Above image: Dr. Andrew Zimmerman
On Full Measure, I reported on the pro-vaccine scientist who says he informed government lawyers he worked for back in 2007 that vaccines can cause autism in exceptional cases. Dr. Andrew Zimmerman says the government suppressed and misrepresented his true opinion. The following provides further analysis and context of this important case.
What’s the significance of this report?
Dr. Andrew Zimmerman— the government’s own pro-vaccine medical expert who helped the government and pharmaceutical industry defeat vaccine-autism claims in vaccine court in 2007— now says he learned vaccines can cause autism in certain susceptible children. He said he informed the government a decade ago but that they hid his opinion and misrepresented it in vaccine court. Advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Junior, an attorney, has filed a fraud complaint against the Dept. of Justice lawyers accused of covering up Dr. Zimmerman’s opinion in vaccine court.
Dr. Zimmerman’s revelations upend nearly two decades of insistences from the vaccine industry, medical establishment and public health officials. His conclusions are in line with many peer-reviewed, scientific studies and researchers the government has long dismissed as “not credible.”
Dr. Zimmerman’s views are also in line with an admission from CDC’s head of immunization, Dr. Frank DeStefano, who acknowledged this same possibility when I interviewed him in 2014. It’s also consistent with the opinions of the late Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, who spoke with me of her concerns in 2008. And Dr. Zimmerman’s views are consistent with a great deal of peer reviewed, published science, as well as cases in federal vaccine court. However, this issue has long been misreported as if this other evidence doesn’t exist.
Dr. Zimmerman is recognized as one of the world’s leading pediatric neurologists specializing in autism and, since he is pro-vaccine and worked on the government and vaccine industry’s side, it’s difficult to dismiss him in the usual way as “anti-vaccine,” or a “crank” or “tin-foil hat conspiracy nut,” as vaccine interests and propagandists win the media typically try to do when this discussion takes place.
Where did Dr. Zimmerman tell his story, and what are the details?
In a sworn affidavit, Dr. Zimmerman states that in 2007 he privately told government Justice Department lawyers who’d hired him as an expert witness that vaccines can cause autism, after all. He explained that his conclusions were based on advances in science, medicine, and “clinical research of one of my patients in particular.”
Upon learning of Dr. Zimmerman’s opinion, he says, the Justice Department summarily fired him as an expert witness and purposely misrepresented his opinion in vaccine court (in his absence) telling the magistrate: “We know [Dr. Zimmerman’s] views on the issue…There is no scientific basis for a connection” between vaccines and autism.
Dr. Zimmerman calls that “highly misleading.” He’d told the Justice Dept. lawyers the opposite of what they quoted him as having said.
Since 2007, the government has withheld from the public Dr. Zimmerman’s findings and has instead continued to insist there is no link between vaccines and autism. Government and pharmaceutical interests have embarked upon aggressive campaigns to try to prevent the news media from reporting on vaccine safety issues, or to report it in a one-sided way; and to controversialize scientists and journalists who investigate or report on vaccine safety issues.
Conflicts of Interest
The Director of CDC (which oversees and promotes vaccines) during this time period, from 2002-2009, went on to become head of Merck’s vaccine division and reportedly earned millions through Merck stock sales.
By one estimate, the pharmaceutical corporations that produce vaccines will reach an $61 billion in sales by 2020. The pharmaceutical lobby group PhRMA spent $25.4 million lobbying Congress in 2017. The industry donates millions to Democrat and Republican political campaigns. Members of Congress say this paid influence permits the industry to control Congressional actions and investigations regarding its products. They say the vaccine industry also has the power to prevent or cancel hearings on vaccine safety issues.
What’s the takeaway?
Based on the findings of Dr. Zimmerman and other scientists, it is possible to investigate and identify conditions and vulnerabilities that make some children most susceptible to vaccine adverse events including autism. Strategies could be developed to make adjustments so that vulnerable children could be vaccinated differently and/or more safely. This way, a robust vaccine program could be preserved without sacrificing vulnerable children whose injuries can be prevented. However, the government has refused to fund or conduct such research in the decade since Dr. Zimmerman informed them of his opinion.
In the 2014 interview, CDC’s Dr. Frank DeStefano, also acknowledged that vaccines may trigger autism in a certain subset of children and stated that it might make sense to study to identify the children and the conditions that make them vulnerable. However, no such studies were initiated.
How does it happen?
Scientists explain that the same way most smokers never get cancer, yet smoking triggers cancer in certain susceptible people, there are conditions that make certain children susceptible to the most serious side effects of vaccines, including the form of brain damage we call autism.
There are various scientific theories regarding the mechanisms in vaccines that cause brain damage such as autism, immune disorders and other issues in some children. Dr. Zimmerman focused on one aspect he says he observed in one of his own patients named Hannah: immune stimulation from vaccinations and the fever that followed aggravated an otherwise invisible and undiagnosed deficiency called mitochondrial disorder.
According to Dr. Zimmerman, the 19-month old patient’s “regressive encephalopathy” was caused by her “underlying mitochondrial dysfunction, exacerbated by vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic energy reserves. This acute expenditure of metabolic reserves led to permanent irreversible brain injury. Thus, if not for this event, Hannah may have led a normal full productive live.” Instead, Hannah has “significant lifelong disability.”
There are other theories about vaccine-autism links involving: the impact of multiple vaccines in vulnerable patients, the response to thimerosal (mercury) and other products in vaccines, the impact of live virus vaccines in some babies, and more.
Scientists such as Dr. Healy have stated that with today’s advances, it’s possible to identify the susceptible children and conditions, and either use different vaccination practices on them, or not vaccinate, while still vaccinating other children normally and maintaining a robust vaccine program. The problem is since the government currently denies any link, it will not study or fund studies to identify these children.
Conditions proven or known to make children susceptible to developing autism after vaccination, or having severe adverse events include:
Fever or illness (which is why physicians are instructed not to vaccinate immune-compromised ill children)
Are you “anti-vaccine”?
No. I’m fully vaccinated and my daughter received all recommended childhood vaccinations on schedule.
Why did you begin covering this story?
I was assigned to cover military vaccine injuries at CBS News beginning with questions about the smallpox vaccine after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Plans to inoculate civilians with the smallpox vaccine were eventually cancelled after concerns about serious side effects surfaced in test cases of soldiers and first responders. During this time period, I began to develop sources in the government and vaccine industry who pointed me to scientific studies and information that surprised me because it was contrary to what the government and pharmaceutical industry publicly stated.
Why do some people call you “anti-vaccine”?
There’s a well-funded, organized propaganda campaign supported by pharmaceutical interests to falsely label scientists and journalists who investigate or report on vaccine safety as “anti-vaccine.”
How can I tell if what I’m reading is a propaganda effort against vaccine safety reporting?
The “news story” or blog will typically pit “emotional” parents (rather than the scientists) versus “science.” It will not recognize the existence of the many peer-reviewed, published scientists and articles that suggest links between vaccines and autism. In a one-sided way, it will attempt to controversialize or discredit anyone questioning vaccine safety, without applying the same skepticism to those who claim no links between vaccines and autism. Such propaganda often uses catch phrases such as “tin foil hat” “anti-vaxxer” “baby killer” “debunked myth” “crank” “nutty” and “quack”. This is to try to squelch information, convince people to mistrust the reporting, discredit the messengers so they are silenced, and have their work censored or questioned by the news, social media and the Internet.
There is a wide circle of blogs and media that assist in the propaganda campaign to censor or discredit balanced reporting on vaccine safety including, but not limited to: Mother Jones, Vaxopedia, Dr. Vincent Iannelli @AboutPediatrics, Huffington Post, Slate.com, Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times, Media Matters and its affiliates, University of California Hastings Professor Dorit Rubenstein Reiss, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit, “Science” Blogs such as: Skeptic.com, Skepchick.org, Scienceblogs.com (Respectful Insolence), Popsci.com and SkepticalRaptors.com, Gawker, Salon, Vox, American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), Raw Story and Daily Kos.
What’s in it for them?
Some are genuinely misinformed but mean well. Others deliberately misrepresent the facts. Some of them depend on or benefit from vaccine industry and government funding.