I owe a genuine debt of gratitude to the readers of The Bolen Report. It’s one thing to put a book together, but it’s quite another thing to figure out the best strategy to get that story out to the public.
I’m probably not alone in being frustrated by the glacial pace of traditional publishing. My agent had started pitching my new book, INOCULATED: How Science Lost its Soul in Autism, back in February, and although there was some interest, nothing was on the table. Even if some publisher bit in the summer, the book probably wouldn’t be available to the public until 2018. That was too long for me.
My agent told me that her agency had its own publishing division and if I wanted, I could publish with them. But I wouldn’t have the big marketing push of a traditional publisher. That was fine with me, as I had always considered this something of a guerilla campaign. We could get it out to the public very quickly. But I wanted to know if that was the right way to go and so I put this question to the readers of The Bolen Report.
Your responses were informed, passionate, well-reasoned, and I listened. I’ve always had this sense that the book should be published in November of 2016, either before or after the Presidential election, and right now the publishing date is Wednesday, November 9. And hopefully by now Amazon has updated the listing so you see the picture of my beautiful cover and a summary of the book. And I’ve hired a first-rate marketing team. We’re going to knock this one out of the park.
But I felt I should do more to express my gratitude to the readers of The Bolen Report, so I’m giving you an exclusive “sneak peek” at the first few pages. I want you to know I really do mean to start a rebellion. I also want to express my personal appreciation to Tim Bolen for his suggestions about the book and publicity. He is a man who knows how to think, strategize, and fight.
For those of you who want to know the inside story of CDC whistle-blower, Dr. William Thompson, the years of struggle of Dr. Brian Hooker to find out the truth about vaccines and autism, and the thirty-year disaster vaccines have become since the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, I give you the first few pages of INOCULATED:
CHAPTER ONE – The Call
A wrong number results in the unraveling of the greatest medical scandal in history. And how was your day?
November 7, 2013
Dr. Brian Hooker was a fifty-year old Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Math and Science Division at Simpson University. Simpson was a small Christian liberal arts college in Redding, California, a city at the far northern end of the Central Valley. Some areas of the city of approximately ninety thousand people were located in the gently rolling foothills leading up to the Cascade Range of mountains.
The Sacramento River flowed cold and swift through the city, originating from the imposing fourteen thousand foot heights of Mount Shasta about sixty miles north, an active volcano which last erupted in 1786.
Another volcano, Mount Lassen, reaching more than ten thousand feet into the sky, lay almost seventy miles to the east. An explosion of Mount Lassen in May of 1915 deposited volcanic ash more than two hundred miles away. If you wanted to dip your feet into the Pacific Ocean, you had to drive about a hundred and fifty miles to the west.
Redding was a city of pine forests, wooded trails and clear streams, surrounded on three sides by state and federal lands, a nature lover’s paradise with a mild Mediterranean climate. And every few years it normally gets a couple of inches of snow in the winter. It was a great place to raise a family, even though some might worry over its proximity to the clashing of great continental plates, encircling the Pacific with a battalion of volcanoes known as the Ring of Fire. But every place has its risks, seen and unseen, doesn’t it? Dr. Hooker sat in his faculty office preparing his class lecture notes when the phone rang.[i]
Hooker looked up from his papers and saw the caller was from the 404 area code. He knew from long experience it was probably from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. How were they going to harass him now? He wondered.
For more than a decade Hooker had been battling the CDC as part of a large group of parents who believed that their children had developed autism and other neurological problems as a result of their vaccines and that the CDC was not conducting an honest investigation into their concerns. Most Americans were unaware that in 1986 Congress had passed, and President Reagan had signed, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, establishing a separate court to adjudicate claims of vaccine injury. The New York Times reported that after signing,
Mr. Reagan said he had approved the bill “with mixed feelings” because he had “serious reservations” about the vaccine compensation program . . . The program would “be administered not by the executive branch, but by the Federal judiciary,” Mr. Reagan said, calling it an “unprecedented arrangement” that was inconsistent with the constitutional arrangement for separation of powers among the branches of the Federal Government.[ii]
The bill had been drafted in large part by Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat. The Justice Department had urged a veto of the bill. Assistant Attorney General, John R. Bolton, later the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, had written the opinion opposing the legislation. However, the measure was strongly supported by Vice President George H. W. Bush, Commerce Secretary Malcom Baldrige, Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Otis R. Bowen, and Secretary of the Treasury and former White House Chief of Staff, James A. Baker. Reagan expressed hope that later changes would address his constitutional concerns.[iii] The changes were never made.
In the opinion of many parents the so-called “Vaccine Court” was an affront to the concept of justice. In the first place, it gave pharmaceutical companies complete immunity from being sued for damages from vaccines. The fund to compensate children who suffered vaccine injuries would come from a seventy-five cent tax that would be added to the cost of every vaccine. In essence, the public was self-insuring itself for vaccine injuries.
The law also eliminated many of the cornerstones of a traditional civil court, such as the requirement that defendants (in this instance, the pharmaceutical companies which manufactured the vaccines) had to produce relevant documents, or that the scientists employed by these companies could be compelled to testify. For Hooker and many of the parents, it seemed the pharmaceutical companies had convinced government officials though a combination of financial contributions and apocalyptic claims of what would happen if vaccines were subjected to the same type of review as other consumer products, that such an approach would have devastating consequences for public health.
The pharmaceutical companies were removed from the equation, and in its place, the United States government was on the hook for any injuries or deaths caused by vaccines.
The government also licensed the vaccines and promoted their use through public education programs. One could say the US had become certifier, promoter, and purchaser (through low-cost or free immunization programs), while the vaccine court was expected to determine the truth about vaccine injuries and provide adequate compensation. Many saw it as an inherent conflict of interest, or like Reagan, wondered if such a setup was even constitutional.
This “unprecedented arrangement” left parents like Hooker relying on approaches such as making requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the relevant data. Hooker had made many FOIA requests over the years. He had also received several calls from people who identified themselves as officials for the CDC, who questioned why he was making so many requests, then when he asked for their names, they would refuse to divulge their identity. He was aware that, to many people outside of the autism world such claims would sound vaguely conspiratorial, all part of the “anti-science” and “kooky” labels the media loved to pin on them, but in reality it was more annoying than frightening. Hooker didn’t fear that anybody would come after him, just that the bureaucrats in the CDC would do everything in their power to avoid taking an honest look at vaccines and autism. The answers given by the Centers for Disease Control in response to his Freedom of Information requests were normally provided months or years after he’d made the request, and were generally not responsive to the questions he’d asked.
Hooker waited for the message to go to voice-mail.
But the caller didn’t leave a message.
Hooker went back to his lecture notes, tried to concentrate on his upcoming class, but couldn’t stop wondering who had called. He got the number from his phone and returned the call. Nobody answered, but it went to voice-mail. Hooker was surprised to discover it was the voice-mail for Dr. William Thompson. At the time, Thompson was at the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, but had previously been with Immunization Safety Division of the CDC.
Hooker remembered Thompson. They had talked a good deal between 2002 and 2003 when Hooker had contacted the CDC with concerns about the research they were doing on thimerosal, a mercury derivative that was being used in vaccines, which many parents suspected might be a factor in the development of their child’s autism. Mercury was well-known as being one of the most dangerous substances on the face of the Earth and its use in vaccines was a reasonable cause for concern.
Because of Hooker’s scientific background and training, he became something of a leader among the parents and William Thompson was designated by the CDC to be Hooker’s point of contact with the agency. Hooker was not impressed with Thompson at this stage of their relationship. In one of their initial conversations Hooker recalled Thompson talking about his daughter, who was of a similar age to Hooker’s autistic son and saying, “Well, my daughter got all the same vaccines as your son, and she’s fine.”
Hooker was stunned by the hubris of such a statement. It was a bit like somebody claiming he’d smoked for forty years and not come down with lung cancer, so smoking must be safe for everybody. Thompson struck Hooker as a run of the mill bureaucrat with very little interest in doing the right thing. Still, it had been many years since he’d last spoken to Bill Thompson. He still had Thompson’s e-mail address, so at 11:22 a.m. on November 7, 2013 he sent Thompson the first e-mail of what would prove to be one of the most unusual relationships in science and reveal the greatest medical scandal in American history.
Did you just call me? I have a meeting that is starting but will be available after 3:00 p.m. EST.
November 8, 2013
Thompson replied the following day:
Believe it or not, that was a mistake on my part. I had come across this number and it was written next to the name Senator Patty Murray. I apologize for making this call to you. And I won’t do it again.
November 9, 2013
Thompson’s innocent explanation didn’t convince Hooker and he suspected something else was going on. After all, his relationship with Thompson had ended when Hooker joined the Autism Omnibus group of more than 5,000 parents in the Vaccine Court in 2003 and he’d been told that since he was now an “adversary” of the Centers for Disease Control that Thompson could no longer communicate with him. It was an absurd claim to make as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act clearly indicated that the Vaccine Court would be a no-fault, non-adversarial system. The assumption of the law was that all parties would be interested in the safety of childhood vaccines. There wasn’t supposed to be an “us” and “them.” Hooker wrote back:
Your account of the call makes no sense. A seasoned government scientist like yourself would know that DC numbers for Congress start with a 202 area code (224 prefix for the Senate and 225 prefix for the House). Also, if you would want to call Senator Murray’s office, why wouldn’t you simply look up her number at murray.senate.gov?
Could you please tell me the “real” reason you were trying to get in touch with me by phone? I don’t have time for more CDC lies.
On that same day, Thompson responded to Hooker.
Seriously, this wasn’t a lie. I was reviewing notes from a call you and I had back in 2003. I am going to be providing study related notes as part of the most recent congressional request so I have to review study notes that go back to 2000. This is no small task and I was curious whether Senator Murray staff would pick up from this number because I wasn’t sure whether she was still in office. I apologize because I know it’s probably difficult to discern the purpose of such a call from me.
Hooker read the e-mail and decided to respond the following morning. He found himself troubled by Thompson’s e-mail for reasons he couldn’t quite put into words. There was something different in the tone. Maybe he was just imagining that things had changed. Hooker figured it was time to bring the conversation to a close, but couldn’t help adding a parting shot.
The congressional request was not initiated by me and I no longer live in Washington State. Don’t worry – you answer to someone other than me and that’s fine. I just wish for once you would do a clean cohort study that wasn’t “overmatched” to the hilt to absolve yet another vaccine and vaccine-component from causing neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
Thompson was well aware of Hooker’s interest in thimerosal, the mercury derivative used as a preservative in vaccines that Hooker believed to be at least a contributing factor in his son’s autism. Hooker was convinced that the e-mail would scare Thompson off for good and any positive feelings that had developed in their brief exchange would quickly vanish and be replaced by the more familiar mutual loathing between the two sides. But Thompson continued to surprise Hooker.
I am in complete agreement with you. My recent paper with Jack Barile which reanalyzed the 2007 [data in] the NEJM [New England Journal of Medicine] article is a good summary of where I stand on that paper. The thimerosal-autism study was absolutely a bust because we found a protective effect of thimerosal which we all agree doesn’t make sense. So it was probably a sampling issue. The matching was agreed upon up front by many different folks including Safeminds so we published what we found and tested.
Just so you know, there will be new documents that will be shared in this next congressional request.
None of this was making any sense to Hooker. This wasn’t the way CDC scientists spoke to members of the parent community. It actually seemed like they were having a civil discussion about vaccines and autism and some of the various scientific challenges in determining the truth.
Had Thompson actually said the CDC’s thimerosal/autism study was “a bust”?
Hooker looked at the email again. There it was: The thimerosal-autism study was absolutely a bust because we found a protective effect of thimerosal which we all agree doesn’t make sense. As a scientist Hooker knew what Thompson’s words meant. The CDC study was unreliable. One of the study’s own authors didn’t believe the results, and if what he was saying was true, neither did the other authors.
Hooker tore himself away from the email to look at the article Thompson had coauthored with Jack Barile and found it quickly on-line.[x] The article found a small, but statistically significant association between thimerosal and tics. Hooker knew this was significant because many children with autism had tics as a co-morbid condition. The last line of the article was even more striking. “Given that the association between thimerosal and tics has been replicated across several different studies, it may be informative to consider additional studies examining the associations using more reliable and valid measures of tics.”
They exchanged a few more emails, continuing the friendly tone. Thompson continued to make hints that he was really on Hooker’s side, but after years of double-talk from government scientists, Hooker wasn’t interested in wasting time. They all knew the battle lines of this controversy. If something was breaking, that was fine. If not, he wasn’t going to waste any more time on it. Hooker knew the players and who was likely to have had control over the information about thimerosal. He was going to go for broke.
Hooker asked in an e-mail, “Who masterminded the cover-up? Orenstein?”[xi] Hooker was referring to Dr. Walter Orenstein, the former Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service and Director of the National Immunization Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[xii], who was Thompson’s superior at the time of the thimerosal investigation. Orenstein’s biography at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website states, “From 2008 through 2011, Dr. Orenstein was Deputy Director for Immunization Programs in the Vaccine Delivery Department of the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His primary focus at the foundation has been on polio eradication, measles control, and improving routine immunization programs.” Orenstein’s biography at the HHS website covers his time as a former Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Director of the National Immunization Program where he “successfully developed, promoted, facilitated, and expanded new vaccination strategies to enhance disease prevention. Dr. Orenstein has co-authored numerous books, journals, and reviews. Along with Stanley Plotkin, MD, and Paul Offit, MD, he co-edited Vaccines, 6th edition in 2012 – the leading textbook in the field.”[xiii]
On Monday, November 11, 2013 at 8:23 a.m.,
Thompson replied in an e-mail, I will call you in 30 days. I will tell you why then.[xiv] Thirty days from that date would have been December 11, 2013.
But Dr. William Thompson couldn’t wait a month to talk to Dr. Brian Hooker. On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, Thompson called Hooker from his car and they began a series of dramatic conversations which would lay bare the extent to which a cabal of leading scientists at the Centers for Disease Control actively concealed research findings of great importance, damaged an entire generation of children, and poisoned the debate about vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders for more than a decade.
When the conversation was finished, Hooker wrote down the following:
Notes from phone conversation with Bill Thompson, 11/13/ 13. The phone call was brief as he was traveling in his car to teach class at 1:30 p.m. EST.
Bill was very friendly – teaches in the medical school at Morehouse University (Atlanta, GA) a historically black university, with a diverse (40% African American) med school population. He is now with the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC. He listed his tenure at CDC which is consistent with his CV. [curriculum vitae – resume]
Regarding the Barile paper – structured equation modeling is a matrix-based technique where eigenvalues (i.e., averages) for each outcome are assessed. Bill indicated that a weakness of the model was that it did not include interaction terms for pre and postnatal thimerosal effects.
Bill indicated that he was talking to me in fulfillment of my FOIA requests (which was odd and not according to CDC policy at all) and seemed willing to talk further in the future. He also indicated that he is gathering information for a Congressional request (most likely via Issa) as well and he acted like he knew that I was involved in the Congressional request.
Bill wanted to talk only on his cell phone and not while he was in CDC property. He did not indicate what happens in 30 days (as he stated something would permit him to talk in 30 days in his earlier email). He has 4 years until his 20-year anniversary at the CDC. He would like to retire and teach psychology at a small university. He quipped that we could collaborate on papers.
We also joked that we were twins separated from birth. He turns 50 in December and I just turned 50. He has two children (14 and 13) and I have a similarly aged son (15). I told him that Steven was doing well and described what his life was like. Bill sounded concerned and truly grateful to get an update.[xv]
When Hooker finished up the brief phone call he felt he and Thompson had started the first steps of a dangerous dance.
There were things that had given Hooker pause as to whether to continue the relationship. The initial phone call which Thompson claimed was at attempt to get in touch with US Senator Patty Murray’s office didn’t make sense. The assertion by Thompson that the CDC’s own thimerosal research was “absolutely a bust” made Hooker believe he wasn’t talking to just another uncaring bureaucrat, but a man who had undergone some significant personal change. And if Thompson was talking to Hooker in response to Hooker’s various Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests and a Congressional request (presumably from Congressman Darrel Issa’s House Oversight committee), why did he only want to talk to Hooker “on his cell phone and not while he was on CDC property?” It all sounded very cloak and dagger for a college biology professor. And what event was happening in thirty days that would allow Thompson to speak more freely?
In addition, it was reasonable to consider that this might be some sort of strange CDC entrapment strategy to punish him for his repeated requests for information about the vaccine program. Hooker resolved to see how this would all play out.
Now, On to Chapter Two…
If you think this is a book you want to read, please go to the following Amazon link and order the book. When you finish, please post a review on Amazon.
[i] Telephone Interview with Dr. Brian Hooker by Kent Heckenlively, November 20, 2015.
[ii] Robert Pear, “Reagan Signs Bill on Drug Exports and Payment for Vaccine Injuries,’ The New York Times, November 15, 1986, www.nytimes.com/1986/11/15/us/reagan-signs-bill-on-drug-exports-and-payment-for-vaccine-injuries.html
[iii] Robert Pear, “Reagan Signs Bill on Drug Exports and Payment for Vaccine Injuries,’ The New York Times, November 15, 1986, www.nytimes.com/1986/11/15/us/reagan-signs-bill-on-drug-exports-and-payment-for-vaccine-injuries.html
[iv] Email from Dr. Brian Hooker to Dr. William Thompson, November 7, 2013.
[v] Email from Dr. William Thompson to Dr. Brian Hooker, November 8, 2013.
[vi] Email from Dr. Brian Hooker to Dr. William Thompson, November 9, 2013.
[vii] Email from Dr. William Thompson to Dr. Brian Hooker, November 9, 2013.
[viii] Email from Dr. Brian Hooker to Dr. William Thompson, November 10, 2013.
[ix] Email from Dr. William Thompson to Dr. Brian Hooker, November 10, 2013.
[x] William H. Thompson, Cristofer Price, Barbara Goodson, et al, “Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years,” New England Journal of Medicine, September 27, 2007, 357: 1281-1292, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa071434.
[xi] Email from Dr. Brian Hooker to Dr. William Thompson, November 10, 2013.
[xii] U.S Department of Health and Human Services website, “NVAC Chair: Walter A. Orenstein, MD”, http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/nvac/roster/orenstein-bio.html, accessed February 6, 2016.
[xiii] U.S Department of Health and Human Services website, “NVAC Chair: Walter A. Orenstein, MD”, http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/nvac/roster/orenstein-bio.html, accessed February 6, 2016.
[xiv] Email from Dr. William Thompson to Dr. Brian Hooker, November 11, 2013.
[xv] Brian Hooker Notes on Conversation with Dr. William Thompson, November 13, 2013.