Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

U.S. court rules again against vaccine-autism claims

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 15, 2010


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vaccines that contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal cannot cause autism on their own, a special U.S. court ruled on Friday, dealing one more blow to parents seeking to blame vaccines for their children’s illness.

The special U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that vaccines could not have caused the autism of an Oregon boy, William Mead, ending his family’s quest for reimbursement.

“The Meads believe that thimerosal-containing vaccines caused William’s regressive autism. As explained below, the undersigned finds that the Meads have not presented a scientifically sound theory,” Special Master George Hastings, a former tax claims expert at the Department of Justice, wrote in his ruling.

In February 2009, the court ruled against three families who claimed vaccines caused their children’s autism, saying they had been “misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment”.

The families sought payment under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a no-fault system that has a $2.5 billion fund built up from a 75-cent-per-dose tax on vaccines.


Another study finds no MMR-autism link

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 7, 2010


NEW YORK – A new study provides further evidence that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of autism.

Concerns that the MMR shot could cause autism were first raised a decade ago by British physician Andrew Wakefield, who, based on a study of 12 children, proposed that there was a link between the vaccine and bowel disease and autism.

That research has since been widely discredited, and numerous international studies have failed to find a connection between MMR vaccination and autism.

This latest study included 96 Polish children ages 2 to 15 who had been diagnosed with autism. Researchers compared each child with two healthy children the same age and sex who had been treated by the same doctor.

Some of the children had received the MMR vaccine, while others had not been vaccinated at all or had received a vaccine against measles only.

Poland has been slower to introduce the MMR than other European countries, but over the past decade, the vaccine has slowly been replacing the measles-only shot.

Overall, the study found, children who had received the MMR vaccine actually had a lower risk of autism than their unvaccinated peers. Nor was there any evidence of an increased autism risk with the measles-only vaccine.


Autism Prevalence

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on December 21, 2009


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published the results of their latest study on the prevalence of autism. There is no question that in the last 20 years the number of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses has increased. What is also clear is that during this time there has been increased surveillance and a broadening of the diagnosis of ASD. Whether or not this accounts for the entire increase in ASD numbers, or if there is a true increase in there as well, is unknown.

Into that context, the CDC adds their most recent numbers, concluding:

In 2006, on average, approximately 1% or one child in every 110 in the 11 ADDM sites was classified as having an ASD (approximate range: 1:80–1:240 children [males: 1:70; females: 1:315]). The average prevalence of ASDs identified among children aged 8 years increased 57% in 10 sites from the 2002 to the 2006 ADDM surveillance year. Although improved ascertainment accounts for some of the prevalence increases documented in the ADDM sites, a true increase in the risk for children to develop ASD symptoms cannot be ruled out. On average, although delays in identification persisted, ASDs were being diagnosed by community professionals at earlier ages in 2006 than in 2002.

That 1 in every 110 children on average now carry an ASD diagnosis is not new news. This CDC data was actually released ahead of publication in October. At the same time a phone survey published in Pediatrics found 110 in 10,000 children carried an ASD diagnosis – or a little more than 1%. This 1% figure seems to be highly replicated – a National Health Services survey released in September also found a prevalence of 1% for ASD in the UK.


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Blood mercury levels not higher in autistic kids

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 20, 2009

A new study showed that blood mercury levels in children diagnosed as autistic was NOT higher than that of traditionally developing kids, thus putting the definitive nail in the mercury-causes-autism coffin. Somehow I predict that this latest development will not phase the antivax crowd not one bit; they’re already moving away to more generic “toxins” as the scapegoats anyway! Here is the full study if you care to read through it yourself.

I am not familiar with the website and the PDF does not look like a usual study PDF; looks too crude and amateurish so take these results with a grain of salt.

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Autism rates back MMR jab safety

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 22, 2009


Latest autism figures should dispel any fears about the MMR jab being linked to the condition, say experts.

The NHS Information Centre found one in every hundred adults living in England has autism, which is identical to the rate in children.

If the vaccine was to blame, autism rates among children should be higher because the MMR has only been available since the early 1990s, the centre says.

This is the first time the rate in adults has been evaluated.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of The NHS Information Centre, said: “This landmark report is the first major study into the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among adults to be carried out anywhere in the world.

“While the sample size was small and any conclusions need to be tempered with caution, the report suggests that, despite popular perceptions, rates of autism are not increasing, with prevalence among adults in line with that among children.

“It also suggests that, among adults, rates of autism remain broadly constant across age groups.

“The findings do not support suggestions of a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of this condition.”


Autism/vaccine link still unfounded

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 25, 2009

I usally pick on The Examiner because of the ridiculous stuff you find in their site. But, I am aware that many reasonable people are trying to change that by becoming writers for the site. This is an example of a pretty good article on vaccines and autism on The Examiner website. Shocking!


In this world where technology becomes increasingly relevant to our everyday lives, it’s only natural to look for reassurances that our modern conveniences don’t come with too high a price.  Never has that been more true than with the medicine we put in not only our own bodies, but in our children’s as well.  There are a wide variety of diseases out there that threaten our kids, and it is easy for some to take advantage of the anxiety we feel about the health of those we love to make us do foolish things, like not get our kids vaccinated.

It is vital for parents to educate themselves about the dangers of childhood diseases and also about the vaccines that help prevent them.  There is quite a lot of information out there about vaccines, what they do and what they don’t do, it’s hard for a concerned parent to separate real information from fabrications.  It is made harder still because of some who are well-meaning, but ignorant of the facts and who overreacting to misleading information with scare tactics designed to get past well-reasoned argument.  There are organizations all over that claim to provide facts about vaccines, but have nothing but rumors, propaganda and misinformation and are just plain wrong.

Those sources will say that vaccines have ingredients in them which cause autism.  However, the facts say otherwise.  What is in vaccines is no great secret.  Your doctor can tell you, or you can ask the Center for Disease Control.  It is their job to know more about these things than just about anyone else.  There is a wealth of information about vaccines out there for anyone who wants to look past the propaganda and fear, places like the National Network for Immunization Information.  It’s actually extremely easy to tell a good source of information from a bad one.  The good ones provide you with information and supporting evidence.  The bad one’s try to scare you.


Parents of two autistic sons vaccinated one but not the other

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 15, 2009


Punch drunk as I am, required to read every alert regarding vaccine injury, I was struck by the facts issued on News 5. Reported by Kesshia Peyton, who interviewed Dr. Paul Offit, there is a surge of parents who are very angry at the diversion that anti-vaccine activists have created.

Tina Brown, mother of 2 boys with autism, decided not to vaccinate son Dylan because his brother Dalton had  been inoculated and was subsequently diagnosed with autism. Sadly, even in the absence of vaccines Dylan demonstrated symptoms of autism at 4 months of age.  (video interview is below).

Mrs. Brown believes that there is great need for research in environmental, genetic, and DNA reasons for the onset of autism. She is part of a growing number of parents who want answers, other than the constant mention of vaccine injury.


Skepdude says – Since the quacks are so fond of testimonials, I thought you’d enjoy one on the other side, which just goes to prove that you can always find a testimonial to support any side, which is why we should not base our judgements on anectodes but real scientific data.

Age of Autism – Age of Denialism!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 2, 2009

The deluded folks over at Age of Autism like to cling to the outdated idea that vaccines somehow are responsible for autism, despite the fact that many studies show no such link, despite the fact that their poster boy, Andrew Wakefield, has bestowed heaps upon heaps of shame and humiliation to their movement, despite the fact that they have nothing to support their claims, but some testimonials which they think must trump anything else. The arrogance of their ignorance is truly amazing to watch, if it were not so destructive and dangerous.

Their new post titled, ironically,  “Why Good Parents Believe Myths About Autism and Vaccines” sheds some more light on their arrogant ignorance. It’s the usual conspiracy theory claims about how we are being scared into vaccinating our kids, blah, blah, blah and most importantly it takes on a Newsweek article of the same title, which they don’t even link to, lazy arrogants that they are, which goes to show you what kind of people you are dealing with. They will criticize something but not link to it, even though they gladly link to sites that favor their stupid ideas. And speaking of sites that support the stupid idea that vaccines cause autism, they bring out, what else, the 14 studies website, another ridiculous attempt to discredit the research done on vaccines by basically saying “it’s only 14 studies”. We want more!

I’m not even going to attempt to dismantle the pile of horse shit that the 14 studies website is, but instead I will destroy their credibility by directly addressing on claim on their home page, specifically the following:

By reading and analyzing every published study used to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism, this website will show you that:

Not one study compares vaccinated children to unvaccinated children — every study only looks at children who have received vaccines. This is like comparing smokers who smoke one pack a day to those who smoke two packs a day, seeing no difference in cancer rates, and saying cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

When will the idiots writing these things learn to make up lies that are not easily demonstrated to be lies? It is embarrassing really to make the claim above, which can so quickly be shot down with the shortest amount of research. One needs only to look up the famous Danish Study to see what I mean. The Danish study followed up all kids born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998, ALL 537,303 of them, of which 440,655 received the MMR vaccine and the rest did not. So what did the study report?

After adjustment for potential confounders, the relative risk of autistic disorder in the group of vaccinated children, as compared with the unvaccinated group, was 0.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24), and the relative risk of another autistic-spectrum disorder was 0.83 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.65 to 1.07). There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of autistic disorder.

Would you believe that? They did in fact compare the vaccinated children to the unvaccinated children, which makes the 14 studies website writers at best a bunch of ignorant, lazy buffoons and at worst a bunch of liars! Take your pick, I think I proved my point.

More Backpeddaling from David Kirby

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on June 2, 2009


Maybe David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm and one of the major proponents of the notion that thimerosal in vaccines was largely responsible for the recent increase in autism diagnoses, is sincere when he claims he is not anti-vaccine. I say that because he has backed so far off from his stance that vaccines are the culprit – not completely, and without overtly acknowledging his past errors, but has put some significant distance between him current position and his prior certainty.

In his 2005 book Kirby asks the question:

Did the injection of organic mercury directly into the developing systems of small children cause irreparable harm? It’s a plausible proposition, and a hugely important question. If the answer is affirmative, someone will have to pay to pick up the pieces.

He coyly insists he was just asking questions, but the book makes a strong and, in my opinion, one sided case that there is “evidence of harm” – specifically evidence that thimerosal was a major contributor to autism. It also builds a case for a grand conspiracy to hide this fact from the public. Kirby then made a career out of promoting the notion of a link between vaccines and autism with government and professional malfeasance. He became a hero of the anti-vaccine movement.

Yet he insisted, implausibly, he was not “anti-vaccine.” As recently as December 2007 Kirby was writing this nonsense in the Huff Po:

But if thimerosal is vindicated, or shown to be a very minor player, then what about other vaccine ingredients? And what about the rather crowded vaccine schedule we now impose upon families of young children? And what about reports of unvaccinated children in Illinois, California and Oregon who appear to have significantly lower rates of autism? Shouldn’t we throw some research dollars into studying them?

By this time the handwriting was on the wall – thimerosal in vaccines is not linked to autism.  After moving the goalpost several times on the evidence, it could be moved no longer. The removal of thimerosal from the routine vaccine schedule by 2002 was followed by a continued increase in autism disgnoses – without even a blip. The predicted (by Kirby and others) precipitous decrease in autism diagnoses never came.

Kirby and the anti-vaccine crowd moved quietly over to the other ingredients in vaccines, in what has been called their “toxin gambit.” This move, more than anything else, is what convinced me that this was all really about being anti-vaccine. The MMR vaccine was vindicated. Now thimerosal was vindicated. So there must be something else in those vaccines that’s the problem – even though there is no evidence to link vaccines at all to autism.

Now Kirby has quietly backed off even more. He writes:

I believe that most ASD cases have environmental triggers (probably more than one) that activate certain genetic predispositions (again, probably more than one) and create some of the symptoms that we call “autism.” I also believe that vaccines may have played a role in triggering some – though certainly not all – cases of regressive autism. Even if that number is a small minority, it seems sensible to me to study the mechanism of action, in hopes of finding clues to the development of autism in all those other children.

Kirby is slowing moving over to the position of the scientific community he has so long criticized for not listening to parents and being blind to the true causes of autism.  He’s not quite there yet, but now it is mostly a matter of emphasis. His position now seems to be that autism is a complex set of disorders with many genetic and environmental contributions. Congratulations – that is what scientists have been saying for years.


Skeptify this poll

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 1, 2009

Via Pharyngula we get a link to this poll:

Do vaccines cause autism?

Absolutely. They caused my child’s autism.
Probably. I’ve seen evidence that suggests a link.
Possibly. I am weighing the evidence.
Probably not. Most of the evidence suggests there’s no link.
Absolutely not. There’s no link between vaccines and autism

Skeptify brothers and sisters (all 36 of you, as of the last count). Now why can’t PZ give me a plug and throw some crumbs from his behemoth daily traffic my way huh? Selfish!