The debate over the potential link between autism and vaccines is heating up again. The culprit? Accusations of a good old-fashioned cover-up by the CDC.
A study published earlier this month in Translational Neurogeneration and funded by the group Focus Autism concluded African-American boys are more at risk for autism if they're given the MMR vaccine before the age of 3. Brian Hooker, the study author, claims researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knew about the link in 2004 -- but chose to keep it under wraps.
Now, the new study has been taken down by the medical journal, and the original lead researcher at the CDC stands by his findings. What are moms of autistic kids supposed to think?
To reach the conclusion that African-American boys given the MMR vaccine before the age of 3 were more likely to be diagnosed with autism, Hooker, a bio-chemical engineer, pored through the raw data that was the basis of the 2004 study. The CDC study authors found no link between the age children were given their first MMR vaccination and autism diagnoses. Nor did they find an increased risk for a particular racial group. So why were the results of Hooker's new study so different?
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Hooker alleges that the CDC deliberately limited the number of participants they included in their analysis, which he said altered the results. The lead researcher denies the allegations, but one of his colleagues who worked on the study alongside him, William W. Thompson, has this to say on the CDC study:
I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed ...
Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists inside or outside the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.
Indeed, there are more questions than answers as the new study by Hooker was recently removed from Translational Neurogeneration due to "serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions." The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability "may not be in the public interest."
What are we, as parents, supposed to do with this whole scandal? It brings up bad memories of the Wakefield study.
Moms are already on edge about this topic. How irresponsible is it for a journal to publish and remove a new study about autism and vaccines in the span of one month? The homework should have been done beforehand. If the study was faulty, it shouldn't have been released at all because all it does is create more fear and more confusion for parents.
Are you concerned about a cover-up? Or do you think the new study should have never been published?
Image via © AB STILL LTD/Science Photo Library/Corbis
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