So-called epidemiologist doesn’t understand epidemiology

The kid wrote this:

“Regarding the data you speak of, I cannot publish it because I do not have access to it nor is it in my possession. We know [autism] is declining because it was discussed in email by a coauthor of then-principal investigator/now-most-wanted fugitive Poul Thorsen’s thimerosal study in email to Thorsen, his then-student and first study author Kreesten Madsen and CDC employee Diana Schendel. A much later study coauthored by Schendel was just recently published showing ASDs going down in years following thimerosal’s removal from Danish vaccines:”

He then links to this study from the University of Miami. From what he wrote above, you would expect that the paper addressed or studied a decline in the number and proportion of cases of autism in Denmark after thimerosal was removed from childhood immunizations. Did the paper address or study this?

Here is the conclusions part of the paper’s abstract:

“Our population-based recurrence risk estimate is lower than the recently reported estimates from clinical samples. Our results demonstrate no time trend in the ASDs recurrence risk as seen in the ASDs prevalence. The difference in the recurrence risk between full- and half-siblings supports the role of genetics in ASDs, while the significant recurrence risk in maternal half-siblings may support the role of factors associated with pregnancy and the maternal intrauterine environment in ASDs.”

Look at that! Autism is genetic, if not congenital. Yeah, even with that, to the kid, the wannabe epidemiologist, it was the vaccines. It’s always the vaccines. But what does the rest of the paper say about thimerosal? Good question. In short, it doesn’t. All the investigators did was look at a cohort (a group) of children and follow them. If they developed or were diagnosed with autism, they looked at exposures and as to whether or not they had autistic siblings or parents with psychiatric issues. In the results section, you can see that thimerosal was never one of those things they looked at. So why is the kid all aflutter about this study?

He seems to be obsessed with this statement: “Our population-based recurrence risk estimate is lower than the recently reported estimates from clinical samples.” In his labyrinth, this is epidemiological evidence that the rates of autism are going down after thimerosal was removed. God only knows why he thinks this. Even if you look at tables three and four in the paper, where prevalence and relative risk are shown by year of birth, the rates are the same in that they’re all within the 95% confidence interval of one another. In other words, there is no statistically significant difference between the groups when it comes to the prevalence of autism.

Nothing, absolutely nothing in that paper states what the kid wrote that it states. It’s right there under table three:

“No significant time trend was observed in the relative recurrence risk for ASDs (P = .77, test for no time trend).”

For the love of God, who taught him epidemiology? How can we have one epidemiologist (and dear friend of mine) coming out of George Washington University who finds H1N1 influenza and tells the world about it and helps the so many people get through that, and then have another self-professed epidemiologist from the same university who sees a study that doesn’t look at thimerosal or vaccines but does conclude that autism has strong genetic factors and still says to his blog audience that the study proves that removing thimerosal reduced the rates of autism? HOW?!

Then again, I could have read the study wrong, but go ahead and read it for yourselves. Tell me where I’m wrong. I’ll own up to it and make the appropriate corrections instead of holding fast to a failed ideology.

Oh, and that whole thing about the recurrence risk estimate being lower than the estimates from clinical samples? That’s always going to be the case when you conduct proper epidemiological studies on a population level. Your results will always be different than those you see in more “clinical” settings where you have a lot of control over who goes into your study and who doesn’t.


13 thoughts on “So-called epidemiologist doesn’t understand epidemiology

  1. Pingback: Don’t agree with me? You’re a bigot! | The Poxes Blog

  2. First note that the paper is hosted at the U. of Miami. But the study was performed by a team in Denmark.

    Note also that Jake Crosby and Brian Hooker latched on to this study after I wrote about it.

    Autism, Denmark and again no link with vaccines.

    The data in specific is summarized in this graph. These are from table 3 in the paper.

    If one wants to ignore his education (that goes for both Crosby and Hooker) and cherry pick data, one can look at the peak in ASD prevalence in Denmark in 1994 and say, “Autism rates are going down! Thimerosal caused an epidemic!”

    So, let’s ask a few questions and see how well their hypothesis holds up. And, yes, I’m being generous in calling this a hypothesis.

    1) Why would ASD prevalence peak in 1994 birth year given that thimerosal was discontinued in Denmark in 1992? Kids born in 1994 did not get thimerosal containing vaccines. So, the “peak” prevalence is for kids without thimerosal exposure.

    2) How do they include the prevalence trend for childhood autism (so-called “classic” autism) which is in the same study? Childhood autism continued to rise after the removal of thimerosal. It doubled from 1991-92 (thimerosal era) to 1995-96 (post thimerosal). Further, the prevalence remained flat from 1995-96 onward.

    3) why is the prevalence of ASD as high or higher post thimerosal than during the thimerosal era? Prevalence 1990-91 birth years (thimerosal era) was 1%. The prevalence for the entire study period post thimerosal is 1% or greater. This is almost the same argument as (1), but it needs to be addressed by those pushing the mercury hypothesis with this study. Which is to say, they willfully are ignoring the strong facts that go counter to their positions. I.e. they are lying. To themselves as well as to others, but this is lying.

    4) why is the prevalence of autism in Denmark for kids born in 1994 1.4% while in the US the estimate is 0.8% (CDC MMWR)? The US had thimerosal, had the birth dose of HepB (another specious argument by people like Crosby and Hooker) and, if memory serves, more vaccines in general than Denmark. But their prevalence is almost twice as high?

    I’m no epidemiologist, but I understand that the years of followup for a diagnosis like autism is a very important factor. Autism is not diagnosed at birth, or even before age three for many. Average age of diagnosis is different for childhood autism and other ASD’s. Average age of diagnosis for ASD’s is 7 or higher. Which means about half the kids aren’t diagnosed by by age 7. The study included follow-up to 2010. Data were included for kids born as late as 2004. for that cohort, they only had 6 years of follow-up.

    But let’s ignore the huge issue of follow-up and claim that there is a real decrease in autism prevalence! It proves that there was a conspiracy! And a conspiracy is critical to people like Crosby and Hooker. Sad as that thought is, it’s true.

    It isn’t as though these factors above (and more) are some how obscure or hidden. They are clear. But Crosby and Hooker (and others) ignore them. They are living in the past. A past when there wasn’t a ton of data to disprove their idea that the rise in autism prevalence was caused by thimerosal in vaccines. With a lack of data their team was able to mislead a lot of people. Thankfully they mislead much fewer people.

  3. Not only is “the kid” NOT an epidemiologist…he must be dyslexic as well. Cripes we can read the abstract as well as the authors’ “Conclusions” to find that autism prevalence has not plummeted following removal of Thimerosal preservative in childhood vaccines.

    Now, go back to “the kid’s” blog to see his first annual awards in various categories. 🙂

    Happy New Year.

    • I wouldn’t take it too personally mike7367; he may have received a degree but he clearly didn’t get the education. If GWU wants to push through that kind of “graduate” and mummy and daddy don’t mind spending a boatload of money on what amounts to a very expensive piece of paper then let them. It all reflects upon them and not us and Jake will never work in the field outside of his own fantasy land so there is that.

      • True, but the damage can still be done to the reputation of an entire field of public health with the masses of less educated citizens.
        That is the real danger of such a person even managing to get a degree, but not actually learning the science behind the entire field.

        For, when the public, ignorant of the realities of science, lose trust in epidemiology, they will not follow the recommendations of the entire public health community. In that case, we’d not have public health, only public plagues.

        The work of thousands of quiet, diligent, skilled, evidence based scientists can be undone by one loud mouthed wastrel and in an astoundingly short amount of time. Especially in an environment where there is already a significant amount of disparagement of evidence based science in our political arenas that greatly resemble three ring circuses.

      • Good point Science Mom. And just because you have a masters degree in epidemiology or public health does not make you an epidemiologist. Epidemiologist is a job title, not a protected title (like RN for example). Still grinds my gears that the kid was able to get his degree…

  4. It’s astounding that he missed it! Why, there is magic, pure, unadulterated darkest of the dark arts magic all through that document.
    Not a hint, suggestion, whiff, even a single atom referencing vaccines or additives, but loads and loads of the dark arts of mathematics and the darkest of the dark arts, statistics.

    But then, it seems that one can make up any old crap to accompany a research article.
    At least mine was a fanciful, if rather accurate version. Much unlike a certain, never to achieve his PhD if his thesis is anything like his blogging, came up with.

    • Given “the boy’s” over-exposure to the likes of the Geiers & Dr. Hooker, it isn’t surprising that his one-track mind has latched on to any scintilla of language that he deems relevant to his crusade – against a substance that was mostly removed from just about all vaccines over a decade ago…..

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