No, the CDC is not covering up a link to vaccines and autism

Anti-vaccine groups are still lying and their latest rant is a bit questionable in terms of the group they cite. I saw an article on social media alleging that a whistleblower had come forward with information of a coverup on the part of the CDC linking vaccines with autism. According to ABC News, the story centers around a California biomechanics engineer named Brian Hooker who did a re-analysis of a 2004 autism study.

As it turns out, Brian Hooker’s study was retracted due to researchers (including the 2004 study’s author Dr. William Thompson) finding major flaws while reviewing Hooker’s findings. Also, it was later discovered that Brian Hooker was on the board of a group known as Focus Autism that alleges that vaccines play a role in causing autism. Hooker also revealed he had a certain bias as he believes his autistic son was vaccine injured. The biomechanics engineer’s study was published August 8th in a peer-reviewed journal claiming that African-American boys who were injected with the MMR vaccine before 36 months of age were 3.4 times more likely to have autism then those who didn’t.

On August 24th, a story posted at CNN’s citizen journalism site, iReport, entitled Fraud at the CDC uncovered, 340% increased risk of autism hidden from public in which a similar article at the same website entitled CDC Autism Whistleblower Admits Vaccine Study Fraud went viral, garnering almost 800,000 views and thousands of shares on social media. When questioned about the incident by ABC News, CDC stood by its research:

The CDC said it stands behind its original study conclusions, telling ABC News that the work went through several layers of vetting, including a review by a panel of five experts outside the agency. Though they found slightly more children with autism were vaccinated between the ages of 2 and 3, they attributed this to immunization requirements for early special education programs.

“There was no cover-up,” the CDC said in a statement to ABC News. “When data are collected in a specific way for a specific type of statistical analysis (a case-control study in this instance), using those data in a different type of analysis can produce confusing results. Because the methods in Dr. Hooker’s re-analysis were not described in detail, it is hard to speculate why his results differed from CDC’s.”

The entire vaccine-autism controversy is one that is unlikely to go away. However, it does not mean that the lies told by anti-vaccine groups should go unanswered. The best indicator as to when the anti-vaccine groups will shrivel up and wither away is the backlash against them conducted by parents whose children contract life-threatening illnesses (like small pox, whooping cough and measles) that could have been prevented by vaccinations.