Human Exceptionalism

Integrity in Science: A Corruption Scandal Embroils Autism and Vaccines Controversy

Good grief what next?  I posted previously that two courts found no connection between autism and childhood vaccines. But integrity requires that I now post  about the latest twist in that ongoing controversy: One of the premier scientists involved in finding no link is now immersed in a serious financial scandal. From the story:

A Danish scientist involved in two major studies that debunked any linkage of vaccines to autism is suspected of misappropriating $2 million in U.S. grants at his university in Denmark. Poul Thorsen, a medical doctor and Ph.D., was an adjunct professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health for several months before resigning Tuesday. On Jan. 22, Aarhus University said that it had uncovered a “considerable shortfall” in grant money from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a research program that Thorsen had directed. The university referred the matter to police, who are conducting an investigation.

Those who believe that vaccines can cause autism believe this undermines the science:

Anti-vaccine groups have seized on the allegations to contend that scientific studies disproving the vaccine link to autism are wrong. Those groups have long argued that thimerosal, a preservative in some vaccines, can cause autism, as can the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. “I think it is quite significant,” said Dan Olmsted of the Age of Autism. “I think someone allegedly capable of ripping off his own university by forging documents from the CDC is capable of pulling off anything.”

The CDC says the science isn’t in dispute:

The CDC and coauthors of the two studies published in major U.S. medical journals maintain the studies remain valid. “CDC is aware of the allegations by Aarhus University against Poul Thorsen,” agency spokesman Tom Skinner said in a statement. Federal authorities are investigating. Skinner noted that Thorsen was one of many coauthors on peer-reviewed studies looking at autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and alcohol use in pregnancy. “We have no reason to suspect that there are any issues related to the integrity of the science,” Skinner said.

If these charges are true, it is calamitous, because it becomes impossible to put the issue to bed, even if the science is iron clad.

It is important for children to be protected against serious childhood diseases.  Parents need to know that vaccines are safe. Corruption and venality in science is particularly harmful because it undermines the sector’s overall credibility–with the potential of causing very real human harm.  More when I know more.

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