In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the conspiracy theories surrounding the issue.
Since news of his indictment on 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering broke in April 2011, the conspiracy adherents have homed in on Thorsen as the mastermind of a fraud to convince people that vaccines are not causative in autism. Why Thorsen? Because he is the fourth author of seven on a paper showing no link between MMR and autism in a large population study of Danish children. The study and data, which are readily checked thanks to Denmark’s meticulous population registries, have not been called into question or retracted.
Even though Thorsen wasn’t the first or senior author on the study that conspiracy adherents cite, he was first author or senior author on many other studies related to neurodevelopmental conditions in Danish children, including autism and cerebral palsy. His work overall includes looking at links between autism and infection, autism and a family history of autoimmune disorders, cerebral palsy and in vitro fertilization, cerebral palsy and preterm labor, autism and a glutamate-related pathway, autism and socioeconomic factors, autism and jaundice, and a score of other studies related to preterm labor and inflammation.
In spite of the fact that Thorsen appears to be easily located, was an author on a scientific poster at a conference this year, and is living and working in Denmark, a number of high-profile vaccine-autism conspiracy adherents, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have repeated only in the last few months the claim that he is a fugitive, “on the run from Interpol,” and on Interpol’s most-wanted list. The Kennedy connection is an interesting one, given that Thorsen is author on a 2014 paper with other authors publishing “for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network.”
If the charges are true, Thorsen bilked the US government, specifically the CDC, out of millions and used it to buy himself things. How that translates into a willingness to engage in a conspiracy with the CDC remains elusive.