The Obama administration has granted whistleblower immunity to a federal government scientist that claimed he intentionally omitted information in a study that could have shown a race-based link between vaccines and childhood diseases including autism.
That scientist, still employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is working closely with a congressman’s office to tell his story to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
No official study has ever linked childhood vaccinations to serious mental defects or to autism or related disorders. Currently, controversy engulfs presidential contenders Chris Christie, Rand Paul and also Hillary Clinton after their past statements suggesting a possible vaccine-to-illness link were publicized this week in the midst of a measles outbreak.
In 2004, Dr. William S. Thompson worked on a report for the CDC’s National Immunization Program. That report, which ran in the “Pediatrics” medical journal, came to the conclusion that there’s no link between vaccines and autism and that no racial group is more likely to be damaged by vaccines.
But Thompson said that he and other CDC scientists intentionally fudged the results, manipulating the pool of children they analyzed and limiting the proper number of African-American children from participating. The authors limited black children from showing up in the results by excluding babies without a state of Georgia birth certificate.
“It was a mutual decision among the five co-authors,” Dr. Brian Hooker told The Daily Caller. An associate professor at California’s Simpson University, Hooker found out about the deception by secretly taping conversations that he had with Thompson last year. After beginning to talk to Thompson in 2013, he ended up getting Thompson’s information on audio record and disseminated the information in the vaccine-skeptic online community.
“I live close to the Oregon border. I taped the conversations in a hotel room,” Hooker said.
“I didn’t want people to run out and delay vaccination because of this, because it was only one piece of data. But it was the one piece of data that CDC chose to cover up,” Hooker said.
“I did record phone conversations without his prior knowledge. That’s not something I took lightly, and I went to the state of Oregon to do it,” said Hooker, the father of an autistic child. “I live fairly close to the Oregon border, so for most of the conversation I was taping him in a hotel. The stuff that was being revealed was really radioactive. I consulted with two different attorneys and decided to go ahead and record these phone calls.”
With Thompson’s lead, Hooker revised the data. “When I ran the effect for males only for African-Americans the likelihood was 3.36. Stronger effect in African-American males and it looked like the effect was exclusively in African-American males, not females.”
Thompson Told CDC Superiors About His Concerns
A letter Thompson sent to then-CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding in February 2004 discusses “problematic results” related to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and details the paranoid atmosphere at CDC at the time.
“We’ve not yet met to discuss these matters…I will be presenting the summary of our results from the Metropolitan Atlanta Autism Case-Control Study and I will have to present several problematic results relating to statistical associations between the receipt of MMR vaccine and autism,” Thompson wrote.
“It’s my understanding that you are aware of several news articles published over the past two weeks suggesting that Representative David Weldon is still waiting for a response from you regarding two letters he sent you regarding issues surrounding the integrity of your scientists in the National Immunization Program. I’ve repeatedly asked individuals in the NIP Office of the Directors Office why you haven’t responded directly to the issues raised in those letters and I’m very disappointed with the answers I’ve received to date. In addition, I’ve repeatedly told individuals in the NIP OD over the last several years that they’re doing a very poor job representing the immunization safety issues and that we’re losing in the public relations war.”
“On Friday afternoon, January 30th, I presented the draft slides for IOM presentation to Dr. Steve Cochi and Dr. Melinda Wharton. The first thing I stated to both of them was my sincere concern regarding presenting this work to the Institute of Medicine if you had not replied to Representative Weldon’s letters. I have attached the draft slides for your review.”
Gerberding is now an executive vice president at Merck after serving for a few years as president of Merck Vaccines. CDC and Merck did not return requests for comment for this report.
Dr. Thompson recently brought his case to Republican Florida Rep. Bill Posey.
“A whistleblower came to our office, Dr. William Thompson. He came forward with documents, saying that at CDC he had manipulated one of the studies he was an author on to get a desired outcome,” Posey spokesman George Cecala told TheDC. “The study has relation to vaccines and their relationship to autism.”
Posey staffer Anna Schartner said they reviewed Thompson’s statements and documents carefully.
“We’re working with the Science Committee to get a hearing,” Anna said. “What we’re talking about is integrity within an agency. It’s rightfully under the purview of the Science Committee.”
Republican House Science Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith did not respond to an inquiry about when the hearing might happen, or if it will still go forward amid the current national controversy.
“The congressman supports vaccinating your children,” Cecala said, noting that Thompson went to Posey with the information and not the other way around. “But parents should have all the information they need…You talk to a lot of parents on the phone and they’re very knowledgeable and passionate. A lot of parents out there say, ‘If I’d had more information, I would have done things differently.'”
Thompson gained official whistleblower immunity months ago. The Department of Justice fruitlessly referred TheDC to the whistleblower ombudsman within the Department of Health and Human Services, which adjudicates CDC employees’ whistleblower protection claims.
Having been unmasked on the Internet, Thompson released a statement through his attorney Rick Morgan of the Cincinnati law firm Morgan Verkamp:
“My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998,” Thompson stated in August 2014 on the law firm’s website. “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”
“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives,” Thompson continued. “I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”
“My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.”
Thompson’s lawyer Morgan chose not to comment for this article by press time.
“I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders,” Thompson said of Hooker in a statement after Hooker published the audio. “I share his belief that CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.”
“Based on my knowledge of William Thompson, I believe that he will testify,” Hooker said.
The CDC recently began making targeted phone calls to private cell phone users for internal research regarding vaccines.