Back in November, In Shape Today magazine ran an article headlined “Now It’s Official: FDA Announced that Vaccines Are Causing Autism!” Those who read it should also read Dr. Daryl Sas’s article “What’s Incredible? Learning to Read Science Articles with a Critical Eye.” It will equip them to see the errors not just in this but in thousands and thousands of similar articles on this and other medical and other scientific subjects.
In Shape Today‘s article makes a fundamental mistake of logic: post hoc ergo propter hoc, that is, after this, therefore because of this. (Illustration: the sun rises after the rooster crows, but that doesn’t persuade us that the rooster’s crowing causes the sun’s rising.) The mention of autism occurs in this paragraph:
“Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, ANAPHYLACTIC REACTION, cellulitis, autism, CONVULSION/GRAND MAL CONVULSION, encaphalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence, and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies OR TO ESTABLISH A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP TO COMPONENTS OF TRIPEDIA VACCINE.”
The closing capitalized words reveal that the FDA has NOT “announced that vacines ARE CAUSING autism.” Indeed, it has expressly denied announcing that. It has simply said that these adverse events are “included … because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting.” Nothing more. No suggestion that this warrants further study. No suggestion of causal connection.
Indeed, it adds that “these events are reported voluntarily,” and anyone can report anything, true or false, and it might be verified or not. And it also says that because of this “it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies”—indeed, with such a reporting method and an unknown population size, it is in fact impossible to estimate frequency.
The adverse events I’ve capitalized (including SIDS, though that’s an acronym so would be capitalized anyway) are all at least potentially (and in the case of SIDS always) fatal and so would, one would think, cause far more angst than autism, which isn’t. That suggests that the authors of this article, claiming (falsely) that the FDA has announced that vaccines cause autism, have a particular motive to pin autism on vaccines, since otherwise they’d have made the same claim about all the other adverse events.
The article also lists, by their formal scientific names, a lot of ingredients of the vaccine. The scientific names sound scary, but most are common components of foods we eat routinely without worrying about “adverse events” following their use.
The article also doesn’t give any quantifications about the risk factor involved in the use of the vaccine. That is, it doesn’t reveal whether the adverse event happens to every person vaccinated, or to 1 in 1,000, or 1 in 1 million, or 1 in 1 billion.
And it doesn’t address other possible causes of autism. If out of a population of 1 million 100 will have autism regardless, then out of a population of 1 million who are vaccinated 100 will have autism, and that means the correlation is meaningless.
Finally, the article reports, as if it implied guilt and vast risk, that $3.4 billion has been “paid for vaccine adverse reactions and deaths from 1989 to 2017.”
Ignore the fact that “adverse reactions” can include things as small as a little puffiness at the vaccine site (see the list quoted above again) and that there’s no indication of how frequent deaths have been–and ignores, again, the distinction between events that merely follow vaccination and events definitely caused by vaccination. What’s most deceptive in this claim is that it fails to offer any sense of proportion.
Since 1979, average number of births per year in the US has been nearly 4 million. That makes a total of nearly 156 million births. Approximately 85% of children born in the US receive DTP, DT, or DTaP vaccine, i.e., about 133 million. Divide the $3.4 billion by 133 million and you get $25.56 per person.
That’s a fair proxy for an estimate of the value of the risk a child is exposed to when taking a vaccine—and yet that’s for ALL vaccines, not just for DTaP, and for ALL adverse reactions, not just for autism, and it should be compared with the value of the risk (which is much higher) the unvaccinated child is exposed to of the various diseases prevented by the vaccines. (I haven’t found figures just for DTaP, but since it’s just one of many, the money paid out for adverse reactions following it would be just a fraction of that.)
And even then, the risk is only statistical; the FDA has NOT said the vaccines caused ANY of the adverse reactions listed.
Finally, that figure doesn’t reveal the fact that in many (most?) cases, pharmaceutical companies simply settle suits with payouts, with no admission of guilt, because it’s less expensive to do so than to fight them in court.
In short, neither the article nor the FDA announcement provides any evidence that DTaP (or any other vaccine) causes autism.
P.S. If you liked this article you might enjoy our Cornwall Alliance Email Newsletter! Sign up here to receive analysis on top issues of the day related to science, economics, and poverty development. As a thank you for signing up, you will receive a link to watch Dr. Beisner’s 84 minute lecture “Climate Change and the Christian: What’s True, What’s False, What’s our Responsibility?” Free!