Data manipulation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that obscured a higher incidence of autism in African-American boys has been uncovered by Brian Hooker, Ph.D., scientific advisor for the Focus Autism Foundation, with the help of a top research scientist working for the CDC. According to a Focus Autism report, Hooker, who has a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for original data on the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism study conducted by CDC researchers lead by Frank DeStefano, M.D., et al.
Hooker viewed highly sensitive documents related to the DeStefano study that had been obtained via Congressional request by U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hooker then found William Thompson, Ph.D., working with the CDC, who showed him the evidence that certain data had been omitted. Hooker’s reanalysis of the data, published August 8, 2014 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Translational Neurodegeneration,* shows that African-American boys receiving their first MMR vaccine before 36 months of age were 3.4 times more likely to develop autism than those vaccinated after the age of 36 months.
According to Hooker, the CDC scientist guided him to evidence showing that a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys was hidden by CDC researchers. Data was gathered on 2,583 children living in Atlanta, Georgia, who were born between 1986 and 1993. However, CDC researchers did not include any children that did not have a State of Georgia birth certificate—a decision that reduced the study’s sample size by 41 percent. Hooker noted that this artificially minimized the strong MMR-autism link in African-American boys.
The Focus Autism report goes on to state that results of the DeStefano study first appeared in the journal Pediatrics, which receives financial support from vaccine makers through advertising and direct donations, according to a CBS News report. The DeStefano study is widely used by the CDC and other public health organizations to support a claim that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Hooker states in the Focus Autism report, “Based on the scientific findings, the CDC failed to report the relationship between the age of first MMR vaccine and autism incidence in African-American boys as early as 2003. This data is important and would allow the public to make decisions based on full disclosure of vaccine risks.”
Hooker concludes that further study will need to determine why this effect (3.4-fold increase when MMR is administered prior to 36 months of age) is seen in African-American males, and determine whether delaying the first MMR should be advised for this population. A link between vaccines (including the MMR) and autism has been acknowledged in cases compensated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
William Thompson, Ph.D., one of the coauthors of the DeStefano study, in a press release published on his attorney’s website, states: “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African-American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism…. [Nevertheless] I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives…. 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 subgroup 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…. CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent.
“Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists inside or outside the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.” —S.M.
*This study is no longer available through the Translational Neurodegeneration website; however, it has been archived and is available through NCBI at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4128611/.
This article is from Vol. 23, No. 6, November/December 2014 (available in print or digital format).
2. See Thompson’s full statement at http://www.morganverkamp.com.