On Media: The CDC Medicine Show

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 in Autism

On Media: The CDC Medicine Show – from Age Of Autism

Medicine_show By Anne Dachel

Members of the press love the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They love citing the CDC as if their pronouncements come down off Mount Sinai. And they love quoting Julie Gerberding, the head of the CDC.

Who could argue with the CDC’s claims? After all, this is the agency that gets billions to run health care in the U.S. If they don’t know what’s going on, no one does.

And the CDC always has studies, although no reporter ever asks about the nature of any study. They never want to know who paid for it or if there were any conflicts of interest involved. The CDC’s latest decree is the MMR study. Sept. 3, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson (HERE) couldn’t wait to say, “A study out this evening offers the most powerful evidence yet that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.”

“This is the nail in the coffin. The final bit of research we were looking for to finally discredit this link between the measles vaccine and autism,” said Marie McCormick from the Harvard School of Public Health on ABC News.

Reporter John McKenzie warned us, “Many parents remain skeptical and worried about the safety of these vaccines; some refuse to have their children vaccinated, which has resulted in a higher incidence of the disease.”

We’ve been hearing reports about parents everywhere who question vaccine safety. The

CDC is worried and you should be too. They’re blaming the recent outbreaks of measles on non-vaccinating parents. One news story said, “More measles cases have been reported in the first seven months of this year than have been reported in any seven-month period since 1996.”

Headlines sounded an alarm with strong language. In Lynwood WA, we could read, More parents are saying ‘no’ to vaccines, Lansing MI had the story, More parents choosing to skip inoculations for their children, and in Abilene TX, they published, Children entering school without all vaccinations, in which the opening line was, “Hundreds of thousands of children are going to school this fall without protection from deadly diseases.”

Scripps Howard News Service reviewed surveys submitted to the CDC and found at least 135,000 children started kindergarten last year exempted from vaccines. Scripps Howard warned, “In some states, one in 10 children did not get vaccinated, and in some communities 30 percent of the children were unprotected.” This past April the CDC found that more than one in four toddlers under 2 are not being vaccinated as recommended.

The latest official response to falling vaccine rates is the formation of the Immunization Alliance. The AP story, Public needs to know vaccines are safe, docs say, (HERE) out everywhere announced, “A new coalition of 22 major medical groups says public confidence in vaccine safety needs to be restored to avoid risks for deadly disease outbreaks.” The Immunization Alliance joins other vaccine advocacy groups out there like Every Child By Two, Immunization Action Coalition, and Voices for Vaccine.

So officially, we’re being told parents are not vaccinating like they used to and that’s why there are measles outbreaks. We need to educate the public on vaccines and crack down on all these parents exempting their kids from necessary, life-saving vaccines, right?
Wrong. You are so wrong.

You’re obviously behind in the other very latest vaccine news. Everything’s really fine and dandy with the U.S. vaccination rate. In fact, we’re at an all-time high. The very same agency that a couple of weeks ago claimed epidemics were looming because of the unvaxed has done a complete u-turn and we’re seeing headlines like the Reuters piece, Child vaccination rates hit record levels (HERE). Here we find out that the CDC just learned that fewer than 1 percent of children got no vaccines. Gerberding is pleased with how well parents are complying and said that it reflects their trust in vaccine safety.

News reports quickly fell in line with headlines like, Record Number of Toddlers Vaccinated in the Washington Post, Vax rates at near-record levels in the Chicago Tribune, and Most US Kids Getting Recommended Vaccinations from ABC News.

The Wall Street Journal Blog reported, “Despite the hullabaloo over certain alleged vaccination risks, the rate of young children getting their shots has remained high – and largely unchanged – over the past several years. …And data going back to 2003 show that vaccination rates have remained stable.”

According to the CDC, you can have it both ways, depending on the point you’re trying to make. If you want to scare the wavering parents out there into vaccinating, you claim that kids aren’t being vaccinated, old diseases are returning with a vengeance and it’s all their fault. If you want to make the case that vaccines are safe, all the studies say so, and parents trust the CDC, you report that parents are confidently vaccinating.

Reporters evidently live day to day and the only thing that matters is the latest CDC press release. The claims made just last week have no bearing on whatever they may be saying today.

Another glaring example that shows the people at the CDC speak out of both sides of their mouths is the ridiculous spin they’ve produced about the autism rate. You can read that the number of kids with autism is unchanged over the last thirty years or you can find that autism is steadily increasing, depending on what point the CDC is trying to make.

The official autism rate of one in 150 came out in Feb. 2007 and officials said the same thing they did when it was one in every 166 children. More kids don’t actually have autism, doctors are just better at diagnosing it. Paul Offit said back in 2007 that we just used to call these kids ‘quirky or geeky or nerdy’ but now we know that they were really autistic.
Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp from the CDC was interviewed in Newsweek and agreed that it isn’t that ‘the rates of autism have gone up, just that now we have some more definitive data.’ Officially the CDC has long denied any increase and this has been repeated endless times in news reports.

If there’s no real increase, the public can relax, there’s no need to worry. Autism is only ‘a serious health care concern’ and nothing like an epidemic.

Not so fast.

That’s not always the case. There are times when the CDC admits that autism is increasing. The only time that the CDC makes that claim is when they need to prove that the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal isn’t linked to autism.

It works like this: If the subject is thimerosal, the CDC points out that in CA, no vaccines given to pregnant women and children under 3 could contain more than “trace” amounts of mercury after July 2006 and yet autism numbers continue to rise in that state. (Almost never does anyone note that since most kids are diagnosed around age 2, we’d hardly be seeing the effects of the ban in 2008.)

No matter. CA is living proof. They took the mercury out and the autism numbers continue to rise.

When this is the spin, I never see reporters demanding a reason for the increase. If more kids have autism, something must be causing it. Shouldn’t we be alarmed about that?
The CDC is amazing. One day we can have a vaccination crisis in which outbreaks of measles and the threat of epidemics are being blamed on all the kids who aren’t vaccinated. And the next, we have glowing reports of all-time high vaccination rates and the latest state-of-the-art CDC study proving once again that vaccines are safe.

The CDC has a perfect response for every occasion, except there’s this epidemic of autism plaguing our schools that no one can account for. The agency that’s in a continual state of denial over vaccines, can’t explain it.

The CDC can turn out studies at will to make vaccine side effects disappear but they are never proof of anything. For as long as I’ve been following the press on autism, I’ve read all the reassurances about no link to vaccines. They make a news splash for awhile and quickly fade away. Marie McCormick and ABC’s Charles Gibson might be saying that all the science is in and vaccines are safe, but tomorrow the controversy will be right back in the news.

Precious time is lost doing this. The people in Atlanta are devoting themselves to vaccination rates, measles outbreaks, and MMR studies, but not to autism. My son is now a young adult and there is a multitude advancing in age right along with him. CDC officials will never be able to spin the numbers to make this disabled generation go away. To spend years telling us WHAT DOESN’T CAUSE AUTISM and offering continuing research to prove WHAT DOESN’T CAUSE AUTISM isn’t their job. I’ve yet to see anyone in the media criticize the CDC for their inaction on what is clearly a national crisis.

How many more years will we be reading that studies show no link, that there is no known cause, and that we still don’t know if there’s been an increase in the disorder?
How can the people who claim to care about the health of our children ignore hundreds of thousands of them who suffer with autism?

When will the press finally hold the CDC responsible for this health care disaster?

Anne Dachel is media editor of Age of Autism.