Grasping at straws much?

If you really pay attention to what I’ve written in the past, you may have come across two papers in which I’ve been either an author or acknowledge. (Go ahead and kill yourself trying to figure out my real name, weirdo.) Each paper took more than a year to finalize. The one where I’m an author was a labour of love. There were drafts, re-drafts, edits, conference calls, and more drafts. CDC asked us to put together our findings for a poster presentation months before the paper was published. So we did. But our analyses changed a bit from the poster to the final paper. The principal investigator clarified what those changes were, and those changes were based on new data, on suggestions from the journal’s editors, and on edits from the group as we discussed it more.

What I’m getting at is that scientific papers change from conception to publishing. There are even times when the conclusions change completely as well. Anyone with a good scientific base knows this.

This was pretty much the case in a paper from back in the late 90’s looking at the association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Initial analyses of the data showed an association, an increased risk of autism in children who got some vaccines. But subsequent analysis — in which the data were clarified by actual scrutiny of medical records — showed that the association fizzled. In fact, the initial “increased” relative risk between those who were vaccinated and those who were not had huge confidence intervals, something you see in studies without much statistical power to them.

Anti-vaccine activists have been barking up this tree for a while. They keep saying that the early drafts of the paper prove that CDC knew that thimerosal caused autism. Who are they? Are they epidemiologists? No, they are not. They are “the kid” and his newest mentor, a PhD in chemistry or some such. The PhD has his panties in a bunch over the early drafts. Because the paper followed the normal process of things, there must be a conspiracy.

Except that there isn’t a conspiracy. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Read Dr. Emily Willingham’s epic deconstruction of this manufactroversy. It is such an epic takedown that the PhD and the people funding his grasping at straws issued a most libelous “press release“. So what did Dr. Willingham reply to all that libelous filth? The most epic reply ever, with the best bottom line:

“Bottom line from me, EJW: Pinning hopes to a 15-year-old preliminary abstract from a partially completed study and ignoring the ensuing 15 years of mounting evidence supporting and extending that study’s ultimate finding of no relationship between autism and thimerosal in vaccines is sufficiently revealing of just how little the mercury-in-vaccines-causes-autism folks have going for them, evidence-wise. Behaving as though an already known preliminary finding from the 1990s is some kind of smoking gun and buying news release dissemination to kick up a bunch of dust about it in the wake of all of the evidence to the contrary simply reeks of desperation. That’s my final comment on the issue.”

Yeah, keep pinning your hopes on that. I’m sure you’ll uncover “the troof” soon enough.