Agencies Lack Credibility

July 5, 2005

USA Today

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The success of our vaccine program rests firmly on the credibility of public health agencies. But the once sterling reputations of agencies such as the CDCP, FDA and the IOM have been badly damaged by the release of transcripts of secret meetings that show government officials conspiring with the pharmaceutical industry to hide the damning results of data showing dramatic increases in neurological disorders among children exposed to thimerosal.

The CDCP’s efforts to repair the damage have been hampered by its claim to have lost the original data, and its defiance of federal laws and congressional requests requiring it to allow independent scientists or the public to review federal vaccine safety data.

Meanwhile, several principal authors of the four European studies the CDCP primarily relies on to defend thimerosal have close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Those connections weren’t disclosed, in violation of peer-review ethics. The CDCP was aware of those facts, encouraged the studies and lobbied to get them published.

Those studies are all catastrophically flawed. Most glaringly, before banning thimerosal, Denmark registered only autistics who were hospitalized — one fifth of the afflicted populations. After the withdrawal of thimerosal, Denmark began counting out-patient autistics in its registries. The resulting spike in raw numbers therefore made it appear that autism rates actually increased after the withdrawal of thimerosal.

Clever use of this deceptive data by the study authors allowed the CDCP to make the case that thimerosal was not linked to autism. Furthermore, the European studies involved children exposed to a fraction of the thimerosal concentrations used in America.

The CDCP has selectively ignored hundreds of biological, toxicological and epidemiological studies linking thimerosal to a wide range of neurological disorders, relying instead on its reputation and its faith that journalists are too busy to read the science.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, and the author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr