Wednesday, August 10, 2005

David Kirby: Stand Up Guy

Citizen Cain gets results! David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy has quickly responded via e-mail to my recent needling about his previous lack of response to my refutation (in my opinion) of his Huffington Post article. This article argued that autism among young children in California has decreased recently, possibly in response to reductions in the mercury content of vaccines. I argued that the California data in fact show continued increases in reported autism among young children in California.

Much praise, and a rosebud, to David Kirby for responding! And for doing so in a most gracious manner. I will post my response to this e-mail message as soon as possible. But for now, David Kirby has the floor:
Dear Citizen,

I greatly appreciate your email and your obvious interest in this subject. I will take heated opposition over apathy any day, and you are to be commended for your vigilance.

Forgive me for not responding sooner, as I only recently saw the post on your site and, yes, prepping for Russert is pretty time consuming.

Anyway, you are absolutely correct. I checked into what you were saying, and indeed, even though ALL new entries into the system in California have dropped in recent quarters, in the 3-5 year old range, they have actually ticked upward in some of them, including the last two.

According to the figures as I see them (They were provided to me by Rick Rollens of California; please tell me if your figures show otherwise), in the 2nd quarter of 2005, a net gain of 449 3-5 year old autism cases entered the DDS system: an increase of 36 cases over the first quarter of 2005, which had 413 entries (or, more correctly, net gain). This inturn represented an increase of 49 more cases over the 4th quarter of2004, which had a total of 366 new entries.

Meanwhile over the same period, among the six-to-nine year olds, the numbers went up slightly, and then back down again, as follows: 4th quarter 2004: 699 cases; 1st quarter 2004: 701 cases; 2nd quarter 2005: 642 cases.

I discovered this prior to going on MTP, and, had it come up, I would have gladly discussed it, as I am certainly not afraid of the truth.

But in this case, the truth is a little murky, and it is why I ALWAYS warn caution when the numbers game comes up (yes, even on the HuffingtonPost). The bottom line is that it is just too early to tell if we are seeing a trend or not, in my opinion. Here is why:

Quarterly numbers always vacillate. There is never a uniform number of entries each quarter of the year, and they almost always change from quarter to quarter. Here are the recent numbers as provided to me. Again, please let me know if your numbers show differently:

QUARTER ____3-5 y/o ____6-9 y/o
____________Entries ____entries
3/03_________ 519 ______792
4/03 _________383 ______786
1/04 _________327 ______691
2/04 _________336 ______713
3/04 _________386 ______708
4/04 _________366 ______699
1/05 _________413 ______701
2/05 _________449 ______642

As you can see, among the 3-5 year olds, there was a big drop in new cases between the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2003, it dropped again the next quarter, and then went back up the next. In fact, on this chart, the 3-5 year old new entries have gone up four times and gone down three. Among the 6-9 year olds, the change has been positive twice and negative five times. In both cases, however, entries in the 2nd quarter of 2005 are still lower than the third quarter of 2003.

Much more importantly, however, is the question of when thimerosal actually began to disappear from childhood vaccines sitting on the shelves of doctors' offices and clinics in California. It is a myth that "most" mercury came out in 1999. It wasn't even until July of 1999 that the government suggested that manufacturers begin to remove the mercury "as soon as possible." Factories did not get approval for, and begin making thimerosal-free vaccines until 2000 at the earliest (Except for Merck, which got approval in Sept. 1999 to make Hg-free Hep-B vaccine, though it is not clear when this new formula actually appeared on the shelves of doctors offices).

On Meet the Press, Dr. Fineberg said that some mercury containing pediatric vaccines expired in 2003. I have reason to believe it was later than that, as many vaccines without thimerosal were not even produced until 2001 or 2002, and most vaccines have a shelf life of about three years from manufacture, it is my understanding. (Again, correct me if I am wrong). Plus, it takes quite some time for new lots to work their way through the distribution system, and new stocks arenot ordered until old stocks begin to run low, as far as I can discern.

By this account, there were still mercury-containing vaccines on the shelf, potentially at least, until very recently. This matter is being investigated right now by the United States Senate, and we should have an answer soon, even if the Senators must subpoena the information (which they will, their staffs have indicated).

But let's take Dr. Fineberg at his word for now. He said at least some mercury containing vaccines (we don't know how many because the FDA won't say) expired in 2003. Meanwhile, 3-5 year old children entering the system now were born no later than June, 2002. In fact, we don't have the breakdown of individual birth cohorts, but one would imagine that there were more five year olds (born in 2000, when many kids were still getting the full amount of mercury in their shots) entering the system last quarter than three year olds, born in 2002. However, early intervention programs are lowering the age of diagnosis, and perhaps this ratio is changing as well.

Anyway, my point is that we don't yet know what the California numbers are telling us, and I never said we did. I have said they are "dropping" (they are, though I will certainly point out this new, and perhaps confounding, development). I have said they are "interesting" and"intriguing" and "bear watching." But I never held them out as proof of anything. Check the record and check the book, where I discuss other
possible reasons for the change in numbers, both up and down.

My guess, and it is admittedly a guess, is that MOST 3-5 year olds entering the system today, on average received relatively high levels of mercury in their vaccines. If the FDA would release the pertinent information, we would know exactly how much that was.

Again, many thanks for your correspondence, and for pointing out a very important wrinkle in the confusing California numbers. I certainly will not shy away from them.

All the best

David Kirby