Biomedical treatment of Autism encompasses many medical disciplines (e.g., nutrition, allergies, toxicology) and many body systems. Families must make decisions on multiple fronts.This section provides topical linkages to outside sources of information. It will be helpful as you seek the information you need to make healthy family decisions.
Vaccines and vaccination policies are areas of concern in the autism community. Dr. Mielke always says that there is risk in vaccinating, and there is risk in NOT vaccinating. Each parent must weigh the relative risks for their child, taking into consideration their family history, the vaccine ingredients, risk of the targeted disease, etc.
Several books and internet resources have published alternative vaccine schedules to the one promoted by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). Many such alternate schedules recommend things like not giving more than two vaccines in one day, using only Thimerisol-free vaccines, not vaccinating a sick child, not using Tylenol pre-or post vaccination, etc. Her recommended reading on this topic includes Dr. Stephanie Cave’s book, “What Your Child’s Doctor May Not Tell you about Children’s Vaccinations”, and Dr. Robert Sears’ new book, “The Vaccine Book”. Also, Generation Rescue has an alternate schedule for vaccinations.
Dr. Sears, below, has this good advice to consider about vaccines:
Dr. Bob Sears: Smart Vaccine Decisions for Families with Autism
By Dr. Bob Sears
(Excerpted from Dr. Bob Sears’ upcoming work, The Autism Book: Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention coming in April 2010 from Little, Brown.)
With the alarming rise in autism over the last 15 years, parents and doctors continue to search for causes and contributing factors. Is it genetics? Environment? Toxic exposures? Infectious agents? Prenatal factors? A mix of various causes? At (or near) the top of the list of suspects in the minds of many parents are vaccines. Mainstream science and research continue to show there is probably no connection. Yet, some vaccine research in the world of alternative medicine (but not accepted as legitimate by the mainstream medical community) shows some possible connections to autism. So who are parents to believe? What are parents supposed to do when the CDC, AAP and virtually every doctor and academic medical institution in the country says, “You have nothing to worry about – continue to vaccinate according to the regular schedule,” but a friend, neighbor, or alternatively-minded doctor says “Wait – my child (or patient) regressed into autism 3 weeks after the one-year shots – don’t do it!” What do you do when you hear that story over and over and over again?
As a pediatrician and DAN! doctor, I’ve wrestled with this decision in my practice. Much of my day is spent as a general pediatrician, doing checkups, seeing sick kids, and, yes, giving vaccinations. Part-time I treat kids with autism using the DAN! protocol. So I see all kinds of families with many different views on vaccines.
I’ve had several patients develop autism without ever having any vaccines at all, but of course most of my patients with autism were vaccinated. I do believe vaccines are important, some more than others. The diseases do pose a risk, and in my opinion vaccines do help prevent these diseases. I know that’s a bold statement to make on an autism website. Many anti-vaccine advocates feel that vaccines are dangerous and don’t even work. But that hasn’t been my experience, nor is it my understanding based on all available research. However, vaccines do have side effects, and there is a small chance of serious, even life-threatening, reactions. Such events are well documented. But most kids seem to handle vaccine very well. Overall, the medical community feels that the disease protection benefit, both for the individual and for society as a whole, outweighs the risk of side effects.But here is where families already affected by autism come into play. Does a child with autism have a greater risk of suffering a vaccine reaction (or as some parents would say, another vaccine reaction) if he continues to get more vaccines? And what about any younger siblings that come along? Should the parents vaccinate their next baby(ies)? That’s the bigger question. Is there a point where, for certain families, the risk of vaccines could outweigh the benefits of disease protection for that particular family? It would be nice if we could screen newborns for genetic and metabolic susceptibilities to severe vaccine reactions. We could then vaccinate such babies more carefully and find ways to avoid these reactions. But we don’t have that technology yet. So what is a family with autism to do? If they don’t vaccinate their subsequent children, does that put their child, and society as a whole, at risk?I believe that for a child already affected by autism, the risk of continuing to vaccinate isn’t worth the disease protection gained. For any mainstream pro-vaccine person reading this, you are probably not happy to hear me make that statement. But I feel that the chemicals and immune-modulating properties of vaccines may cause further neurological, inflammatory, or autoimmune changes within that child (who already is dealing with such issues) and possibly make the autism worse. Now, do I have any science to back up my statement? Not directly, no. To my knowledge, no one has ever taken a group of a few hundred children with autism, given them their 4 to 6 year vaccines and yearly flu shots, and studied what happens to them compared to a group of kids with autism who don’t continue to vaccinate. Until that study is done, or some mainstream research comes out that demonstrates a possible link between autism and vaccines in the first place, we can’t answer this question with certainty. But we can take a logical and theoretical guess. In my opinion it’s possible that a child with autism would be genetically, immunologically, and neurologically more susceptible to vaccine side effects. Therefore I feel it is a perfectly legitimate choice for a family to decide not to continue to vaccinate their child with autism at this time until we know more.
I will say, however, that a family who decides not to continue vaccinations should have a very clear understanding of the disease risks they are taking. Although the risk of catching a severe case of what should be a vaccine-preventable disease is low for a child past two years of age, there is a risk nonetheless. Parents should educate themselves about that risk, and the risk to society if too many people make the same decision not to vaccinate. What is the risk to society by not vaccinating? Studies have shown that we need between 90 to 95% vaccine coverage in our society to be able to keep diseases under manageable control and prevent widespread outbreaks. Small outbreaks will occur, both in vaccinated and unvaccinated people (mostly in unvaccinated though, in my opinion), but as long as most of the surrounding population is vaccinated, these outbreaks can be contained. Since autism affects about 1 in 150 kids, if all of those families stopped vaccinating their affected child, as well as their subsequent children, this would only increase the unvaccinated population by about 1 to 2%. I don’t think that’s enough to tip the scales to allow widespread disease. Yes, it increases disease risks for those individuals, but not society as a whole to a significant extent. As long as the rest of society continues to vaccinate, that is.
Let’s take a look at the disease risk a child with autism would be taking if he didn’t get his 5-year booster shots or his yearly flu shot:
• Diphtheria (a severe respiratory infection) doesn’t exist in the U.S., except for the occasional case (or five) each year. This can be a risk with international travel, however, but not really with vacation travel – you’d have to be mingling with the local population to catch it.
• Tetanus occurs from deep, dirty wounds. Fortunately it is very rare in children (partly due to vaccine coverage and partly because children just aren’t as susceptible to having tetanus grow in their wounds). Despite all the tens of thousands of unvaccinated kids running around out there, we only see about 5 cases of tetanus in kids under 12 each year.
• Pertussis is a coughing illness that tragically kills about 20 infants each year. We don’t see fatalities beyond 6 months of age, so for an older child at five years, the shot isn’t important for him as an individual. The main reason to vaccinate an older child is to prevent spread of the disease through him to an infant sibling.
Polio vaccine: Polio doesn’t exist in the U.S., or the entire western hemisphere. So going unvaccinated in this country doesn’t pose any risk to that individual. Of course, it’s an important shot for most people overall so we can keep polio out.
• Measles causes several days of fever, aches, rash, and coughing, and most kids will work through the illness without any trouble. However, there can be complications such as pneumonia (occurring in about 1 in 100 cases), or the more severe encephalitis (infection within the brain), which occurs in about 1 in 1000 cases. The fatality rate from measles is about 1 in 2000 cases. For the past 15 years we’ve managed to keep measles to a minimum level in the U.S. – about 50 to 100 cases per year. This year (2008) we are looking at a slight increase to about 150 cases occurring in about a dozen cities. A five year old with autism would already have received one dose of the MMR vaccine at age 1; most of those kids will still have this immunity from measles, mumps and rubella until the teenage years, and therefore wouldn’t necessarily need a booster at 5 (this can be checked with a blood test). Those that have lost their immunity, but don’t get a booster, would have a risk of being caught up in a measles outbreak in their community and being responsible for spreading the disease if they caught it, but this risk is fairly small at this time. This could change if measles becomes more common.
• Mumps causes swollen tonsils and facial glands, fever, and rash, and most kids get through it without any trouble. Fatalities are virtually unheard of. We only see about 250 to 500 cases of mumps in the U.S. each year (except for an outbreak of about 5000 cases in 2006). So the chances that an unvaccinated child would catch mumps is fairly rare, but if he did catch it, virtually all childhood cases are harmless. In teens and adults, mumps can causes sterility.
• Rubella is harmless to any child or adult who catches it (mild fever, rash and body aches), but if a pregnant mom catches rubella it can cause birth defects. Because of vaccination, rubella is extremely rare – only about 10 cases are identified each year in the U.S. So, it would be safe for an older child to go without a rubella booster, since the disease would be harmless to him (keeping in mind, the very small risk to any pregnant parents or teachers around him).
This is given at age one, and most kids will retain that immunity throughout childhood (this can be verified with a blood test). Some will lose immunity, however, so a booster is offered at 5. Kids who don’t get a booster could be susceptible to the disease, although they’d likely catch a milder case because of their vaccine protection. The fatality rate from this disease is very low – about 1 in 65,000 cases. We do tragically see about 5 deaths each year in the U.S.
Flu vaccine is now recommended for every child up through age 18 at the start of every flu season (November). The flu tragically kills about 100 children every year. Fortunately, the vast majority of kids who catch the flu get through without any lasting harm. Getting a flu shot doesn’t prevent a child from catching the flu 100%, but it can help lower the chances. The main reason not to get a flu shot for a child with autism is that most brands contain mercury. Companies do make a small supply of mercury-free flu shots every year, so if a family was to choose to have their child get a flu shot, at least make sure it’s mercury-free. I know that most mainstream science has failed to show a link between vaccine mercury and autism, but for a child already with autism I believe that avoiding mercury is a good precaution anyway.
So, as you can see, the risk of skipping the 5-year shots for a child with autism is fairly low. Yes, it does leave a child open to some diseases, but the complication and fatality rates of anything he’d be likely to catch is fairly low. Skipping vaccines does pose some public health risk, however. An unvaccinated child can be the start of, or help spread, an outbreak of a disease. But considering the overall risk versus benefit of vaccines for a child with autism (and the neurological, auto-immune and inflammatory problems that may go along with autism), I don’t blame any parent for skipping the 5-year shots and the yearly flu shot.
In 20 states, vaccines are optional. Parents can waive them without providing a reason. But in 30 states, parents either have to have a religious reason or a medical waiver. Most DAN! doctors would likely provide a medical exception for any child with autism. But some parents without a DAN! doctor might find themselves in a bind. You could try getting religious really quick, but that wouldn’t be honest. You could also try to fight the system. I would think that many schools would be lenient on you, since you and your child already have so much to deal with. If you are forced into vaccinating anyway, you could first get a blood test to check the immunity levels from the infant vaccines. If your child still has immunity, most states will accept that in place of a booster shot. If you ultimately don’t have any choice and have to do the 5-year booster shots, I would suggest at least getting only one shot at a time and spreading it all out over a year or two.
Vaccinating Subsequent Children
What should parents do with the next baby that comes along? We do know that siblings have a higher risk of autism than the general population, but we really don’t know whether or not vaccines would increase that risk. I understand that many such families will take any and all possible precautions to prevent autism in their next children, including early diet restrictions, supplementation with probiotics, fish oil, and vitamins, limiting (or avoiding completely) antibiotics, and early intervention for any developmental delays. But what about vaccines? There is no clear answer. Some parents feel very strongly that vaccines played a role in their child’s autism, and would never vaccinate another baby. Some parents don’t feel the same way. I’m not going to say what the right decision is, because I don’t know. Yes, vaccines are important for disease prevention, but I can totally understand that any family that believes vaccines harmed their first child would view the vaccine risks as greater than the disease risks for their next baby. As you consider what the disease risks would be for a subsequent baby or babies, it becomes clear that some vaccines are more important than others, and parents who do decide to vaccinate their subsequent baby could pick and choose only certain vaccines. Here are some basic ideas about the various vaccines:
Hep B vaccine: I will be right up front and say that this is a really stupid vaccine for newborns (unless mom or dad is a Hep B carrier). There’s no realistic way for a baby or young child to catch this disease. So, this is a no-brainer – your baby doesn’t need this shot (at least in the first few years).
DTaP vaccine: Although U.S. babies don’t need tetanus or diphtheria protection, pertussis is a risk for babies in the first 6 months of life – we see about 20 babies die each year from it.
Pc vaccine: This vaccine protects against infant and toddler meningitis, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia. There are approximately 1000 such cases each year in the U.S., although the exact number of actual fatalities isn’t known.
HIB vaccine: This protects against a very rare form of infant and toddler meningitis. There used to be about 20,000 cases each year in the U.S. during the 1980s and before – now we see only about 25 (due, in my opinion, to the vaccine).
Rotavirus vaccine: This oral liquid vaccine protects against this vomiting and diarrhea intestinal illness. This infection kills about 50 babies each year, and hospitalizes about 50,000. It is very common.
Hep A: This food poisoning illness usually gets transmitted at restaurants. It’s a very mild disease in children. Teens and adults will suffer the worst stomach flu of their lives for a week or two. This is not a fatal disease, however, and it doesn’t cause long-term complications.
HPV vaccine: This is a 3-dose teenage vaccine (for girls only) to prevent the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. Parents would need to determine if their older daughter is at risk.
Meningococcal vaccine: This teenage meningitis vaccine (one-dose only) protects against the type of meningitis that goes around high schools and colleges. There are about 3000 yearly cases with about 300 fatalities.
Polio, MMR, Chickenpox, Flu – see above.
This was a very basic look at each disease and vaccine. Parents should fully educate themselves as they decide what to do.
HOW TO CAREFULLY VACCINATE
In The Vaccine Book, I detail how parents who choose to vaccinate can do so in the safest manner possible by following these suggestions:
• Limit the number of vaccines to 2 per visit (instead of as many as 6 that are offered at each baby checkup).
• Delay certain vaccines that are designed to protect against a disease that a baby has no risk of catching in the U.S.
• Begin with the most important vaccines first, to protect a baby from the riskiest diseases.
• Understand about the various chemicals that are in vaccines and don’t overlap too many chemicals all at once.
• Avoid vaccines during times of illness, intestinal problems, and severe allergic conditions.
• Watch carefully for vaccine reactions and consider not repeating a vaccine that a baby has a moderate to severe reaction to.
The decision on whether or not to vaccinate is a difficult one for parents to make when autism runs in the family. For parents who decide to fully vaccinate their babies, my Alternative Vaccine Schedule (see The Vaccine Book for details) offers a way to vaccinate that avoids overloading with too many vaccines at a time and spreads them out over more years. For parents who want to be more selective in what vaccines they give their baby, and want to only provide the most important vaccines for the most serious diseases at an age when the diseases pose the most risk, I would suggest considering my Selective Vaccine Schedule:
2 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
3 months – Pc, HIB
4 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
5 months – Pc, HIB
6 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
7 months – Pc, HIB
15 months – Pc, HIB
7 years – Tetanus booster
I prefer the ActHIB brand of HIB, the Daptacel or Tripedia brand of DTaP, and any brand of Rota and Pc. This limits some of the chemicals that are in vaccines.
Parents can also choose to delay vaccines, although this leaves an infant open to some diseases. Once your child is 3 or 4 years of age and past the time when regressive autism would likely develop, you could then consider some vaccines. Which ones you would then choose isn’t an easy decision. You would take a look at each disease and decide if you feel that vaccine would be important for your child or for society around you.
Parents who decide not to vaccinate their infants should commit to prolonged breastfeeding (if possible), avoid group childcare, keep the baby out of church or health-club nurseries for the first two years of life, and promptly seek medical care if the baby develops a high fever, unusual rash, or bad cough. You don’t have to keep your baby quarantined. You can go about town, stores, and schools – as long as you aren’t leaving the baby in anyone else’s care with other infants around.
In conclusion, I would advise parents not to give a child with autism any further vaccines, as long as you feel comfortable with the disease risk. For subsequent babies, the decision is less clear. Parents have a choice to not vaccinate, restrict their vaccines to the Selective list in the first two years, or fully vaccinate. For sibling infants, I would recommend against the regular full vaccine schedule that groups as many as 6 vaccines together at each infant checkup. I think that overloads these susceptible babies with too many, too soon.
Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician, DAN! doctor, and author in the Sears Parenting Library. He is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Vaccine Probe Needed
This is a rebuttal written by Dr. Mielke to a pro-vaccine editorial, published in the Valley Times newspaper on May 24, 2008:
The recent column from Rahul Parikh entitled, “All at risk without vaccines,” states that while vaccines do have side-effects, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism aren’t one of them, and implies that parents who don’t vaccinate their child are misguided and “selfish.”
Parikh states that there isn’t any proof that vaccines may be related to the sudden rise in autism in children. In fact, many studies point to vaccines as one of the possible triggers in autism, but the government has so far refused to fund a major study comparing the autism rates in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children. Many feel that this is because they are afraid of what they would find. The liability risk here is huge. There is also no scientific study that proves that current vaccines are safe. Pro-vaccine advocates often omit this important fact.
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are not kooks. There is a very real and unanswered question out there, and many educated parents decide to take their chances with Mother Nature, rather than intentionally potentially harm their child.
This past week, Bernadine Healy, the former Director of the NIH, admitted in a ground-breaking interview that there was a real concern about vaccine safety and its link to autism, and that the government had not done an adequate job of investigating this issue.
This week, a new paper was presented at a major medical conference showing that infant monkeys vaccinated under the same vaccine schedule given to millions of American children became very ill and showed gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms similar to those seen in autistic children.
Recently the government conceded in a landmark case that vaccines were implicated in the causation of autism in Hannah Poling, and many more such cases are waiting in the wings.
The phenomenon of a healthy, normal child that descends into chronic illness and autism after vaccinating happens all too often. There seems to be a vaccine-susceptible subset of the population. However, no one is currently testing for that subset. Parents need to be able to make an informed choice. We all want to protect our children and society from contagious diseases. We just need to be sure that we are doing it in the safest possible way for everyone. When it comes to vaccines, many are not willing to just accept the “trust me, it’s safe” line any more.
Lynne Mielke, M.D.
A Letter About Vaccines from Autism Dad Brian Scott to Dr. Tom Insel, Director, NIMH
Dear Dr. Insel,
I am writing to you in hopes of convincing you that there is much to be learned by evaluating the possible relationship between a more aggressive vaccination schedule and the apparent increase in autism diagnosis.
In the last few years, there have been a series of articles published in widely respected journals that unquestionably point towards the presence of an ongoing inflammatory process in children with autism; and in some cases, specifically, in the brains of people with autism. Considering these findings, I believe it is prudent that we find a way to determine if the artificial stimulations of our infants immune systems at an early age may be related to what has been observed at a diagnostic level.
Specific examples of an ongoing inflammatory process in the brain and CNS of people with autism have been observed in at least three studies in the past four years:
In January of 2009 researchers in New York published “Elevated immune response in the brain of autistic patients.”. When compared with control samples, the brains of people with autism were found to have highly increased levels of several inflammatory cytokines, including TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IFN-gamma. The authors concluded that localized brain inflammation may be related to the pathogenesis of autism.
In 2007, researchers in Chicago measured levels of cytokines in the CSF of children with autism. What they observed was very highly increased levels of tnf-alpha in children with autism when compared to children without this diagnosis. This paper is entitled: “Elevation of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in cerebrospinal fluid of autistic children”
In 2005, researchers at Johns Hopkins found that people with autism showed signs of immune activation at greatly increased levels compared to people without this diagnosis, in their paper, “Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism”. Once again, there was a marked increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines in subjects with autism.
On a more indirect measurement level, but corresponding well to observed increased head size in autism, in 2006, researchers at Washington University observed increased water retention in the brains of children with autism as opposed to children without a diagnosis. The authors believe that this could be the result of an ongoing inflammatory process, and that this inflammation could actually be what drives increased brain size, as opposed to a ‘lack of pruning’. This study is entitled: “Gray matter abnormalities in autism spectrum disorder revealed by T2 relaxation”.
There are, of course, many other studies identifying an inflammatory cytokine profile in autism, but I have only included those that speak directly to the CNS for purposes of brevity. There should be no doubt, however, that the immune system in autism is dysregulated, and is skewed to a pro-inflammatory state.
If we look for mechanisms by which a dysregulated inflammatory immune response might be generated in children with autism, we also have many recent studies wherein key upstream immune messengers responsible for controlling immune responses have been shown to be abnormal in autism.
In August 2008, researchers from Yale published “Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor and Autism Spectrum Disorders”. This study found that children with autism had greatly increased levels of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) when compared to children without that diagnosis; and as levels of MIF increased, so did measures of autism severity. Increased levels of MIF has been well documented to be associated with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, some cancers, and type 1 diabetes. This particular study also utilized genomic mapping, and children with autism were found to be much more likely to harbor known MIF promoter alleles than their non diganosed peers. In this paper, the authors state: “Thus, the central hypothesis underlying this research was that a genetic predisposition to a particular level of MIF production may lead to a proinflammatory profile of cell activation that, if present during a neurodevelopmentally sensitive period, might contribute to the etiopathogenesis of autism.”
In 2008, researchers at the University of California found that children with autism were much more likely to have decreased levels of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-B1) when compared with children without a diagnosis. TFG-B1 is a critical immune component that participates in the control of immune responses. When circulating levels were measured, children with less TGF-B1, exhibited more severe autistic behaviors. This study is entitled “Decreased transforming growth factor beta1 in autism: a potential link between immune dysregulation and impairment in clinical behavioral outcomes.”
Decreased levels of TGF-B1 were previously identified by researchers in Japan, in a study titled: “Decreased serum levels of transforming growth factor-beta1 in patients with autism.”. Thus, in a very real sense, at a clinical level, we have observed that children with autism have impaired ability to appropriately control immune responses by a variety of identified physiological measures; and indeed, as that impairment grows, so do measures of autism severity. Taken together, observed inflammatory processes and abnormal messenger components constitute the observation of a susceptible subgroup; a population of children who have problems regulating immune responses.
Finally, in an animal model of autism, researchers from John Hopkins were able to create animals with distinctive behavioral and physiological characteristics of autism by administering an agent after birth; but only if that agent was given shortly after birth. The agent in question, terbutaline, has been shown to increase concordance of autism diagnosis in twins. Animals given terbutaline between two and five days after birth went on to display different behavioral profiles, as well as distinctive microglial activation previously observed in people with autism. Animals given the agent between eleven and fourteen days after birth showed no such changes. These physiological changes were persistent until at least thirty days. This study is, “Neuroinflammation and behavioral abnormalities after neonatal terbutaline treatment in rats: implications for autism.” This bears repeating: by adjusting the timing of a dose of chemical after birth, researchers were able to create physiological hallmarks of autism.
Taking all of this information together, we have learned many things. People with autism have been shown to have a distinctly pro-inflammatory immune profile in their brains and central nervous systems when compared to people without autism. From a mechanism of action standpoint, we have increasing evidence of how children with autism are predisposed to have problems regulating an immune response; with results expected to be skewed towards increased inflammation. These two avenues of observations would appear to be completely consistent with one another. In animal models, physiological features known to be compatible with what is found in autism can be created by adjusting the timing of an agent after the animal is born.
Now, consider vaccines. The underlying mechanism of creating an immunological memory is the initiation of an immune response by providing a small concentration of bacterial or viral proteins alongside aluminum salts. In the past two decades, there has been a gradual but steady increase in the number of vaccinations given, and a corresponding decrease in the age at which those vaccinations are administered. Concurrently, there has been an increase in combination vaccinations, which are well established to produce more pronounced immune responses (i.e., fevers) than the individual vaccinations which those particular diseases. Simply, more immune challenges, at earlier ages, and those that are more likely to generate a robust immune response. Unfortunately, our existing suite of research regarding autism and vaccination was constructed before almost all of the above observations were made, and as a result, these studies were not designed to attempt to capture information regarding a relationship between dysregulated immune responses and autism. Unfortunately, any association between early aged immune response generation and autism are completely invisible to all thimerosal based studies.
Likewise, the remaining components of our research, MMR studies, only take into account vaccines that are given after a dozen, or more, earlier vaccinations are administered. As such, our ability to glean useful information is hindered greatly; especially considering the impact of timing in the animal studies referenced above. It is merely a statement of fact that our existing research based is comprised entirely of thimerosal or MMR studies.
As a scientist, you must accept that as additional information becomes available, new theories are required to try to explain what has been observed. For all the rhetoric concerning ‘shifting goalposts’ regarding vaccines and autism, one thing seems to be forgotten, or unknown; we now have much more information than we used to. I would assert that it is unconscionable not to formulate new working theories based on our emerging understanding of the immune regulatory issues identified in autism; and we have no valid reason for these theories not to include artificially stimulated immune responses.
Considering that we now know that children with autism are particularly predisposed towards having an impaired ability to control inflammatory immune responses; and indeed, that the timing of insults is critical in the developing nervous system, we no longer have the luxury of believing that there is no viable mechanism of action by which a more aggressive vaccine schedule can contribute to the pathology of autism. Likewise, we have certainty that our existing research does not provide meaningful information as to the impact of initiating immune responses at earlier and earlier ages.
In autism, we have observed abnormalities in the system that is at the absolute heart of vaccination, all vaccinations, and we have no research one way or the other as to if the two are related or not. Your decision will not be an easy one, but please consider that history will take note of your actions. Unless all of the research I have referenced above is wrong in the exact same way, we have sufficient evidence to take steps to evaluate if artificially generated immune responses are associated with autism. Unless you believe for some reason that all of the information I have included is incorrect, surely additional findings regarding the immunological dsyfunction in autism are likely to follow; and eventually more and more people will come to the conclusion that I have: The foundation of the scientific method is that you only learn about what you actually analyze; in the case of vaccines and autism, as opposed to thimerosal and autism, or the MMR and autism, we simply have not performed any quality evaluations. Without quality evaluations, it is impossible to actually know if there is a relationship between a more aggressive vaccination schedule and autism rates. Considering what we now know about the handling of immune responses in autism, continuing to assert that vaccine research is a waste of resources constitutes either ignorance of our understanding of autism physiology, or outright denial of what has been observed in favor of political expediency.
The evaluation of your decision regarding funding prioritizations will continue for a long time; and I must admit, I do not envy your position. Throwing aside, for the moment, the very legitimate concerns of questioning the policy of vaccination, you should ask yourself, will it stand up to scientific scrutiny in the future?
Brian is the father of Luke, a five-year old child with autism. He and his wife, Tracy Stewart, are passionate autism advocates and help lead NAA Florida to increase awareness, services and rights for families affected by autism. Luke has improved tremendously through the use of biomedical and behavioral interventions.
Aluminum in our vaccines: Is it safe?
By Michael Wagnitz, published in the Madison, Wisconsin CAPITAL TIMES of 2/10/2009
With the vaccines available in the U.S. today, parents can avoid vaccines preserved with thimerosal (50% mercury) for their newborns and infants. This is not the case with aluminum, which has been linked to impaired neurological development in children.
Aluminum has not replaced thimerosal as a vaccine preservative; it has always been used in vaccines.
Its purpose is to generate an immune response, thus providing a person the ability to produce adequate levels of antibodies to the vaccine being administered. Unlike thimerosal, if aluminum is removed, the vaccine will not work.
In the recent past, most kids got exposed to both thimerosal and aluminum simultaneously with the hepatitis B, Hib, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and pneumococcal vaccines. Combining mercury with aluminum increases the likelihood that the mercury will damage human tissue.
While aluminum is in the food we eat at much higher levels, it is not absorbed well through the gastrointestinal tract. When this protective gastrointestinal mechanism is bypassed, aluminum toxicity can cause serious problems.
There are currently eight childhood vaccines that contain aluminum ranging from 125 to 850 micrograms (mcg). These vaccines are administered 17 times in the first 18 months of life, an almost six-fold increase compared to the vaccine schedule of the 1980s.
According to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, based on IV feeding solutions, a child should not exceed a maximum daily dose of 5 mcg of aluminum per kilogram of weight per day. That means if a child weighs 11 pounds, the child should not exceed 25 mcg in a day. This level was determined to be the maximum safety limit based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Aluminum Neurotoxicity in Preterm Infants Receiving Intravenous Feeding Solutions.”
The hepatitis B vaccine, administered at birth, contains 250 mcg.
In a 1996 policy statement, “Aluminum Toxicity in Infants and Children,” the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Aluminum can cause neurological harm. People with kidney disease who build up bloodstream levels of aluminum greater than 100 mcg per liter are at risk of toxicity. The toxic threshold of aluminum in the bloodstream may be lower than 100 mcg per liter.
“So let’s say an infant receives 1,250 micrograms at 2 months of age (three vaccines). Assuming a child’s body contains a half liter of blood, this would put the blood level 25 times higher than the above mentioned levels.
Now people will argue whether an intramuscular injection (such as vaccines) would introduce aluminum into the bloodstream at the same level as an IV feeding solution. Unfortunately, the purpose of direct intramuscular injection is to provide rapid access to the bloodstream. This provides direct access to all target organs such as the brain.
The real eye-opener is a recently published paper where the authors investigated Gulf War syndrome based on the fact that soldiers were getting sick without deployment to the Persian Gulf region. They eventually focused on aluminum used in the anthrax vaccine. Injecting mice with aluminum at levels equal to what the soldiers received induced motor neuron death. The dose, per body weight, given to children easily exceeds what the soldiers received.
One must question whether exposing newborns to aluminum is worth the risk to protect them against a sexually transmitted disease (hepatitis B). If aluminum can cause injury to an adult, combat-ready soldier, what is it doing to newborns?
OTHER INFORMATIONAL LINKS ABOUT VACCINES
There is a very large literature available on vaccine issues of special relevance to the autism community. Below are several links, so you can do your own investigation and reach your own conclusions. This section will be updated as new information becomes available:
The National Vaccine Information Center was “created to provide you with the information you need to make an informed vaccination decision.
Safe Minds, is a non-profit organization devoted to raising awareness about the effects of mercury. It has several media links as well.
This article in Mercola.com states that vaccines can also have delayed effects, such as depression in later life.
The National Autism Association has up-to-date news items and media links about autism and vaccines.
The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health provides a table of data with the thimerosal concentration and mercury content of several U.S. licensed vaccines.
Combination measles shots have been linked to fever-related convulsions, this study finds. Many vaccine experts agree that researchers in general do not study the combo vaccines in people for safety as much as they do for individual vaccines. Safety of the combo is largely assumed because each individual product that makes up the combo is considered “safe.” They study it more for efficacy, to make sure the combo works. For instance, when they made pro-quad (MMR + Varicella Chicken Pox) they had to increase the Varicella component 5-10 fold to maintain the same Varicella efficacy as the individual shot. During the pre-marketing studies of efficacy, the company found a higher rate of seizures in children vaccinated with pro-quad, but this was not widely publisized (see story in the link above). The motive for making a combo shot does not appear to be a cost issue as the combo costs about the same as the separate ingredients. It is probably because the prevailing thought in medicine is to vaccinate the child while you can. If you give 10 vaccines in 3 shots, parents may think they are getting only 3 vaccines, and it is easier to keep the child “up to date” with fewer appointments. However, the safety of combining so many vaccines into a single day has not been adequately determined, in my opinion.
The individual components of vaccines — and their exipients, allergens and contaminants — must be considered in evaluating the safety of the vaccines themselves. Some of the ingredients are extremely toxic and have detrimental effects on human health. Examine the documentation in this website to arrive at satisfactory conclusions yourself.
Dr. Richard Halvorsen, author of ‘The Truth About Vaccines’ (Gibson Square Books), has this to say about chickenpox vaccines: News that doctors are calling for all children to be inoculated against chickenpox causes me concern. During the first half of the 20th-century it made sense to be introducing vaccines against whooping cough, diphtheria and tuberculosis, all of which were killing thousands of children every year. But nowadays, the vogue is to recommend immunisation for diseases that are either relatively harmless, or serious but rare. (For the complete article, click here)
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny cites research and argues against a policy of mass vaccinations for flu. Read her article “Flu Shots and the New Adjuvants: Beware!”