraud” accusation. As I will document, no evidence has ever been presented to substantiate the charge of fraud against Dr. Wakefield. Dr. Godlee lambasted him on CNN, declaring that “a financial motive was underlying this”.

Dr. Godlee of British Medical Journal

Dr. Godlee Editor-in-Chief BMJ (British Medical Journal)

She accused Dr. Wakefield of financial motives while concealing BMJ’s major financial conflicts of interest; namely, BMJ’s corporate partnership with Merck, and additional funding from GSK – the two major global vaccine marketers and manufacturers of the MMR[11] vaccine. When those BMJ conflicts were exposed in 2011 [by this author], Dr. Godlee’s response was: “We didn’t declare these competing interests because it didn’t occur to us to do so.”[12] In view of the prominence given, by the BMJ, to conflicts of interest and Dr. Godlee’s numerous public denunciations of others who failed to disclose conflicts of interest, her explanation is disingenuous.

The Wakefield vilification campaign was spearheaded by Murdoch in collusion with UK government officials. It was intensified by the BMJ, which by then had entered into partnership with Merck, a company noted for its mobster tactics of intimidation against doctors who dared to criticize the company’s products. Among the internal company documents, submitted as evidence in a class action lawsuit against Merck in Australia, was a “Doctor Hit List” instructing Merck employees to “Destroy,” “Neutralize” or “Discredit” Dissenting Doctors”. An email authored by a Merck executive (1999) stated: “We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live.”[13]

The sustained vilification campaign that has been orchestrated by a powerful network of stakeholders, has effectively imposed strict limits on the permissible parameters of vaccine research, and has served as a warning to others not to venture from the approved paradigm of epidemiological vaccine research. Scientists are well aware that epidemiological studies cannot prove that multi-valent (combined viruses) vaccines do not cause autism, because even the most accurate studies, cannot disprove a causal connection in a relatively small number of cases. Yet, epidemiological studies are the preferred paradigm for vaccine research. The governments of US and UK, and the World Health Organization (WHO), sponsor and rely on epidemiological studies.

The same network of stakeholders, control the channels of information, and public discourse regarding vaccine-related issues. They control the gateways to journal publication, ensuring that reports containing negative findings are not published in influential (high impact) journals, and that favorable reports assuring the safety of vaccines are regularly published and widely disseminated. At least 16 epidemiological studies have been published about MMR vaccines, thimerosal and autism. Indeed, vaccine promoters cite the volume of favorable epidemiological studies as conclusive evidence:

“16 studies have shown no causal association between vaccines and autism, and these studies carry weight in the scientific industry.” Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Medical Editor of NBC Today Show

“The science is largely complete. Ten epidemiological studies have shown MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism; six have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause autism.” Dr. Paul Offit[14]

Dr. Paul Offit of CHOP- Vaccine Promoter

Dr. Paul Offit – CHOP

Those statements are in the category of propaganda; epidemiological studies cannot prove a “no causal relationship. The judgment of medical doctors who broadcast propaganda should be discounted as untrustworthy. In fact, those studies have been severely criticized by independent researchers and reviewers – including the Cochrane Collaboration. The studies have been criticized for serious methodological limitations, design flaws, and financial conflicts of interest.[15] Furthermore, CDC whistleblowers and government officials have charged CDC officials with corruption of science.[16] Conclusive evidence contained in thousands of internal CDC correspondence[17] (that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) documents a web of elaborate scientific fraud in pivotal CDC- commissioned, Danish epidemiological studies.

The documents reveal Evidence of Misconduct Danish- CDC Collaboration: a series of CDC studies, and CDC – commissioned Danish epidemiological studies that continue to be widely cited, are shown to have been grossly manipulated to achieve the results sought by CDC. The authors, in collusion with CDC officials omitted negative data from the published reports. [See Appendix 9]

These Danish studies were followed by a Japanese epidemiological study co-authored by a UK psychiatrist (who was the principal expert witness against Dr. Wakefield). “No Effect Of MMR Withdrawal On The Incidence Of Autism: A Total Population Study” (2005) by H Honda, Y Shimizu and Professor Sir Michael Rutter, was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2005):

The MMR vaccination rate [sic] declined significantly in the birth cohorts of years 1988 through 1992, and not a single vaccination was administered in 1993 or thereafter. In contrast, cumulative incidence of ASD up to age seven increased significantly in the birth cohorts of years 1988 through 1996 and most notably rose dramatically beginning with the birth cohort of 1993.”

 

Professor Sir Michael Rutter

Professor Sir Michael Rutter

The significance of this finding is that MMR vaccination is most unlikely to be a main cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder, that it cannot explain the rise over time in the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that withdrawal of MMR in countries where it is still being used cannot be expected to lead to a reduction in the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  

The study was touted as the last word: “[It] should put the final nail in the coffin of the claim that the MMR vaccine is responsible for the apparent rise in autism in recent years.” (New Scientist, 2005)

Independent critics outside of mainstream channels disputed the authors’ claimed findings, and criticized their failure to take into account the following:
Prior to the introduction of the MMR to Japan, the annual incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was 25 per 10,000. Following the introduction of the MMR in 1988, the annual incidence rate increased to 85.9 per 10,000. As concerns over the encephalitis spike, attributed to the mumps component of the MMR grew, the vaccination rate plummeted. And the ASD incidence rate decrease to 55.8 per 10,000. In 1992, the MMR was replaced with single M, M & R vaccines that were administered in close proximity. [Dr. Wakefield had recommended a one year interval between vaccines, as a safety precaution, to protect children from exposure to multiple viruses at once.]

The incidence of ASD rose sharply in 1994 to 161 per 10,000. The authors failed to question why? And they failed to mention (or to recognize the significance) of three relevant changes in Japan, that likely accounted of the sharp rise in ASD prevalence: (a) In 1993, a changed diagnostic classification (IC -10) vastly inflated the autism prevalence rates; and (b) there were striking increases in vaccination rates the same year; (c) the Japanese encephalitis vaccine (JE-Vax) was given in three separate vaccinations; each one contained the mercury based neurotoxin thimerosal. JE-Vax coverage increased from 43% to 90%; vaccination against measles increased from 65% to 95%, and vaccination against rubella increased from 65% to almost 100%.

  • These vaccination increases coincided with the highest peak in autism and ASD in Japan.

The fact of a dip in autism followed by a large rise, when vaccinations increased over 150% in 1993 in Japan (according to official Japanese government figures), is actually evidence of at least two things: It is strong evidence of a causal association between the combination of vaccines and autism-like and related disorders. It is also evidence of the existence of a dechallenge/rechallenge case series at a population level.” (Clifford Miller, Esq.) [18]

Honda, Shimizu and Rutter conceded that: “Epidemiological data, however, cannot test the very different hypothesis that MMR might involve an increased risk of ASD in a very small number of children who, for some reason, are unusually susceptible to damage from the vaccine.”

If, as these authors acknowledge, epidemiological studies cannot prove or disprove a causal link of an increased risk, then why, asks pediatrician Dr. Edward Yazbak, do public health authorities continue to fund, support, and rely on ill-suited epidemiological studies, to disprove a clinical reaction –i.e., an adverse vaccine reaction?

Over a dozen epidemiological studies from every corner of the world have failed. Some included thousands of individuals and some whole populations. Some have extended over many years and undoubtedly some are on-going. They too will be useless. If just ONE study had been good enough to prove that Wakefield was wrong, the need for others would not exist. The Study of 12 published by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 still stands.”[19]

  • Studies that would be suitable to test the safety of children’s vaccination schedules, which now include multiple, multi-virus vaccines, are off-limits – they are verboten – under threat of serious professional and financial repercussion.
photo by: neil conway