Health and Medicine

No, The CDC Is Not Covering Up Evidence That Vaccines Cause Autism

August 27, 2014 | by Stephen Luntz

Photo credit: Unicef. Children of African ethnicity have the same risk of autism from vaccines as others, that is none.

Anti-vaxers are still lying to you, but their latest lie comes with just a hint of racism as well. Sadly, it's spreading like wildfire on social media, proving once again that Mark Twain’s saying “A lie can get half way round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” remains true today. Perhaps in the internet age, we can say that the lie gets all the way around the world before the truth even sits down to put its shoes on.

The claim is that not only is autism much higher among African-American boys who were vaccinated before 36 months than those after that date, but that a “top research scientist” has revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have known this for over a decade and covered it up. If the allegation is to be believed, a study was done of 2583 children living in Atlanta and when this showed autism rates 240% higher among the early-vaccinated crowd almost half the children were excluded from the study on irrelevant grounds in order to bring the results in line with accepted science.

David Gorski at Science Based Medicine explains the reality in considerable detail, along with plenty of background on the key players.

The summary is that, in 2004 a paper was published in Pediatrics, finding that children with autism were not significantly more likely to have received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine early than those without. It is one of numerous papers making the same finding from different places and with different techniques.

Now a paper has been published in a journal called Translational Neurodegeneration which says that while there was no difference in the population overall there was among African American boys. The finding is made using a very small sample using a method known to be prone to false positives by someone with no background in epidemiology but a burning hatred of vaccines. It was published in the third issue of a journal that claims to be peer reviewed but has no impact factor yet.

It was followed by a video that compares the allegations to such horrors as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, when African American men were deliberately denied effective treatment, and the activities of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Hyperbole much?

But the thing really getting attention is the “whistleblower”, Dr William Thompson, who supposedly says that the CDC knew about the correlation all along and covered it up. Except that in the video Thompson doesn’t say much, he mostly just gets paraphrased, by, you guessed it, Brian Hooker, the author of the Translational Neurodegeneration paper who claims Thompson told him these things, but provides no evidence.

Sadly medical facilities for African American children remain worse, on average, than the US population as a whole, as a result of higher levels of poverty. Consequently, those whose parents are scared by this finding into not getting vaccinating their children are even more likely to die than white unvaccinated children would be. Everyone fanning this fire must feel very proud.  

Update: This article originally referred to a 340% increase in autism. This is the figure that has been trumpeted by many of the anti-vax websites we were critiquing, but even Hooker's exceptionally dubious paper reports rates 3.4 times, or a 240% increase.