Tag Archives: Paul Offit

Vaccine pioneer admits dangerous science

Dr. Joseph Mercola, internet health guru, cues us into a video this week. In it, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, a vaccine science pioneer who died in 2005, talks about some snafus that got covered up:

–The live polio vaccine (in use till 1999) was contaminated with SV40, a monkey virus known to spawn cancer in humans.

–Other vaccines which Dr. Hilleman worked on may have contained the AIDS virus, coming from the African monkeys. He originated vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, among others, as head of vaccines at Merck.


The problem is that tissues from wild monkeys used to create the vaccine were contaminated with many viruses. Early vaccine science “killed” 40 of them, but ignored others, present at small concentrations. At these small concentrations, formaldehyde didn’t kill them, says Dr. Hilleman in the video. They just came along for the ride. On a hunch that SV40 caused cancer, Dr. Hilleman decided to look for it. He found it in the Sabin polio vaccine then in use, and in others as well.

Meanwhile, researchers are finding this monkey virus SV40 widespread in a variety of tumors and lymphomas in humans. Could the cancer epidemic have been at least partly caused by the polio vaccine?

And does later vaccine science clean up the problem?

It seems that shoddy science continues. Rotarix, a recent vaccine for childhood illness Rotavirus now removed from the market, was found to contain pig viruses. From Mercola’s site:

Once the Rotarix contamination was discovered (last year), new technology was used to test eight infectious attenuated viral vaccines, and in addition to Rotarix, two others contained “unexpected viral sequences”:

  1. A measles vaccine was found to contain low levels of the retrovirus avian leukosis (AVL) virus—a virus known to cause cancer in chickens. This despite the fact that vaccine manufacturers have been required to use eggs from leucosis-free stocks for over 40 years.
  2. Rotateq, Merck’s rotavirus vaccine (brought to us by Paul Offit), was found to contain a virus similar to simian (monkey) retrovirus—the SV40 virus previously linked to human cancer.

Product was recalled, and the Rotateq vaccine continues on the market, presumably safe?

I found a Powerpoint presentation from an FDA official online addressing vaccine contamination that contained these words:  “It is impossible to absolutely assure that vaccines do not contain adventitious viruses.”

Mercola warns about a particularly dangerous vaccine now being pushed by your doctor, Gardasil. Young men and women are being urged to get this virus to prevent infection by HPV, a venereal disease that is believed to cause cervical cancer. Problem is, the vaccine is causing many deaths and stillbirths, posing way more of a risk than the relatively small risk of dying of cervical cancer that it is intended to prevent.

Bottom line: Investigate the risks of every vaccine before you allow your child to get it. Because of U.S. law, you can’t sue the vaccine manufacturers if you lose the roll of the dice. You might get a bit of a settlement from the vaccine court, though, if you can prove cause and effect, and that’s pretty hard to do.


Info on studies of SV40 causing cancer in humans: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11897278

Info on Gardasil: http://www.prlog.org/11223819-abortion-stillbirth-events-from-gardasil-far-exceed-all-other-vaccines.html

Mercola’s article: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/18/leading-vaccine-doctor-states-cancer-linked-to-polio-vaccine.aspx

MSNBC Sheds Light on Vaccine Controversy

MSNBC “Inside Dateline” reported for one hour tonight on the autism-vaccine controversy.  The question: do childhood vaccines cause autism, in some children (but not all)?

I watched this segment and learned a few things.

I found it to be even-handed, with reasonably disinterested interviews of the key players. These include Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist who first suggested a link between the measles virus in the MMR vaccine and autism; Brian Deer, the London newspaper reporter who reported an apparent conflict of interest in Wakefield’s research; and Dr. Paul Offit, the American champion of vaccines who vilifies Wakefield.  I reviewed Offit’s book on this Curing Autism Blog post.

Now, talking to MSNBC, Wakefield (who operates an autism clinic in Texas now)  is finally defending himself on the conflict of interest charges, after several years of silence.

Charge #1: While reporting on research on 12 children that suggested a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, he was actually being paid to conduct research supporting a particular point of view by parents of autistic kids.  So his research was biased.

His response:  He was paid by the plaintiffs to do a different study that was never published.  Also, the money went to research, and did not profit him personally.

Charge #2: Wakefield stood to profit by discrediting the MMR vaccine because he was developing a measles-alone vaccine which he patented around this time.

His response:  The vaccine he was developing was not competitive with the MMR. It was for children whose bodies do not clear the measles virus in a normal fashion.

Charge #3: The 12 children studied in his landmark study involved kids who were part of the litigation.  So it was hardly a random sampling.

His response: The 12 children were chosen for the study BEFORE their parents joined the lawsuit.

This MSNBC report also reported on other aspects of the controversy, such as the too-many, too-soon theory pointing out that by the age of six, an American child has had 36 vaccine shots, much more than any other developed country. Our rate of autism is also much higher, at 1 in 150.  This theory doesn’t identify exactly what about the vaccines might be causing the autism, and is being championed by actress Jenny McCarthy, a spokesperson for parents.

I found it interesting that the report showed Andrew Wakefield as a keynote speaker at the Autism Research Institute’s annual conference. Parents of autistic children at the conference regard him as their champion, apparently. I had thought he was discredited, but apparently not.  After hearing his defense of himself, I am willing to consider him seriously now.

What the MSNBC report failed to touch on was the fact that there is a relatively easy way to settle this controversy about autism and vaccines.  There has been no study comparing autism incidence in a population of children who are not vaccinated with incidence in a very similar population of children who are vaccinated.  Such a study would not be hard to do, and could shed light on the controversy.

A population similar to the main population but unvaccinated actually exists. It’s a birth-at-home medical practice in Chicago.  And there’s also the Amish, largely unvaccinated.  See this link for more information.

Newsweek weighs in

Newsweek has weighed into the vaccine-autism controversy with an article in the March 2 issue that is a regurgitation of Paul Offit’s book, complete with lots of focus on Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced researcher.  The reporter, Sharon Begley, also follows Offit’s flawed line of reasoning and concludes that vaccines don’t cause autism, and the question should be settled now.

I wrote the following letter to the editor:

Concerning: The Vaccine-Autism Scare by Sharon Begley, March 2, 2009 issue

Your reporter is following the flawed reasoning of Dr. Paul Offit.  Here’s the flawed logic:  Thimerosal has been proven to not cause autism. Measles virus in the MMR vaccine has been proven to not cause autism. Therefore, vaccines do not cause autism.

In fact,  there could be other features of vaccines that cause autism, such as “too many, too soon,” the idea that young immune systems cannot cope with the increasing amounts of viral material that kids are being given these days. In addition, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that there is a link between vaccines and autism. In fact, the vaccine court itself has ruled twice now that there is such a link in individual cases (Hannah Poling, and the just-announced case of Bailey Banks).

The only way to test the premise that vaccines cause autism is to do an epidemiological study that compares the incidence of autism in populations that are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Unvaccinated populations can be found: the Amish, and a home-birth medical practice in Chicago of 30,000 people.(http://www.infowars.com/articles/science/autism_none_for_unvaccinated_amish.htm)  It’s time to do that study, if you want to claim that vaccines don’t cause autism.

Phyllis Wheeler
Curing Autism Blog

Wall St. Journal: “Childhood vaccinations aren’t linked to autism”

That was the teaser on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today.  The actual headline on an article on page 3 of today’s Wall Street Journal was similar: “U.S. Court Rejects Vaccine Connection to Autism.”

The Wall Street Journal and Dr. Paul Offit share a logical fallacy.  Here’s the fallacy: Studies are showing that thimerosal and measles virus in vaccines aren’t linked to autism. Therefore, vaccines aren’t linked to autism.

The overwhelming anecdotal evidence that children regress into autism soon after taking vaccines needs to be taken into account in a bigger way. There are other factors about vaccines that could be causing autism, besides thimerosal and measles virus.  There’s a theory called “too many, too soon.”  This is that there are too many shots given to tiny children whose systems aren’t ready for the challenge.  And there may be other things about vaccines that could cause autism.

That’s why we need an epidemiological study comparing the incidence of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

As for what the federal vaccine court did yesterday, it denied damages to families that are claiming their children were made autistic by thimerosal and/or by the measles virus in the measles vaccine.  Research is showing these theories to be invalid. But what about other elements in vaccines?

So, let’s do some more investigating!  Maybe it isn’t the shots at all. Maybe it’s another environmental factor introduced since 1990, such as plastics additives.

Autism’s False Prophets by Paul A. Offit, MD, a review

Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, by Paul A. Offit, MD.

Published by Columbia University Press, 2008, 247 pages.

Offit, a doctor who is a proponent and inventor of vaccines, tells a sad tale of desperate parents of autistic children falling for charlatans. He details one death (from botched chelation) and plenty of wasted money, and lots of wasted breath on the subject of thimerosal and the MMR vaccine as causes of autism.

Offit has waded right into this controversy. He does some name-calling in the subtitle of his book, and ridicules those who disagree with him, suggesting they can’t count.

Here’s his summary (p. 247):  “The science is largely complete.  Ten epidemiological studies have shown MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism; six have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause autism; three have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause subtle neurological problems; a growing body of evidence now points to the genes
that are linked to autism; and despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines in 2001, the number of children with autism continues to rise.”

Offit says that epidemiological studies have refuted two vaccine-related hypotheses:

* that thimerosal, a mercury additive, causes autism, and
* that the measles virus in the MMR shot causes autism.

He lists a number of epidemiological (population-wide) studies to back these up.  He goes into absolutely no detail though. Bryan Jepson, MD, in his book Changing the Course of Autism, goes into plenty of details questioning these studies.  I would like to challenge Offit to respond to Jepson’s analysis, line by line.

Offit’s tone is most offensive when he quotes anti-vaccine activist and parent  Jenny McCarthy as saying “in 1983, there were 10 vaccines. Now there are 36.”  Offit then counts 7 in 1983 and 14 today and names them–polio, measles, etc.  Then Offit says “Misstatements of fact didn’t seem to matter. Thirty-six vaccines, 14 vaccines, close enough.”(p. 242-3)

Now, I know she is counting shots or sticks, like any mother would, while he is counting the several shots and boosters required for each disease as one vaccination.  He’s comparing apples to oranges and then adding a put-down. Does this make her look bad, or him?

Now, let’s look at his logic. He says that many studies are showing that neither thimerosal nor the measles virus from the MMR shot causes autism. Therefore, Offit says, vaccines don’t cause autism.

Whoa, Nelly. There are many more features of vaccines than just these two that could possibly cause autism. This is precisely Jenny McCarthy’s point: even if thimerosal and the measles virus are not to blame, the sheer number of vaccines being given our tiny children with immature immune systems could be causing autism, in some way not fully understood.  THIS question has not been the subject of a study yet, I believe.  Such a study would use epidemiology to compare a vaccinated population with an unvaccinated one.  There are such vaccinated populations:  Amish, and a home-birth medical practice that has delivered 30,000 children in Chicago. This study needs to be done, if the vaccine controversy is going to go away.

Here’s the reason why we need to do this study–we can all see that the autism rate has been rising with the number of vaccines given, as Jenny McCarthy was pointing out.  Even if we don’t have a theory of exactly HOW the vaccines may cause autism, the vaccines could still be causing it.

Offit thinks the cause of autism must be genetic.  Researchers are finding a collection of mutations that appear to be linked to autism. Actually my family has participated in this research. In our case, there clearly is a genetic component, with autism occuring in two generations.

But an epidemic CANNOT have a sole genetic cause. This is more logic. Mutations don’t just  start happening like crazy all by themselves. There has to be something in the environment that has changed, and that started changing significantly around 1990.

I think that many or most of the kids affected by the epidemic have only a minimal genetic tendency, and that a toxin of some kind is to blame.  For these kids, “recovery” is possible. I say this because I know moms of kids through the Internet whose kids are recovered. Jenny McCarthy’s son is recovered. In fact you
can see before and after videos  of recovered kids.  Treatments varied, but the result is the same.

Now, Offit plays the video card the other way. He cites a study where researchers looked at baby videos of older kids who are autistic. In their baby videos the researchers found autistic traits even before the age of 1. Therefore, Offit says, the MMR shot, given after the age of 1, isn’t to blame.  Well, I guess he can have that point. But he needs to look at the before and after videos of these other kids, the ones who are recovered. Offit actually denies that recovery is possible and praises parent activists who take this position as well.

And while he thinks autism must be genetic, he completely ignores the work of Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) doctors and Amy Yasko on providing supplements to fill in the gaps in mitochondrial cycles such as the methylation cycle, gaps caused by genetic mutations.  The DAN!/Yasko approach is purely pragmatic — sketch the possible cycle problem, and try a supplement to fix it. If it works, keep it.  Offit is a theorist, and isn’t into pragmatics. He also doesn’t have an autistic child who is rapidly growing up, like many of the DAN! doctors do.

It’s been a long and vicious controversy. Offit carefully details it –how English doctor Andrew Wakefield, the first to link autism to the MMR vaccine, falsified data and was ultimately stripped of his medical license in the UK. How the possible thimerosal link was sensationalized, with the only supporting lab data available based on non-human studies. How both hypotheses are apparently proved wrong by a number of epidemiological studies (but he gives no details, as I said).

Then he describes various situations where charlatans have hoodwinked the public, and says that that is what is going on here.  Apparently he wants us parents to sit and wait while our kids are growing up, until the medical community comes up with a cause and then a cure. Never mind that the research being funded is aimed at genetic causes, not environmental.  Never mind that autism research is amazingly poorly funded, given the size of the epidemic. Never mind that our kids will be grown up in the meantime.

I am sad that the kids are losing out, as result of all this crossfire.  I hope that researchers will move their focus to a variety of environmental factors that could be causes, including the greatly increased use of plastics since 1990.

Especially I would like to see the epidemiological study I mentioned before, comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.  The reason is the preponderance of anecdotal evidence that children become autistic soon after vaccination. And that’s not just for the MMR vaccine.

And what’s a parent to do? Since some kids are recovering, I believe it’s my responsibility as a parent to find out what I can and try what I can afford.  We do need to be cautious, especially not doing anything that could possibly hurt our children.  We need to be wise.  We need to share what works with each other. We do need to heed Offit’s warning that there are people out there ready and willing to prey on us.

Offit’s allies are parents whose primary motivation seems to be concern about hurting a child’s feelings by telling the child he’s in need of a cure.  That must be a bit hard on the self-esteem, I agree. These parents prefer to emphasize the special abilities that come with autism, including unusual memory.

So, here’s the question:  Does your child know he is different? If your child had the opportunity to choose, what would he or she choose? To seek a cure or not?

Well, I have a 21-year-old daughter with Asperger’s who has made this choice herself, after turning 21. She has chosen to go to the DAN! doctor and take the supplements. She is proud of her special abilities in memory and oddball sense of humor. But she has a sense of adventure, too.

That’s what we all need to do, we parents of kids with autism:  figure out what the kids would want, if they were old enough to choose. –Phyllis Wheeler

The Pro-Vaccine Side Writes a Book

The pro-vaccine forces have now written a book, Autism’s False Prophets by Paul A. Offit, reviewed in a kindly manner Jan. 12 by Donald G. McNeil Jr. of the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/health/13auti.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=Autism&st=cse

One of the arguments advanced by Offit and others interviewed, is that the autism epidemic is caused by genetics.  However, it appears only logical to me that no epidemic can have only genetic causes.  There must be other causes as well.

Several people quoted in the article say that the research proves vaccines are not tied to autism. However, the book by Bryan Jepson, MD, which I have been studying goes over these studies in detail and shows the flaws. There are plenty of flaws.  Jepson’s conclusion: nothing at all has been proven so far.  Offit’s conclusion:  vaccines are vindicated.  Both these men are respected MD’s.  I’m going with Jepson’s careful, step by step analysis of studies supporting both sides.

How about the argument that vaccines overwhelm babies’ immune systems?  The New York Times says, “Dr. Offit notes that current shots against 14 diseases contain 153 proteins, while babies cope with thousands of new foreign proteins daily in food, dirt and animal hair, and that the smallpox vaccine that nearly every American over age 30 got as a child contained 200 proteins.”

This seems to me to be unrelated information.  We are not talking about harmful proteins. We are talking about harmful viruses.  Jepson describes a study by English researcher A.J. Wakefield.  Wakefield’s theory is that the measles virus creates an abnormal immune response. The damaged immune system then allows the measles virus to linger in a subacute, chronic state, causing gut inflammation. The resulting holes in the intestinal wall allow various toxins to pass into the bloodstream, causing secondary brain injury and subsequent autism.

Jepson (p. 82) describes a study Wakefield did, published in 2002 in Molecular Psychiatry, looking at 91 autistic patients. He tested for measles virus RNA in the ileal lymph nodes next to the small intestine.  Seventy-five of these 91 autistic children had the measles virus RNA in these lymph nodes. Of kids in the control group, only five of 70 had measles RNA in these lymph nodes. Now, that’s a significant difference.

Jepson (p. 82) quoted another researcher, P. Ashwood, who used a different method and confirmed measles-virus antigen in 87.5 percent of ilial biopsy specimens from 10 autistic children, compared to none found in the 18 controls.  The researchers tested for other viruses (rubella, mumps, adenovirus, herpes simplex 1 and 2, and HIV) but did not find them. Ashwood’s study has not been published, according to Jepson’s notes.

The remaining question, wrote Jepson, was whether the measles RNA found was from a vaccine or from a “wild” strain.  Japanese researchers isolated measles virus from blood samples from a small group of autistic children. In every case, the RNA sequence was consistent with the vaccine strain, wrote Jepson (p. 83)  This study by Kawashima H. et al was published in the journal abbreviated Dig Dis Sci in April, 2000.

I hereby challenge the New York Times reporters to read Jepson’s book before they write any more. And also, stop the bias. I can see a bias just from the teaser at the end of the NYT article:

“Next week: In the Personal Health column, Jane E. Brody will write about efforts, so far fruitless, to find a cure for autism.”

There–the newspaper has already judged that the efforts to find a cure are fruitless.  I challenge Jane Brody to watch the videos I posted a few days ago (http://technorati.com/videos/youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D-fouye8Y4bg), documenting the recovery of several children.  She needs to demonstrate to me that she is following the expected journalism ethics of impartiality.  I am not seeing it, currently.–Phyllis Wheeler


Jepson, Bryan, MD, and Jane Johnson, Changing the Course of Autism, Sentient Publications, 2007, 354 pages