Has a CDC Whistleblower Really Come forward? #CDCwhistleblower

Antivaccine groups claim CDC scientist has confessed to a CDC cover up and fraud regarding a vaccine-autism link, comparing CDC to Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler

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Once again we find the world of social media ablaze with claims that ‘proof’ of a link between early MMR vaccination and autism has been uncovered. This time, through a none other than a CDC scientist called William W. Thompson.

So what has actually happened? Last week a video was published by the AutismMediaChannel that reportedly contained the confessions of a CDC whistle blower in regards to a 2004 paper entitled “Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta“. The whistle blower we later found out was Dr William Thompson, a senior scientist at the CDC.

This video was followed up by a large number of reports from various ‘news’ sites from the antivaccine spectrum (Age of AutismNatural News of course) and then a number of slightly more reputable news outlets, though only through their user contributed sections including CNN’s iReport website. The two CNN iReports (1, 2) have actually caused quite a stir, firstly because people seem incapable of distinguishing between CNN and what is essentially a blogging platform for unverified amateurs. secondly, CNN removed the first whistle-blower article prompting claims of a ‘media blackout’, the report is however back up, with a large disclaimer from CNN highlighting the user contributed and unverified nature of the article.

But back to the video, what does it actually contain? Well, not much of substance really. The video has been produced with its audience in mind. There is no science here, but atmospheric music, comparisons between the CDC, Hitler and Stalin, and the digging up of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. In the video, prominent anti-vaccine enthusiast Brian Hooker walks us through a journey of CDC cover-ups and institutional racism and genocide, citing the ‘confessions’ of Dr. Thompson as the fact behind the reality. The problem is though, that we rarely hear Dr. Thompson speak. What we do hear is very short segments of recorded audio from Dr Thompson. To give context to Dr Thompson’s confessions, Hooker kindly fills in the gaps by supposedly acting as mouthpiece to Dr Thompson’s confessions.

From this video we have seen headlines screaming about a CDC cover up, about a 340% increased autism risk due to vaccines (Which ScienceBlogs contributor Orac points out tactfully is wrong as the reported 3.4-fold increased risk is actually a 240% increase.) as well as claims that the CDC committed acts amounting to ‘genocide’ by covering up the increased risk of autism in young African-Americans.

So what data do we have to support the charges levelled in this video? At the moment, not much. We’re yet to see any of the supposedly buried data surface from the 2004 CDC study, and Dr. Thompson is yet to make a public statement or appearance. All we have to go on at the moment is, surprisingly, Brian Hooker’s own ‘reanalysis’ of the 2004 study, published in translational Neurodegeneration entitled “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data.” Of course this raises a few concerns, such as, any person who undertakes the lengthy process of approval for and publication of research based on the reanalysis of existing data most likely has an axe to grind. Secondly, Hookers conclusions are hardly convincing, but this of course isn’t likely to concern most anti-vaccine supporters. Thirdly, is the interesting observation by SceinceBasedMedicine.org’s David Gorski:

let’s just, for a thought experiment, assume Hooker’s study comes to a valid conclusion (which is, given that it’s Hooker, highly unlikely, but stay with me for a moment). If that were the case, these results are no reassurance whatsoever to the vast majority of antivaccinationists supporting Wakefield. This study says nothing whatsoever about, for instance, Jenny McCarthy and her son’s autism, other than that there is no link between MMR and autism for children like him. Remember, the most vocal antivaccinationists jumping all over this are not African-American but instead tend to be UMCor even highly affluent Caucasians. There’s absolutely nothing in even Hooker’s ham-fisted “reanalysis” of this data to tell them that the MMR vaccine caused their children’s autism.

In an attempt to substantiate the claims of the video, we have seen Natural News publish a letter supposedly written by Dr Thompson to Julie Gerberding, the then head of the CDC, in 2004. The letter immediately smacks of a fabrication due to the lack of a signature, CDC letter head, or (if it were an email) any signs of email formatting, senders, recipients etc. But upon reading the letter these fears can be set aside. Why, because the letter itself is not incriminating whatsoever. Natural news claims the letter shows that  Dr Thompson ‘laments that the data will show MMR vaccines cause an increased risk of autism in youth African-American babies.’ But upon reading the letter we merely find Dr Thompson concerned that the room full of parents of autistic children he is soon to speak in front of, will not take kindly to the data he presents. He then goes on to criticise the CDC for not putting enough effort into combating the vaccine-autism movement, something natural news takes to be confirmation that the CDC ‘CDC has been covering up the truth about the safety problems the agency’s own scientists had documented with vaccines’

View the letter here.

So where are we now? Well the CDC finally has finally responded to the claims surrounding MMR and autism with a simple press release describing and explaining the original 2004 study, and highlighting the CDC’s commitment to providing ‘essential data on autism, [and their] search for factors that put children at risk for autism and look for possible causes.’

Perhaps I was expecting something a bit more forceful from the CDC, perhaps some news as to the status of Dr Thompson, but this minimalist response from the CDC is exactly what is needed to put out this fire as soon as possible. As the battle to improve vaccine coverage rages on, the industry is realising that the best way to tackle people who choose not to vaccinate their children is not to engage with them. From picking your children up from school, to paying taxes, people are more likely to do something if they perceive others as doing so. So far the mainstream media have stayed away from #vaccinegate (presumably as much because of the negative social impact as the lack of facts) and the CDC’s minimal response will continue the media indifference to this unfounded alarmist minority movement.

[/column] [column type=”one-third” last=”true”]Spot the factless assertions…
Donald Trump lends his credible name to the cause…

Rob Schneider, moving from comedy to academic publishing…

Still waiting on this Rob…

CNN iReport Stories*

iReport 1
iReport 2

*iReport is user contributed, these reports have not been verified by CNN

Letter to Julie Gerberding



Comments 1

  1. Anna Watson

    …As a result, Translational Neurodegeneration, the journal in which Hooker’s study was published, released this statement:
    “This article has been removed from the public domain because of
    serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The Journal and
    publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the
    public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further


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