Category Archives: Autism

In the News…

Former Autism Speaks Exec. Confirms Insurance and Pharma Lobbying Firm Wrote Controversial NY Autism Insurance Bill

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Singer Confirms Autism Speaks Insurance Lobbyists Drafted Controversial NY Bill

In an extraordinary letter published earlier this week in the Scarsdale Patch, Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, confirmed that a controversial autism insurance bill in New York, S7000B/A1037A, currently awaiting signature or veto by Governor David Paterson was indeed drafted by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips who are representing Autism Speaks’ lobbying efforts in New York.

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Singer’s statements contradicts assertions made by staffers in the offices of New York State Senator Neil Breslin, sponsor of the bill in the New York Senate and Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, and staffers for Joseph Morelle, sponsor of the bill in the New York Assembly, and Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, who have repeatedly asserted that they drafted the bill.

Manatt Phelps and Phillips is part of a group of firms that represent more than 150 insurance companies including Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield of California, and drug giants Merck, Pfizer among others, and also represents Autism Speaks in many of their state-level autism insurance lobby activities.

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Singer also attacked Westchester County Legislator and New York Assembly Candidate Tom Abinanti for criticizing S7000B/A10372A. Abinanti is the father of a son diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and has been working for autism health insurance reform for years.

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Abinanti has been a vocal critic of S7000B/A10372A, but has worked tirelessly to pass another bill, A6888, which has been endorsed by the vast majority of autism organizations in New York, including the Autism Society of America, SAFEMINDS, Autism Action Network, National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter, and the Foundation for Autism Information and Research among many others.

Abinanti has argued that the insurance company bill would partially repeal non-discrimination law passed in 2006, and unlike other state legislation does not specifically identify any therapies that would be covered, it requires autism treatments to satisfy efficacy requirements that apply to no other health disorder under New York law and are the toughest of any law passed in any state, and the bill would prevent local governments from recovering some costs from insurers allowed under current law.

The New York Occupational Therapy Association has asked Gov. Paterson to veto S7000B/A10372A because they concluded that it would not allow coverage of occupational therapy, and the New York State Speech, Hearing and Language Association has released a statement saying that they do not believe that speech therapy would be covered by the bill either.

Singer is the president of the Autism Science Foundation, which she co-founded with vaccine developer, promoter and entrepreneur Paul Offit. Singer is also a former executive of Autism Speaks, which has been aggressively lobbying in Albany for passage of  S7000B/A10372A.

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CDC Media Plan Shocker – We Don’t Have the Science – “Some claims against vaccine cannot be disproved.”

By Jim Moody, Esq.

An internal draft CDC Media Strategy, made public HERE for the first time, concedes that CDC does not have sound science supporting vaccine safety and must therefore resort to a program of misinformation and propaganda, referring to critical parents and “safety first” advocacy organizations as “anti-vaccine.”  If this is how CDC wants to conduct a meaningful debate about vaccine safety and science, then I can only imagine that we all will be holding the next major autism conference at GITMO.  Rather than a “safety first” program of sound science, CDC’s solution to quelling the coming vaccine rebellion is an aggressive public/private media war: “vaccinate or die.”

CDC Brands Safety Advocates As “Anti-Vaccine.”

In addition to conceding that fear-based propaganda will have to substitute for basic science, the memo reveals how completely CDC has descended into a military them-against-us mind set.  Critics of vaccine safety are labeled “anti-vaccine,”  as “hostile parents,” or as “adversaries of vaccination,” with no acknowledgment that criticism and inquiries can be in good faith, can sincerely be interested in promoting vaccine safety as a sensible, indeed necessary, scheme to protect the benefits to public health of mass immunization.  For example, CDC complains that “assaults against routine vaccination are occurring in the United States and in many developed nations worldwide,” “the voice against vaccination is becoming more organized,” and “routine childhood vaccination is increasingly under fire.” (emphasis added).   The “critics of vaccination” fall into a few “predictable” categories:

– Religious Objectors
– Hostile parents and non-professionals who envision vaccines as more harmful to individual children than good or believe in conspiracy theories related to vaccination programs
– Proponents of alternative medicine and naturalists
– Health care professionals and scientists who doubt the benefits of immunization and fear long-term effects of vaccination

It’s just plain bizarre to brand as “hostile” parents and “non-professionals” (i.e. those who are not members of the white-coated and Nanny State elites) who are simply curious whether vaccines injured their children or whether vaccines and the schedule are sufficiently safe to use in an exercise of their ethical right to informed consent.  As for scientists who “fear effects of vaccination,” give them a gold star for being prescient.  As the National Vaccine Advisory Committee has now conceded, there is a crucial gap in safety science, fatal to any claim that “vaccines are safe.”  NVAC unanimously approved HERE the report of the Vaccine Safety Working Group on June 3, highlighting (see recommendation 7 (HERE) ) the lack of baseline data on the health of unvaccinated children developed in a comprehensive program of retrospective and prospective research.

Barbara Loe Fisher once said of the false labeling of vaccine safety advocates as “anti-vaccine:” “This article is a sophomoric attempt to label the vaccine safety and informed consent movement as “anti-vaccine” in order to deflect attention from the very real gaps in scientific knowledge about the biological mechanisms of adverse responses to vaccination. Should the Institute of Medicine be labeled anti-vaccine for repeatedly publishing reports over the past decade calling for increased scientific research into outstanding questions about vaccine safety?”

The “Problem” According to CDC – Vaccine Rebellion.

CDC actually correctly identifies the “threat” faced by its mass vaccination program is that: “[T]he number of reported adverse events associated with vaccination was greater than the number of reported cases of vaccine-preventible disease.  With the disappearance of a perceived threat in the United States from these diseases, the safety of routine childhood vaccination is increasingly under fire.”  What would be the rational response to growing concerns over vaccine safety? Research to make them safer? What CDC really fears is change, especially people asking too many questions and a parent rebellion: “[W]ith the increase [sic] use of media advocacy by small organized special interest groups to promote societal change, the possibility of critics against vaccination gaining strength and voice in public health policy decisions at local, state and national levels warrants serious consideration.  For example, in Japan and Sweden, the anti-vaccine movement’s message diffused from small organized groups to mainstream popular acceptance, which led to changes in vaccination policy and severe drops in vaccination levels and increased morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

So, Where’s the Safety Science?

CDC makes a stunning admissions: “Some claims against vaccine cannot be disproved.”  And: “CDC does not have complete adverse event surveillance data on which to base health messages.”  But where can this little bit of honesty be found on the Vaccine Information Statements [Your Baby’s First Vaccines: What You Need to Know, (HERE)] required by law to be given to parents, which claim with all the earnest certainty of a government bureaucrat. “Getting several vaccines at the same time will not harm your baby,” “More severe reactions can also occur, but this happens much less often.  Some of these reactions are so uncommon that experts can’t tell whether they are caused by vaccines or not,” and “The risk of any vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Getting a disease is much more likely to harm a child than getting a vaccine.”  And, in a sample flyer (HERE), CDC claims:

Vaccination is safe and effective. All vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The most comprehensive scientific studies and reviews have not found a link between vaccines and autism. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies also agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children now recognized to have autism.

No honesty here about CDC’s real doubts about vaccine safety.  The CDC media plan also concedes: “Issues of contamination (e.g. SV-40, stealth virus) are compelling and our research is not complete enough to state with all certainty that there is no risk.”  Yet, despite all this doubt, CDC still links (HERE) (without disclosing his financial conflict of interest) to Paul Offit’s 2003 book, Vaccines: What You Should Know in the “Myths Busted” section (HERE) of its vaccine safety webpage.  And CDC claims on its “Some Common Misconceptions” page (HERE): “Most vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever.  These can often be controlled by taking acetaminophen before or after vaccination. More serious adverse events occur rarely (on the order of one per thousands to one per millions of doses), and some are so rare that risk cannot be accurately assessed.”  How “rarely” do these “more serious adverse events” occur.  Nobody knows, especially CDC.

So the CDC’s mantra “vaccines are safer than the diseases they prevent” is a lie until all of the risks from vaccines can be determined by comparison to the health status of unvaccinated children.  Regarding this comparison, CDC says (HERE):

Even one serious adverse event in a million doses of vaccine cannot be justified if there is no benefit from the vaccination. If there were no vaccines, there would be many more cases of disease, and along with the more disease, there would be serious sequelae and more deaths. But looking at risk alone is not enough – you must always look at both risks and benefits. Comparing the risk from disease with the risk from the vaccines can give us an idea of the benefits we get from vaccinating our children. . . . The fact is that a child is far more likely to be seriously injured by one of these diseases than by any vaccine. While any serious injury or death caused by vaccines is too many, it is also clear that the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the slight risk, and that many, many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccinations. In fact, to have a medical intervention as effective as vaccination in preventing disease and not use it would be unconscionable.

This comparison is a bald faced lie because the risks of vaccination, especially for chronic adverse events, are unknown.  Even if they were known with some precision, the choice demanded by principles of ethics and informed consent, must remain with the parents.  And, this gets us back to the real fear underlying the Government’s policy of “deliberate ignorance,” i.e. that any significant risk of chronic vaccine injury could induce a vaccine rebellion so that their children are not sacrificed on an alter made of herd immunity.  Not surprisingly, Parents of Kids With Infectious Diseases (HERE) merits a weblink from CDC’s “What Risks Are Parents Taking in Their Child’s Healthcare” section, but groups such as Safeminds [] and NVIC [] are ignored.

CDC’s media plan claims the “[f]ederal government has a critical role in disease prevention through routine vaccination,” but there’s no commitment to a “critical role” for a “safety first” agenda.  CDC also states a commitment to new vaccines: “The rapid pace in which new vaccines and new combinations of vaccines are being introduced in the United States for routine childhood vaccination will continue, increasing the anti-vaccine rhetoric.”  But again, no commitment to understanding, much less improving, safety.

DC admits: “Risk communication messages regarding vaccine adverse reactions are difficult to develop.”  Yes, exactly, because they just don’t know the risks.  How, then, can CDC claim as a “strength” of their media plan that the “[b]enefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks?” This is, as J.B. Handley would say so eloquently  (see Paul Offit, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Alison Singer, and the Italian Study), is a “hungry lie.”  As the National Vaccine Advisory Committee finally admitted with a unanimous vote on June 3, one of the key gaps in our safety science (HERE) is baseline data on the chronic health of unvaccinated kids.  Perhaps what CDC really means is that all chronic vaccine-caused injuries, including autism, are acceptable collateral damage in the war against infectious disease?  This is an even bigger lie because it presupposes that such “collateral damage” cannot be minimized or even eliminated by, e.g., screening, schedule changes, eliminating known nasties such as heavy metals, re-designed vaccines, greater reliance on anti-virals, etc.

Another CDC lie: “Parents today, overwhelmingly, want to vaccinate their children against disease.”  No!  Parents want healthy children.  As doubts grow about vaccine-caused disease, and the apparent threat from infectious diseases is all but gone, the “healthy” choice is to avoid unknown vaccine risks and rely on others’ herd immunity.

CDC’s Solution – a public/private propaganda campaign.

Instead of actually doing the science to accurately ascertain the risks of vaccination, and make appropriate changes to the schedule, screening, etc., CDC proposes an aggressive public/private media campaign: “[C]ommunity acceptance of vaccination demands that we take a stand to not only explain the risks of complication due to natural disease, but also toward unfounded arguments or [sic] adversaries of vaccination.” [emphasis added].

CDC intends to rely in part on surrogates to carry its message: “Any communications strategy must be supported by and employ our immunization partners.”  Yet, ironically, CDC complains: “Some members of the anti-vaccine movement are making a profit with their message of fear and will not be dissuaded through debate and inclusion in the process.”  CDC’s Partners website lists eighteen partners and 19 immunization-related websites.  Most of these, doctors, nurses, industry “fronts” such as Families Fighting Flu, make a profit from selling or injecting vaccines.  And, isn’t Paul “Profit” making oodles of money from his interest in Rotateq and at least expecting to profit from his unsupported yet unbridled message of fear in Autism’s False Prophets?  (Amazon rank: Offit, 18,473; Jepsen/Johnson/Wright, 10,305.)  CDC claims that the “federal government [is] not in position to discuss hidden motives for behaviors of anti-vaccine groups.”  “Hidden” motives, come on!  Advocacy for safer vaccines and infrastructure reform is hardly a “hidden” motive, nor are such groups in any way “anti-vaccine.”

What Does CDC See as Threats?

Although CDC’s admited lack of key safety science is deadly serious, the humor in the media plan lies in the “threats” section.  CDC begins; “Detractors resort to incomplete reference, misquotes, and distortions to promote their positions, making debate difficult at best.”  Let’s see what CDC says: About MMR (HERE): “In 2004, a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that there is no link between autism and MMR vaccine, and that there is no link between autism and vaccines that contain thimerosal as a preservative.”  But actually, IOM covered its vulnerable ass by conceding: “Absent biomarkers, well-defined risk factors, or large effect sizes, the committee cannot rule out, based on the epidemiological evidence, the possibility that vaccines contribute to autism in some small subset or very unusual circumstances.”  That the IOM ISR Committee’s “cannot rule out” a finding simply cannot be reconciled with CDC’s “no link” version of the “truth.”

CDC’s claim on its “Thimerosal” webpage (HERE) is another example of its “distortion:” “There is no convincing scientific evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site.”  After the revalations about CDC’s infamous VSD-based study of thimerosal were unearthed by Safeminds via FOIA and extensively discussed in David Kirby’s Evidence of Harm, the lead author, Thomas Verstraeten, was forced to retract the “thimerosal is safe” interpretation CDC sought from the 2003 publication in Pediatrics: “The article does not state that we found evidence against an association, as a negative study would. It does state, on the contrary, that additional study is recommended, which is the conclusion to which a neutral study must come. . . . A neutral study carries a very distinct message: the investigators could neither confirm nor exclude an association, and therefore more study is required. . . .  The bottom line is and has always been the same: an association between thimerosal and neurological outcomes could neither be confirmed nor refuted, and therefore, more study is required.”  The article itself amounted to scientific fraud because all the data manipulation to conceal the “generation zero” results (which did show statistically significant associations between thimerosal exposure and neurodevelopmental delays) were not disclosed.

CDC ends its media plan by honestly identifying one threat to their “vaccinate or die” media campaign: “We have close relationships and involvement with vaccine manufacturers that can be distorted in counter communication – we’re supporting the drug manufacturers’ business interests at the expense of children.”

Jim Moody chairs the government affairs committee of SafeMinds. He is the founder of Citizens for a Competitive Economy. Jim is a practicing attorney and is active in cause-related advocacy for children with autism.