Mercury, Vaccines and the CDC's Worst Nightmare
RS: And I was personally very excited to see that you have partnered with Lyn Redwood who is now the executive director of World Mercury Project. How did that come about?
RFK, JR: I've been working with Lyn Redwood in one way or another since around 2005. She is an extraordinary advocate. Lyn is a registered nurse. Her child was one of the first to experience regressive autism following a series of thimerosal vaccines. Her advocacy includes her testimony before Congress and her work on the seminal book Evidence of Harm with David Kirby. She co-founded and ran SafeMinds. She helped build the first grassroots organizations that mobilized the parents of injured children around the thimerosal issue. She has been an advisor to HHS and the Department of Defense and has encyclopedic knowledge of the history of thimerosal and the relevant laws, regulations and court cases. She is disciplined, science-based and extremely well organized with good judgment and a shrewd strategic mind. Lyn had some health problems. When those resolved about eight months later, we quickly assembled a team, raised some money, and put together a very forceful, aggressive campaign that I believe will finally expose the truth.
Lyn Redwood and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. inWashington, DC in April, 2014 after meeting with HHS, CDC and FDA officials along with Mark Hyman to discuss their concerns regarding the continued use of thimerosal-containing vaccines in pregnant women, infants and children.
RS: Would removing mercury from vaccines guarantee us safe vaccines?
RFK, JR: No. There are other highly toxic vaccine ingredients that must be removed. Aluminum is an example. But the larger problem is that the entire vaccine program is in disarray. As CDC senior vaccine safety scientist Dr. William Thompson has pointed out, one of the primary fallouts of the mercury/autism debate is that it has paralyzed science at the CDC. So we know very little about vaccine safety or efficacy for that matter. It's undeniable that vaccines can cause terrible injuries and even death to vulnerable subgroups. There is also an assumption that they do more good than harm. That may not be true for all vaccines. Certain vaccines may cause more harm—thimerosal-laden flu and Hepatitis B vaccines come to mind. Even with Gardasil and MMR, which don't contain thimerosal, it's very difficult to support industry claims for their safety or efficacy. No one can answer these questions honestly. The efficacy and safety studies that we would need to answer these questions have never been performed and the science that has been done has raised a lot of flags that should make reasonable people worry. Most Americans just assume the CDC has done these studies and answered these questions. People would be shocked if they knew how shoddy the CDC's science really is.
RS: What do you imagine would happen to autism rates if the CDC removed thimerosal from American vaccines?
RFK, JR: In Denmark, ASD rates dropped 30% when the Danish government ordered removal of mercury in 1992. So that's a bellwether. The drop would likely be more dramatic in this country because the Danes had a very small amount of thimerosal-containing vaccines. We use much more thimerosal than the Danes ever allowed. Katie Wright suggests that the Danes never had the severe brand of autism that is now common in America. Having said that, we need to remember that there are many other sources of mercury in the environment, including dental amalgams, and power plant emissions, both of which have well-documented links to autism. There is also a lot of thimerosal still in medicines. The highest autism rates in the US are among Somali immigrants in Minnesota. That terrible epidemic is probably related to skin-lightening creams that are ubiquitous in that community. Those creams are loaded with mercury. Plus, there are other toxins that may cause damage in the same parts of the brain as mercury—glyphosate, for example—or that may have a synergistic relationship with mercury in triggering autism.
RS: Why is no one studying the causes of autism?
RFK, JR: That's part of the blowback from the CDC's efforts to cover its tracks on thimerosal. No one—not the FDA, CDC, IOM, NIH or EPA, nor the universities—are even pretending to study the environmental causes of the epidemics in pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders or food allergies. The former president of Merck's vaccine division acknowledged to me recently that vaccines are a likely culprit in the food allergy epidemic, but he told me that no one is studying it. How can that possibly be?
RS: Well, let me ask you that. How is it possible?
RFK, JR: The CDC has gone to monumental lengths to make sure no one performs studies that might even inadvertently expose the link between thimerosal and autism. In 2004, the CDC arm-twisted the IOM into making the extraordinary declaration that any questions on the links between vaccines and these diseases had been settled and ought never to be studied again. When does a scientist ever say anything like that? In science, nothing is ever settled. Everything is a hypothesis subject to revision when contrary evidence emerges. Science says you always keep investigating and questioning assumptions. That IOM declaration was the opposite of science. It was like the Catholic Church silencing Copernicus because of its fear that scientific knowledge might endanger the institution. The CDC then effectively closed access to the Vaccine Safety Data link—America's largest repository for vaccine safety information—and forced FDA and the IOM to abandon their own scheduled studies of thimerosal toxicity. The CDC has effectively stopped everyone from studying the links. Scientists who try to do the research get blackballed and the journals are too intimidated to publish research that raises questions about vaccine or thimerosal safety.
RS: Yes, it seems odd to say, "No studies of this should ever be done."
RFK, JR: It's quite extraordinary. This is why most of the good science now is coming from abroad. To give American scientists busywork, the NIH encourages them to study the genetics of autism—so there is lots of money going down that rathole. Or they do just plain silly studies. They look at paternal age or maternal drinking which haven't changed enough to explain the epidemic numbers we are seeing over the past 30 years. In this way, the CDC and NIH and the pharmaceutical companies have compromised all the great universities and research centers—MIT, UC Davis, the Simons Foundation, Princeton and Yale, among many others. So these researchers all get their grant money. But, of course, they will never find the cause. We know that the epidemic is caused by environmental toxins. As Dr. Boyd Haley says, "Genes don't cause epidemics." Genes can provide vulnerabilities, but you need an environmental toxin. Yet no one is looking for the toxin. It's like studying the genetic causes of sunburn without looking at the role of the sun! It's all designed to keep us from learning answers that might embarrass the CDC.
RS: And the ultimate beneficiary is Pharma?
RFK, JR: Vaccines have become a $30 billion dollar bonanza for Pharma and vaccine makers. Just like the tobacco, oil and chemical industries, Pharma employs strategies to get sham science published and to block the kind of science that threatens bottom lines. The food industry and corporate agriculture use the same tactics and, often, the same scientists and PR firms. These fellows have us swimming around in a toxic soup! The science journals and universities have been corrupted. Science today is rarely a search for existential truth. There's not much money in that. We know very little about glyphosate even though it's infiltrated our food supply and our bodies. Stephanie Seneff at MIT has shown that glyphosate operates along the same toxicity pathways as mercury in the brain.
RS: Why don't pediatricians object?
RFK, JR: Well, there are many pediatricians who have grave doubts about thimerosal safety and would like better science. I meet many pediatricians who are reticent about the schedule and have seen vaccine damage in their patients, but they are terrified to speak out. They know they will face intimidation by their peers. There's a name for this phenomenon. It's called the "Semmelweis reflex". Ignaz Semmelweis was the obstetrician who first proposed antiseptic procedures. His work implied that physicians using the current protocols were actually making people sick. The medical community ridiculed and marginalized him, and took away his medical practice. I show in my thimerosal book how the medical community destroyed the career of British physician and epidemiologist, Alice Stewart, when she demonstrated that the routine practice of giving x-rays to pregnant women was causing cancer in their children. Herbert Needleman and Rachel Carson got the same treatment. In the same way, today's doctors who are brave enough to talk about vaccine safety concerns often get punished. Look what happened to Andy Wakefield, Mark Geier, Bob Sears, and Anju Usman. These were all courageous physicians, the kind that I would want caring for my children. They each made the career mistake of standing up for their patients, acting as healers, questioning authority and speaking truth to power. The medical establishment made examples of them.
RS: But why don't more pediatricians stand up and speak out?
RFK, JR: Most pediatricians are not reading the research science. In my own experience, I find that even the ones that get the journals don't read beyond the abstracts, which rarely contain the controversial findings. Pediatricians are overworked so they trust the CDC and AAP to tell them what the science says. The AAP is totally co-opted by Pharma dollars. And individual physicians are subject to perverse economic incentives from Pharma and insurers to keep them in line.
RS: What do you mean by perverse incentives?
RFK, JR: A few weeks ago, someone gave me a Blue Cross Blue Shield Compensation and Bonus Program for pediatricians. The program provided a $40 bonus to the pediatrician for every on-time vaccine up to $400 per child. A typical practice could include 1500 children. So that is a good half million dollar annual incentive to vaccinate according to the schedule and not to ask too many questions about safety. Even worse, the program punishes doctors who fail to fully vaccinate at least 63% of their practice on time. Those doctors lose 100% of the bonus. The system is designed to pressure pediatricians to vaccinate even when there are contraindications. It explains why vaccine-hesitant parents encounter open hostility from pediatricians when they express reticence or concern. It explains why pediatricians rarely fully inform each patient about vaccine risks and side effects as the law requires.