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Thimerasol Autism Link Discussed at Secret Meeting in 2000

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Many parents of autistic children have suspected that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used, until recently, in some vaccines, was responsible for the disorder.  But their concerns have been dismissed by government regulators.  But a disturbing report released several years ago indicates that federal officials knew there might be something to the thimerosal-autism link, but worked to cover it up.

According to the 2005 report authored by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in June 2000, a group of government scientists and health officials met for a secret, highly-secluded meeting convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss issues over the safety of a variety of ubiquitous childhood vaccines routinely given to infants and young children. The CDC issued no public announcement of the session; 52 private invitations were sent to attendees including high-level CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, and representatives from every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth, and Aventis Pasteur. Meeting information was strictly “embargoed”; there would be no copying or removing documents.

According to CDC epidemiologist, Tom Verstraeten, who analyzed the CDC’s enormous cache of medical records of 100,000 children, thimerosal pointed to a dramatic increase in autism rates as well as many other neurological disorders among children. “I was actually stunned by what I saw,” Verstraeten told the group, citing the staggering number of earlier studies indicating a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA recommended three additional vaccines laced with thimerosal be administered to extremely young infants—one within hour of birth—the estimated number of autism cases increased 15-fold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

“You can play with this all you want,” Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results “are statistically significant.” Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado—whose grandson was born on the meeting’s first day—said, “My gut feeling? Forgive this personal comment: I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on.

Instead of alerting the public and removing thimerosal from the vaccine supply, the group worked on a cover up. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many attendees expressed concerned over how this would affect the vaccine industry’s. “We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits,” said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. “This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country.” Dr. Bob Chen, head of vaccine safety for the CDC, expressed relief that “given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let’s say, less responsible hands.” Dr. John Clements, vaccines advisor at the WHO, said, “perhaps this study should not have been done at all,” adding “the research results have to be handled,” and warning that the study “will be taken by others and will be used in other ways beyond the control of this group.”

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