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Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism

Truth

Here we go again.

If there’s anything that ignites the fevered brains (such as they are) of antivaccine activists, it’s a good seeming conspiracy. Indeed, as we’ve seen before, if they can’t find a legitimate one, they’ll either exaggerate one or make one up out of whole cloth. This week, an “alleged” conspiracy has been brewing. It’s really the damnedest thing in that it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on. Whatever is going on, though, I would recommend extreme skepticism because two people are involved whose word you would be very foolish to trust on any scientific matter relating to vaccines: Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker. It began with a paper published in yet another journal I’ve never heard of, Translational Neurodegeneration, and accelerated last night with the release of a video that claims to name a former high ranking CDC official as a “whistleblower” for the finding that the CDC has been “covering up” (of course!) the “truth” that the MMR vaccine causes autism. This is one that might require multiple posts as information dribbles out and people figure out exactly what is really going on. In the meantime, let’s start with the video, released by Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel, the same “channel” that tried to make antivaccine hay over the murder of an autistic boy. Here’s the video, which is now also on YouTube:

(Note that I’ve downloaded a copy in case it changes, as apparently it has before.)

A partial transcript can be found at—where else?—that wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery, Age of Autism.

The first thing one notices about the video is how intentionally inflammatory it is. The “malfeasance” (if such it is) being discovered is compared unfavorably—yes, unfavorably—to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, complete with lurid pictures patients suffering from advanced syphilis and the introduction of Peter Buxton, the Public Health Service investigator who blew the whistle on the experiment, because, apparently, to Wakefield and Hooker autism is just like end stage syphilis. (Yes, there is another “whistleblower” in this video.) The “malfeasance” being claimed is that the CDC supposedly covered up the link between MMR and autism in African American boys, hence the puffed up rhetoric about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Before I go into that more, there is one thing that bears mentioning here. The video even concludes with the sheer Godwin-y goodness (from an entertainment standpoint) of references to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, because, I guess, autism is just like the mass murder of millions, at least in the minds of Wakefield supporters.

Of course, the key finding in Brian Hooker’s paper is that Wakefield was wrong. Indeed, in this video, Wakefield even admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. Let that sink in again. He admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. OK, he says we were “partially right,” but the flip side of that is that he must have been mostly wrong. What do I mean? I’ll explain.

The claims being put forward in the video is that earlier MMR vaccination is associated with an increased risk of autism in African-American boys and that the CDC has spent the last 13 years covering this linkage up. These charges are based the result of a “reanalysis” by Brian Hooker in Translational Neurodegeneration entitled Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data. The study which has been “reanalyzed” is from a study by DeStefano et al in 2004 published in Pediatrics entitled Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. That study was a case-control study in which age at first MMR vaccination was compared between autistic “cases” and neurotypical controls. Vaccination data were abstracted from immunization forms required for school entry, and records of children who were born in Georgia were linked to Georgia birth certificates for information on maternal and birth factors. Basically, no significant associations were found between the age cutoffs examined and the risk of autism. I note that, even in this “reanalysis” by Brian Hooker, there still isn’t any such correlation for children who are not African American boys.

I’ll get into the issues with this study a bit more later, but I’ll admit up front that it’s hard to go too deeply into this study without a statistician and access to the actual restricted data set from the CDC used. Not having access to the data set, I have no way of knowing if the analyses Hooker used were appropriate. However, for purposes of this post, let’s just, for a thought experiment, assume Hooker’s study comes to a valid conclusion (which is, given that it’s Hooker, highly unlikely, but stay with me for a moment). If that were the case, these results are no reassurance whatsoever to the vast majority of antivaccinationists supporting Wakefield. This study says nothing whatsoever about, for instance, Jenny McCarthy and her son’s autism, other than that there is no link between MMR and autism for children like him. Remember, the most vocal antivaccinationists jumping all over this are not African-American but instead tend to be UMC or even highly affluent Caucasians. There’s absolutely nothing in even Hooker’s ham-fisted “reanalysis” of this data to tell them that the MMR vaccine caused their children’s autism.

All there is left is a chance to hype up the conspiracy mongering machine against the hated CDC, because even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support an increased risk of autism with earlier MMR vaccination in white babies. Zero. Nada. Zip. This leads to a bunch of “Tuskegee” handwaving to hide that finding, that even taking his best shot at it the most Hooker could come up with after he tortured the data was a correlation between age of MMR vaccination and autism in African Americans babies—and not just African-American babies, but African-American male babies. Even taken at face value, Hooker et al is a disaster for the vast majority of antivaccine activists. This can’t be repeated often enough. But does the study support an increased risk for African American males, as claimed?

There are a couple of things you have to remember whenever looking at a study that is billed as a “reanalysis” of an existing data set that’s already been published. The first is that no one—I mean no one—”reanalyzes” such a dataset unless he has an ax to grind and disagrees with the results of the original analysis so strongly that he is willing to go through the trouble of getting institutional review board (IRB) approval, as Hooker did from Simpson University, going to the CDC to get this dataset, and then analyzing it. Think, for instance, the infamous “reanalysis” by homeopaths of the meta-analysis of Shang et al that concluded that the effects of homeopathy are placebo effects. The reanalysis did not refute the original meta-analysis. The second thing you have to remember is that it’s pretty uncommon for such a “reanalysis” to refute the original analysis. Certainly, antivaccine “researchers” like Hooker try to do this all the time. Occasionally they get their results published in a bottom-feeding peer-reviewed journal (Translational Neurodegeneration doesn’t even appear to have an impact factor yet), as Hooker has. It means little.

So what about the paper itself? First, one has to go back to Destefano et al 2004. Basically, this was a case-control study in which 624 case children were identified from multiple sources and matched to 1,824 control children on age, gender, and school. In case control studies, researchers look at (usually) two groups of people, cases (those with the condition under study) and controls (those without) and tries to match them as closely as possible to every other confounding factor except for the risk factor being studied, in this case, the age of receiving first MMR vaccination. Porta’s Dictionary of Epidemiology defines the case-control study as: “an observational epidemiological study of persons with the disease (or another outcome variable) of interest and a suitable control group of persons without the disease (comparison group, reference group). The potential relationship of a suspected risk factor or an attribute to the disease is examined by comparing the diseased and nondiseased subjects with regard to how frequently the factor or attribute is present (or, if quantitative, the levels of the attribute) in each of the groups (diseased and nondiseased).” They then see if that risk factor is higher in the case population than it is in the control population. This is in comparison to cohort studies, in which researchers look at groups of people who vary in exposure to a given putative risk factor (for instance, vaccines), each controlled for every other potential risk factor that the authors can control for, and then determine if the condition for which that putative risk factor is suspected to be a risk factor for. A cohort study can be retrospective (looking at existing data) or prospective (the cohorts determined in advance and then followed over time), while case control studies are retrospective.

It’s also not uncommon for epidemiologists to choose more controls than cases in case-control studies. In any case, one thing Destefano et al did was to perform a case control study of children in metropolitan Atlanta looking at age at first MMR vaccination (0-11 months; 12-17 months; 18-23 months; 24-29 months; 30-35 months; and 36+ months). They found no statistically significant correlations. They also looked at a subgroup of the groups, children for whom a Georgia birth certificate could be located, in order to test correlations for other traits:

We matched 355 (56%) case and 1020 (56%) control children to Georgia state birth certificate records, which allowed us to obtain additional information, such as each child’s birth weight and gestational age and the mother’s parity, age, race, and education.

There was no significant correlation noted in various groups based on race, maternal age, maternal education, and birth weight. It’s all pretty straightforward, at least a straightforward as a epidemiological study can be. The only hint of a whiff of anything in it helpful to antivaccinationists was this:

Vaccination before 36 months was more common among case children than control children, especially among children 3 to 5 years of age, likely reflecting immunization requirements for enrollment in early intervention programs.

In other words, it’s a result that is likely not due to an actual effect.

Fast forward to Brian Hooker’s study. The first thing I noticed reading it was that it contains a lot of the usual red flags of antivaccine papers. Hooker cites several Mark Geier papers as evidence of a correlation between vaccines and autism, to try to make it seem as though there is an actual scientific controversy. He even cites a Wakefield paper.

Then there is the methods section. It’s really not very clear exactly what Hooker did with this dataset, other than muck around with it using SAS® software. He keeps referring to “cohorts,” which made me wonder right away whether he was not doing the same sort of analysis as Destefano. Instead of doing a case control study, it looks as though he did a cohort study:

The Pearson’s chi -squared test contained in the SAS® software was utilized for current statistical analyses, and a two-sided p-value <  0.05 was considered statistically significant. This is in contrast to the original Destefano et al. [14] (CDC) study, where a case–control study design was used, where 3 control children were matched to each case child, and analyzed using conditional logistic regression dichotomized for the three age cut-offs at 18, 24 and 36 months...In the present study, frequencies of cases were determined for first MMR ages of less than versus greater than 18 months, 24 months and 36 months in each separate analysis.

Yep, he did a cohort study. Basically, he looked at the risk of an autism diagnosis in the groups first exposed to MMR at different age ranges. Remember, case control = comparing risk factor frequency in people with a condition compared to controls; cohort = examining risk of condition in people with different exposures.

There’s an old saying in epidemiology (and in science in general) that says that if you torture data enough, eventually they will confess. With this in mind, it’s hard not to think of Brian Hooker as the Spanish Inquisition. I find it very telling that Hooker couldn’t find (or didn’t bother to look for) coauthor who is an actual epidemiologist or statistician. Heck, Jake Crosby wasn’t available? He might not be an epidemiologist, but he does have a degree in epidemiology and is in graduate school. What training in epidemiology or statistics does Brian Hooker have that qualifies him to do a retrospective cohort study like this? None that I can see. My first rule of thumb doing anything involving anything more complicated than the rudimentary statistics that I use to analyze laboratory experiments (such as even a “simple” clinical trial) is to find a statistician. While it’s true that Hooker used to lead a high throughput biology team, which likely required some statistical expertise, that’s a different sort of statistics and experimental design than epidemiology. Basically, if you’re going to do epidemiology, you should find an epidemiologist to collaborate with, and if you’re going to do something that requires some heavy statistical lifting you really need to get a statistician on board as well before you start the study.

So is Hooker’s result valid? Was there really a 3.36-fold increased risk for autism in African-American males who received MMR vaccination before the age of 36 months in this dataset? Who knows? Hooker analyzed a dataset collected to be analyzed by a case-control method using a cohort design. Then he did multiple subset analyses, which, of course, are prone to false positives. As we also say, if you slice and dice the evidence more and more finely, eventually you will find apparent correlations that might or might not be real. In this case, I doubt Hooker’s correlation is real. More importantly, even if his statistics were correctly done, his changing the design is highly suspect, particularly when coupled with claims being promulgated by our good buddy Jake Crosby that the CDC intentionally left out subjects in order to hide this correlation:

According to Dr. Hooker, the CDC whistleblower informant — who wishes to remain anonymous — guided him to evidence that a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys was hidden by CDC researchers. After data were gathered on 2,583 children living in Atlanta, Georgia who were born between 1986 and 1993, CDC researchers excluded children that did not have a valid State of Georgia birth certificate — reducing the sample size being studied by 41%. Hooker explains that by introducing this arbitrary criteria into the analysis, the cohort size was sharply reduced, eliminating the statistical power of the findings and negating the strong MMR-autism link in African American boys.

This is an accusation neither Hooker’s study nor anything any antivaccinationist has published thus far provides any tangible evidence for. Requiring the birth certificate was not an “arbitrary” criterion, either. It allowed investigators to account for known confounders related to autism risk, such as birth weight, at least in this subset of the case and control groups. I also can’t help but think there is likely to be a confounder that is unaccounted for in this study, particularly given how there increase in risk is found in only one group. In fact, as Reuben at The Poxes Blog explains, there almost certainly was just such a confounder:

Next come the statistics. Hooker uses Pearson’s chi squared test to see if there is a significant association between MMR and autism in children at different ages. DeStefano et al used conditional logistic regression. For the non-biostatisticians out there, the technique that DeStefano et al used accounts for confounders and effect modifiers, different traits in their population that could skew the results. Hooker’s technique doesn’t really do that, unless you stratify results and use very, very large datasets. Hooker’s approach is more “conservative,” meaning that it will detect small effects and amplify them, and those effects can come from anything.

In other words, Hooker used a method prone to false positives. Then:

The nail in the coffin for the Hooker paper is that autism is usually diagnosed by the time a child is three years old. There was no increased risk at 18 months, higher but not by a whole lot at 24, and then the three-fold increase at 36 months. Gee, was it the MMR vaccine, mister? No, the effect is being modified by age. It’s as if I asked you if your shoe size was bigger at 36 months because you drank milk vs because you were 36 months. It’s age. It’s the way that autism is diagnosed. You’re going to have more children diagnosed as autistic at 36 months than you will at 18 months or at 24 months. Using the chi square test doesn’t tease this out, Dr. Hooker! That’s more than likely why DeStefano et al used conditional logistic regression, to take age into account in the analysis.

So why did we not see this in the other ethnic groups or in girls? The answer here is simple, again. Hooker had a limited dataset to work with when he boiled it down to African-American baby boys. In this table, for example, he tells us that he had to modify the analysis to 31 months instead of 36 because he had less than 5 children in that group. It’s the same goddamned mistake that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield wanted to pass off as legitimate science. You cannot, and must not use small numbers to make big assertions…

Quite right. I should have seen that right off the bat.

And, of course, there’s no biologically plausible reason why there would be an effect observed in African-Americans but no other race and, more specifically than that, in African-American males. In the discussion, Hooker does a bunch of handwaving about lower vitamin D levels and the like in African American boys, but there really isn’t a biologically plausible mechanism to account for his observation, suggesting that it’s probably spurious. Finally, even if Destefano et al is thrown out, it’s just one study. There are multiple other studies, many much larger than this one, that failed to find a correlation between MMR and autism. Even if Hooker succeeded in “knocking out” Destefano et al, it doesn’t invalidate all that other evidence.

Hooker’s “reanalysis” aside, somehow, some way, a senior CDC scientist has made the massive mistake of speaking with Brian Hooker. That CDC scientist is William Thompson, well-respected (until, possibly, now) scientist and co-author of Destefano et al, as well as first author on a widely cited NEJM study showing no correlation between thimerosal in vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders, among other studies. The first thing I noticed listening to Thompson in Wakefield’s video is just how little he is quoted. Instead he’s paraphrased by Hooker, who portrays himself as Thompson’s “confessor” to whom Thompson is “confessing.” The parts with Thompson’s voice appear highly edited, brief sound bites. They sound, at least the way they are presented, highly damning on first listen. It seems very odd on first listen. Heck, it sounds very odd on second listen. So what really happened? Again, who knows? You’ll excuse me if I reserve judgment until more information comes in from sources other than Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker because I suspect that what we’re seeing is a highly one-sided presentation of cherry picked information. It is, after all, Wakefield and Hooker we’re talking about.

In the meantime, remember this. Even if Hooker is “right,” he has just undermined the MMR-autism hypothesis and proven Wakefield wrong, with the possible (and unlikely) exception of a single group, African American males. Given the dubiousness of his analysis and background, he hasn’t even demonstrated it for them, either, particularly given the copious other studies that have failed to find a correlation between MMR and autism. What he has done, apparently, is found grist for a perfect conspiracy theory to demonize the CDC, play the race card in a truly despicable fashion, and cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the CDC vaccination program, knowing that most of the white antivaccine activists who support hate the CDC so much that they won’t notice that even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support their belief that vaccines caused the autism in their children.

ADDENDUM:

Whoa. The beat goes on and on and on. Our “buddy” Jake Crosby is now claiming that Andrew Wakefield betrayed William Thompson by identifying him in the video without Thompson’s permission:

Andrew Wakefield has betrayed the CDC whistleblower by releasing his name without his consent. On the Autism Media Channel website, a video hosted by Wakefield is up announcing the whistleblower’s name and playing recordings of his voice. In the video is scientist and parent Dr. Brian Hooker, who had been in discussions with the whistleblower and made the catastrophic mistake of sharing his identity with Wakefield. Complicit in the betrayal is Age of Autism, which is promoting Wakefield’s video while repeating the whistleblower’s name.

In commentary to a small group of people later relayed to Autism Investigated, attorney Robert Krakow commented:

“I am very familiar with the information [whistleblower] offered. Disclosure of [whistleblower]’s existence and identity at this point in time is a colossal blunder and an inexplicable error in judgment that damages irreparably the opportunity to use [whistleblower]’s very valuable information and testimony effectively. I know that Brian Hooker did not make the disclosure.”

It remains truly ironic that Andrew Wakefield – a man betrayed by the Lancet editor a decade ago – would turn around and betray the trust of someone who has come forward with valuable information about the fraud committed in a federal agency. Also ironic is that Wakefield similarly betrayed the trust of Dr. Brian Hooker, whose congressional activities have been repeatedly undermined by groups associated with Age of Autism.

Given Jake’s past reliability, take this with a grain of salt. It does have plausibility in that, given Wakefield’s history I could totally see him betraying a “whistleblower” like that. However, I don’t for a moment believe that, if it’s true that Wakefield “outed” Thompson without his permission, Hooker didn’t know about it and at least acquiesce, if not actually approve. I mean, seriously. Hooker spent a lot of time in front of the camera bragging about how he had become William Thompson’s “confessor” and relating what Thompson had said to him, and he didn’t think Wakefield would use that footage? He’s either complicit or a irredeemably stupid and gullible. Take your pick. Of course, Jake is Brian Hooker’s best bud these days and admires him far out of proportion to any reason there might be to admire Hooker; my guess is that he wants to protect Hooker from this allegation, and that’s why he made the claim that Hooker knew nothing.

ADDENDUM #2:

Well, well, well. Andy Wakefield jumps in:

Jake, in light of your serious allegation that I “betrayed” the whistleblower by disclosing his name without permission, I asked you how you knew this. You replied “my sources”. There are no sources other than the whistleblower himself that would know whether or not this was the case since this matter was discussed between the two of us, in several of our conversations. I did, as a matter of fact, have his full knowledge and his permission to do what “I felt best” with the uncensored video.

Although it is a moot point, I remain perplexed as to quite why a man who participated in a prolonged scientific fraud – one that likely resulted in harm to many children – should merit anonymity on his terms. The misinformation you have put out has spread through an already divided community. Your reporting on this matter does you no credit.

So that’s Wakefield’s story, is it? That Thompson gave him permission to “do what he felt best,” but that Thompson doesn’t deserve anonymity on his terms. Why is it that I don’t believe Wakefield’s first claim in light of his attitude expressed in the second part of his comment?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

388 replies on “Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism”

Hooker has appeared on both Alex Jones’ and Gary Null’s show ( the latter @ PRN yesterday, tape) and Mike Adams has jumped on the bandwagon even venturing a hypothesis concerning the selective vaccine damage ( black children are vitamin D deficient).

For some reason this reminds me of Jake’s assertaion to Orac’s friend about thimerisol’s effect on a select population which didn’t pan out that well.

I DO like Hooker’s description of the dedcision to not use children without a birth certificate as “arbitrary”. There would be no reason to do something like that I’m sure except to cover-up malfeasance.

That should be the REMOVAL OF THIMERISOL or suchlike. You know what I mean.

Lets do some more bad statistics. If there is a correlation at 36 months but none at 24 and 18, one could deduct that it is vaccinations after 24 months that trigger autism. As autism is typically diagnosed by age 24 months, Brian Hooker has just demonstrated retroactive causality. Nobel price for Brian Hooker!
Distractors could naturally argue that those were unvaccinated kids that got vaccinated after diagnosis, but they didn’t look at what came first, the chicken or the egg.

I suppose Hooker’s readers might wonder about the healthcare-seeking behavior of the parents who did not have their boys vaccinated with MMR until years after the vaccine is recommended in comparison to the parents of boys who received the vaccine earlier. It’s clear that socioeconomic status and ethnicity can influence both vaccine uptake and access to healthcare–and to diagnosis of ASD.

Nice that Hooker once again showed that Wakefield is wrong, though.

Yeah, I couldn’t resist using that as the title to this post because (1) it’s true and (2) it’ll annoy the heck out of Hooker and Wakefield. 🙂

it’s hard not to think of Brian Hooker as the Spanish Inquisition

“Our greatest weapon is fear. Fear and surprise. Our two greatest weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency. Our three greatest weapons are ….”

No doubt Hooker employed that fiendish device, the comfy chair.

It appears that AoA’s commenters are truly impressed with Hooker’s monumental achievement as
they pray for Thompson’s safety and our old friend Gergles muses that the ‘shills’ are ‘relatively quiet’ upon hearing this disastrous news.

Yes, they are! Utterly gobsmacked, their breath literally taken away by Hooker’s incredible investigatory and statistical expertise; theirpowers of analysis rendered uselkess. We shan’t sleep at night for many months to come. Oh Lord, can I get a script ? My goodness, Orac only wrote 2000 words this time! He must be absolutely paralysed with fear as he realises…..
the jig is up!
Horrors! What shall we do?

In a subset analysis of fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency, Hooker found that there was statistically significant association between ruthless efficiency and autism.

Hooker is claiming a conspiracy by efficiency experts to suppress the data.

What most people do not understand is that if you have enough subgroups, you should find some subgroup that has results that are statistically significant.

The results of subgroup analysis that suggest a statistically significant association may be something to look at, but he did not lower the p value to account for the number of subgroup reanalyses.

If you flip a coin enough times, you will get a series of heads (or tails) that appears to be statistically significant, but only if taken out of context. Or if you are Rosencrantz or Guildenstern and only exist as a plot device.

.

Both Mu and brian make excellent points which were completely ignored by Hooker. Also, given the nature of the study, case-control (originally) no information is collected regarding temporal events. In other words, it is not known when the age of an ASD diagnosis or report of behaviours and receipt of MMR were.

Nice post Orac.

“Requiring the birth certificate was not an “arbitrary” criterion, either. It allowed investigators to account for known confounders related to autism risk, such as birth weight, at least in this subset of the case and control groups. I also can’t help but think there is likely to be a confounder that is unaccounted for in this study, particularly given how there increase in risk is found in only one group.”

I actually used Google to check the State of Georgia Birth Certificate Worksheet which appears to be the most currently used (Revised 2009), Worksheet and found this. I’m unable to locate the State of Georgia Birth Certificate Worksheet which was used for the children in the DeStefano, et al study covering birth years 1986-1993.

http://www.dawninglife.com/resources/Birth-Certificate-Worksheet-1212.pdf

That video with Wakefield as the Director and Narrator is dreadful. I happen to think that comparing autistic children to having syphilis is an abomination.

The results of subgroup analysis that suggest a statistically significant association may be something to look at, but he did not lower the p value to account for the number of subgroup reanalyses.

D’oh! I forgot to mention that I didn’t think that Hooker corrected for multiple comparisons!

I should clarify, age of MMR is known but it is unknown when an ASD diagnosis or first reports of concern were made. There is no way to know which came first yet on AoA they are using the word “causes”.

I am actually suspicious about Hooker’s use of SAS. As a SAS user myself, I know (to my sorrow), that it’s very easy to get results that don’t actually show what they should. The results look “right” (you got no error messages when running the program), but the results aren’t accurate.

SAS users – at least the good ones – learn very early to think about what results they expect to see (i.e. – I expect to see 1000 result lines totaling about X amount but I only see 800 lines totaling Y amount…is something wrong or are my expectations off?) I’d really love to vet his program and data.

I stand corrected.

Interestingly enough, the AoA contingent seems pleased that this ‘tampering’ was revealed BUT while they support Hooker’s fine-tooth comb approach to data, it actually shows NO effect on white children ( which I surmise that most of their own are) so what are they so frigging thrilled about?

The CDC is a source of bad data therefore all of its data is illegitimate and not to be trusted, is it? But Hooker, their boy, says absolutely NOTHING about the white children- and believe me, if there were an iota of a shade of hit of a correlation, he’d shriek it to high heaven. But he doesn’t

And seriously, isn’t that their entire *raison d’etre*:
‘vaccines caused MY child’s autism’?.

Oh the comments on AoA are a sight to see. First DOlmsted compares Thompson to Snowden, Gergles tries to pin Orac as a racist and one of the other braintrust explains how we can only take our talking points from our pay masters hence the relative silence.

Looks like the “whistleblower” is William Thompson, original second author on the DeStefano paper, and is claiming that the original research excluded the statistics on African American boys.

The anti-vaxxers are going nuts over it.

Looks like the “whistleblower” is William Thompson, original second author on the DeStefano paper, and is claiming that the original research excluded the statistics on African American boys.

The anti-vaxxers are going nuts over it.

@ Science Mom:

Oh bovine crapola! I have been noting the various anti-vax reactions to Hooker since Sunday or Monday right here.

Oh wait! Does that make me a ‘paymaster’?

I see an AoA commentator has decided that Orac is racist:
‘Incredibly, Orac said something that was utterly racist that I really didn’t expect of him…’
‘…Orac explains that even if the allegations are correct, and the CDC study did initially find greater cases of autism for kids whose MMR vaccines were not delayed, white anti-vaxxers should not seize on this because the study was done on black kids.’

Words fail me (they don’t rly but my boss says I’m only allowed one rant a day on his time…)

Why didn’t Hooker release the data somewhere so it could be evaluated by others? Big red flag.

Orac notes that Brian Hooker’s paper cites several Mark Geier publications (Geier being the doc who’s tried to commercialize Lupron treatment of young autistic boys and wound up with a long trail of suspended and revoked medical licenses).

I don’t recall if it’s been covered here, but Hooker recently _co-authored_ a paper with Mark Geier, which attempts to dismiss a half-dozen studies showing a lack of harm by thimerosal, by claiming they have “methodological issues” and/or “evidence of malfeasance”.

Hooker isn’t too fastidious about who he takes on as collaborators, because the paper’s co-authors also include David Geier and Boyd Haley.

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/247218/

So Hooker’s strategy seems to be dismissal of as much research as possible that refutes a vaccine-autism link, preferably via allegations of wrongdoing. In an ironic twist, Mr. Slipshod Ethics himself, Andrew Wakefield has turned out to be a casualty of this campaign. 🙂

‘…Orac explains that even if the allegations are correct, and the CDC study did initially find greater cases of autism for kids whose MMR vaccines were not delayed, white anti-vaxxers should not seize on this because the study was done on black kids.’

Talk about a straw man argument and a total and complete misunderstanding of the study and what I wrote. What I said is that Hooker’s own study failed to find a link between MMR and autism in any kids other than African-American males, and even then the link is questionable at best.

I did figure, however, that the antivaccine kooks would throw the “racist” canard at me over my pointing out to them (at least their most prominent faces) that they can’t have it both ways. If they believe this study, then they are accepting that both Destefano et al and Hooker’s study show no evidence of increased risk of autism in any child who isn’t an African-American male, which means Hooker’s study doesn’t provide evidence supporting the belief in MMR causation of autism in the vast majority of children portrayed by the movement as “vaccine-injured.”

Oh wait! Does that make me a ‘paymaster’?

Depends, did you give Orac his orders? And if you got promoted and I didn’t, Our Lord Draconis is going to be minus his head cheese soufflé next minion pot luck. And when I say head cheese, this is Lord Draconis we’re talking about.

Mr. Crosby claims on his own blog that Andrew Wakefield betrayed Thompson by releasing his identity.

So just to reiterate, if Hooker is correct and properly conducted his analysis, then MMR poses no risk of autism in anyone other than African American males. Then the question becomes, what is so biologically different about African American males that makes them susceptible to autism due to MMR, but not anyone else? It’s biologically implausible. And why only males, but not females? If it is a racial thing, then we’d expect to see at least a little increase risk among African American females, too.

So what Hooker has shown is that all of those parents whose children are not African American males who claim MMR caused their child’s autism are wrong. If those parents remain convinced that they are right, they should be very upset with Hooker. Heck, I imagine they should be upset, anyway, since now they must find some new cause. Their world is all a-flutter once more.

@Dorit Reiss

Wait. Jake Crosby, who also violated journalistic ethics to reveal what was told to him off the record, is saying that Wakefield is in the wrong?

Jake has a different level of ethics when it comes to whistleblowers as opposed to people who just told him stuff they thought he’d keep private.

@Mephistopheles O’Brien

What’s kind of amusing is that Jake used to be a Wakefield fanboi. I guess since Wakefield hitched his wagon to AoA a bit too much, Wakefield is now on Jake’s s*** list.

It’s racist to point out that research results that only apply to male African American children only apply to male African American children? Who knew?

@Krebiozen

Maybe he’s arguing that it’s racist to point out that all those white folk blaming the MMR for their kids’ autism is racist. Or something. Greg’s not known for reading comprehension.

Love it. This paper was published in GreenMed Info on Tue. Aug 19. (http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/breaking-whistleblower-names-cdc-scientists-covering-vaccine-autism-link) And so far has 162 comments. Most by anti-vaccine folk. I initially responded to say that the paper had a couple of holes in it (like no raw data) and would probably not be peer reviewed very well. Of course, I got jumped on. What surprised me was the outcry about peer reviewed data and how horrible it was. I kept asking them to give an alternative idea – you can imagine how that went over.
Then somehow the discussion turned to how Vit. C will cure Ebola – thats when it really got interesting.
Anyway, if anybody gets bored and wants to see what some real whack jobs think – check out the site.

Oh, I just published Orcs link over there. Will be curious to see if any try to push their same nonsense on this site. Man your battle stations!

Wakefraudytrousers has cracking previous form with exposing the names of whistleblowers who want to remain anonymous.
He did it with his MMR study too.

It gets even better, Wakefraudytrousers asks Jake Crosby:

Andy Wakefield on August 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm said:
Jake,
May I simply ask how you know that I revealed his name without his consent?

Andy

Make mine a tub o’ corn please.

@Sandman2:

Oh, I just published Orcs link over there. Will be curious to see if any try to push their same nonsense on this site. Man your battle stations!

Thank you so much. I haven’t had a good chew tow ever since the Gregger was banned. I sincerely hope some antivaxxers show up.

It began with a paper published in yet another journal I’ve never heard of, Translational Neurodegeneration

He must have been tickled pink to find an OA journal that’s waiving APCs, even if it has amateurish production values®.

According to Dr. Hooker, the CDC whistleblower informant — who wishes to remain anonymous — guided him to evidence that a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys was hidden by CDC researchers.

Wait, Jake, are you saying that the result of the paper was preordained? Isn’t this sort of thing supposed to be mentioned somewhere?

From American Loon #1050 comes this shocking update:

William W Thompson, PhD…the CDC whistleblower…was escorted off the premises of the CDC campus yesterday afternoon. This is what a source has just told me.

Therefore, the CDC knows Thompson is the whistleblower.

He’s in danger.

This bit appears to be correct, though:

I’ve also been told that the Autism Media Channel, which had posted the video revealing Thompson’s name and outing him, is gone. The site is suddenly gone.

@Narad

A couple options for Autism Media Channel’s coming down:

1) Overloaded with real traffic and so is inaccessible.
2) Overloaded with a DDoS attack and so is inaccessible.
3) Incompetence. Someone clicked the wrong button and made it inaccessible.
4) Shadowy figures in the pocket of Big Pharma™ took it down.
5) Wakefield & co. intentionally brought it down in order to further fuel the conspiracy story.

And why only males, but not females?

If my understanding is correct that autism is much more prevalent in males than females, then I can understand how this might happen. There may not be enough African-American females in the sample for the difference to be statistically significant, especially if the alleged effect in African-American males is barely statistically significant. Recall that a p value is the probability of obtaining your result by chance. Since in biomedical research the significance threshold is 0.05 (for good reasons, namely that it is often difficult to get a large enough sample size to enforce a stricter standard), that means that many spurious correlations are reported in the literature. As you note, no plausible causal mechanism for an increased risk of autism in African-Americans has been advanced. So we should be skeptical of the claim, even if it is being reported accurately.

1) Overloaded with real traffic and so is inaccessible.
2) Overloaded with a DDoS attack and so is inaccessible.

Negatory on these two.

Domain Name: AUTISMMEDIACHANNEL.COM
Registrar: TUCOWS DOMAINS INC.
Whois Server: whois.tucows.com
Referral URL: http://domainhelp.opensrs.net
Name Server: NS1.AUTISMMEDIACHANNEL.COM
Name Server: NS2.AUTISMMEDIACHANNEL.COM
Status: clientHold
Updated Date: 21-aug-2014
Creation Date: 03-sep-2010
Expiration Date: 03-sep-2014

The DNS has gone bye-bye:

; <> DiG 9.8.4-rpz2+rl005.12-P1 <> @localhost autismmediachannel.com ANY
; (1 server found)
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 4811
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;autismmediachannel.com. IN ANY

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
com. 848 IN SOA a.gtld-servers.net. nstld.verisign-grs.com. 1408733842 1800 900 604800 86400

;; Query time: 0 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#53(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Fri Aug 22 20:58:36 2014
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 113

@Narad

Okay, so we’re left with:

1) Incompetence
2) CONSPIRACY!!!eleventy!!one! Government wharrgarbbl!
3) Conspiracy of a different sort (i.e., Wakefield & co. lying…but we know they’d never do that!).

It is being stated on a number of autism and loon websites (i.e. NaturalNews) that 41% of otherwise eligible study participants were eliminated by DiStefano et al for some nefarious reason.

But in the DiStefano paper it says “of 771 potential cases and 2760 controls selected for recruitment, 103 cases (13.4%) and 316 controls (11.4%) were deemed ineligible.” (this includes children with medical conditions whose symptoms overlap with autism).

So how are they coming up with “41%”? The total number ruled ineligible is actually around 12% by my calculation.

1) Incompetence

ClientHold status is set by the registrar. Shall we check with ICANN?

“This status code tells your domain’s registry to not include your domain in the zone file and as a consequence, it will not resolve. It is an uncommon status that is usually enacted during legal disputes, nonpayment, or when your domain is subject to deletion.”

Note that it was set to expire on September 3.

@Narad

Yep, noticed that it was going buh-bye in the near future, barring renewed registration. Hmm…pulled due to potential legal shenanigans…guess we have another option.

DB, Here are the numbers for the non-birth certificate children dropped as per Table 2 of DeStefano et al.:

Controls Cases
Male 45% 44%
Female 42% 41%
White 38% 40%
Black 40% 40%
Other 63% 53%

Hiding right out in the open.

Ugh, that did not come out the way it was supposed to. I hope it can be discerned.

Looks like this is being discussed on the Vaccine Discussion forum of Mothering.

Some comments from the Anti-Vaccine members on your analysis

“This study, as far as I know (and I have not gone over the numbers or even the study at this point myself) shows that male African American males who are vaccinated on schedule with MMR are more likely to develop autism than other children vaccinated on schedule with MMR. It doesn’t talk about the rate in unvaccinated children at all. ”

“Did the study look at autism rates in the unvaccinated? If they didn’t it shows no such thing.

A higher autism rate among male African Americans who receive the vaccine on schedule compared to other groups who receive it on schedule is a HUGE deal. A cover-up (if there was one) is an equally HUGE deal.

There seems to be this implication that we should not care about African American children if we are not African American. I would like to see Orac answer to that.

I can see this being a slam-dunk for vaccine critics. “

Almost every anti-vaccine blog and site that I monitor is all over this right now. The funniest discussion is over at Jake’s. Jake claims that Hooker didn’t know that Wakefield was going to reveal the name. Yeah, likely story. Like Wakefield never showed the video’s final version to Hooker? Or Hooker never thought someone would recognize the voice on the video of him talking to (allegedly) Thompson?

Then Wakefield shows up on Jake’s blog and asks Jake how he knew that Wakefield was not supposed to reveal Thompson’s name. Jake’s answer? From his “sources.” I’ll bet you $1 that the source for Jake is Hooker.

I got an enormous tub of popcorn to watch all this develop. I hope you all have downloaded the video because we’ll need it when this whole thing comes falling apart. I smell an “elaborate fraud” happening again.

I downloaded the video off of Vimeo this morning for safekeeping, in case the video changes again.

I also call bullshit on Jake’s claim that Hooker knew nothing about Wakefield’s plan to identify Thompson.

Finally, I’ve also learned from a source I trust that the CDC will be issuing a statement within the hour. They should have said something this morning and not after 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, but there you go…apparently the bureaucracy moves slowly.

Hmm…pulled due to potential legal shenanigans…guess we have another option.

I’m pretty sure that they just forgot to renew it, but I’m greatly amused by the reaction to Rapapport over at AoA (and kind of suspect that “Linda1” picked it up here, since he hadn’t “just posted” his item when she mentioned it).

“Finally, I’ve also learned from a source I trust that the CDC will be issuing a statement within the hour.

Oh. Do keep us updated. Any bets?

A – Dr. Thompson had nothing to do with this.
B – It’s some other Thompson, not Dr. Thompson.
C – Yawn, what study published in what journal by what Hooker?
D – Other.

Are we even sure that William Thompson actually is a “CDC whistleblower”, and that this isn’t a case like PZ in “Expelled” where a scientist agrees to give an itnerview on one subject and has it chopped up to say the exact opposite?

my favorite AoA comment yet:

@Greg, about your comment to Orac. One thing you might have questioned him on….is that a great many African-American children are not solely of African descent. Many of them have Caucasian ancestors also. Yet another reason EVERYONE should be concerned about this revelation from Mr. Thompson. Why exactly is anyone still doing research based on race in America, which is still “the great melting pot”?

See, it’s so simple! Even Caucasians need to be concerned because African-Americans are admixed. Oh, wait, even if we believe the study there was no signal whatsoever in Caucasians. God, the gymnastics these folks get themselves into…

Also, that last sentence makes no sense whatsoever. America is a melting pot of many different races…therefore we shouldn’t consider race as an important covariate? Arg, the stupid.

I’m either developing psychic powers (maybe I got them from vaccines) or terrible epidemiology papers are all the same, because as soon as I read The claims being put forward in the video is that earlier MMR vaccination is associated with an increased risk of autism in African-American boys and that the CDC has spent the last 13 years covering this linkage up. I knew that someone would have taken some old data and split it into smaller and smaller pools until they squeezed out a ‘significant’ result. Hark! I hear the gentle weeping of statisticians carried on the evening breeze.

@ Todd #27–maybe this is how the convoluted minds at AoA are working:
1. Oh so cleeverly they now think they have the cause of all autism for one gender of one ethnic group. thanks to Hooker “massaging” the data set with a sledge hammer, and
2. All the autism for everyone else is accounted for in the Kennedy/Hyman/Herbert book.
3. So now these AV cranks can ban all vaccines and try us as war criminals

Good news–(3) just is not going to happen, and (1) and (2) exist only in their fantasy world.

Only because I truly love my fellow and sister minions did I submit myself to the unsavory task of re-listening to Brian Hooker’s appearance with Gary Null

( @ PRN, yesterday’s show tape, 50 to 60 minutes in/ paraphrases unless quoted)
BH- at first analysed data @ CDC and whistleblower contacted him this past November to say the CDC knew in 2001 and covered it up.
GN- go for a “criminal prosecution”/ “class-action lawsuit”
BH- there was “malice aforethought”; the 3 other authors ( named) “colluded directly” to “obviate” findings
“I reached out to the director of the CDC”; no response
” only the tip of the iceberg”; “tens of thousands of pages”; other issues include thimerisol. Hasn’t gone through all
GN- go ahead with a “class action lawsuit’ and “special prosecutor” “criminal investigation”
BH- wants a “grand jury” and “federal investigation”
GN – BH, you are the “Julian Assange of America”. we have “attorneys who win against the government”**
does your source have whistleblower status/ has he contacted these groups?***
BH- “:he has taken steps”

** how he usually characterises J. Emord
*** David Lewis’ whistleblower pals had ( have?) a show on PRN.

Ugh. I guess my source was wrong about the CDC putting out a statement within the hour. AT this point, who knows?

Ha Ha Ha ha.

I have just done the multiple comparison calculation for Brian Hooker’s paper. I make it there are 35 different comparisons.

9 in Table 1
9 in Table 2
9 in Table 3
8 in Table 4

So the p value correction should have been p = 0.0015.

So none of the effects reported are significant.

Who would have guessed.

@ Orac #56. Dumping news late Fridays is a tried and true way of addressing issues you’d rather avoid. Having written controversial press releases for NIH, I can tell you the layers of review are deep. In addition to CDC and HHS clearance, lawyers and senior mgmt, often weigh in. It slows the process down, especially with breaking news. Still haven’t seen anything from CDC.

They are the gang who can’t shoot straight. Given AW’s reputation, he should be no where near this story.

@ Chris P:

Oh I know. Isn’t that a question on every statistics exam?

More seriously:
a few years ago I gave Jake sage advice concerning his rupture with the reality-based world and how it would affect his future job prospects.

First, he left reality for AoA fame then split with them for other associates including AJW, Hooker, Segal and the Geiers.
Now he’s upset Andy.
So he can’t hope for future employment with either AoA or AMC – he’s not a TM- there isn’t much more in anti-vax world.-
AND obviously, he can’t look for a real epi job because of his association with the aforementioned.

I would offer my sincere advice again:
Jake, look to the real world that surrounds you, not the conspiracies that swirl unflagged within your mind. You live in Austin, your family has money: seek out training in a profession that maximises your skill set- epi ain’t it-
You are living in an area that is undergoing rapid growth, find your niche, be it real estate, technology, sales, only you know that.
You’re young enough to go back to school and make new friends. Don’t waste your life and youth chasing chimerae.

Jake must’ve missed this:
https://www.facebook.com/ashotoftruth
A Shot of Truth shared a link.
2 hours ago
The Vaccine Autism Cover-up: How One Doctor’s Career was Destroyed for Telling the Truth http://ow.ly/ACTSy

In other words, Dr. Brian Hooker’s site posted a tribute to Dr. Andrew Wakefield – 2 hours ago. That’s evidence of support, not betrayal. Agreed?

In reading this story line, and various sideways excursions (Orac – you have consumed most of my afternoon with a single tweet from earlier this afternoon), how exactly did Jake Crosby qualify to get a MPH, following a BA?? And now he is pursuing a PhD, wouldn’t his writing demonstrate he isn’t qualified for the degree??

The premise for my thoughts are that embedded within the course load is an understanding of critical thinking and the scientific method. Specifically the point from the GW’s MPH program outline states that graduates: Understand and adhere to high scientific standards for research; among other goals.) I don’t think he would have become well versed in the scientific method during his undergraduate schooling. Certainly, in the writing I have come across from Jake in various comment sections and websites, this is clearly lacking (a lot of this was during his study period for the MPH, surely his faculty supervisor would have noticed?)

Maybe Master programs are different in Public Health. Can anyone provide insight? It just seems scary that the educational failing will be worse with his pursuit of a PhD in Epidemiology.

CuriousSci: how exactly did Jake Crosby qualify to get a MPH, following a BA?? And now he is pursuing a PhD, wouldn’t his writing demonstrate he isn’t qualified for the degree??

Well, if we were going by qualifications and demonstrated competence, he never should have graduated from college. My best guess is that Mom and Pop Crosby are buying the degrees for him.

I hate to say it- and I don’t evaluate people on the internet but believe it or not, I’m human and we all think like this-
I’m just not very impressed with either his reasoning or his communication skills.

I often work with prospective university students who are most frequently EFL/ ESL teens-middle age- well, to repeat myself, I’m not very impressed with his level of skill.

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