Home
Introduction
Chapter I: pre-1999
There's Mercury In Vaccines?
Chapter II: 1999-2000
Simpsonwood
Chapter III: 2001
IOM: Biologically Plausible
Chapter IV: 2001-2002
CDC World Travel
Chapter V: 2003
It's Rotten In Denmark
Chapter VI: 2004
IOM slams the door (quickly)
Epilogue: present day
Better science, better kids, and a DJ
Chapter IV: 2001-2002
CDC World Travel
"Thus these data [referring to some anecdotal information in his email] do not support and in fact argue strongly against the allegation that the thimerosal in vaccines (or variation on this theme, increase in the number of antigens) is responsible for the increase in autism. Research into better understanding autism and its possible increase is needed, but following red herrings do (sic) not help anyone." - Private email from Dr. Robert Chen, Chief of Vaccine Safety, National Immunization Program, CDC, June 13, 2001
Dr. Chen was Chief of Vaccine Safety for the CDC's National Immunization Program (NIP) and the man ultimately responsible for monitoring the safety of vaccines (Dr. Chen was quietly removed from this position in early 2005, largely due to his conduct during this time. Most of the emails from Dr. Chen received through FOIA look like this, with all correspondence deleted by CDC lawyers). Dr. Chen's comments above, and the time he made them, are very revealing:
- Dr. Chen's comments are twelve months after Simpsonwood, where he and Dr. Verstraeten shared information regarding the troubling correlation between thimerosal and autism from their own data. Dr. Chen also had access to the "Generation Zero" data, which had shown an even higher correlation between thimerosal and autism. He knew there was a problem!
- In the twelve months since Simpsonwood, no new scientific studies had been published, and Dr. Verstraeten was working to dumb-down the CDC's internal data.
- Dr. Chen was actively working to keep the CDC's data from being reviewed by outside researchers, which CDC has successfully done through today.
- Dr. Chen was involved in a worldwide search for data on autism and thimerosal, the brainchild of Dr. Roger Bernier, Associate Director for Science of the NIP and headed by Dr. Diane Simpson, the Deputy Director of the NIP.
CDC's effort, beginning in the summer of 2001, was in anticipation of the IOM's report coming out in the October 2001. They knew what it was going to say and they knew it was going to be trouble. The CDC's subsequent worldwide effort was an attempt to find corroborative data showing no link between autism and thimerosal and get it to the IOM or release it at the same time as the IOM report was released. As Dr. Diane Simpson says in this August 7, 2001 email:
"I don't have any new data at the moment and am frantically trying to see what is available and how best to get it in time for the expected IOM report release (we have given up trying to submit it in time for the report as they are in the process of writing it)."
Dr. Simpson's actions beginning in June of 2001, the same month when Dr. Chen made the above comment, require some context. The Deputy Director of the NIP, Dr. Simpson, was given the task of finding data on autism and thimerosal in other countries. And not just any data, she was looking for data that would support the statement of her colleague up above, Dr. Robert Chen, that there was no relationship, despite the fact that they had both seen the Generation Zero data and both attended Simpsonwood. Further, you have the division of the CDC that is responsible for keeping vaccination rates high, the division that would be held most responsible for creating the autism epidemic, and one of the leaders of that division, Dr. Robert Chen, who had the most to lose, directly involved in a process to find data about the relationship between thimerosal and autism.
Would CDC be "frantic" to find data that would corroborate the conclusion coming from IOM, that the thimerosal-autism relationship was "biologically plausible"? No, she was frantic to find data to disprove it. In the same month, she tells a Swedish researcher in this email that they could fly to Sweden immediately to look at data, "because our IOM committee's work is in process and we expect them to issue their report in the next several weeks, we expect increased public concern and questions in the near future." In an email with another CDC employee, referring to data she may have unearthed in Denmark, she writes, "it is also possible that the data won't help us at all, but we won't know until we see it." How won't it help? It won't help unless it can be used to exonerate Thimerosal and the CDC.
As an example, Dr. Simpson's communication with the State of California (where autism data is the best in the country) produced a stunning data set, and one quickly buried. In this email, we see data provided by Dr. Loring Dales from the California Dept of Health showing the relationship between the vaccination rates of DTP by second birthdays, and the number of autism cases in California. One of Dr. Simpson's colleagues mentions "this looks like material for a graph." The graph is created, page 3 of the email, and there is a clear, linear relationship between the increase in vaccination rates (from 50.9% to 75.7%) and the number of autism cases per year (from 176 to 1182, a 6.7x increase) between 1980-1994. Needless to say, California was not the source of additional follow-up.
Dr. Simpson was an interesting choice to lead this initiative. She was oblivious to the full-blown epidemic of autism, as this email, on June 8, 2001 shows:
"I have seen statements claiming huge increases in the incidence rate of autism in the US over the past 10-15 years. The only data I have seen from California. Are there national estimates for autism in the US or is everything extrapolated from the California data?"
Nonetheless, Dr. Simpson began her search, as introductory emails to California, Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark show. Dr. Simpson's goal, through her emails, was very clear: exonerate thimerosal. Not all of Dr. Simpson's correspondence was well received, and in fact some of it was quite comical. A Swedish Doctor, Dr. Marta Granstrom, responded in this email to Dr. Simpson with a clear point of view on thimerosal:
"I am very well aware of the recent concerns in the US over thiomersal (an alternative name for thimerosal). On the expert committee of the European Pharmacopoeae I represent Sweden and had in vain tried to get Europe to ban its use in single dose vials until the US interest in the issue...I thanked Neal Halsey [AAP member who spearheaded the joint statement in 1999] in the name of European infants for the help when I met him again last year."
By August, Dr. Simpson was getting desperate as she lamented in an email that, "events have slightly accelerated with Walt's return [Walter Orenstein, Director of the NIP] and anxiety over trying to get these data. Consequently, we are TENTATIVELY planning for you and I to go to Denmark and Sweden on August 22...if a trip is to occur in time for the IOM it has to be in this time frame." In many ways, the trip to Sweden and Denmark was Dr. Simpson's last shot at finding data, as her August 6 email shows:
"Should we find that any other country has good data on both autism and vaccines, we will work to get that data on a case by case basis. i.e., I don't know what we are going to do and don't want to think about it right now- but we will do something."
The "something" Dr. Simpson did was find a Danish vaccine company, Status Serum Institute, willing to work with CDC. A company who sold thimerosal-containing vaccines and a company who would soon see an enormous rise in the number of vaccines sold to the United States. Along with her colleague, Dr. Paul Stehr-Green, Dr. Simpson was heading to Denmark. Two years later, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Stehr-Green would be published authors, along with employees of SSI, letting the world know that the Danish data proved that thimerosal does not cause autism. These Danish studies would then form the basis for a NEW IOM, initiated by CDC, that in 2004 would declare that the thimerosal-autism hypothesis was without merit, and has since been referenced as "proof" that thimerosal is safe. It all started with Dr. Diane Simpson's trip to Denmark. We even found a copy of her travel voucher.
Separately, in 2002, the CDC outsourced the maintenance and analysis of the Vaccine Safety Datalink database to a private lobbying organization that represents health insurance companies, America's Health Insurance Plans, in a contract valued at more than $190 million. This private outsourcing of government data, contracted in the midst of the furor over the CDC's mishandling of Thimerosal-autism data, has served to insulate VSD data from the Freedom of Information Act ever since. As of today, no outside scientists have been able to review the American data CDC used to exonerate Thimerosal.
In contrast, the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) database, a reporting system on vaccine adverse events available to the public, is maintained with $21 million (over a comparable time period) by the Constella Group. At a very large expense to taxpayers, the most meaningful vaccine injury data, the VSD Data, are hidden from the American public.
What's Egregious About This Time Period?
1.  CDC actively shopped for studies in other countries that would exonerate thimerosal, and wielded influence with international researchers through their ability to make grants and purchase large quantities of vaccines. Rather than relying on independent researchers, they orchestrated the studies within CDC's headquarters, often from the same division responsible for advocating for administering vaccines. CDC employees would actually co-author a number of these international studies. This email show the leaders of CDC debating which studies from Denmark to provide funding for.
2.  The Chief of Vaccine Safety, Dr. Robert Chen, was on the record in 2001 referring to the thimerosal-autism hypothesis as a "red herring" and a waste of time.
3.  Through their correspondence, it is clear that CDC employees were only looking for one kind of data, data to exonerate thimerosal. When they came across data that showed the opposite, they moved on.
4.  CDC outsourced all of the VSD data to a private lobbying organization for more $190 million to insulate the data from the Freedom of Information Act.
Where is the Evidence?
1.  Email from Chen to Unknown recipient: "Red Herrings"
June 13, 2001
Email between Dr. Robert Chen, Chief of Vaccine Safety, NIP, and unknown recipient.
"Thus these data [referring to some anecdotal information in his email] do not support and in fact argue strongly against the allegation that the thimerosal in vaccines (or variation on this theme, increase in the number of antigens) is responsible for the increase in autism. Research into better understanding autism and its possible increase is needed, but following red herrings do (sic) not help anyone."
Dr. Chen's comments and the time he made it are revealing because: they are twelve months after Simpsonwood, when he and Dr. Verstraeten shared information regarding the troubling correlation between thimerosal and autism from their own data. Dr. Chen also had access to the "Generation Zero" data, which had shown an even higher correlation between thimerosal and autism. He knew there was a problem! In the twelve months since Simpsonwood, no new scientific studies had been published, and Dr. Verstraeten was working to dumb-down the CDC's internal data. Dr. Chen was actively working to keep the CDC's data from being reviewed by outside researchers, which CDC has successfully done through today. Dr. Chen was involved in a worldwide search for data on autism and thimerosal, the brainchild of Dr. Roger Bernier, Associate Director for Science of the NIP and headed by Dr. Diane Simpson, the Deputy Director of the NIP.
Source: FOIA filing by parents.
2.  Email from Simpson to Stehr-Green: "Data Won't Help Us"
August 2, 2001
Email between Dr. Diane Simpson, Deputy Director of NIP, CDC, and Dr. Paul Stehr-Green, CDC employee
Dr. Simpson was charged with spearheading a worldwide effort for CDC to find data in other countries with a clear goal: exonerate thimerosal. In this email, referring to data she may have unearthed in Denmark, she writes:
"It is also possible that the data won't help us at all, but we won't know until we see it."
How won't it help? It won't help unless it can be used to exonerate thimerosal and the CDC. If it doesn't help, like the data in #3 below, CDC would not pursue it.
Source: FOIA filing by parents.
3.  Email from Dales to Simpson: "Looks like a graph"
June 8, 2001
Email from Dr. Loring Dales, California Dept. of Health, to Dr. Diane Simpson, Deputy Director of NIP, CDC
Dr. Simpson's communication with the State of California (where autism data is the best in the country) produced a stunning data set, and one quickly buried. The data provided here by Dr. Loring Dales from the California Dept of Health shows the relationship between the vaccination rates of DTP by second birthdays, and the number of autism cases in California. One of Dr. Simpson's colleagues mentions "this looks like material for a graph." The graph is created, page 3 of the email, and there is a clear, linear relationship between the increase in vaccination rates (from 50.9% to 75.7%) and the number of autism cases per year (from 176 to 1182, a 6.7x increase) between 1980-1994. Needless to say, California was not the source of additional follow-up.
Source: FOIA filing by parents.
4.  Email from Granstrom to Simpson: "In the name of infants"
June 22, 2001
Email from Dr. Marta Granstrom of Sweden to Dr. Diane Simpson, Deputy Director of NIP, CDC
In CDC's effort to find data to exonerate thimerosal, they reached out to many different scientists. In Dr. Granstrom, CDC received a stern reply on the dangers of Thimerosal in vaccines:
"I am very well aware of the recent concerns in the US over thiomersal. On the expert committee of the European Pharmacopoeae I represent Sweden and had in vain tried to get Europe to ban its use in single dose vials until the US interest in the issue...I thanked Neal Halsey [AAP member who spearheaded the joint statement in 1999] in the name of European infants for the help when I met him again last year."
Source: FOIA filing by parents.
5.  Email from Simpson to Gilberg: "Increased public concern"
August 7, 2001
Email from Dr. Diane Simpson, Deputy Director of NIP, CDC, to Dr. Christopher Gillberg, Sweden
This email highlights the concern CDC had regarding the release of the 2001 IOM report and the publicity around the conclusion that the thimerosal-autism hypothesis is "biologically plausible" In this email, she tells a Swedish researcher that she and Dr. Stehr-Green could fly to Sweden immediately to look at data:
"because our IOM committee's work is in process and we expect them to issue their report in the next several weeks, we expect increased public concern and questions in the near future."
Source: FOIA filing by parents.
6.  VSD Contract to America's Health Plan Excerpt
September 20, 2002
Contract signed by CDC to outsource analysis of the VSD data
The CDC outsourced the maintenance and analysis of the Vaccine Safety Datalink database to a private lobbying organization that represents health insurance companies, America's Health Insurance Plans, in a contract valued at more than $190 million. This private outsourcing of government data, contracted in the midst of the furor over the CDC's mishandling of Thimerosal-autism data, has served to insulate VSD data from the Freedom of Information Act ever since. As of today, no outside scientists have been able to review the American data CDC used to exonerate Thimerosal. Here is a copy of AHIP's 2003 Annual Report on the VSD.
Interestingly, on AHIP's website, they state their priorities for 2005-06, which includes "Thimerosal and Autism", despite the recommendation of the 2004 IOM to no longer pursue the link between Thimerosal and autism:
"2005-06 Priority Studies Include:
Risk of Alopecia following Hepatitis B Vaccination
Influenza Vaccine and Bell's palsy
Thimerosal and Autism
Yellow Fever in Children and Adults
The Safety of the Pediatric Influenza Vaccine: A Population-based Study 1993 - 2003"
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