And now it’s Kirk Cameron’s turn . . .

| February 27, 2010 | 14 Replies

Jenny McCarthy, a famous non-scientist who has toured the country warning that vaccines caused her son’s autism, now says that her son doesn’t actually have autism and that vaccines might not actually cause autism.

You see, real science doesn’t make things up. Real science is a self-critical activity . . .

Now it’s time for Kirk Cameron to see the light.


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Category: Evolution, Health, Science, scientific method

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Philip123 says:

    In the days of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, 150 years ago or so that Ob/Gyn doctor took the radical position that doctors should sterilize their hands before delivering babies. In his clinic he practically eliminated child bed fever which killed so many mothers at that time. While he would eventually be called the "Father of antisepsis" he was roundly dismissed and ridiculed by the "experts" of his day. Dr. Charles Meigs the emmiment head of Jefferson Medical colleges Ob/Gyn department, said, "Physicians are gentlemen and gentlemen's hands are clean". Others called his work, "The Koran of peurpeural fever (child bed fever) theology". So the killing continued unabated for decades more condemning tens of thousands of women to a painful death after childbirth.

    When autism was first described as a disease in the 1940s, the standard medical theory, first promulgated by an "expert" with a degree in philosophy was that the child's disease was the result of "refrigerator mothers".

    Leaving aside questions of vaccine efficacy now we have people questioning the wisdom of taking vaccines that still often contain thimerosal (both swine and seasonal influenza) a preservative already banned in much of the world for documented neurotoxicty. A mercury based preservative that is entirely unnecessary for safe and efficacious vaccination. One that was to be banned from all pediatric vaccines in the US until the previous president vetoed that bill.

    Vaccines that are rarely adjusted for dosage in children who weigh less than a tenth of adults, Vaccines which do often contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze) and aluminum salts (alum), all of which is received at the same time a child's immune system encounters within minutes a massive influx of what it perceives as pathogens (or of course the vaccine would have no efficacy), and while these pathogenic epitopes are not processed through skin lung or gut as would more often be the case in natural infection but are presented immediately to the child's tissue.

    Once again the experts are out in force ridiculing those who are concerned for their safety and/or the safety of their children. Well, I am skeptical of such experts.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Philip123: Hopes and fears should always trumped by evidence based on observations and experiment. That is the beauty and power of the scientific method. I was once concerned about the connection between thimerosal and autism (I became profoundly concerned when I read the well-publicized article by Robert Kennedy), but that changed, based on the lack of substantiating evidence. How do you get around the fact that thimerosal was taken out of chidren's vaccine's in 2001, yet autism rates in children born since then are unabated? Consider also this from a recent article in the NYT:

      "With each new theory, parents’ groups have called for research to explore possible links between vaccination and autism. Study after study has failed to show any link, and prominent scientific agencies have concluded that scarce research dollars should be spent investigating other possible causes of autism."

  2. Erika Price says:

    This does not give me any more reason to respect (or stop detesting) Jenny McCarthy. Her decision to finally jump ship after years of frustrated protestations just demonstrate her wishy-washy willingness to ignore evidence and imagine there are no consequences for her actions.

    It's reasonable, tragic and understandable that any parent of an autistic child would proceed through a phase of doubt and anger. With a condition so shrouded in mystery, it's no surprise that conspiracy theories are tempting. I'm sure many parents in McCarthy's situation wrestled with the thought that autism was caused by vaccines, but they eventually (and privately) learned to give up the ghost. Instead, McCarthy lived out her whims, and grieved, publicly, and misguided many people in the process.

    While it is fantastic that she has 'come clean', her backtracking will surely be less visible in the media than her initial, paranoid claims. The idea that 'vaccines cause autism' has wormed into many minds because of her uneducated fervor.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Erika: Good point. If it was "news" that McCarthy worked hard to warn that immunizations cause autism, why is it not at least equal news (at least!) that she has backtracked? And if it isn't news that a non-scientist celebrity has backtracked, why was it news in the first place that she weighed-in on the topic in the first place?

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    One-fourth of parents think that vaccines cause autism.

    Jenny McCarthy has a lot of work to do, to undue the damage she has caused. I wonder how many children have died thanks to her bad science?

  4. Karl says:

    We know mercury is a toxin to the human nervous system. We know that many vaccines contained mercury – some still may. Not by any chance related in all people, but it might be related in some people that don't process the mercury in their systems the same way.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I have a 16 year old autistic son. He has the latte-onset type of autism that seems to be increasing.

    When he took the MMR vaccine at 15 months of age, he was at a normal level of social and psychological development. Within hours of taking the vaccine, little Nikki developed a low grade fever which lasted for almost two weeks. After the the fever went away, the regression began, and within two months he had regressed to an infantile state.

    The expert explanation for this is that the pattern of regression is purely coincidental. with the vaccine. However, the medical community has, to the best of my knowledge, never actually studied this, and the parents reports are dismissed as anecdotal evidence.

    Many parents of late-onset autistic children, however, have reported the same sequence: low-grade fever starting shortly after injection and lasting for about two weeks, followedd by aa oeriod od regression that specifically affects communications abilities,

    We are assured this is coincidence.

    What makes me and many others suspect this is not pure coincidence is that the vaccine is administered at different ages, ranging from 12 months to 15 years and yet the same onset pattern occurs. Most of the children regressed after taking the initial injection, while a much smaller group regress after taking the first booster vaccine.

    There are many indicators that late-onset autism is an autoimmune disease. There is a growing body of research to support this, yet the mainstream research efforts are focused on searching for an "Autism" gene.

    This has created an environment where con-men promote all sorts of pseudo science to sell nostrums and cures. This environment has made it difficult for serious research to be taken seriously.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Niklaus: Just curious. I realize that you are the parent of an autistic son, that you think critically and that you've reviewed a lot of information and misinformation out there. If you had to make your best bet on causation today, would you bet that autism is caused by something unusual and identifiable in the environment (something that your son encountered after he was born)? Or rather, is the condition caused by something in the in the genome that becomes active in environments encountered by most children?

      I ask this because we do live in a thick toxic chemical soup–are air, food and water are filled with traces of plastics, cleaners and heavy metals–and the situation is much worse than it has ever been.

  6. Brynn Jacobs says:

    I have not delved deeply into the science on this matter, but based on a cursory review, I doubt that the issue is settled. Consider some of the following:

    A list of studies or journal articles which document various adverse effects stemming from Thimerosal.

    A meeting was held in 2000 featuring experts from the CDC, FDA, and vaccine manufacturers to review findings of a study using data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink. A transcript of this meeting was obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, and there are several interesting bits. The whole transcript is available here, but here are some key excerpts:

    Dr. Weil, pg. 24: “I think it’s clear to me anyway that we are talking about a problem that is probably more related to bolus acute exposures, and we also need to know that the migration problems and some of the other developmental problems in the central nervous system go on for quite a period after birth. But from all of the other studies of toxic substances, the earlier you work with the central nervous system, the more likely you are to run into a sensitive period for one of these effects, so that moving from one month or one day of birth to six months of birth changes enormously the potential for toxicity. There are just a host of neurodevelopmental data that would suggest that we’ve got a serious problem. The earlier we go, the more serious the problem.”

    “The second point I could make is that in relationship to aluminum, being a nephrologist for a long time, the potential for aluminum and central nervous system toxicity was established by dialysis data. To think there isn’t some possible problem here is unreal.”

    Dr. Verstraeten, pg. 40: “…we have found statistically significant relationships between the exposure and outcomes for these different exposures and outcomes. First, for two months of age, an unspecified developmental delay, which has its own specific ICD9 code. Exposure at three months of age, Tics. Exposure at six months of age, an attention deficit disorder. Exposure at one, three and six months of age, language and speech delays which are two separate ICD9 codes. Exposures at one, three and six months of age, the entire category of neurodevelopmental delays, which includes all of these plus a number of other disorders.”

    Dr. Weil, pg. 187 & 188: "Although the data presents a number of uncertainties, there is adequate consistency, biological plausibility, a lack of relationship with phenomenon not expected to be related, and a potential causal role that is as good as any other hypothesized etiology of explanation of the noted associations. In addition, the possibility that the associations could be causal has major significance for public and professional acceptance of Thimerosal containing vaccines. I think that is a critical issue. Finally, lack of further study would be horrendous grist for the anti-vaccination bill. That's why we need to go on, and urgently I would add.

    Dr. Johnson, pg. 198: "This association leads me to favor a recommendation that infants up to two years old not be immunized with Thimerosal containing vaccines if suitable alternative preparations are available.”

    “My gut feeling? It worries me enough. Forgive this personal comment, but I got called out at eight o'clock for an emergency call and my daughter-in-law delivered a son by C-section. Our first male in the line of the next generation, and I do not want that grandson to get a Thimerosal containing vaccine until we know better what is going on. It will probably take a long time. In the meantime, and I know there are probably implications for this internationally, but in the meantime I think I want that grandson to only be given Thimerosal-free vaccines."

    Dr. Weil, pg. 207: "The number of dose related relationships are linear and statistically significant. You can play with this all you want. They are linear. They are statistically significant. The positive relationships are those that one might expect from the Faroe Islands studies. They are also related to those data we do have on experimental animal data and similar to the neurodevelopmental tox data on other substances, so that I think you can't accept that this is out of the ordinary. It isn't out of the ordinary."

    Dr. Weil, pg. 208: "The rise in the frequency of neurobehavioral disorders whether it is ascertainment or real, is not too bad. It is much too graphic. We don't see that kind of genetic change in 30 years."

    Dr. Brent, pg. 229: "The medical/legal findings in this study, causal or not, are horrendous and therefore, it is important that the suggested epidemiological, pharmacokinetic, and animal studies be performed. If an allegation was made that a child's neurobehavioral findings were caused by Thimerosal containing vaccines, you could readily find junk scientist who would support the claim with "a reasonable degree of certainty". But you will not find a scientist with any integrity who would say the reverse with the data that is available. And that is true. So we are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits if they were initiated and I am concerned."

    There's plenty more of interest there, and I recommend reading the entire transcript, because there is a certain amount of context lost in the above quotations. But the overall picture you get from the transcript is one in which the science on the issue is far from settled. As I said, I have not delved deeply into the science on the issue, and perhaps recent studies rebut some of these earlier findings. What the transcript does show, is that these researchers were at least aware of data which indicated a higher likelihood of neurological delays or regressions, and worked to actively to suppress release of that data in order to avoid potential lawsuits. (see also a related Salon article here).

    Like any other field where billions of dollars are to be made, there are plenty of conflicts of interest here. The <a href="; rel="nofollow">New York Times reported in 2009 that

    A new report finds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a poor job of screening medical experts for financial conflicts when it hired them to advise the agency on vaccine safety, officials said Thursday.

    Most of the experts who served on advisory panels in 2007 to evaluate vaccines for flu and cervical cancer had potential conflicts that were never resolved, the report said. Some were legally barred from considering the issues but did so anyway.

    (see also <a href="; rel="nofollow">this article on conflicts surrounding the seasonal flu vaccine).

    As suggested above, <a href="; rel="nofollow">the environment may also bear some responsibility. But I know I've seen Niklaus make the point that vaccines may be good for society as a whole, while being very bad for a small subset of the vaccinated population. <a href="; rel="nofollow">Eric Hurwitz of the UCLA School of Public Health makes a similar point:

    If vaccines cause harm to some children, and if we cannot accurately predict which kids will be hurt, then mass vaccination programs, by necessity, protect the public's health at their expense. Should the risks and benefits to the child and the public of receiving or not receiving each vaccine be disclosed by a physician in a way that the parent understands the inherent uncertainty of risk and voluntarily makes a decision to accept or refuse the vaccinations?


    In the U.S., vaccine safety has historically taken a back seat to development and rapid deployment. Remarkably, even today, we lack procedures for the systematic collection of valid long-term safety data. Documented cases of abuse of power, unethical studies and vaccine-induced injury and death may contribute to parents' conceptions.

    Similarly, little is known about the potential long-term consequences of multiple and combination vaccines typically administered to American children. Findings from both animal and human studies suggest that vaccinations are one of many genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the increase in allergic disease. Thus, because of how vaccines are tested and marketed, without large, long-term pre-approved safety studies before widespread public school use, lack of confidence in vaccine safety may not be a misconception, but a scientifically justifiable concern.

    Until we can predict which children are at risk from current and future vaccines, voluntary, written informed consent rather than coercion through mandates may help to restore parents' trust and maintain the public's health.

    It seems to me that while Jenny McCarthy is obviously a poor spokesperson, there are plenty of legitimate questions that surround the use of vaccines in general.

  7. Teresa says:

    We don't vaccinate at all, and not just because of the supposed autism link – we made our decision before that came up, and our decision is independent of this. There are many stats (e.g. showing adverse reactions to vaccines along with inefficacy – so there isn't even a cost-benefit thing going on. If it damages AND doesn't work, there's no argument.

    Of course, the question is, is that true that it damages and/or doesn't work. Whose figures and data do parents trust? We're laypeople, we struggle with detailed medical information.

    What it came down to, for us, was that we don't consider the pharmaceutical industry to be exactly an unbiased provider of this information. There's a LOT of money at stake. Whereas the anti-vac people have little or no money at stake.

    Our governments tell us vaccination is safe – but they have agendas too. My own government will not even seriously promote breast-feeding because (I have good reason to believe) we have a big dairy industry – how am I to trust them about vaccination?

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Actually, it appears to be a combination. There is a well documented hereditary immune system deficiency that has been associated with late-onset autism.

    A large number of the late-onset autistic have recurring otitus-media (middle ear infections) before regression and none after the regression. This would suggest the ear infections are not bacterial in nature, but are caused by chronic RSV (respiratory syncytial virus ) infection. RSV has been demonstrated to activate the C3-beta component. There are actuall several possible virus species that might be involved.

    The other piece is the measles virus, which could be a wild virus or an attenuated live vaccine strain. There have been a few research proposals in Japan to identify the specific measles strain fonud in autists. I've not heard if this line of research has been pursued.

  9. Dan Klarmann says:

    Nothing is completely safe. It has been repeatedly proven that vaccinations save millions of lives every year.

    And it is possible that some of the vaccines might cause hundreds of cases of various adverse health conditions. Epidemiological studies are continuously used to try to minimize the risks, as each generation shows what risks had been missed previously.

    People who fear vaccinations are the source of all the new outbreaks of polio, smallpox, pertussis, and other "extinct" ailments that we are reading about lately.

    Most of us who had all our vaccinations as babies, who ate food cooked in bare aluminum cookware for our first couple of decades, who ate the sweet lead paint from our cribs, who played with puddles of mercury and sheets of lead, who slept in freshly oil-painted rooms, and all the other hazards that are now considered unacceptable risks, show few ill effects.

  10. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Brynn, I need to see if the VSD is accessable by the public. The VAERS data from the CDC hints at many things but the data is simply too "dirty" for serious use.

    I am well convinced that there is no cure for my son's condition. Even if some new medication could selectively stop the auto-immunity, the damage is done. The chance that it is reversable is extremely slim. However, by developing a test to identify those at risk, and administering alternate vaccine protocols, (e.g.: using viral fragment measles vaccines in place of attenuated live virus vaccines on those at risk) it may be possible to prevent this in future generations.

    Some countries, as a result of historical medical database analysis, have abandoned the idea of administering multiple vaccines at one visit.

    What we really need is a comprehensive national medical database infrastructure such as the one described in the house health-care reform bill.

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