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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Conspiracy Theory

Phil Plait writes at Slate:
There's a conspiracy theory going around that the CDC covered up a link between autism and vaccines. From what I can tell, this conspiracy theory is on the same level as the one that NASA faked the Moon landings. And you know how I feel about that.

Perhaps you’ve heard about this CDC theory; it’s burning up on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. The gist of it is that a “whistleblower” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed some hanky-panky done by researchers there to cover up a link between vaccines and autism found in a certain group of babies, and a new analysis supposedly shows this connection.

It’d be a compelling story, if it were true. However, it appears very strongly to be false. Since I am not an expert in the specifics, I direct you to two posts: "Did a high ranking whistleblower really reveal that the CDC covered up proof that vaccines cause autism in African-American boys?" by Dr. David Gorski at Science Based Medicine, and “Andrew Wakefield Tortures History” at Harpocrates Speaks. These, together with links therein, show to my satisfaction why this conspiracy claim is more heat than light. As the first post by Gorski shows, the "new analysis" fails for multiple reasons, including using small numbers for statistics (a big no-no), applying statistics incorrectly, and not even employing an actual statistician for the analysis. There are other very serious problems as well, all of which are laid bare in those posts.
Arturo Garcia writes at Raw Story:
Actor and anti-vaccine advocate Rob Schneider contacted California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office (D) claiming to possess documents showing that the Centers for Disease Control has hidden data showing Black children are at a particularly high risk of developing autism from vaccines.
According to the anti-vaccine site The Canary Party, Schneider stated in his letter to deputy legislative secretary Lark Park that he was “compelled” to share his proof of a CDC report the agency suppressed and “fraudulently changed.”
“One disturbing disclosure, AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN were and still are THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT more likely to develop Autism under the current Vaccine MMR schedule,” Schneider wrote. “This according to the original CDC study in 2001.”
Schneider may have been referring to a 2004 letter to the CDC regarding a study of African-American children which was recently unearthed. Anti-vaccination activists say the letter proves that evidence of a link between the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine and autism was suppressed by the CDC. The agencysaid in a statement that the study’s results were due to issues with the sample and not a vaccine-autism link.