ICAN, through its attorneys led by Aaron Siri, has been relentless in its legal demands and actions to compel the CDC to remove its blanket claim that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” from its website. We are excited to report that the CDC has finally capitulated to those demands! It has removed this claim from its website!
CDC’s Autism-Vaccine Page
The more than three-year journey for how ICAN, and its legal team, achieved this result is a story of determined persistence. Here are the highlights.
ICAN’s Opening Salvo (Oct. 12, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2018)
The journey began with a letter sent to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on October 12, 2017. That letter explained why the CDC cannot scientifically claim that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” on its website. ICAN then ended with the following demand: “Please confirm that HHS shall forthwith remove the claim that ‘Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism’ from the CDC website, or alternatively, please identify the specific studies on which HHS bases its blanket claim that no vaccines cause autism?”
To put HHS and the CDC (an agency within HHS) on their heels, mere days after sending this letter, ICAN also sent a FOIA request on November 1, 2017, demanding:
All reports, scientific studies, and any other documents the CDC relied upon to support the assertion “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” located on its website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html.
The CDC quickly called ICAN’s counsel, Aaron Siri, regarding this request. After some negotiations, the CDC formally responded on November 7, 2017, stating that “A search of our records failed to reveal any documents beyond the records hyperlinked in the specific web site” to support the claim that vaccines do not cause autism. The CDC had thus revealed a truth, one that HHS could not run from in its response to ICAN’s letter.
On January 18, 2018, HHS responded to ICAN’s October 12th letter. In that letter, HHS provided a list of studies it said supported the conclusion on its website that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” All of the studies cited related either to a single vaccine, MMR, or to a single vaccine ingredient, thimerosal. None of these studies support the claim that vaccines given during the first six months of life do not cause autism.
Given that HHS failed to support its claim that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism,” ICAN responded by letter dated December 31, 2018 wherein ICAN asserted that “HHS cannot scientifically claim that ‘Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism’” and “must therefore remove this claim from the CDC website until it can produce the studies to support the claim.”
ICAN’s Pincer Maneuver (Jan. 1, 2019 to June 18, 2019)
In order to keep the pressure on to force the CDC to be honest with the public, during the first six months of 2019, ICAN submitted numerous requests for communications among key personnel within the CDC relating to autism. Some of these requests sought emails going back decades. The key players within the CDC with regard to vaccines and autism now knew we were watching, and that we would have their unvarnished, internal emails related to autism.
ICAN Drops the Gauntlet (June 19, 2019 to Dec. 30, 2019)
Now that ICAN had gathered the proof in the form of evidence and admissions it needed to hold the CDC’s feet to the fire, on June 19, 2019, ICAN demanded that the CDC produce copies of the studies it relies upon to claim that all the vaccines given during the first six months of life “Do Not Cause Autism.” These vaccines include DTaP, HepB, Hib, PCV13, and IPV. ICAN also demanded that the CDC produce studies to support that the cumulative exposure to these vaccines during the first six months of life “Do Not Cause Autism.”
ICAN, of course, already had the CDC’s admissions on these points from its prior FOIA request in November 2017, the HHS letter exchange, and the CDC’s internal emails. The CDC had nowhere to hide and no way to dissemble. As expected, it responded to ICAN’s request with the same list of studies involving MMR or thimerosal. Not a single study supported that DTaP, HepB, Hib, PCV13, and IPV do not cause autism.
ICAN Battles the CDC in Court (Dec. 31, 2019 to March 5, 2020)
ICAN then put the pressure directly on the CDC. Instead of walking away after the CDC effectively admitted it did not have the studies ICAN sought, ICAN sued the CDC in federal court. The suit focused on the CDC’s claim that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” on the basis that the CDC had not specifically listed the precise studies that it asserts support that claim. This lawsuit also quoted from the deposition of Dr. Stanley Plotkin, the godfather of vaccinology, who admitted under oath that he was “okay with telling the parent that DTaP/Tdap does not cause autism even though the science isn’t there yet to support that claim.”
After a lot of wrangling between ICAN’s counsel Aaron Siri, and the Department of Justice, which was representing the CDC, the CDC finally capitulated and signed a stipulation that was entered as an order of the court on March 2, 2020 in which the CDC identified 20 studies as the universe of support it relies upon to claim that DTaP, HepB, Hib, PCV13, and IPV do not cause autism. Here is a summary of the vaccines these studies cover:
1 relating to MMR (not a vaccine ICAN asked about);
13 relating to thimerosal (not an ingredient in any vaccine ICAN asked about);
4 relating to both MMR and thimerosal;
1 relating to antigen (not a vaccine) exposure; and
1 relating to MMR, thimerosal, and