The much-maligned anti-vaccine movement is fueled, in good part, by parents’ suspicion that childhood vaccination causes autism.
The clinical term is Autism Spectrum Disorder: a developmental disability that ranges from mild disabilities of speech and language impairments, to serious developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism.
Indeed, the statistical data confirm that autism is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- In 2000, 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
- In 2012, the number of children with ASD increased to 1 in 68.
- ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
Now, a new study of 666 home-schooled children has confirmed that there is an association between childhood vaccination and autism.
The study is a survey (questionnaire) of 415 mothers who are members of home-school organizations in 4 states: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oregon. The mothers were asked whether their children had been vaccinated, and about the children’s health conditions. Among the health conditions are neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and/or a learning disability.
The study found a “significant association” between vaccination and autism. (A statistically significant association means the probability that the association occurred by chance is extremely unlikely.) The study also found that the association between vaccination and autism is compounded if the child is male and/or preterm, i.e., born prematurely at fewer than 37 weeks gestational age.
The study was conducted by a research team of four, comprised of:
- Dr. Anthony R. Mawson, Professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Jackson State University (JSU).
- Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, an organization in Salem, Oregon which conducts homeschooling research, and publishes the journal Home School Research.
- Dr. Azad R. Bhuiyan, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, JSU.
- Binu Jacob, a former graduate student at JSU.
Mawson, et al., published their research findings in an article titled “Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports,” in a 2016 issue of the journal, Frontiers in Public Health 4:270 (2016).
Frontiers in Public Health describes itself as an open access “peer-reviewed journal aimed at the scientific community interested in the broad area of public health.” The journal’s editorial board is comprised of:
- Joav Merrick, Health Services, Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Ministry of Social Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel. Merrick is the journal’s main editor. His title is “Field Chief Editor”.
- Rustam Aminov, Technical University of Denmark
- Ross Bailie, University of Sidney, Australia
- Nina Bhardwaj, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY
- John B. F. de Wit, University of New South Wales, Sidney, Australia
- Jimmy Thomas Efird, East Carolina University, Greenville
But if you go to the article’s link (http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270), you will not find it. Instead, you ‘ll get this message:
The requested content is not yet available.
Article 231518 is not yet publicly available.
That means the journal pulled the article, which, unless it was for a legitimate reason (e.g., research errors), is a form of post-publication censorship.
Fortunately, Rich Winkel of Thought Crime Radio found the article on Google Cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3ulOESkkTPAJ:journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
I tried to access the article on Google Cache, but got another Error message:
404. That’s an error.
The requested URL /search?q=cache:3ulOESkkTPAJ:journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us was not found on this server. That’s all we know.
That means the article has been scrubbed from even Google Cache!
But Winkel did manage to capture the article’s Abstract before it was scrubbed:
Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270
Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports
- 1Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health (Initiative), Jackson State University, USA
- 2National Home Education Research Institute, USA
- 3Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health (Initiative), USA
- 4Former Graduate Student, Jackson State University, School of Public Health (Initiative), USA
Background: Vaccinations have prevented millions of infectious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths among US children. Yet the long-term health outcomes of the routine vaccination program remain unknown. Studies have been recommended by the Institute of Medicine to address this question.
Specific Aims: To compare vaccinated and unvaccinated children on a broad range of health outcomes, and to determine whether an association found between vaccination and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), if any, remains significant after adjustment for other measured factors.
Design: A cross-sectional survey of mothers of children educated at home.
Methods: Homeschool organizations in four states (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oregon) were asked to forward an email to their members, requesting mothers to complete an anonymous online questionnaire on the vaccination status and health outcomes of their biological children ages 6 to 12.
Results: A total of 415 mothers provided data on 666 children, of which 261 (39%) were unvaccinated. Vaccinated children were significantly less likely than the unvaccinated to have been diagnosed with chickenpox and pertussis, but significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with pneumonia, otitis media, allergies and NDDs (defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and/or a learning disability). After adjustment, the factors that remained significantly associated with NDD were vaccination (OR 3.1, 95% CI: 1.4, 6.8), male gender (OR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.2, 4.3), and preterm birth (OR 5.0, 95% CI: 2.3, 11.6). In a final adjusted model, vaccination but not preterm birth remained associated with NDD, while the interaction of preterm birth and vaccination was associated with a 6.6-fold increased odds of NDD (95% CI: 2.8, 15.5).
Conclusions: In this study based on mothers’ reports, the vaccinated had a higher rate of allergies and NDD than the unvaccinated. Vaccination, but not preterm birth, remained significantly associated with NDD after controlling for other factors. However, preterm birth combined with vaccination was associated with an apparent synergistic increase in the odds of NDD. Further research involving larger, independent samples is needed to verify and understand these unexpected findings in order to optimize the impact of vaccines on children’s health.
Keywords: Acute diseases; Chronic diseases; Epidemiology; Evaluation; Health policy; Immunization; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Vaccination, Acute diseases, chronic diseases, Epidemiology, Evaluation, Health Policy, Immunization, Neurodevelopmental disorders, Vaccination
Citation: Mawson AR, Ray BD, Bhuiyan AR and Jacob B (2016). Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports.Front. Public Health4:270. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270
Received: 17 Sep 2016; Accepted: 21 Nov 2016.
Edited by: Amit Agrawal, Gandhi Medical College, India
Copyright: © 2016 Mawson, Ray, Bhuiyan and Jacob. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
* Correspondence: Prof. Anthony R. Mawson, School of Public Health (Initiative), Jackson State University, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, 350 West Woodrow Wilson Avenue, Jackson, 39213, Mississippi, USA, email@example.com
Needless to say, the scrubbing from a journal as well as from Google Cache of an already-published article that confirms parents’ suspicion that vaccines are linked to autism, will only fuel more conspiracy talk.
Our skepticism concerning the article’s scrubbing has good reasons given the credentials of the study’s lead author and the fact that the article was approved for publication by an editor and two peer reviewers.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Anthony Mawson, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in England and received his Ph.D. in epidemiology from Tulane University. Mawson is currently a Visiting Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health in Jackson State University (JSU). He is a well-published scientist with 59 publications in various journals:
- For Mawson’s page at JSU, click here.
- For Mawson’s cv (or resume), click here. According to his cv, Mawson has submitted a co-authored article (with Brian D. Ray and A. Bhuiyan, the same co-authors of the now-scrubbed Frontiers in Public Health article), provisionally titled “Vaccination and health outcomes,” to BMC: Health Services Research, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal.
Professor Mawson can be reached at:
- 5359 Briarfield Road, Jackson, MS 39211
- Tel: 601-991-3811; 601-622-2597 (cell phone)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
H/t Jim Stone
UPDATE (Dec. 6, 2016):
My undertanding is that since the journal Frontiers in Public Health had accepted Mawson et al.‘s paper, it should be published and subjected to the usual process of public review and replication. Instead, the journal’s Chief Editor withdrew the paper because of “numerous complaints” based simply on the paper’s Abstract.
Please contact the journal’s Editorial Office and ask for the paper to be published. Here’s the email address: