Inept, disjointed agencies waste almost $1 billion, seek more funds
A government health agency director who a decade ago proposed diluting vaccine/autism data was one of two testifiers interrogated at a Congressional hearing yesterday on the federal government’s poor response to the autism epidemic costing the U.S. $137 billion a year.
Dr. Coleen Boyle, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, testified that her goal is “raising awareness of the importance of this as a health problem and one we need to address.” An April 2000 email obtained via FOIA shows that Boyle contacted the CDC’s Frank DeStefano suggesting dilution of vaccine/autism data by adding one- and two-year-olds to his dataset – children too young to have an autism diagnosis then.
“Does autism in history predate vaccines?” asked Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the U.S. House of Representatives House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. Yes, according to agencies administering the shots; no, according to legislators, physicians and parents filling in the gallery, who reported that their children regressed after receiving vaccinations.
Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a medical geneticist from the National Institutes of Health, defended his highly-criticized Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Both Guttmacher and Boyle testified that autism has no known cause or cure, and their only offerings of help were statistical tracking, detection tools, and behavioral therapies.
Outgoing Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) stated that autism has more than one cause, but “the one we’re talking about today is mercury in vaccination and the environment.” He played a video from the University of Calgary showing destruction of brain neurons after low-level mercury exposure (here), and wondered how anybody from the CDC can watch and say that mercury doesn’t have an impact on neurodevelopment. Rep. Burton said that shortly after his grandson got nine vaccines in one day, the boy began banging his head against the wall and lost continence.
When Boyle claimed that since 2001 Thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines given to children, voices erupted from the audience. Boyle added, “With the exception of the multi-dose flu vaccine” but omitted mentioning that the 50,000 parts per billion injected is exceedingly higher than the 4 ppb “safe” limit for drinking water established by the Environmental Protection Agency and that it took until nearly 2004, not 2001.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a physician, criticized the wasted research opportunities into familial disease processes. Gosar’s physician sister has a son once labeled autistic. “As soon as we took him off wheat, gluten and milk products, this kid sits, reads, does everything appropriately.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) brought up the infamous “Lilly Rider,” an industry-protective provision snuck into a Homeland Security conference report and passed before anyone could read it. He mentioned special interests such as coal emission producers, and how companies such as Eli Lilly, once a manufacturer of the mercury-based vaccine preservative Thimerosal, give millions of dollars to affect the outcome of elections. “There are reasons why this Congress and this government has not effectively addressed this issue,” said Rep. Kucinich. “You have special interest groups who resist any deeper research on it, because it is going to affect their bottom line. Meanwhile you have children all of the country turning up with autism.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) asked about services for adults with autism. Dr. Guttmacher replied with an irrelevant comment about more effective diagnosis, which prompted Del. Norton to repeat her question. After Dr. Guttmacher responded by posing a question, Del. Norton concluded, “In other words, we’re doing nothing for them.” Dr,. Guttmacher then repeated a previous statement about NIH offering “free tools for parents to identify autism, to which Del. Norton announced impatiently, “The mother knows it. The father knows it. The question is what to do…. In other words, it’s up to the family to try to figure it out.”
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Penn.) asked Boyle if she had ever seen a statistical trend with such an accelerating pace in a 6-year period; she said, “The only one that showed an increase was hyperactivity attention deficit disorder.” Rep. Meehan asked Boyle, “You said, ‘This is a public health concern.’ Would you explain why this is not a public health crisis?” Stumbling over her words she replied that the CDC’s “excellence is tracking epidemiologic research.” Rep. Meehan asked, “What is being done to have a genuine comprehensive plan in which we are looking for accountability year to year on the progress that is being made?” Dr. Guttmacher said the IACC is charged with that duty, but he failed to mention that that committee’s membership is new, meetings erratically attended, and recommendations are not enforceable.
Rep. Mike Kelley (R-Penn.) asked whether the CDC or NIH interview actual families, rather than just reporting statistics gathered through its handful of Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network sites. “We have a second research program… in 6 states to get more information from medical records,” Boyle replied, saying CDC hopes to have data out in 2013. Rep. Kelley asked, if there was “anything on the horizon that could be a cure” for autism. Boyle remarked about differentiating between preventable causes vs. cure, but did not answer the question.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) stated that his predecessor, Congressman Weldon was “a well-respected, competent medical doctor,” adding, “I gleaned from him some certainty that Thimerosal from vaccines was a contributing factor to autism.” Rep. Posey noted that African children were autism-free until vaccines were introduced on that continent. He asked whether the CDC has done a study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Boyle dodged the question, instead referring to old CDC studies on Thimerosal, saying that the Institute of Medicine evaluated the vaccine/autism issue in 2004 and 2011. Sounding frustrated, Rep. Posey asked again and Boyle admitted, “We have not studied vaccinated versus…” – to which Rep. Posey replied, “That was my question; you wasted 2 minutes of my time.
Rep. Posey also brought up the curious case of vaccine researcher Dr. Poul Thorsen, co-producer of 21 CDC studies, some used to deny any vaccine/autism link. Rep. Posey noted that Thorsen has been indicted for misallocation of resources; the vaccine researcher tops the Office of Inspector General’s Fugitive Profiles list here. Though Boyle claimed Thorsen was “really just one investigator,” Rep. Posey said the CDC had relied on “a humongous scumbag” and asked whether the CDC had gone back to validate the studies Thorsen worked on; Boyle replied with more prevarication.
Rep. Posey noted that the U.S. is #34 in mortality rates for developed countries, saying, “We require more vaccines than any other country that’s healthier. Do you see any correlation, either one of you, to worst mortality rate and most vaccinations?” Dr. Guttmacher deflected the question with the boilerplate response that vaccines are among the many public health reasons why people live longer.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ken.) asked, “If you have another $2 billion, how would you spend it?” Dr. Guttmacher then acknowledged the need for input from families and individuals with autism. Boyle restated her focus on surveillance by academic and state partners.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) noted, “We’ve been at this for a dozen years… there is a sense of impatience.”
Rep. Carol Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Boyle why the autism rate went from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 88 in such a short time, adding, “I don’t want to hear that we have better detection. Take better detection off the table. I agree that we have better detection. What are the factors besides better detection?” Boyle promptly replied, “Just to put it in context, better detection is accountable for some of it.” Rep. Maloney proposed spacing out vaccines, and emphasized the importance of listening to parents. “There is too much verbal evidence coming from parents… I had a normal child, I gave him a vaccination, and then they came down with autism,” she said.
Four times Rep. Maloney asked Boyle if the CDC was doing a study on vaccinations and autism; each time Boyle digressed about other vaccination studies until Rep. Maloney asked to have those studies sent to the ranking member. To establish the possibility that vaccines can cause autism, Rep. Maloney used the analogies of hormone replacement therapies and smoking – both practices once thought safe and promoted by the medical profession, but eventually determined to cause cancer.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) talked about getting constituent input on vaccine/autism causality, and said it “has to be looked at in a very aggressive way, that we’re over-vaccinating our children.” Boyle’s response was, “We know that vaccines save lives,” pointing to an April analysis. “There are complexities in terms of schedule and types of vaccines and this is all carefully thought out by an advisory committee that oversees this process,” said Boyle. Rep. Buchanan asked, “Have they looked at impacts of combinations of vaccines? Is there any correlation?” Boyle repeated that the IOM evaluated vaccines and autism in 2004 and 2011, and the report didn’t support an association – but she added the caveat that it was from a population perspective rather than a specific subgroup.
Rep. Elijah Cummins (R-Md.) stated to applause, “There’s something wrong with this picture… when you’ve got this combination of shots and you go from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 88. It seems to me somebody would say, ‘Let’s put the brakes on this, let’s figure this out…. Just look at whether the multiple shot situation is causing this. And I wish you could see the people behind you. There are grown men behind you that have been crying. And women that have been crying…. Let’s err on the side of keeping children safe, even if you have to do 1 shot a day.
When legislators’ questioning ended, Rep. Issa announced, “Both prescription and nonprescription drugs when interacted do things that are not tested by the FDA. That is a series of questions that we want to explore.”
Next a panel of several community autism advocates testified briefly. SafeMinds board member and Canary Party chair Mark Blaxill spoke of his book “The Age of Autism,” which provides evidence showing autism is a new condition and nonexistent before 1930. He showed a 1935 book by Leo Kanner in which autism is not mentioned, noting that his pioneering autism research began when he first saw an affected child in 1938, then wrote a famous paper in 1943. “Old surveys did NOT miss 99% of children with autism,” said Blaxill. “It is absurd to look for genetic causes.”
“Why are so many American children sick?” Blaxill asked. “Autism is a public health crisis of historic proportions… worse than poliomyelitis.” He showed ADDM slides illustrating a sharp multiplication in autism rates starting in 1990, which corresponds with an increased childhood vaccination schedule. “CDC has given us the medical equivalent of securities fraud… We need accountable new leadership,” Blaxill said, asking Congressman, “Please root out the failures, the waste, the fraud, the negligence and the abuse of these agencies that aren’t doing their jobs.”
Thursday’s hearing was a long-delayed victory for Minnesota parents. “The tide is finally turning – our nation has reached a critical mass of vaccine-injured children, when everyone knows an affected child and the ballooning costs to our nation are being noticed,” said Wayne Rohde of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota.
“Anyone listening to the hearing can only conclude that not only has our government mishandled the autism epidemic, our government has caused this public health disaster,” said nancy Hokkanen of the VSCM. “More hearings are urgently needed to investigate the trail of CDC documentation showing how they’ve worked to cover up the vaccine/autism link.”
“Future hearings hold promise of finally revealing the depths of the corruption within the NVICP,” said Patti Carroll of the VSCM. “Thousands of pages of documents previously hidden from the public by the CDC were uncovered through extensive FOIA efforts and submitted to the committee. It’s only a matter of time before the criminal charges begin.”