• A study published earlier this month re-analyzing data put out by the CDC in 2004, claims to have found a statistically significant association between autism and the age at which the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given to infant African-American boys. 
  • A so-called “whistleblower” alleged that the CDC covered up this data and chose to focus the 2004 study on other findings, ignoring this one. 
  • Since this more recent study claiming to associate an increased risk of autism after vaccination, more information about the study author, the whistleblower and the CDC’s original intent has come to light.
  • This more recent study was also removed from the journal, which cited ”serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions.”
  • Others criticized the study and the allegations of a CDC cover-up as well. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Too many vaccines too soon.” This mantra is one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sought to address in many studies. At this time, it has concluded that there is no increased risk for autism caused by vaccines.

But a recent study that reevaluated some of the CDC’s data from its previous research and the admission of a so-called whistleblower called into question this stance.

Dr. Brian Hooker, who is with the Focus Autism Foundation, an organization dedicated to exposing causes of autism, published a study in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration earlier this month that found African-American boys who received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella before they were 36 months old were 3.4 times more likely to develop autism. This conclusion was reached after Hooker reviewed data from a 2004 CDC study’s dataset.

“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,” Hooker said in a statement.

However, the CDC and other researchers in the field defend the initial presentation of the data and even call into question the analysis conducted in Hooker’s study.

“If you analyze data enough times and enough ways, you’re bound to find something that is statistically significant,” Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a neurologist at a children’s hospital in Cleveland, told CNN after looking at both the CDC’s 2004 study and Hooker’s more recent publication. “This does not mean that the result is a true positive (vs. a false positive) or meaningful.”

Translational Neurodegeneration also removed Hooker’s study for now based on “serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions.”

Hooker said his review of the CDC’s data published in the journal Pediatrics in 2004 was prompted by a whistleblower, later identified as William Thompson, a CDC scientist since 1998.

In a dramatized video put out by the Autism Media Channel last week, which compared Hooker’s findings to a revelation like that of the Tuskegee experiment, Thompson seemingly confessed that it was a “low point” of his career to have gone along with the 2004 study.

Dr. Hooker appearing to be on the phone with Dr. William Thompson, a man Hooker called a whistleblower who came forward accusing the CDC of covering up statistically significant facts. (Image source: YouTube)

Dr. Hooker appearing to be on the phone with Dr. William Thompson, a man Hooker called a whistleblower who came forward accusing the CDC of covering up statistically significant facts. (Image source: YouTube)

In a news release issued Wednesday by the law firm representing Thompson, he said that he regrets “that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics.” He said that he doesn’t believe final study protocol was followed to make decisions about what findings to report in the study.  

“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives,” he said in a statement. “I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

“My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub­ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.”

Thompson acknowledged that he had conversions with Hooker within the last year regarding the data and agrees that “CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent.” However, he said that he was not informed that Hooker was recording him or that his statements would be broadcast in the YouTube video by Autism Media Channel.

Science-Based Medicine, a website whose medically trained authors take on topics of treatments and products, addressed Hooker’s study and claims, labeling them “conspiracy theories” and concluded:

Given the dubiousness of his analysis and background, Hooker hasn’t actually convincingly demonstrated a link between MMR and autism for African American males, particularly given the copious other studies that have failed to find a correlation between MMR and autism. What he has done is to have found grist for a conspiracy theory to demonize the CDC, play the race card in a truly despicable fashion, and cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the CDC vaccination program, knowing that most of the white antivaccine activists hate the CDC so much that they won’t notice that even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support their belief that vaccines caused their children’s autism. Meanwhile, there is no evidence, at least none submitted by the antivaccine propagandists flogging this conspiracy theory, that there really was a CDC conspiracy to hide anything.

The CDC in its own statement about its presentation the 2004 study’s data pointed out that its manuscript broken down sets of children as 1) all those recruited in the study and 2) a subset with a Georgia birth certificate.

This latter subset, the CDC said, gave researchers “more complete information on race as well as other important characteristics, including possible risk factors for autism such as the child’s birth weight, mother’s age and education.” Because these metrics were not available for children in the study who did not have birth certificates presented, the CDC did not present its data on a breakdown of race.  

“It presented the results on black and white/other race children from the group with birth certificates,” the CDC said.

“Vaccines protect the health of children in the United States so well that most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences of diseases now stopped by vaccines,” the CDC added.” However, our 2014 measles count is the highest number since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. We do not want to lose any opportunity to protect all of our children when we have the means to do so. ”

Some autism research published earlier this year in New England Journal of Medicine added evidence to other studies that the condition might be linked to something before birth.

“Because this points to the biological onset in prenatal life, it calls sharply into question other popular notions about autism,” the study’s lead author Eric Courchesne, an autism researcher at the University of California, San Diego, said in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Front page image via Shutterstock.