Health Lead Story Local News West Edition

Vaccines linked to autism in black boys

LOS ANGELES — Two prominent figures in the controversy over vaccines and their possible link to autism now say they have scientific evidence that some vaccines can harm African-American children.

Attorney and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, spoke at an emergency town hall meeting at the Church of Scientology in South Los Angeles June 18.

He was joined by Brian Hooker, a biochemical scientist and former employee of the Pacific Northwest Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, and town hall host, Minister Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.

Kennedy and Hooker contend that thimerosol, the mercury-containing preservative in the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, is linked to a higher risk of autism in black boys.

Kennedy and Hooker cited what they called “the most reliable studies,” including that of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) whistleblower William W. Thompson, an award-winning, senior lead scientist at the agency.

In an August 2014 press release, Thompson backtracked on the findings of a study he co-authored and published in 2004 in the journal, Pediatrics.

That study compared children with and without autism and their ages at their first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

“I regret that my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information suggesting that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism,” Thompson wrote. “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

Hooker, whose teenaged son is autistic, said he confronted Thompson about the study’s findings years earlier, and between November 2013 and August 2014, secretly recorded — without Thompson’s knowledge — several of their telephone conversations.

“Thompson confessed to me and described a culture of fraud in the CDC, an institution built on conflict of interest regarding vaccine uptake versus vaccine safety,” Hooker said. “He stepped forward due to the agony of over 10 years of living and covering up the real truth regarding vaccine injury.”

According to Kennedy, more than 500 studies have shown that thimerosol is unsafe. “It is the most deadly neuro-toxin that is not radioactive known to man and 1,000 times more neuro-toxic than lead. I will pay anybody $10,000 if they can show me a single science study that thimerosol … is safe.”

“Approximately 250,000 African Americans were exposed to mercury in the MMR vaccine from 2004 to 2014,” he added.

But other scientists, including at the CDC, disagree, citing contradictory research on thimerosol and autism.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website, “valid scientific studies have shown there is no link between thimerosal and autism. In fact, autism rates have actually increased since thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines.  The AAP, American Medical Association (AMA), CDC, and Institute of Medicine (IOM) agree that science does not support a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.”

The CDC website reports, “since 2001, with the exception of some influenza vaccines, thimerosal is not used as a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines.”

But Kennedy said only 10 percent of all vaccines have been tested for safety.

“The biggest … mercury exposure in children is coming from vaccines…and vaccine companies have no financial incentives to put safe vaccines in the marketplace. They have absolute immunity.  You cannot sue them.”

Hooker said there is strong evidence in the scientific literature that…African Americans not only may be more susceptible to vaccine injury, but may have increased susceptibility to neurological disorders such as autism.

“A 2014 study in Los Angeles County alone found the risk of autism was higher in African Americans than in Caucasians,” Hooker added.

Kennedy, Hooker, and Muhammad are demanding that Congress subpoena Thompson to testify. Muhammad said Thompson also wishes to be subpoenaed.

Thompson stated in his press release that he believes vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives.

“I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race,” Thompson said. “Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

“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,” Thompson wrote.

Both Kennedy and Hooker stated they, too, are not anti-vaccine.

Nation of Islam Minister Tony Muhammad has pledged to campaign against members of the California Legislative Black Caucus who vote in favor of Senate Bill 277, a bill that would require public schoolchildren to be vaccinated against childhood diseases. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)
Nation of Islam Minister Tony Muhammad has pledged to campaign against members of the California Legislative Black Caucus who vote in favor of Senate Bill 277, a bill that would require public schoolchildren to be vaccinated against childhood diseases. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)

At the town hall, Muhammad repeated a comment he made June 17 at Holman United Methodist Church, vowing to sweep out of office members of the California Black Caucus who do not rescind their yes votes on a controversial vaccine bill introduced earlier this year after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland.

Senate Bill 277 would in part, mandate vaccines for school children and remove a parent’s right to claim a personal exemption from the vaccines.

The California Medical Association is in favor of SB 277. Other supporters listed on the CMA’s website include: L.A. County; the Los Angeles Unified School District; California Black Health Network; National Association of 100 Black Women, Sacramento; March of Dimes; California Immunization Coalition; American Academy of Pediatrics, California; and Health Officers Association of California.