Vaccines Still Not Linked to Autism

Myths tend to be persistent and require periodic maintenance debunking. The anti-vaccine movement arguably can credit its recent increase in effect to successfully spreading fears that vaccines in general, and particularly either the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, and rubella) or the vaccine preservative thimerosal, are linked to autism. This claim was never based on legitimate science, and over the last 15 years has been overwhelmingly repudiated by multiple independent lines of scientific evidence.

It is easier to spread fears than it is to reassure anxious parents with abstract scientific data, but still we must try. It also seems that giving people information is not an effective way to change their opinions or their behavior. But at the very least I hope to better inform those who are already on board with the science-based approach, and perhaps we can reach the occasional person on the fence who is simply misinformed and open to changing their mind.

A new meta-analysis seems like a good opportunity to remind the public that vaccines are safe and effective, and that they are not linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. The study is: “Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies,” by Taylor, Swerdfeger and Eslick, is published in the journal Vaccine. They found:

Five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9920 children were included in this analysis. The cohort data revealed no relationship between vaccination and autism (OR: 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.06) or ASD (OR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.20), or MMR (OR: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.70 to 1.01), or thimerosal (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.77 to 1.31), or mercury (Hg) (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.93 to 1.07). Similarly the case-control data found no evidence for increased risk of developing autism or ASD following MMR, Hg, or thimerosal exposure when grouped by condition (OR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.98; p = 0.02) or grouped by exposure type (OR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76 to 0.95; p = 0.01).

Of course, it is impossible to prove a negative, but those p-values, confidence intervals, and odds ratios are all very reassuring. This is, collectively (and that’s the point of a meta-analysis), a large body of evidence showing a complete lack of association between autism and ASD with vaccines in general, with the MMR vaccine in particular, or with thimerosal or mercury.


Part of the fear that there is some environmental cause for autism comes from the steady increase in the incidence of diagnoses over the last 20 years. According to the CDC, in 2000 the prevalence of autism was 1 in 150, and in 2010 it had increased to 1 in 68. One reason we track the incidence (new cases per year) and prevalence (how many cases exist at one time) of diseases is as a warning system to alert us to a potential new risk. It is perfectly reasonable to ask questions about this increasing prevalence, which certainly suggests an environmental cause.

However, one reasonable question to ask is this – is the increase in the number of diagnoses being made due to an actual increase in the incidence of the disorder, or is it due to diagnostic definitions and behavior? I discussed this question previously at length. The short answer is that much of the increase in the number of diagnoses can be explained by a broadening of the definition, increased surveillance, and diagnostic substitution.

The data is not sufficient to rule out the conclusion that a subset of the increase is due to a real increase in incidence, but neither has a real increase been definitively demonstrated. It’s possible that it’s all an artifact of diagnosis.

Further, there is copious and increasing scientific evidence that autism is primarily a genetic disorder. Twin studies show a large genetic component. Autism is linked to many individual gene mutations, duplications, and deletions. Not surprisingly, the many specific genes linked to autism are involved in brain development – precisely the genes you would think would be involved in this kind of disorder. At this point there is no question that autism is predominantly a group of complex genetic disorders affecting the organization and connections of the neurons in the brain. This does not by itself rule out an environmental factor – environment can modify the expression and implications of specific genetic changes. The role of environmental factors, however, is certainly diminished by the apparent predominant role of genetics.

The final point to make about autism is that recent research has demonstrated that it can be diagnosed at younger and younger ages, if we look carefully. Several studies show that signs of autism can be detected as early as six months of age, and preliminary data suggests this may be possible as early as two months. Even more significant is a recent study suggesting that the brain changes found in autism must begin in early fetal development – in the womb.

To summarize, evidence suggests that the true incidence of autism is not increasing (although a small increase cannot be ruled out), that it is dominantly genetic (although an environmental factor cannot be ruled out), and that autism is already present in very young children and likely has its roots in early fetal development, before any vaccines are given. These lines of evidence all argue strongly against any association of autism with vaccines.

MMR and thimerosal

The MMR vaccine and thimerosal have been the key targets of the anti-vaccine movement, although their real focus is to blame vaccines in general. The MMR scare was triggered by the now-infamous Lancet study (since retracted) by the discredited researcher Andrew Wakefield. This story has been told multiple times here and elsewhere. To summarize, Wakefield’s small and preliminary study was found to also be likely fraudulent. Subsequent research has not found any link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

As the MMR story was crashing and burning, the antivaccine movement latched onto another boogeyman in the guise of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines (although never in the MMR). Targeting thimerosal had the advantage of allying the antivaccine movement to the anti-mercury movement and some extreme environmentalists (most notably, RFK Jr.). The thimerosal scare was also given a boost by the book Evidence of Harm by David Kirby.

In the early 2000s, Kirby and other antivaccinationists argued that the increasing exposure to thimerosal in the vaccine schedule was the true cause of the apparent rise of autism rates. The last 14 years, however, have definitely disproven this “hypothesis.” Multiple studies have failed to show any correlation between thimerosal exposure, mercury exposure, or mercury excretion and the risk of developing autism. There is simply no link.

But the final nail in the coffin came as a result of the removal of thimerosal from the routine vaccine schedule around 2001. By 2002 children in the US were no longer receiving vaccines with added thimerosal as a preservative as part of the routine schedule. Some multi-dose flu vaccines still contain thimerosal, but these are optional, and most flu vaccines given in the US don’t contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is also still used in the manufacturing process of some vaccines, and so trace amounts may remain in the final product.

This, of course, gives deniability to dedicated antivaccine ideologues. But the undeniable truth is that exposure to thimerosal through vaccines was dramatically reduced around 2002 – to trace amounts for most children. At that time Kirby and others predicted that autism rates would plummet, confirming their claim that thimerosal was the cause of the apparent increase in rates. This is the one point on which we agreed – if thimerosal was a significant risk factor for the development of autism, and in fact was the cause of the increase in diagnosis rates, then those rates should plummet within 4-7 years following the removal of thimerosal from the vaccine schedule by 2002.

It has now been 12 years and autism rates have not plummeted. In fact, there has not been the slightest blip in the steady rise of diagnosis rates over the last decade. Removing thimerosal from the routine vaccine schedule has had zero detectable effect on the diagnosis of autism.

This is the absolute final nail in the coffin of the failed thimerosal/mercury hypothesis of autism. Only the motivated reasoning of the most dedicated antivaccine ideologue can deny this simple fact.


The recent meta-analysis is just icing on the cake of the body of scientific evidence that fails to demonstrate any link between vaccines in general, MMR, or thimerosal with autism or ASD. Scientific research also gives us many independent reasons to doubt such a link.

There is no scientific controversy here. As much as ideologues hate to hear this – the science is settled. This, of course, does not stop dedicated ideologues from fearmongering with false claims and pseudoscience in order to promote their agenda.

Posted in: Vaccines

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116 thoughts on “Vaccines Still Not Linked to Autism

  1. Ed Whitney says:

    Has anyone tried showing parents a video of a mother or father whose child developed serious complications from a vaccine-preventable disease? If anecdotes trump data for people not versed in scientific thinking, why not have a well-produced video narrative which shows a fellow parent describing the pain and suffering of a beloved child who had a difficult clinical course with one of the diseases which are targeted by the vaccines they are being asked to have administered to their child?

    Anyone happen to know if this has been tried?

  2. It has been tried. It didn’t work. The narrative approach did not work either. (see the link above to the New Yorker article which reviews this study, we also talked about it recently on the SGU).

    1. Ed Whitney says:

      I may be missing something, but the CDC narrative for measles was written rather than in the video form of a parent narrating the ordeal of a very sick child. Perhaps there was a video elsewhere from the CDC (no links from the New Yorker), but written information does not capture the emotions that come from the voice tone and facial expressions that a professionally produced video can provide. Television advertising is a hugely lucrative industry which affects product sales. It would be interesting to look at a video narrative for measles if it resides elsewhere on the CDC website.

      1. Ed Whitney says:

        In contrast to a CDC link to a written narrative (which has to be read and therefore go through the neocortex), a video by a PR firm could have a small child with a puppy, a kitten, or both. You know just what kind of music would grab the limbic system, and the kind of voice-over that sells products and politicians to the public.

        1. Harriet Hall says:

          And a lot of people might react to them the same way they react to slick commercials, rejecting the information because it reeked of salesmanship.

      2. Echo says:

        There’s a video about a young girl who is now hearing disabled as a result of the measles. It’s interview footage of the girl’s mother -Rachel’s Story

    2. Chris Hickie says:

      I’ve liked this video from Vanderbilt University, which I do think does a good job showcasing IRL cases of VPDs:

      1. Echo says:

        That was a great video. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Nathanael says:

    Good article. I think you hit the nail right on the rad when you suggested that the primary reason people are averse to vaccinations are not reason, but emotive based. Perhaps then the only way to change peoples’ behavior is through social pressure and shaming them? If they can’t be swayed through reason and science, maybe this is the only reasonable alternative?

  4. Harriet Hall says:

    A recent study showed that children who got the vaccines on a delayed schedule were more likely to have seizures than those who got them on the recommended schedule. Vaccine critics are clamoring for vaccines to be made safer, and it appears that one way to make vaccines safer is to give them on time.

    1. mho says:

      Do you have a link to this study? I’m writing a response to an editorial and want to address alternative schedules.

  5. gravitybear says:

    OT: I got an unintended chuckle when the authors of the meta analysis were listed, “by Taylor, Swerdfeger and Eslick.” Scanning quickly, my brain first interpreted this as Taylor Swift.

    I look forward to T.Swift’s further research in this area.

  6. stanmrak says:

    There have been too many documented instances where a normal, healthy child suddenly goes bonkers immediately after getting a vaccine and is never the same. You can’t ignore these cases if you’re looking at this objectively. The vaccine by itself may not be the cause, (I think it’s likely to be a cascade of toxic exposures) but it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in some cases. This would be impossible to prove one way or the other, as each case is unique. But some people would rather not take that risk. It’s not necessarily an emotional choice.

    1. Chris says:

      “You can’t ignore these cases if you’re looking at this objectively.”

      Please post the verifiable documentation that these cases actually exist.

      “(I think it’s likely to be a cascade of toxic exposures) ”

      Do tell us what those toxins are and how they are worse than the toxins created by the several bacterial infections that we vaccinate against, like tetanospasmin. Provide PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers that there are “toxins” in vaccines that are worse than the diseases.

      1. Lawrence says:

        @Stan – actually, no – these cases aren’t “documented.” They are merely stories retold by the parents to try to make some sense out of the changes that their child might have undergone (or been there the whole time, but manifested at a later age).

        How to you explain the evidence provided during the Omnibus Hearings – provided by the plaintiffs, mind you, that consisted of videos that supposedly showed normal children before vaccinations & regressive autism after – only to show obvious signs of autism in the children before the supposed “regression?”

        If these stories were as common as the anti-vax militia claim, it would be easy to produce medical records and other evidence that would conclusively prove a link – instead, once these cases are examined in detail, they are never what they appear to be…..

    2. Harriet Hall says:

      If you’re looking at it objectively, you would first try to define bonkers and determine whether those children really went bonkers and whether it was more common after vaccines than at other times or in unvaccinated children. And it would be hard to get accurate information because of parental misperceptions. If it were impossible to prove because each case is unique, the scientific method would be useless. It isn’t; it works.

    3. Ed Whitney says:

      In November of 1965, New York City and much of the Northeast had a massive power outage which was due to the failure of a transmission line many miles from the city. A kid in Queens or somewhere had (as kids often do) slapped a transmission box on a pole while walking past it, and immediately afterwards, the whole city went dark. He could not avoid the conclusion that he had knocked out the power, since the effect had immediately followed the “cause.”

      Sounds logical enough! Just does not happen to be true.

      1. Saucyturtles says:

        My mother’s former boss was a young man living alone in New York and had decided to undertake to break the Jewish dietary restrictions he had been raised with. He took his first bite of pork and all the lights went out on the Eastern seaboard. Clear proof of…something.

    4. Sawyer says:

      “This would be impossible to prove one way or the other, as each case is unique.”

      Doctors, scientists, and philosophers have being thinking about this problem for about three millennia. But I’m sure your University of Google degree trumps the billions of collective hours great minds have spent studying it.

    5. SAO says:

      There was a study in England, which examined home videos of parents who claimed their children got Autism as a result of vaccination. Blinded experts asked to identify which kids had autism found autism in the before videos, too. The study was well designed with controls and so on such that the experts didn’t know the purpose or that that before videos were the same kids. In short, there was no support for the parental claims.

      Unfortunately I don’t have the reference for the study, but I sure you can find it if you are diligent about searching.

      The problem is that since the number of kids vaccinated is enormous you multiply that by the minute risk of an adverse event and you get a bigger number than the minute number of unvaccinated kids times the 30% chance of a complication from measles. The number of unvaccinated kids who get measles is smaller than it might otherwise be, because when measles comes to the community, many parents dash off to get their kids vaccinated.

      The other factor is that since parents are supposed to get their kids vaccinated, a parent who does and who child suffers is not going to be judged as a bad parent. A parent who doesn’t vaccinate and whose child gets a vaccine preventable disease and has a permanent disability as a result of it, is in for a firestorm of criticism at best, and probably calls for them to be prosecute for child endangerment, for them to lose custody of their other children, etc. In short, they are far less likely to be in the public eye.

    6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I think it’s likely to be a cascade of toxic exposures

      Heh, I just read something really amusing in Joe Schwartz’s The Right Chemistry (hat-tip to Dr. Hall) about how the reason why broccoli is good for you is because it actually creates a toxic molecule when consumed, and it is the body’s production of detoxifying (actual detoxifying, not bullshit CAM detoxifying) molecules, which has a cascade/fringe benefit of cleaning out a bunch of other toxic chemicals in the process.

      That’s right, the best way to detoxify your body is to eat toxins.

      So fuck you Stan, according to science the best way to protect these kids from toxic exposures is to expose them to toxins. You can’t get anything right.

  7. Lytrigian says:

    Well, someone’s gotta say it.

    These parents with their stories of children “suddenly” developing symptoms of autism were simply not paying attention to their kids. They saw them through rose-colored glasses, thinking everything was just fine. And then, it becomes undeniable that things are not fine. Things you’ve never noticed before feel sudden when you finally do notice them, even when you have objective information that they were not. So it feels as if everything was just fine one day, and then it all went wrong the next. Something’s to blame! And what? Must be that shot. No one likes shots. Junior cried after he got his shot. It hurt him! And now look what happened!

    I have no sympathy for these people. We knew something was amiss with our autistic son by the time he was 1. There was nothing we could exactly put our finger on, and it was far too early for a diagnosis, but it was certainly present. We saw it, hoping for the best anyway, but we didn’t pretend that all was certainly well. Even when he turned 2 and showed no signs of talking, and his pediatrician was reluctant to make a diagnosis because he was still within normal developmental limits, we knew there was a problem. If you’re attentive and aren’t constantly making excuses for those little clues that development is not proceeding as expected, you can’t miss it.

    Maybe it’s just that we were more attentive than most. With a severely disabled older child, and with a difficult birth for the younger, maybe we were more alert than others for warning signs that all was not well.

    Or maybe we just engaged with our kids often enough, and attentively enough, that we saw what was right in front of our eyes the whole time.

    1. Windriven says:

      A slightly alternative explanation – and I believe there is some research that has been mentioned in these pages before – is that autism symptoms begin to emerge at about the same time as the MMR vax jab – regardless of whether the vaccination is given or not.

    2. Birdy says:

      Our son’s story is similar to yours. We could tell something was ‘off’ when he was a tiny infant, primarily due to lack of eye contact when it would have been developmentally normal and pretty obvious sensory stuff. It just got increasingly evident. We were pretty sure he was autistic by age 2.5, and he was diagnosed right after he turned 3.

      He did have a period of sudden regression just before he turned two, though. He hadn’t had any shots around that time (due to very frustrating paperwork issues, he wasn’t properly vaccinated until he was much older than he should have been) but had a noticeable, sudden regression in what little functional speech he had.

      My reading has suggested that regression like that is not that abnormal with autism.

      I’m of the opinion that the parents who look back and claim that being within ten feet of a vaccine caused ther kid to instantly seize and turn autistic are simply rewriting the past in their own minds because they can’t believe there might be something ‘wrong’ with their genes. It seems easier for them to believe that something evil stole their perfect child than to accept that they produced a child with delays.

      1. Lytrigian says:

        I’d have remembered the regression if I’d given it more than a moment’s thought, but since that wasn’t our experience it’s easy to forget what goes on in a great many other cases.

      2. mouse says:

        Yes – Our neighbor, who has pretty severe autism, had a clear regression, by his mom’s account, he was talking and developing vocabulary at a good pace, then just lost ground (lost vocabulary and language use changed). He also has a type of absence seizures, which wasn’t discovered and treated until he was school age. I’ve been told that regressive autism and seizures are linked.

        1. Chris says:

          That depends. The percentage of those who are autistic and have a history of seizures is higher than the percentage of the rest of the population. But autism and seizures are not necessarily linked.

          Though there are conditions like Landau Kleffner Syndrome where the seizures are doing great harm, and the symptoms can be considered a form of autism. I first heard about it when my son was three years old and tested for it (not easy to get a sleep EEG). He was also tested for a metabolic syndrome that causes seizures and speech disorder. In the end he did not have either as a diagnosis.

          The pediatric neurologist would only go so far to say my son’s history of seizures “may or may not be related to his severe speech disorder.”

          There was a special-ed preschool classmate of his whose first seizure occurred while at school (I left the baby in her stroller on the sidewalk while I moved the car to get out of the way of the ambulance when it happened). That child was not autistic, but his seizures were the kind that interrupted his breathing (he literally stopped breathing).

          It turned out that child’s little brother was diagnosed a year or so afterwards with LKS. He even had surgery for it. The last I saw them the older child was doing okay, even doing well in school. The younger child is a now fairly disabled adult.

          None of the kids in my son’s special ed. preschool had an official diagnosis of autism, since it was before 1994. But out of some I ran into years later a couple got that as a diagnosis, others like my son did not. We used to have the most interesting birthday parties with those kids up to about age ten.

    3. Laurenak says:

      I tend to agree that parents who think their child suddenly becomes autistic after a vaccine are either in denial (didn’t want to admit anything was wrong until it became too obvious) or don’t notice the early symptoms especially in higher function children with ASD. As a speech path I often see children pre diagnosis because they aren’t talking and have regressed or ‘lost words’ and some parents just don’t want to know there is something else goingon. One of my clients I think is clearly on the spectrum and his preschool teachers agree but mum doesn’t want to know, she thinks the preschool is picking on him. A vaccine is easier to blame for some then accepting their child always had autism and they didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it.

      1. Chris says:

        “One of my clients I think is clearly on the spectrum and his preschool teachers agree but mum doesn’t want to know, she thinks the preschool is picking on him.”

        I have met a couple of parents like that. One told me her pediatrician did not see any problem with her younger son, yet a couple of years later I saw her going down the hall with him to have a session with my son’s speech therapist.

        Then for another boy in my daughter’s preschool I gave the parents list of low to no cost resources for their son. But they refused to have him even looked at, though they chastised me when I kept thinking he was a year younger than my daughter (he was small and his speech was very much delayed). Even the preschool teacher encouraged them to seek out the public school special ed. resources. She told a few years later that he was getting help because the district screens all incoming kindergarteners (this was during a conversation about the child’s grandfather’s house, where they lived, was raided by the feds because of illegal gun sales, they were an interesting family).

  8. Frederick says:

    Excellent article, I also have read you piece on Youre other blog about fluoride. Somehow this things are related in the way they stir up the irrational in people.
    What I really don’t like in fear monger, or people with irrational doubts ( doubts is good, up to a certain point) is when they say “it make no sense to me” or “it make sense to me”, as if their logic and minds were perfect and irrefutable. As if there was more chances of a wide spread conspiracy, or thousand of scientists being wrong, than they are chances of them being wrong. Mister Degrasse Tyson have a good quote on that : The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.

  9. Ed Whitney says: is worth a look, especially when it comes to the ideologues who would have to reinvent their identities if they changed their minds on vaccines. It would exact an enormous personal and emotional toll. The article is directly pertinent to the present issue.

  10. Skeptical Square says:

    On the notion of herd immunity I always envision a herd of cows getting their shots which is also a vision the vaccine fear spreaders use in the arguments ie I’m not going to be part of the herd. I wonder if a slight change in language use to something like community immunity would create a more positive image of the social responsibility ( getting yourself vaccinated ) to those who are unable to be vaccinated.

  11. Kieran says:

    Great article, and I’ve been saying for a while now that the increase in diagnoses doesn’t necessarily mean that incidences are increasing. My question, though, is in regards to autism prevelance amongst the different classes.

    I know a (very middle class) antivaccinationist who will not listen when I tell her the truth behind Andrew Wakefield’s claims. She is convinced. Her argument every time is that she knows 4 families with autistic children and they all had the MMR. This seemed like a high number to me. I then realised that all of the families I know that have autistic children seem to also be from middle class families.

    Is there any research about prevalence of autism within different classes? Could it just be an extension of the increased diagnoses, but middle class parents seem to notice warning signs more/have private healthcare/are more pushy etc etc?

    Could just be coincidence too though….

    1. Lytrigian says:

      It should not come as too much of a surprise that you see more ASD diagnoses in socioeconomic classes where parents are more likely to visit health care professionals qualified to make them.

      Her argument every time is that she knows 4 families with autistic children and they all had the MMR.

      She probably hasn’t bothered asking families without autistic children if all of THEIRS had the MMR. Not that it would convince her of anything when she discovered that most of them have.

  12. fxh says:

    I go bonkers whenever I see Amtrak posting. I’m not sure if going bonkers here in Australia is the same as going bonkers in USA due to cultural differences.

  13. SBW says:

    Having been neck deep in this nonsense for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to convince the anti-vax crowd of anything reasonable, logical, or carved in stone (or in mountains of data), is futile. It’s like trying to agree on appetizers with a goat that is intent on eating the menu. God Almighty (to use a metaphor) could hand them a completely transparent and perfectly designed, conducted, and analyzed study showing absolutely no link between ASD and vaccines and they’d have objections. Sisyphus had a less futile task. The best that anyone can do is to minimize the damage that they cause.

  14. stanmrak says:

    It’s typical for skeptics to dismiss first-person accounts that contradict already-held beliefs without actually investigating the facts or actually talking to the victims themselves; rather, just taking someone else’s word for it – someone with an agenda to discredit the witness. Why is it EVERY time a vaccine injury occurs, skeptics dispute it without really looking?

    1. Sean Duggan says:

      I’d argue that they used to dismiss them all out of hand, at least on the public level. Go back to the 1950s or so and the party line was that vaccines were completely safe. Now, they own up to the fact that vaccines are not 100% safe, but that the effect of not taking them is worse by a huge factor. Which… fits entirely with what this article is saying. There is no more of a causal link between vaccines and autism than sunlight and autism, or homeopathic medicine and autism. Most children get vaccinated. Some of them develop autism. No one is disputing that fact. But the fact of the matter is that non-vaccinated children are developing autism at the exact same rate.

      1. stanmrak says:

        That doesn’t explain why there are sometimes unexplicable violent reactions immediately after a vaccination. This does happen – and too often to ignore!

        1. Chris says:

          And your evidence for this is….?

        2. renoB says:

          I suppose the study with 3 million children missed all of those?

        3. Windriven says:

          Do you understnad the difference between correlation and causation?

        4. Lawrence says:

          Except that these “reactions” are never truly documented (you’d think the doctors would notice a kid collapsing in their exam room)….and we only get the stories after the fact.

          As has been pointed out above (and I pointed out as well), videos of these kids have clearly shown signs of autism long before they get vaccinated…..

        5. Chemmomo says:

          ” unexplicable violent reactions immediately after a vaccination” do not equal autism.

          I’ve actually witnessed one of those. It was not ignored. It required (and received) medical follow up.

          The child in question is absolutely not autistic.

          Do I dismiss other parents’ stories “without actually investigating the facts or actually talking to the victims themselves” ? No. But when I ask a parent for more details, I find their story more believable when it is internally consistent.

    2. Harriet Hall says:

      “Why is it EVERY time a vaccine injury occurs, skeptics dispute it without really looking?”

      That comment assumes that an injury has occurred. Why is it EVERY time someone reports an adverse event, non-skeptics assume it was caused by the vaccine without really looking.

      True skeptics don’t dismiss first-person accounts that disagree; they investigate and are willing to change their mind if a causal link is found.
      Tired skeptics are less likely to investigate after hundreds of investigations of similar accounts have been thoroughly investigated and no link found.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Why is it EVERY time a vaccine injury occurs, skeptics dispute it without really looking?

      I would say that skeptics don’t. Skeptics recognize that vaccines can cause injuries – just not autism bar the rare reaction that causes high fevers and results in autism-like symptoms.

      Millions of data points indicate that if autism is a risk of harm from vaccines, it is not a big one. So small, in fact, that they can’t even register it.

      To turn it around, why is it EVERY time an injury occurs close to a vaccination, despite there being many vaccines spread out over months and years, antivaccinationists attribute causation without really looking?

  15. Chris Hickie says:

    The headline of this article reminds me of the old shtick that Chevy Chase used to do on the fake news on Saturday Night Live when he would say “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!” So is the non existent “link” between vaccines and autism.

  16. stanmrak says:

    Why assume autism has just one causal factor? It may be ingredients in the vaccines reacting with other components – say, GMO foods, poor intestinal flora, MSG, heavy metals, toxic chemicals in our air, water, food supply, radiation exposure, poor nutrition…. on and on. Maybe the victims were on the brink and the vaccine pushed them over the edge? You can’t say vaccines are exempt from blame – there is no evidence for this.

    1. Chris says:

      You are really fast in moving those goal posts! So the evidence for your previous claim about “That doesn’t explain why there are sometimes unexplicable violent reactions immediately after a vaccination”?

    2. Read the article again. I never say autism is one disease or has one cause, or that environmental factors are ruled out.

      what we can say is that – according to the controlled evidence that has been compiled so far, there is no statistical correlation between vaccines and the risk of autism. So, if it were playing any role (combined with whatever factors you want to wildly speculate about) there would be an association. The fact is, there is simply no association to explain.

      You are just making shit up, and then express confusion that scientists and skeptics don’t immediately accept your BS.

      1. Chris says:

        As one special ed. teacher told me years and years ago: “If you have met one autistic kid, you have met just one.”

        They are all different. With different strengths, types of disability, different medical issues and many other layers of just about everything.

        My son also has a genetic heart disorder. Two years ago he was tested for eighteen of the known genetic sequences that cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He did not have any of them, so there must be more around. He may have one which is responsible for both the abnormal heart anatomy and his speech/behavior disabilities. Who knows?

        (well the geneticist wants to know, her main research is the genetics of autistic like disorders, and she really would have liked it if we paid for the full screen… we told her she could have more of his blood when she gets a grant)

    3. Sean Duggan says:

      Not to be too flippant, but… never mind, I’m going to flippant.

      It might be reactions with unicorns! Or organic food! Or homeopathic nostrums! My goodness, alternative medicine might cause autism!

      Sorry, but you’re being a bit silly here, so I felt justified in doing the same.

    4. MadisonMD says:


      Why assume autism has just one causal factor?

      Why assume any of the items you cite are causal? You limit your hypotheses to environmental factors that conform to your preconceived notions and most lack plausible mechanism. What about other environmental factors? What about genetic factors? In fact, the best establish risk factor is genetic.

      1. stanmrak says:

        … and your genes are in part controlled and/or influenced by all the factors I mentioned. So saying something is ‘genetic’ in origin is misleading at best.

        There’s been a recent discovery that non-coding microRNA’s in plants are capable of directly altering gene expression within human physiology when consumed:

        1. MadisonMD says:

          So you want to re-define genetic factors to include environmental factors because the environment alters gene expression? So eating a banana is genetic? You are seriously confused, friend.

          Genetic factors are those that are controlled by differences in DNA genomic sequence among humans. Environmental factors are those that are controlled by differences in environmental exposures. It is possible that factors that do not fit neatly into genetics or environment can also influence phenotypes, which I would classify as stochastic.

          You can identify genetic factor as excess in risk that associates with a particular gene, gene set, or in highly-related individuals, especially when this occurs in diverse environments. You can define environmental factors as those that uniformly increase the risk among individuals with widely diverse genetics. It is well known that the two can interact– e.g. Fanconi’s anemia and radiation (sorry your citation is not an example of genetic-environment interaction). Yet the relative contributions of environment and genetics can be independently assessed.

          A banana* is not, in any meaningful way a genetic factor. It is environmental even though it, like all environmental factors, may, of course alters gene expression, as the human body reacts to it.

          All of this does nothing to support your set of highly speculative risk factors. I am pointing out that the major known risk factor for autism operates in completely different manner from your speculations. Thus your speculations not only lack plausibility, but also lack coherence with the limited existing knowledge about causes of autism.

          Stan, I don’t know if you think you mean well, or if you are in the business of sewing fear for other purposes. Perhaps we can agree that finding the causes of autism is an important goal for our society. However, if you and others cling to failed and highly speculative hypotheses that are then exhaustively ruled out; if these speculations are investigated without regard to inductive reasoning based on mechanisms and what is known; if we fail to engage in honest scientific inquiry, well then the current lack of knowledge will be perpetuated. This is not good for current and future children and families with autism.

          *I know you said plant. This is just a specific example.

    5. Missmolly says:

      ‘You can’t say that vaccines are exempt from blame – there is no evidence for this’.
      Actually, we CAN now clearly say that vaccines and everything in them are exempt from blame. That is what this massive study of more than a million kids does, specifically, show. NO CORRELATION. No ingredient of vaccines that are to blame. No relationship between vaccines and autism. The end.
      These studies don’t look at the other potential culprits on your invented and implausible list- nor does Dr Novella suggest at any time that environment plays no part in the development of autism. But we can, in good faith, put the vaccine-autism link into the crapper where it has been proven to belong.
      Why do you need to cling to vaccines as a culprit in the face of evidence that they are innocent? How do you deal with the cognitive dissonance?

    6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Why is it that you assume autism is caused by all these things you fear, rather than acknowledge a large body of evidence that it is predominantly genetic?

      We know what symptoms are related poor intestinal flora, actual toxins, heavy metals, radiation and poor nutrition. We know that there has never been any risks associated with genetic modification or MSG. Those symptoms are not related to autism. And while we can’t say vaccines are absolutely exempt from the blame, we can look at the evidence that vaccines are not related to autism, that autism is related to genes, and note how much more solid the links are to genes than vaccines. If vaccines somehow are related to autism – why have dozens of studies not shown this?

      Of course, you will claim conspiracy, which by now must number in the millions of people, including some with autistic children, siblings or parents. That’s quite the tight lid everyone is keeping on things.

  17. Lawrence says:

    Next Stan will try to refute the knowledge that Downs is genetic & risk factors increase quite a bit if the mother is older (over the age of 35, I believe) – which also could be exactly the case for autism (has been hinted at in a number of studies) that points to a combination of increasing age of both the mother and father as a risk factor for autism (again, a genetic factor).

    You automatically try to blame vaccines – when there are a whole lot of other things out there that probably play a role – but the vaccines angle has been investigated over and over and over again, never showing even a glimmer of relation….please, get a new script.

    1. Chemmomo says:

      I’d like clarify your comment. The risks of Down Syndrome increase with maternal age (scroll down for the chart):

      It’s actually around age 30 that the increasing risk shifts from linear to exponential. But the risk of a miscarriage caused by the amniocentesis needed to diagnosis Down’s prenatally equals the risk of the baby having Down’s when the mother is 35 (1 in 300-500).

  18. Lawrence says:

    Thank you for the clarification.

  19. John McGlynn says:

    Until the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, where I live, I followed this website regularly but lost track of it after the earthquake struck. I have just re-discovered it today.
    My question: Can skipping the entire regimen of childhood immunizations lead to death by cardiomyopathy at around age 29 (female)? I believe I have read that cardiomyopathy is generally but not always congenital. I have a cousin who suddenly collapsed and quickly died. The cause of death (as described by the dead cousin’s brother) was initially attributed to an allergic reaction that went from bad to worse in minutes, resulting in choking to death. About two years later I heard the cause of death was in fact “undiagnosed cardiomyopathy.”

    To make the story more complicated, when in her early 20s this now deceased cousin worked in an office building which, as it turned out, was contaminated by an odorless gas coming from a next-door construction site. Apparently that led to fairly persistent breathing problems, and sometimes loss of energy.

    Anyway, is there any theoretical connection between non-immunization and cardiomyopathy? Or between the chemical contamination and the later cardiomyopathy that could have been aggravated by the childhood non-immunization? Thank you.

    1. John McGlynn says:

      Sorry, further: Can you recommend any readings that might touch on the question I ask? I poked around a bit at your website but didn’t immediately find anything relevant. Again, thank you.

      1. Chris says:

        Sorry, if it was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy it is purely genetic:

        My son has it and was tested for eighteen known genetic sequences, but had none of them. There are still more that exist. More info:

        There are other cardiomyapathies, but HCM is one of there more common types, and one I know about (including my son getting surgery at the Mayo Clinic).

      2. Harriet Hall says:

        1. It would never have occurred to me to wonder whether not vaccinating might have caused your cousin’s death. May I ask why it occurred to you?
        2. An “odorless gas…led to breathing problems and loss of energy”? Was the gas identified? How did they determine it was the cause of those symptoms?
        3. I suspect the reason there is no information to find on our website (or anywhere else) is because no one has thought your questions were fertile avenues for research and no one has done any relevant studies.
        4. Since you have heard two different stories about the death, and both are hearsay, would it be possible to investigate medical records or the death certificate? There’s no point in investigating possible causes of cardiomyopathy unless you can first ascertain that it was actually the cause of death.

        1. John McGlynn says:

          I appreciate the kind comments/questions from Harriet, Chris, WLU and Andre that I see as of this comment. I will answer Harriet’s questions and let these answers guide whatever round of discussion next happens.
          1. “May I ask why it occurred to you?” I failed to explain that the deceased age 29 female cousin appeared to have some kind of allergic reaction while cooking, leading to collapse (the cousin had an inhaler, which a nearby person quickly retrieved and applied, to no effect), some kind of lung or throat constriction and rapid death. All information about these events comes 2nd/3rd hand. Prior to the inhalation of some kind of chemical vapors over approx. a week from a neighboring construction site (months later, a successful work comp claim was filed) this cousin had no history of allergies, breathing problems, loss of energy (of that I’m fairly certain). Long before all of this, the parents of the deceased cousin strongly opposed childhood immunizations. Why am I asking about the relevance of non-immunization? I simply have a layperson’s and concerned family member’s interest in whether non-immunization could aggravate, in someone’s late 20s, a) lung tissue damage caused by chemical inhalation, b) an allergy condition (existence of which unconfirmed, however) that could have been induced by the chemical exposure or c) cardiomyopathy, or whether non-immunization could itself trigger or help trigger a chain of physical events that lead to cardiomyopathy. One matter clarified: From the comments above/below (I have yet to read the links) it appears there is no direct link between non-immunization and cardiomyopathy.

          2. Gas: I only know that it was an odorless chemical vapor wafting in from a neighboring construction site. Shortly after this exposure breathing and allergy-type problems occurred for the first time in the life of this cousin.

          4. Death certificate: I have been told that the DC reads “undiagnosed cardiomyopathy.” I don’t know for sure but I don’t believe, and it seems unlikely, the DC makes any reference to the chain of events listed above.

          Lastly, at this website and elsewhere I have read much about the implications of the anti-vaccine campaign for the lives of the non-immunized children and society, but the immediate implications that get most attention are in the relatively short time span that surrounds the non-immunization. Based on the experience of my dead cousin, I’m wondering what the implications might exist, if any, some 2-3 decades later, when someone appears to be healthy but actually isn’t. For example, could this deceased cousin with undiagnosed cardiomyopathy and likely lung damage due to chemical exposure have lived a longer life, but perhaps wasn’t able to due to some complication caused by non-immunization?

          Also, as medical professionals and concerned persons on this website and elsewhere are making judgments about personal, familial and social responsibility arising from non-immunization, under what conditions can we say someone acted irresponsibly based on tragic events that happened 20-30 years after non-immunization, or is that judgment simply impossible to make?

          1. Chris says:

            “4. Death certificate: I have been told that the DC reads “undiagnosed cardiomyopathy.” I don’t know for sure but I don’t believe, and it seems unlikely, the DC makes any reference to the chain of events listed above.”

            Unfortunately this is very common. Just a couple of years ago one of our state legislators in his 40s died from an “undiagnosed cardiomypathy” (which is unfortunate because now we have a total dingleberry in his seat, but that is neither here nor there).

            When my son was diagnosed with HCM about a dozen years ago due to having a heart murmur that was not there before, I started to read about it (hurray for well-child checkups for adolescents!). One thing that is burned into my brain is that the most common way it is diagnosed is after “sudden cardiac death.” I am afraid that has not changed.

            Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of cardiac death in young athletes. The reason is the extra muscle tissue blocks the blood from leaving the heart during exertion (a stress test of my son had to be stopped because his blood pressure dropped due the aortic valve blockage) . But that is not all, it also screws up the electrical signals in the heart, which is why many just die in their sleep. Like this young man after a day of playing football.

            There is an active debate on whether to screen young athletes for HCM with EKGs. The above charity does have EKG screenings for athletes at local high schools. It is still an argument of cost versus risk. And EKGs are much cheaper than echocardiograms!

            And the real screwy part is that the abnormal heart growth can occur at anytime, not just in the teen years. My other kids will be screened with echocardiograms every five years into at least their mid-thirties. After my older son’s surgery at the Mayo Clinic, when we came home we had family echo day where my younger son, my daughter, my hubby and I all had echocardiograms. We are all okay (and no, those fuzzy images make no sense to us).

            So I am afraid what happened to your cousin was just an unfortunate event. Even if you get her full medical history and coroner report you may not have enough data to conclude a cause. All you have do is read some of the family stories and forum of the 4HCM website to see that. Though truthfully I have not lurked on them for at least ten years, because it is just too depressing.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:


              The reason is the extra muscle tissue blocks the blood from leaving the heart during exertion (a stress test of my son had to be stopped because his blood pressure dropped due the aortic valve blockage)

              You probably know this, and it is just extra detail but I thought you might be interested as to the precise mechanism. It has to do with Bernoulli’s principle in that the hypertrophic septum creates a narrow outflow tract, this creates in increase in blood flow, thus increasing the speed of the fluid, which decreases the pressure and causes the outflow tract to collapse which causes the blockage. This is why it is primarily diagnosed after the sudden collapse and death of a young person exercising. And also why an older name for the condition is idiopathic subaortic stenosis.

              You are also correct regarding the electrical changes – that is due to the same process causing the hypertrophic septum; disorganized cardiac tissue.

              1. Chris says:

                Yes, I learned about Bernoulli’s principle in my aerodynamics class. It is also why his mitral valve is damaged. It is easier to explain to someone new to the subject about blocking the flow leaving the heart.

                We did get a detailed review of the cardiac MRI video at the cardiologist associated with the teaching hospital. He showed us the flows, how it was abnormal and an explanation about the thickness of the walls and resultant scar tissue.

                Now here is the funny bit about the Mayo Clinic. They want you to hand carry all of the medical records (for us, from two hospital systems; large private and university). They wanted them so they did not have to repeat expensive procedures. Except the schedule they gave us showed that all of those procedures would be done before he saw their cardiologist.

                I actually called and asked. This seemed a bit bizarre. So they did allow me to mail the university records with both the CT-scan and cardiac MRI on data DVDs.

                So we got there and started with a full day of tests, starting with a blood draw, an EKG and then we got to where he was going to get another cardiac MMR. Just after he got prepped I was called in from the waiting room to where he was in a gown about about to get an IV.

                There was a very out of breath doctor, a fellow of the cardiologist. She had somehow hoofed it very fast from the downtown medical building to the hospital where the MRI was to take place. They had just looked at the MRI data we had sent them and declared it okay, and he did not have to go through a long several thousand dollar procedure that afternoon. Yay!

                We had lots more free time to explore Rochester, MN, with all its linked buildings like the mall linked to the hotel that is linked to the medical buildings. The Barnes and Noble is cool:

                The Mayo Clinic is truly excellent, I just wish they would work on their scheduling a bit more. Like review the patients medical records before scheduling the tests.

                I made our dentist’s eyes go wide and he went bit pale when I described the actual surgical procedure. Which is to put the patient on a heart/lung machine, drain the blood from the heart, shove a teeny tiny echocardiogram down the esophagus, then cut into the aorta, then slip a scoop like scalpel through the valve leafs and then cut away the extra muscle using only feel and the fuzzy echo feed.

                This is why you need a very skilled surgeon who does lots of this surgery. Hence the trip from the Pacific Northwest to Minnesota.

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                I am very glad to hear that your physicians kept you well informed and educated on the topic. I strive to do that with my patients as well, taking time to show them imaging and explain to them the details so that they have a better grasp of what is going on. And of course, I was correct in assuming you knew and fully understood. I just felt like sharing for others and on the slim chance you didn’t.

                As for the scheduling thing, I would venture to guess it was an insurance measure. Meaning that if you don’t schedule it ahead of time then the MRI could be booked up and things delayed unnecessarily which would be even more costly and inconvenient. Of course, there is always room for improvement and I think that EHRs and other tech is the solution to that. I’ve actually emailed MRI and other imaging data back and forth (personal stuff, not actual patient data since that would still be a HIPAA violation; speaking of which, we need to update our laws and our technology to reflect the ability to do that sort of stuff). It’s funny, because when I did it once as a favor for a mentor for a personal off-the-books consult with a specialist I happen to be friends with he was blown away that I didn’t need the CD and could do it all via a thumb drive.

                As for Mayo – they are quite good. A friend of mine just spent 2 years doing research there and is leaving for a surgical program in NY at Mount Sinai. He said very good things about the program though. I couldn’t handle the snow though. NFW on living in any place like that. The only exception would be NYC, but that is because it has a special place for me as my sister lived there for 10 years and my uncle still lives there. And even then…. probably not.

              3. Chris says:

                “As for the scheduling thing, I would venture to guess it was an insurance measure. Meaning that if you don’t schedule it ahead of time then the MRI could be booked up and things delayed unnecessarily which would be even more costly and inconvenient.”

                Well the surgery was scheduled two months in advance. In that time period they could have had the MRI and CT data sent to them electronically and actually looked at them before they scheduled the testing. Even by using snail mail I sent the record packet a month before the surgery!

                “I couldn’t handle the snow though.”

                Which is why you can go almost everywhere in their downtown area without ever going outside. They have what they call “subways” (tunnels) and skyways (enclosed bridges) just because of the weather. There is a frequent shuttle between the downtown and the hospital.

              4. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Ah, well… I was trying to be charitable :-D

                And as for the tunnels… sorry. That doesn’t fly either. I am a surf bum. Being down in the gulf south with no beaches or surf to speak of is torture enough. Make me live like a mole in a frozen wasteland to boot and I can assure you that I would go bloody mad and start suturing “redrum” into my patients. I spent a week in Chicago last December (interviewing at Cook and visiting a friend) and that was more than enough time there. I love to visit the snow, in a cabin with a fire, a nice jacuzzi tub, and most days a couple of alpine skis strapped to my feet. And then leaving and going surfing the next day.

                I just need to remind myself only 3 more years before I can get myself back home…

              5. Chris says:

                “And as for the tunnels..”

                A better description would be underground hallways. They are indistinguishable from any interior hallway, other than being wider and more interesting.

                The Monday morning blood draw line was in one of those, and it extended from one building to another… and it was a very wide hallway. It started at phlebotomy and ended at the cafeteria… both in are in different buildings.

                The the search for their travel agency in a hotel connected by skyways downtown was another matter. Even though it was on the second floor all I could think of was “twisty little passageways” from an old old 1970s computer game. It turned out the travel agency was two women in a teeny tiny office without windows. They perform miracles in airline reservations, even when we got a call telling us the kid did not need a procedure so we could go home even earlier.

                Did I tell you that it was a very strange and interesting place?

              6. Chris says:

                Obviously it is beddy bye time: The the search… should be:
                Though the search…

              7. Chris says:

                I should mention, Andrey, if the reasons are good enough you can get used to anything. I spent the majority of my childhood in the tropics (Panama and Venezuela).

                I am quite comfy here in the very moderate Pacific Northwest, which literally gives my sister in Arizona the chills. I am not too happy visiting her, my dad and other sister there during the summer.

                I would love to visit my tropical childhood denizens, but it is not the climate that holds me back. It is that I have had dengue fever once already. I do not want to get it again.

                (Actually I really want to visit Panama with my family, but with lots and lots of DEET. I used to live on the causeway right where this museum is being built. I hope it gets finished.)

            2. Andrey Pavlov says:

              I should mention, Andrey, if the reasons are good enough you can get used to anything.

              No doubt. And so says my dear friend in Chicago.

              But let’s put it this way – my fiance and I are in the gulf south for very good reasons. Both of us. In fact, she has oft commented that her current work is not only precisely her dream work but that her office and her job are not just the best she’s ever had but also the best conceivable to her. I’m not quite that high on my ride, but close enough. And don’t think that New Orleans isn’t a fantastic city with so many things we utterly enjoy. We live in a fabulous neighborhood, have excellent friends here, and thoroughly enjoy the life and culture in this city.

              Yet we still have had numerous times when we just want to tear our hair out living here and when we found out we’d be staying another 3 years (and only another 3 years, not a lifetime) she cried herself to sleep that night.

              Yes, we can adapt to anything if it is truly necessary. But that doesn’t mean we would be happy doing it. Probably we are outliers in that regard, but there are things we miss about back home that are small but constant enough to grind us down. Which is part of why we are now both A-list members on Southwest. And that is just from missing a few things. The added misery of being trapped inside – even lovely spacious hallways – and dealing with snow on a daily basis would only hasten our mental collapse :-P My lovely is even worse than I am – I can sit for 12 hours inside reading and only need to periodically go out for fresh air and sunshine. She gets cabin fever within a day and there have been many times where I have literally had to drop what I am doing, grab her and a bag, hop in the car, and do an impromptu day trip.

              I know. First world problems. But it is also a recognition of ourselves and our limitations. :-D

              1. Chris says:

                I should confess one year in Minneapolis was enough. I just got tired of seeing everything being white. Though I did spend hours on ice skates at the local park.

                At least here in the Pacific Northwest we can just go drive for a half hour to an hour to see snow, or just look at the views of the mountain ranges. When it does snow in the lowlands it is usually gone in a few days. Snow usually stays where it belongs, in the mountains.

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                At least here in the Pacific Northwest we can just go drive for a half hour to an hour to see snow, or just look at the views of the mountain ranges. When it does snow in the lowlands it is usually gone in a few days. Snow usually stays where it belongs, in the mountains.

                Agreed. I would probably be much better able to adapt to the PNW than Chi-town or MN. One thing that is so strange to me is how much I miss mountains. You get used to it being utterly flat with absolutely no horizon to speak of out here. And then I go home and as I exit the airport see mountains surround me and it feels like my eyes are getting a massage. I’m sure it has something to do with the universal energy of the mountains infusing my eyes with revitalizing life force that will prevent glaucoma, macular degeneration, and osteoarthritis. But it is truly wonderful.

              3. Harriet Hall says:

                We have a grand view of Mt. Rainier from our house. I can see it from my pillow when I first open my eyes in the morning. I don’t know about revitalizing forces or glaucoma, but it gives me great pleasure.

              4. Andrey Pavlov says:

                We have a grand view of Mt. Rainier from our house. I can see it from my pillow when I first open my eyes in the morning.

                I’m jealous. Though when I am back home in California I push the button next to my bed, the curtains lift, and the first thing I can see is the ocean. Given a choice, I’d rather that. Given my current view, I’d rather either.

                I don’t know about revitalizing forces or glaucoma, but it gives me great pleasure.

                Well, you don’t have glaucoma or mac d, correct? Proves my mountain energy theory. QED. :-P

                Now if I could find a way to monetize it…..

              5. Harriet Hall says:

                It keeps the unicorns away too.

              6. Chris says:

                We used to have a view of Mt. Rainier. And then a house was built that blocks our view.

          2. Andrey Pavlov says:

            @John McGlynn:

            Chris is correct in her comment as well.

            I would be extremely surprised if there was some link between lack of childhood vaccinations and your cousin’s death. It is not impossible, but it would be some rather tortuous and/or unusual events.

            Based on your added information, I feel my previous comment stands as is.

          3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Much as it is impossible to link vaccination to individual positive events (i.e. based on a single person, you can never really say “vaccination caused X disease”), it is similarly impossible to say that not vaccinating is responsible for X disease. A sample of 1 is generally inadequate, bar challenge-dechallenge-rechallenge protocols (which you can’t do, because the timelines are too long and most importantly, your poor cousin died).

            I’m absurdly far from a pathologist or doctor, but it seems extremely unlikely to me that your cousin’s vaccination status had anything to do with her unfortunate death, anymore than the shirt she was wearing, or the weather that day, or who won the World Series three years’ previous, had anything to do with it. Sometimes stuff just happens, we are helpless to do anything about it, and unpredictable and rare causes of death are extremely unlikely to be discovered in time to do anything about it. It sounds like your cousin died of a quirk of biology, and the incident stands out now because happily the death of a 0 to 29-year-old is an extremely unlikely event.

            Japan is awesome, my tremendous sympathies that your cousin didn’t get to experience more of it.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Immunization does little more than protect you from a specific disease. Unless that disease can cause cardiomypathy, I can see no link. Perhaps others can speak more intelligently about this.

    3. Andrey Pavlov says:

      @John McGlynn:

      I am sorry for your loss. It is always tragic when someone dies so suddenly.

      As WLU said, vaccines themselves do not directly affect or effect cardiomyopathy. There are a few infectious diseases that can cause cardiomyopathy but none (to my knowledge) are vaccinated against. The largest offender is (was in developed nations) streptococcal infection (scarlet fever) but that is now obviated thanks to antibiotic treatment. Viral infections of a few kinds can cause cardiomyopathy, most notably Coxsackie B virus but there are a few others I can’t recall off the top of my head. Coxsackie has also been implicated in a few other auto-immune diseases, most notably diabetes, as a trigger in susceptible individuals (though none are definitively demonstrated, including DM, but there is good reason to believe at least some cases of DM1 are triggered by viral infection).

      Having a congenital issue can certainly predispose one to cardiomyopathy whether it be from a triggering event as described above or from an already weakened or otherwise impaired cardiac muscle that has less “reserve” to withstand a direct infection.

      Alcohol can also lead to cardiomyopathy but it would have to be a seriously determined drinker to experience it at that age (I’ve met one such individual in the ER many years ago who also abused IV drugs and had both heart and liver failure by the age of 27).

      However, overall, the most common cause of an otherwise healthy young person have sudden cardiac death is hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy . Based on the fact that you say the individual “suddenly collapsed and died” and particularly given that later it was noted to have “undiagnosed cardiomyopathy” that would be my armchair diagnosis. The ambiguity about the choking and progression from bad to worse over minutes vs sudden collapse and death make it a little less certain as that could be describing either anaphylaxis or angioedema (hereditary angioedema can be triggered and lead to death very rapidly, same as severe anaphylaxis and are distinguished clinically by appearance of the face and airways and chemically by different immune molecules). Either way, the gas in the office building is likely unrelated, but obviously one cannot be certain of that, particularly if it were somehow a sensitizing agent for an anaphylactic reaction.

      Regardless vaccines or a lack thereof are almost certainly not related.

  20. Brad says:

    Please take a look at the VAERS database. It is not a vaccine problem, but a Merck problem. 50% of the negative reactions and deaths from vaccines are manufactured by Merck. If you must get a vaccine, I highly recommend you avoid Merck. I personally had a very negative vaccine reaction which caused Autism like symptoms at age 34. Do what you wish with the hard data.

    1. Sawyer says:

      Using VAERS data for scientific conclusions can lead to a lot of headaches. The program is structured to assist in financial compensation and give a quick snapshot of potential side effects, but it’s setup is not anything like a systematic, scientific investigation. I’m not an epidemiologist so I don’t feel confident enough to critique it, but I’m sure one of the contributors here has written about this dilemma before. I vaguely recall Dr. Hall ripping apart Mark Geier on improper VAERS use.

      Just as a quick example, try to think of all the possible reasons why doctors or patients using a specific brand of vaccine may be more or less vigilant in their tracking and reporting of symptoms.

    2. Harriet Hall says:

      The VAERS database collects reports of adverse events that happened after vaccination. It does not establish correlation nor causation. It serves as a source of potential correlations that must then be verified by comparing the frequency of events after vaccination to the frequency of the same events at other times or in unvaccinated people.

    3. Chris says:

      “I personally had a very negative vaccine reaction which caused Autism like symptoms at age 34. Do what you wish with the hard data.”

      So how was your experience with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? Did you get your day in the Vaccine Court?

    4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I personally had a very negative vaccine reaction which caused Autism like symptoms at age 34. Do what you wish with the hard data.

      That’s not hard data, that’s an anecdote. It’s pretty much the softest data you can get while still dignifying it with the term “data”.

    1. Sawyer says:

      And Brad, go directly to the source on VAERS.

      Despite the name, NVIC is not at all interested in giving people honest information about vaccines. It’s a propaganda organization spearheaded by Barbara Fisher, and she is not exactly a hero in the world of science based medicine.

    2. Chris says:

      Brad, go to the URL given by Sawyer. Then tell us what you must read and understand before using the official VAERS database.

      When you are done, please explain the relative accuracy of “self selected survey data.”

  21. Flower says:

    A Swinburne University survey of 522 Australian survivors of pink disease – a form of mercury poisoning common in the early 20th century – found that one in 25 of their 398 grandchildren aged six to 12 had an autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence is six times higher than the one in 160 diagnosed in the general population.

    The study, published … in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health (Aug 2011), found the grandchildren did not have elevated rates of any other conditions such as epilepsy, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

    The authors said although they did not validate the autism diagnoses provided by the survivors in the surveys their study added to mounting evidence of a link between genetics, mercury sensitivity and autism spectrum disorders.

    This study suggests that a combination of genetic susceptibility to a trigger [mercury] and then exposure to that trigger may play a role in the development of autism.

    1. Windriven says:

      “found that one in 25 of their 398 grandchildren aged six to 12 had an autism spectrum disorder.”

      Exactly what sweeping conclusion are you drawing from this,Flower? How much do you know about acrodynia and the mercury loads necessary to cause it? By what mechanism do you suggest that the link with autism appears 2 generations later? Correlation does not imply causation.

      The JB Adams whose study you cite is a materials engineer with an autistic daughter, not a molecular biologist or other professional in the field*. In 2009 he was working for a college of naturopathy in Tempe and the work was published with, so far as I can determine, no follow up and no citations by other authors.

      *Of course that alone doesn’t disqualify his work. But it, along with the pedigrees of his coauthors don’t generate much confidence. Jane El-Dahr along with Adams are proponents of a thimerosal-autism link. But thimerosal, according to FDA hasn’t been used, at least in the US, in vaccines for children in some years while autism diagnoses continue to rise.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      100% of people who consume 80 glasses of water in an hour will die.

      The dose makes the poison.

      Further, autism is diagnosed through observation and judgement calls – making it subjective and generic (unlike epilepsy, fragile X and Down syndrome, which have objective markers, and ADHD which is quite specific).

      And even if this represents a true increase in autism, it shows that a toxic dose of mercury causes autism in your grandchildren, not that mercury causes autism in children. It shows that mercury affects germ cells, not brain cells, and therefore removing mercury from vaccines wouldn’t do a damned thing to prevent a single case of autism. All you’re really arguing for here is that people shouldn’t consume or be exposed to toxic doses of mercury. Which we already knew.

      People should keep getting vaccinated and having their children vaccinated, and not drink from liquid mercury thermometers. Sound advice for the ages.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Point I neglected to make – if the survivors of pink disease were autistic, then you would have a bit of evidence supporting a connection between the mercury in vaccines and autism.

        Vaccines don’t cause autism. Mercury has been removed from vaccines anyway (adding to the cost of vaccines, to the delight of vaccine manufacturers), so what are you whining about?

  22. Flower says:

    I forgot to provide some further research into the link between mercury and autism:

    Adams, J et al. 2009. The Severity of Autism Is Associated with Toxic Metal Body Burden and Red Blood Cell Glutathione Levels.

    Quote from the abstract:
    “This study demonstrates a significant positive association between the severity of autism and the relative body burden of toxic metals.”

    Paper available at:

    Schweikert, C et al. 2009. Analysis of Autism Prevalence and Neurotoxins Using Combinatorial Fusion and Association Rule Mining.

    Higher exposure to mercury and lead, especially in combination, prior to age 1 correlates with a higher incidence of autism diagnoses


    Further research on the SafeMinds website:

    1. Chris says:

      It still has no bearing on the safety of thimerosal in vaccines.

      By the way what vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is only available with thimerosal. Do not mention influenza because half of them are thimerosal free. Also most of the DTaP do not have thimerosal.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Some points on the first paper:

      1) Naturopath. That’s it, merely by saying “naturopath” you’ve effectively eliminated any chance of the paper being reliable. Naturopaths define themselves in opposition to real doctors and medicine, not through adherence to intellectual honesty, scientific rigor or reality.

      2) The use of dimercaptosuccinic acid means you are using a “provoked” figure to assess heavy metal burden, which renders it useless for any test.

      3) Vaccines don’t contain mercury anymore, bar some influenza vaccines. Removal of mercury (in the form of thiomersal) did not change the incidence of autism. Therefore, the mercury found in vaccines did not cause autism. Perhaps mercury from other sources – but not vaccines. So vaccinate your kids.

      Regarding paper 2:

      1) Is this a conference presentation? Why wasn’t it ever published as a peer-reviewed paper in a proper scientific journal?

      2) Why was it presented at a conference for bioinformatics and bioengineering, rather than, say, toxicology? Or psychiatry?

      3) This is mathematical modeling. Sure, you might have something here – but it’s not real evidence. It is the starting point for real research, at best. You can model a lot of things mathematically, that doesn’t mean it’s true (or even good mathematical modeling).

  23. DrDon says:

    Again, this “meta-analysis” study only included children that have (had) been vaccinated. Therefore, a desired result can be concluded. The smoking gun would be to have another large study comparing unvaccinated kids with vaccinated kids. You are using the same variable (all vaccinated kids) and saying that there is no relationship. That is junk. One other thing that people need to consider is that Aluminum adjuvants can cause neurological issues as well. We know that Mercury can chelate out (even though the damage might be done) but once aluminum crosses the blood brain barrier, it cannot be chelated out. Therefore it stimulates the microglia to go into overdrive and cause chronic inflammation with the immune response it generated. Very difficult to turn off. I would be a supporter of vaccines if the science was cleaner and true studies were done rather than the smoke and mirrors approach this article uses.

    1. Chris says:

      Citation needed… for each and every claim.

      Now to this: “The smoking gun would be to have another large study comparing unvaccinated kids with vaccinated kids.”

      If you do not like the large epidemiological studies listed in Vaccine Safety: Examine the Evidence, then go do it yourself. If you want something done right, do it yourself!

      So design the study, make sure it complies to the human subject rules outlined in the Belmont Report, get it approved by an independent review board and then write a grant for funding. Submit that grant to SafeMinds, Autism Speaks, the Dwoskin Family Foundation and elsewhere. Then go get it done!

      Because there is no reason to take your whinging about the studies without you actually providing evidence for your statements, and you actually doing the work you feel is lacking.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Actually, if you read the meta-analysis, section 3.3.1 does note that one of the studies it includes has an unvaccinated control group. Further, the use of multiple vaccines as a way of examining and stratifying groups would be suggestive of any such link – unless you assume that there is no dose-response (i.e. any vaccine can cause autism, despite being wildly different in the antigens included).

      Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment and food and excreted quickly and easily in anyone who has functioning kidneys, can you suggest a reason why the tiny dose found in vaccines would not be peed out like the other aluminum that enters the boyd?

      And of course, your claims about mercury are nonsense since thimerosal has been removed from most vaccines for well over a decade now (with no drop in autism rates).

      You say “I would be a supporter of vaccines if the science was cleaner and true studies were done rather than the smoke and mirrors approach this article uses”. I think you are lying. You don’t even know some very basic facts about the vaccines and vaccine ingredients you claim are hazardous, which makes me think you are uninterested in the science. Or even if you are interested in the science – you are clearly too ignorant of it to venture an opinion worth listening to.

    3. Sawyer says:

      I would be a supporter of vaccines if the science was cleaner

      I get a kick out of constantly seeing this trope tossed out from the anti-vaccine camp. They don’t seem to understand that making the science “cleaner” would literally involve building a time machine to go back in time and perform a massive randomized control trial on people at high risk from dying of infectious diseases. Or completely eliminating capitalism, socialism, and every other political and economic system from the planet and repeating the last 500 years of scientific research.

      Those of us that don’t live in fantasy land understand that there are limitations of published vaccine research and learn to make sensible conclusions in the face of uncertainty. What a shame we’re stuck with such a narrow, reality-based worldview.

    4. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I would be a supporter of vaccines if the science was cleaner

      Let me move those goalposts for you


  24. Flower says:

    Study Finds Evidence For CDC Cover-Up Of Link Between Autism And Mercury In Vaccines

    A controversial new study published in Biomed Research International titled, “Methodological Issues and Evidence of Malfeasance in Research Purporting to Show Thimerosal in Vaccines Is Safe,” has exposed convincing evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in actively covering up the causal link between mercury in vaccines (Thimerosal) and harm to infants and children.

    According to the review, “There are over 165 studies that have focused on Thimerosal, an organic mercury (Hg) based compound, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, and found it to be harmful.

    Conflicting positions:

    The researchers pointed out that a study conducted by CDC epidemiologists found a 7.6-fold increased risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy.

    Moreover, “The CDC’s current stance that Thimerosal is safe and that there is no relationship between Thimerosal and autism is based on six specific published epidemiological studies coauthored and sponsored by the CDC.

    The study:

    BioMed Research International
    Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 247218, 8 pages

    Review Article

    Methodological Issues and Evidence of Malfeasance in Research Purporting to Show Thimerosal in Vaccines Is Safe

    Brian Hooker,1 Janet Kern,2,3 David Geier,2 Boyd Haley,4 Lisa Sykes,5 Paul King,5 and Mark Geier2

    1. Chris says:

      Really? Do you why one Grier has lost his legal right to practice medicine? Also what are the medical credentials of the rest of those authors? Why do you believe such nonsense?

      1. Peter S says:

        Boyd Haley.

        In 2007, Haley registered the corporation Chelator Technologies with the Kentucky Department of State. Subsequently, at conferences attended by parents of autistic children and medical professionals who share his unorthodox convictions regarding autism causation, he revealed that he was developing a new drug for the purpose of mercury detoxification, OSR#1 (Oxidative Stress Release), officially (I’m not sure he mentioned that) marketed for cats. Basically, Haley was pumping children full of an industrial chelator. Eventually the practice drew the attention of the FDA (Haley, as expected, consistently expressed irritation that people other than the converted would express curiosity about his treatment). The FDA, of course, ordered him to stop illegal marketing of the drug as a treatment (also here), which is, apparently, probably a conspiracy.

        He has also been deeply involved in “alternative” dental practice (detoxification).

    2. Sawyer says:

      I will repeat my comment I made on the recent Rope Worms thread – why should we place any confidence in your ability to talk about medicine when you can’t even demonstrate basic reading or computer skills? Hit ctrl-f. You’ll find I’ve already mentioned Mark Geier in this very comment section, and if you use the search box on this site you’ll find plenty of information about why his research is not considered credible by anyone here. Did you choose to ignore everything that’s been written about him before or were you actually incapable of finding this information?

      These are not complicated research techniques that you need a PhD or MD to master. I learned how to do this stuff in middle school using old fashioned encyclopedias and newspaper archives. It’s orders of magnitude easier today with information a mere mouse click away. But apparently the concept of background research eludes the high and mighty anti-vaccine movement, who won’t be slowed down by such menial tasks. Keep up the stellar work!

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Yeah…if it’s got the Geier’s involved, it’s worthless. They are scientifically incompetent and ideologically motivated, in what I would assume is a bottom-feeding pay-to-publish journal.

      It’s like citing Hitler on the reliability and trustworthiness of Jews, or Michael Behe on the history of microbiology.

      1. Chris says:

        “There are over 165 studies that have focused on Thimerosal, an organic mercury (Hg) based compound, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, and found it to be harmful.”

        And many of those studies were done by the Geiers themselves. Plus some of the other less than illustrious co-authors.

        Lisa Sykes was, with her lawyer, suing a blogger because they did not like what they wrote:

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