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When people misrepresent facts on the record, journalists are in a tough spot — especially when that information can be harmful.

Which brings me to STAT’s recent interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., conducted by Helen Branswell. STAT wanted to interview Kennedy about his claim in January 2017 that Donald Trump would soon appoint him to head a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. Seven months had passed since Kennedy had made the claim and no announcement had been made. STAT wanted to find out where things stood.

Branswell began her interview by asking Kennedy eight different times and in eight different ways where things stood on his commission. Each time, he failed to confirm or deny whether the White House was about to appoint him.


That clearly wasn’t what Kennedy wanted to talk about. Instead, he wanted to talk about his belief that mercury in vaccines is poisoning America’s children and that no one in the federal government seems to care. By insisting that the interview be conducted in the question-and-answer format, Kennedy effectively tied STAT’s hands, which had to print what he said without editorial comment or opposing views.

I feel compelled to oppose Kennedy’s claims.


During the interview, Kennedy said that some babies were being injected with 25 micrograms of ethylmercury, which is part of a preservative called thimerosol that is used in multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine. He claimed that amount to be “100 times” greater than the amount considered to be safe.

As an environmentalist, Kennedy should know that mercury is a natural part of the Earth’s crust. As a consequence, methylmercury (environmental mercury) is contained in water and anything made from water, like breast milk and infant formula. The human body eliminates ethylmercury from vaccines far more efficiently than it eliminates naturally occurring methylmercury.

Babies typically ingest about 360 micrograms of methylmercury during the first 6 months of life, well before they will ever receive their first dose of influenza vaccine. If the 25 micrograms of ethylmercury in vaccines is 100 times greater than what Kennedy claimed is safe, then simply by living on Earth, by 6 months of age babies will have ingested an amount of mercury that is 1,440 times greater than Kennedy’s safety limit.

According to Kennedy’s calculations, all of us are massively intoxicated with mercury. The only way to avoid this would be to move to another planet.

Kennedy also said that he wanted to ensure “that vaccines are subject to the same kind of safety scrutiny and safety testing that other drugs are subject to.” In fact, vaccines are subjected to greater scrutiny than drugs. Much greater. For example, the CDC spends tens of millions of dollars every year on the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a system of linked computerized medical records from several major health maintenance organizations that represents about 7 million Americans, 500,000 of whom are children. Nothing like this exists on the drug side. Frankly, if a Drug Safety Datalink existed, the problem with Vioxx as a cause of heart attacks might have been picked up much sooner.

Kennedy said, “We need to, prior to licensing vaccines, do gold standard safety testing, like every other drug approval requires. We need to do double-blind placebo testing.” Branswell knew that the FDA does require placebo-controlled trials before licensure. So she pushed back. “Sir, that’s done all the time,” she said. “That is done all the time.”

Branswell was right. Here’s an example of the kind of testing that vaccines are put through. One of the currently licensed vaccines against rotavirus was tested in a placebo-controlled, prospective, 11-country, four-year trial of more than 70,000 infants before being approved. That’s fairly typical of most pre-licensure trials. But STAT was stuck having to report Kennedy’s remarks as is, even though Branswell knew they were false. That was the deal. The interview had to be printed without contradiction.

Perhaps most outrageous was Kennedy’s claim that “the hepatitis B vaccines that are currently approved had fewer than five days of safety testing. That means that if the child has a seizure on the sixth day, it’s never seen. If the child dies, it’s never seen.” Safety monitoring for the hepatitis B vaccine, like all vaccines tested before being licensed, involved determining side effects in the vaccinated and unvaccinated group for weeks after each dose. Indeed, some subsets of vaccinated individuals have been monitored for 30 years after hepatitis B vaccination.

Throughout the interview, Kennedy never adequately addressed the new commission. Creating such a commission doesn’t make sense to me for two main reasons.

First, a vaccine safety commission already exists. It’s called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Staffed by epidemiologists, microbiologists, virologists, statisticians, molecular biologists, and clinicians, the CDC supervises the Vaccine Safety Datalink, which I described earlier. Whenever a new vaccine is licensed, this system quickly determines who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t and detects any side effects that might be occurring more frequently in the vaccinated group.

Second, a commission for scientific integrity also already exists. Independent of the CDC, it’s called the Office for Research Integrity, and is housed in the Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s unfortunate that our culture, and our media, sometimes give celebrities a chance to comment without opposition on subjects about which they are often misinformed. It’s invariably the listener or reader who suffers this advice. Maybe journalists could at the very least add a cigarette-style caution to interviews like the one that STAT did with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Something like “CAUTION: Reading this article might be dangerous to your health.”

Paul A. Offit, M.D., is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His most recent book is “Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong” (National Geographic Press, April 2017).

  • Recording of senior CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson on vaccine preservative Thimerosal causing tics…

    “You know, in the United States the only vaccine it’s still in is for pregnant women. I can say confidently, I do think thimerosal causes tics. So, I don’t know why they still give it to pregnant women. Like, that’s the last person I would give mercury to.
    “Do you think a pregnant mother would want to take a vaccine that they knew caused tics? Absolutely not! I would never give my wife a vaccine that I thought caused tics.
    “I can say, tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism. There is biologic plausibility right now to say that thimerosal causes autism-like features.”

  • I have NEVER asked for funding “for this discussion” as Mr. Carey has insinuated. Like any pure public charity research institute, development is part of my activities. We have published on mechanisms of pathogenesis of Zika, and have other manuscripts in review from other studies.

  • DR says Paul Offit has no conflicts of interest, again, misleading the reader:
    “Disclosure: Dr. Offit has received honoraria related to specific research activities and product royalty/licensing fees from Merck & Co., Inc.”

    I note there are no disclosures on this article from Dr. Offit. He should be required to reveal any and all financial or material interests in vaccines, including the very fact that CHOP profits from vaccines. He should include any arrangements for past and future compensation for him, the company he works for, and his family.

  • “It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests… and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception,” the letter states. “These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health.”

    The CDC is being influenced by corporate and political interests

    • To claim vaccines cause autism, you would have to claim all health authorities around the world are. The anonymous commenters the article talks about don’t even have to do with vaccines or with the vaccine safety unit in CDC.

  • Can Dorit Reiss shut her mouth. That’s all she does on every site. How many comments are you posting on every site. This can’t be your whole life can it.

    The best way to prevent HPV is condoms. You clearly don’t watch Vaxxed videos of mothers/daughters discussing what happens after the vaccine. How is it blood pressure drops in someone to 80/40 right after the shot? Fainting? Come on. If you believe in my body my choice for abortion, how about my body my choice for vaccination. Leave people’s sex lives alone. That is what regular check ups are for. HPV can go away on its own.

    A safe product does not need liability. And shame on you for believing there should be force used to vaccinate everyone. If a product was 100% safe, you wouldn’t have to mandate it.

    You say Tylenol isn’t implicated in autism. Tell you what: Tylenol is rough on the liver. Stay away from it.

    And last one Dorit: what do you have to say about Offit’s comments:

    “You can never really say MMR doesn’t cause autism, but your in front of the camera you better get used to saying it.”

    “Sell fear.”

    You are heartless. A week of measles, or a lifetime of autism and risk divorce at 80 percent?

    • Condoms reduce the risk of HPV, but don’t prevent it. HPV causes tens of thousands of cancers and thousands of deaths each year. The vaccines can prevent most. Regular checks don’t prevent it – they allow to catch cervical cancer early and do painful treatment to remove it, and do nothing for other HPV related cancers.

      Dr. Offit’s comments here are taken out of context. He was talking about the scientific method. Scientists can’t say MMR doesn’t cause autism because they can never say “doesn’t cause”. They can’t say apricots don’t cause people to fly, either. But we can say apricots don’t make you fly, and we can say MMR doesn’t cause autism, because we’re not scientists.

      There’s more evidence showing MMR doesn’t cause autism than evidence showing apricots don’t make you fly.

    • And Thorson has nothing to do with vaccine safety or efficacy. He stole money from the CDC from a grant. He was not involved in data analysis. He should pay for his crime but what he did does not affect immunization science or autism science at all.


  • “In a new report released September 18, 2017, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his team outlined various criminal acts on the part of employees and consultants for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whose questionable ethics and scientific fraud have resulted in untrustworthy vaccine safety science.”

  • DR claims she has never seen me call for safer vaccines. I understand if she missed this post of mine, entitled “A Reasonable Shot: Vaccine Safety Research Reform” published Feb 29, 2016:

    In that blog article from 2016, I outline four steps for Vaccine Safety Science Reform (pasted below)

    Addressing the REAL scope of the current risks of vaccines is what responsible scientists and citizens do.

    —- from “A Reasonable Shot” Feb 29, 2016 —-

    (1) TOTAL BAN ON MERCURY IN VACCINES. Clearly the CDC is wrong in their recommendation of mercury-containing flu shots for pregnant women. Increasingly, pediatricians are offering the Thimerosal-free flu vaccine for pregnant women.

    (2) Administrative Overhaul of Responsibility. The NIH, not the CDC, should oversee vaccine safety research studies, and the research should be farmed out to the Universities and Research Hospitals throughout the country. This would be extramural research – by the people, for the people. Every individual vaccine on the schedule, and the entire schedule, should be re-examined using random, prospective clinical trials that use Total Outcomes Awareness – lifelong follow-up, with annual health check-ups for all patients in the study. Five (5) institutions should be funded to run independent clinical trials, 3 by lottery, and 2 by competitive grant mechanisms. The results should be independently published with objective peer review.

    (3) VLPs with Safe Epitopes Virus-like particles (VLPs) should be used for each and every vaccine – using epitopes that are demonstrated to be safe. VLPs can be loaded with sufficient antigen- and in sufficient dose – so as to not require aluminum adjuvant.

    “Safe Epitopes” are those that show no cross-reactivity with antigens in pathogens. That is, the antibodies for the pathogenic proteins should not be cross-reactive with any human protein. The computational studies needed to identify which human proteins may be at risk of autoimmune attack after infection by pathogens or by vaccination with live attenuated, weakened, or dead viruses are underway at the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge. This problem has also been studied for years by Dr. Yehuda Schoenfeld, of Tel-Aviv Univeristy/Sheba Medical Center and by Dr. Darja Kanduc, University of Bari, Italy. The cost of such vaccines will drop when mass production begins, and the gains in terms of fewer vaccine-injured individuals (autism, ADHD, autoimmune disorders), well, that is priceless.

    (4) Comprehensive Genetic Screens for Vaccine Safety Along with screening for polymorphisms that confer higher specific environmental toxin susceptibility, as outlined in my book, genetic screens should include a search for mutations that cause greater protein similarity between human proteins in certain individuals and the proteins present in vaccines (of any kind). This screen will reduce adverse events profoundly, and inform people before they consent to a specific vaccine of any red-flag risk. These polymorphisms and the attendant mutations are usually benign – and have nothing to do with the risk of disease itself. They may, however, be responsible for any auto-immune related pathogenesis of the diseases for which we need vaccines. Scientists at IPAK are working on this problem in our Vaccine Induced Immunological Damage program (VIID). For more information, click here.

    One of my goals is to try to make sure that every American knows that vaccines may cause autism in some people – and what we as a society can,and should do about it. If you would like to help, please visit The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (see and do all you can do to help this pure public charity organization with donations, and recruit new members. Our calls for awareness of the full scientific knowledge on vaccine risk are being heard. We want to bring the public and industry together on the important issue of making vaccines safe – and effective- for everyone.

    Postscript: I am aware that some people believe that no vaccine can ever be made safe. The science on VLP’s with safe epitopes and no adjuvants or preservatives has not been conducted, so we do not yet know their safety profile. This is call for overall reform – let’s get to work and find out!

  • Paul, please realize it’s the point of entry that causes the mercury problem. Fish is bound to mercury and most of that gets excreted in feces and urine. Injected mercury goes to the brain, therefore a blood test is not accurate in testing heavy metal levels. A blood test is only acccurate for recent exposure.

    Why is it when children and adults are on the Andy Cutler protocol to chelate heavy metals, their healthy problems are reduced, and sometimes eliminated? It’s because these individuals are heavy metal toxic.

    The flu shot should NEVER contain mercury, and there are select flu vaccines that still have this neurotoxin. So WRONG.

    Mercury in dentistry should be eliminated as it poisons the dentistry profession, patients and unborn children.

    Because of your greed, Mr. Offit, Richard Pan, and Eve Switzer, you will be exposed as frauds. Had the vaccine schedule stayed the same since 1986, DPT swapped for DTaP and mercury immediately eliminated from all vaccinations, there would be NO “Vaxxed” movie. Your own greed is your downfall. We ex-vaxxers are winning. It is going to take time for the screaming to cease. 1986 was the landmark year in which the drug companies lobbied Congress to give them blanket protection from civil lawsuits. A total violation of the 7th Amendment: the right to a trial by jury whether civil or criminal.

    The Gardasil trial was a falsehood. In science you never compare similars to prove a scientific hypothesis. That was done in the trials. 21 females died from the Gardasil shot and 19 females died from the shot that had everything but the HPV virus. Both vaccines were loaded with aluminum. The proper trial would have been the real Gardasil versus a straight saline vaccine. Guess what would have been the outcome.

    • I expect most readers realize that Dr. Offit already addressed the comments about ethyl and methyl Mercury, and pointed out ethyl Mercury is both in GBs amounts and excreted quicker.

      People who look up the gardasip deaths would learn they were from car accidents, suicide, drug overdoses – things unrelated to vaccines – and equal in vaccine and control group.

    • NCVIA did not give pharmaceutical companies blanket protection from civil lawsuits. You just have to go through VICP first. Section 300-21aa explains how this works. The most famous example of this is Bruesewitz v Wyeth. The family sued in VICP, lost, sued in regular court, lost all the way to the Supreme Court.

      As for Vaxxed, you all are still a very small group.

      Re Gardasil

      “Deaths in the Entire Study Population
      Across the clinical studies, ten deaths occurred (five each in the GARDASIL 9 and GARDASIL
      groups); none were assessed as vaccine-related. Causes of death in the GARDASIL 9 group included
      one automobile accident, one suicide, one case of acute lymphocytic leukemia, one case of hypovolemic
      septic shock, and one unexplained sudden death 678 days following the last dose of GARDASIL 9.
      Causes of death in the GARDASIL control group included one automobile accident, one airplane crash,
      one cerebral hemorrhage, one gunshot wound, and one stomach adenocarcinoma.”

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