News and commentary on the autism epidemic and my beautiful boy who is living with autism.
June 30, 2005
My Boy Can Talk!
In the last few months his eye contact has improved dramatically and his speech has been getting better and better. A few months ago he said his first spontaneous sentence, which he didn’t repeat much without being directed, but if you prompted him enough and were patient enough, you could get him to do it. Often he inserted a number in the sentence (“I want 5 swing”) and you would have to provide all the words for him several times, but he seemed to know if he gave you some combination of the words you were saying to him, he would get what he wanted.
Last Thursday, the boys were playing in the back yard when Webster ran in the house and yelled, “Mommy! Chandler said, ‘I did it’”! When I looked outside, he was playing on the hopscotch, which usually just meant he would step on the squares and shout out the numbers. Apparently he was so pleased with his performance that he had to tell the world.
That day and the next, he began coming up and holding my hand as he does when he wants something. The usual process is something like this: he pulls on me, I tell him to say “come on, Mommy”, he says, “come on”, he takes me by the hand to the thing that he wants, I try to get him to say the word, if he says the word, then I try to get him to say, “I want ___”, we spend two minutes trying to get the sentence out of him, then another minute trying to get the numbers out of the sentence, he may or may not get it depending on the difficulty of the word, then he finally gets the thing. However this is what happened. He looked me in the eye and said:
“I want swing.”
No dragging, no prompting, no numbers inserted, no waiting for minutes.
It has been a week now and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
I want banana, I want peanut butter, I want phrazze (puzzle). He is now coming up to me and saying things I can’t understand because they are not words that he has used before and his pronunciation is rough. “I want jalses”. I have no clue what that means, but he says it with all conviction and looks at me intently for my answer. ‘Puzzle’ was one of these words that took me some time to figure out.
My decision to declare that my boy can now talk came yesterday when I was trying to offer him something to eat. I asked him if he wanted a banana and he seemed to be ignoring me and just babbling to himself, so I was only half paying attention to what he is saying. Here is what he said:
“Nanna.” ( he wants a banana). “Apple.” (oh, maybe he wants an apple). Inaudible. (some babbling that I wasn’t paying attention to because he can’t talk, right?) “Cherry on top.” (WHAT THE HELL???) “Uh-ohhh, oh-nooooo” “Kako” “Sorry”.
So as I stand there dumbfounded, I realize that he is reciting a scene from Oobi, one of his favorite shows, where Oobi and his best friend Kako go to the market and pile a bunch of fruit on the fruit scale. Kako puts a cherry on top of the pile of fruit and it all comes crashing down on him. He stands up and says “Sorry”.
My boy can talk.
He is requesting help by saying, “Hep”. Bringing me the flashlight and saying, “Flashlight on”. He is walking around the house saying his brother’s name, “Wester, Wester”. And when Scott comes home from work he is greeted with, “Hi, Darry”.
Chandler is well on his way back to us.
So if you see him on the street, make sure to say hi to him. Who knows what you will get back.
June 29, 2005
Dan Olmstead Looks at Homeschooled Kids
By DAN OLMSTED | June 28, 2005 at 1:14 PM
WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- Where are the unvaccinated homeschooled children with autism? Nowhere to be found, says a doctor who treats autistic children and is knowledgeable about the homeschooled world.
"It's largely nonexistent," Dr. Jeff Bradstreet told UPI's Age of Autism. "It's an extremely rare event."
Bradstreet treats autistic children at his medical practice in Palm Bay, Fla. He has a son whose autism he attributes to a vaccine reaction at 15 months. His daughter has been homeschooled, he describes himself as a "Christian family physician," and he knows many of the leaders in the homeschool movement.
"There was this whole subculture of folks who went into homeschooling so they would never have to vaccinate their kids," he said. "There's this whole cadre who were never vaccinated for religious reasons."
In that subset, he said, "unless they were massively exposed to mercury through lots of amalgams (mercury dental fillings in the mother) and/or big-time fish eating, I've not had a single case."
Bradstreet said his views do not constitute a persuasive argument that low vaccination rates are associated with low rates of autism, but it is worth studying.
"That's not yet science," he said. "It doesn't rise to the level of a powerful observation. It's a place to say, OK, well that's interesting, what does that tell us?"
About 2 million children are being homeschooled in the United States. The number of those unvaccinated is unclear, but judging by the school opt-out rates in some parts of the country where there is more concern about vaccinations, it could be 3 percent or more. For example, in Oregon's Lane County roughly 2,000 students out of a total of 51,000 have exemptions, about 4 percent.
Applying that ratio to the U.S. homeschooled population would equal 80,000 children. At the current autism rate of one in 166 children, several hundred would be expected to have autism.
Bradstreet said he has tried to persuade epidemiologists to study that subset of the homeschooled population, but they expressed doubts the results would apply to broader groups.
"I said I know I can tap into this community and find you large numbers of unvaccinated homeschooled, and we can do simple prevalence and incidence studies in them, and my gut reaction is that you're going to see no autism in this group."
He said every researcher he contacted refused to investigate, "because it would not have any power to change people's opinion -- you could never apply it to the next population." He said critics could assert that homeschoolers are a unique group and that parents might choose to homeschool a child "because they knew he was different," although neither would explain the lower autism prevalence.
He also said he thinks homeschoolers would be a better population to examine than a genetically and culturally isolated community such as the Amish.
"The purists would say that's too odd of a group," Bradstreet said, and added that he agrees. "You can't draw conclusions from that kind of population."
His comments referred to the series of reports in The Age of Autism on an apparent low prevalence of the condition among the Amish, most of whom are unvaccinated.
Monday, this column reported that a top official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told parents he will consider whether to launch a study of autism rates among the Amish or other unvaccinated populations. Such a study apparently has never been done.
Bradstreet said he thinks that no matter what unvaccinated population researchers study, "it would be a rare event" to find autism. His views fall into the distinct minority among scientists and medical experts, who say a link between vaccines and autism has been discredited. A panel of the prestigious Institute of Medicine -- part of the National Academy of Sciences -- said last year that research should now go to "promising" areas.
The vaccine theory centers on the hypothesis that a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal, used in an increasing number of childhood vaccinations in the 1990s, triggered a huge spike in diagnoses.
Bradstreet's linking of autism to mercury in fish and maternal dental fillings is also rejected by mainstream medical experts. The comments do, however, echo one aspect of UPI's reporting on the Amish.
A doctor in Virginia said he was treating six unvaccinated Amish children, four of whom had high levels of mercury in their bodies that he thinks triggered their autism. He suspects the exposure came from coal-fired power plants, which emit mercury as a byproduct.
Bradstreet said he realizes his views on vaccines, and his own son's autism, expose him to charges he is seeing what he wishes to see, but he argues that government researchers harbor a bigger conflict of interest because the government mandates vaccinations and vouches for their safety.
"The problem for them is even more than the problem for us," he said. "Many of us who are concerned about vaccines and the role they're playing in the immune system and autism are traditionally trained physicians who vaccinated our kids and are only reluctantly being forced, when it was thrown in our face, to say there's got to be something wrong with vaccines if it did this to my kid.
"So in that situation, even though we would be accused of being more biased, we are probably more objective because we were believers."
This ongoing series on the roots and rise of autism aims to interact with readers and welcomes comment, criticism and suggestions. E-mail: email@example.com
June 28, 2005
HHS Considers Studying the Amish
A top U.S. health official is considering whether to launch studies of the Amish -- and perhaps other unvaccinated groups -- in response to United Press International's articles about a low prevalence of autism in that community, according to several people who spoke with him last week.
William F. Raub of the Department of Health and Human Services suggested this possibility at a private meeting at HHS headquarters in Washington, participants said. His comment adds to recent signs that some federal officials monitoring autism research and funding have not ruled out a possible vaccine link.
I am excited to hear this. We seem to have a built in control group in this country I think it is, to be blunt, stupid not to explore it.
The vaccine question is important, but genetics, diet and differences in the habits of pregnant women need to be looked at as well. As I have mentioned before, if I was the head of HHS, Lancaster PA would look like a scene out of Outbreak.
I have posted Dr. Raub’s contact information in case any one wants to let him know that they encourage him move forward with the study.
Dr. William Raub
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science Policy
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 434-E
200 Independence Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20201
Tel: (202) 401-9456
Fax: (202) 205-8835
The Growing Phenom of Non-Vaccination
In this case more kids got sick, but the article does not say that any children died or suffered life long disability from getting the measles.
Bottom line, parents’ fears are only going to increase the longer the government refuses to take an OPEN look at possibility of the autism/thimerosal connection.
Yesterday I spoke to Lynn Redwood, head of Safe Minds and the mother of a mercury poisoned autistic child, and she told me a story that spoke volumes to me.
She attended an ACIP meeting on Thimerosal. This is the Advisory Committee for Immunization Policy that makes vaccine policy recommendations to the CDC. The CDC always accepts the recommendations of the committee, so it is very powerful.
By law, the meetings are open to the public and the public may ask questions and offer comments. After some discussion, Lynn noted that the CDC and the American Association of Pediatricians has not made a recommendation that pregnant women and children receiving vaccines should get ones with out mercury if it is available. She asked the ACIP to state a preference for Thimerosal free DTaP, HiB and HepB for infants.
The moderator said that they would not be stating a preference between the two. When Lynn asked why not, he said that he was not going to argue with her about it and moved on to the next question.
I will try to get the transcript of the meeting for clarity and confirmation.
Here is my question:
Why, when a conscious parent who attended, what was supposed to be, the open meeting for discussion on U.S. policy regarding mercury in vaccines, asks good question and is then told, by one of the 12 individuals who votes on what the vaccine policy will be, in effect to shut up and sit down, should any parent feel comfortable following their recommendations?
June 27, 2005
Compare and Contrast
On Autism's Cause, It's Parents vs. Research
Thimerosal & Autsim - David Kirby's Evidence of Harm
The same information was available to both authors. Why do you think they came out so differently?
June 25, 2005
Where I Stand on Vaccines
No I am not anti-vaccine; and Yes I think you should worry about getting your kids vaccinated. A little bit.
We stopped vaccinating our boys after we found about Chandler’s autism so that we could learn everything we could about vaccines and any risk they might pose to our Autistic son and his high risk brother. We have chosen to send our older NT son to a private school next year that requires that all attendees be fully vaccinated so we will be starting up his vaccinations again this year, spacing them out while we make sure to boost his immune system so he can handle them well. I also plan on learning the history and risks of each vaccine before it is administered.
If a vaccine injury were to occur in the future with Webster, I couldn’t forgive myself unless I had educated myself as best I could on everything I was giving him and avoided the injury as wisely as I could.
Chandler is a different problem all together. Has research even been done on vaccinating autistic children? What is the recommendation on vaccinating children with compromised immune systems like HIV? Do recommendations on vaccinating autistic children even take into account the immune problems that they have seeing as mainstream medicine may not even widely recognize that the autistics have immune problems?
I have not even started looking for these answers questions yet. I will you all know when I get there.
In the mean time, when I say be a “little” worried about vaccinations, I mean educate yourself as best you can, talk to your doctor about them and if he is annoyed with answering your questions, talk to another doctor and get reading. Most importantly, make sure your kids are healthy before they are vaccinated and ask to see the box so you can be sure you are not getting one of the few left over mercury vaccines. If it says “Thimerosal” on the box, call it to the attention of your doc and ask for a mercury free vaccine.
If you are really, really worried about vaccines, have a high risk child and are rich; take your child in and get him tested for immunity problems before getting vaccinated. That may sound a bit overboard, but I think it is important to try to vaccinate if you can.
When I have talked to people who are considering not vaccinating at all, here is what I have challenged them with:
Don’t make the decision not to vaccinate your child unless you believe the risk of him contracting a seizure disorder or a developmental disorder outweighs the risk of him dieing from a disease that could have been prevented had he gotten his shots.The bottom line is that only you and your family are going to have to live with the consequences of the decisions you make, so make the best ones you can and don’t let other people make those decisions for you.
There is no controversy about whether or not vaccine injury exists. All vaccines are a calculated risk. The CDC freely admits that a small percentage of the population will be harmed by them.
The controversy enters into just what disorders are result of vaccine injuries and what ones are not.
When a child gets a shot and immediately starts seizing on the table, it is quite easy to see that a vaccine injury has taken place. But what if the injury is a slow one that takes several days, weeks or months? Causality becomes harder to establish.
In my opinion, the CDC is looking at the mercury problem with a hand over one eye, three fingers over the other eye while squinting. Therefore, their assertion that Thimerosal plays no role in the development of Autism should be questioned.
Not rejected, questioned. Heavily.
So no, I am not anti-vaccine, I think it would be better to describe me as “vaccine resistant”. I want to believe that they are a good bet for my kids, but at this point, you are gonna have to prove it to me.
The CDC’s vaccine policy is based on the principle that the good done for the many outweighs the harm to the few. And that is fine if you are making vaccine policy for 300 million people. But I am not responsible for holding back another Rubella epidemic; I am responsible for two little boys who just may fall into that sliver of the population that the CDC considers an acceptable loss.
June 24, 2005
None Of The Presidents Men
It is in this spirit that I would like to present my new screen play. It is my interpretation of what Watergate might have been like had Bob Woodward worked for ABC News in the early 70's.
NONE OF THE PRESIDENTS MEN
Open to interior of Oval Office:
Mr. Woodward: Thank you for meeting with me Mr. President. This guy Deep Throat told me that you knew about the break in at the Watergate Building.
Mr. Nixon: Nope. Sorry. Don’t know anything about it. Besides, studies show that Republicans don't commit B&Es.
Mr. Woodward: Ok. Thanks for your time.
Why This Matters
It matters for several reasons. First, it is not out of all vaccines. In California where I live, a law was passed disallowing it for use in vaccines for pregnant women and children under the age of 3, but that law does not go into effect until 2006. From what I understand, some children’s vaccines may still have trace amounts, all flu shots and some tetanus shots still have it at previous levels and the vaccinations that we ship overseas to third world countries still has it at previous levels.
Finding ways to stabilize vaccines for use in remote areas with out using mercury still presents a challenge. Because disease is so prevalent in these countries and vaccines so badly needed, and because thimerosal free vaccines may not last as long and are more expensive, the decision has been made to leave it in for these foreign vaccine programs. It may turn out that this calculated risk fulfills the short term task of keeping children with a much high mortality risk than ours alive, but if mercury is confirmed as a trigger for the disorder, the long term goal of preventing autism in these children may fall by the wayside.
This is certainly a very difficult situation for authorities to deal with, but ignoring research that suggests there is a link the wrong way to approach the problem. As many have noted, if the link is confirmed and the international community finds out that the US was knowingly putting children at higher risk of Autism with out providing informed consent, then the potential for backlash and foreign policy problems could be enormous.
As history teaches us, it is not the crime, but the cover up, that tears at society.
In addition, ignoring the link between mercury and autism has serious implications for autism treatment.
The history of autism treatment, like many mental health problems, is a sad one.
In the 60’s the highly lauded godfather of autism treatment was Dr. Bruno Bettleheim. He was a Freudian psychologist who had survived the Nazi death camps. He likened the withdrawal of children with autism to the emotional withdrawal that victims of holocaust displayed in the concentration camps. He reasoned that since the withdrawal of the Jewish inmates was in response to the hatred that their Nazi captors had for them, then the withdrawal of autistic children must be in response to the hatred that their mothers had for them. He labeled these women “Refrigerator Mothers” and blamed them for their children’s illness. When mothers tried to claim that they did really love their children, they were told that they were in denial of their real feelings, but that the children sensed their mothers’ true contempt for them and responded the only way they knew how, by withdrawing into themselves.
The recommended treatment was the removal of the child from the family into a Bettleheim approved institution, and years of psychotherapy and analysis for these mothers who were in such deep denial of their hatred of their own children.
The result, as you can imagine, was destroyed families and destroyed lives. Recently a documentary on this heartbreaking episode in history was released. “Refrigerator Mothers” airs occasionally on PBS. You can find more information on it at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2002/refrigeratormothers/
This remained the conventional wisdom in the medical community until a doctor by the name of Bernard Rimland dispensed with the idea that his son’s autism was caused by lack of love, and challenged openly Bettleheim’s theory.
He eventually gathered together a group of doctors who felt the same way. In the early 80’s they decided to ignore what the rest of the field had to say about the sources of autism and start over. What they began to find was that these children had clusters of medical symptoms and when these individual medical symptoms were addressed, their autistic symptoms decreased with some children making a full recovery from autism.
As more parents and doctors (usually with a loved one who had autism) discovered the work being done by Dr. Rimland and his partners, the Defeat Autism Now! Movement got under way as parents began to demand their children’s medical illness of Autism be treated with, of all crazy things, Medical Treatment.
This seems like a no brainer, yes?
But, as odd as it seems, the mainstream medical community resisted it. Doctors who treat autism medically were considered to be selling nothing but false hope to the families they treated. In effect snake oil salesmen.
Even more strangely, decades later, not much has changed in the mainstream medical community.
Where as 40 years ago the conventional wisdom was:
“The child has autism because the parents didn’t love him. You can put him in an institution, but it probably won’t do much good.”
Now the conventional wisdom seems to be:
“The child has autism because his parents gave him bad genes. You can give him speech and ABA therapy. It might work, but it might not.”
Local pediatricians are still not trained to screen for digestive problems, metal poisoning and metabolism problems and most do not refer the child to a doctor who treats autism. They do refer families to speech language pathologists, neurologists or developmental pediatricians, who in turn still may not refer to a doctor that treats the biological symptoms associated with autism.
Referral to all these sources is good and appropriate, but it is incomplete. Parents should have the option to fight the source of their child’s illness, not just the option of mitigating the symptoms of it with speech and behavioral therapy.
Still, all too often, the referral instead comes from another mom on the playground who notices that your little boy doesn’t talk and tells you not to believe your doctor when he said, “he may not get any better”. Then she introduces you to her son who says ‘hello’, and ‘mom can I have a juice box?’. Then she tells you that her little boy used to be just like yours and to find a DAN! Doctor.
So you do, and one day, for the first time in a long, long time, he looks at you right in the eye, gives you a big smile and calls you “Mommy”. And you cry, and you thank God for that mom on the playground and you become one of those moms yourself.
This is the typical experience of the parent of an autistic child in 2005.
So the big question is:
If tens of thousands of autistic kids are getting better, why is mainstream medicine so freakin’ slow to notice and jump on board with the new discoveries that are being made???
I believe the answer is Mercury.
Because one of the common things found in the screening that DAN! doctors do is mercury poisoning, and because there is mercury in vaccines, and because the establishment of a link between the two would be so devastating in so many ways, the entire DAN! Protocol is dismissed. Pediatricians don’t often refer patients to it and insurance companies almost never cover it. Even though it works. Even though even the most difficult cases show improvement
In ignoring the medical treatments for autism, the mainstream medical community is throwing my baby out with the bathwater.
Was Chandler's Autism Triggered by Thimerosal?
Merck and GlaxoSmithKlein had removed thimerosal from the vaccines that they produced by March of 2000, but still sold and distributed the thimerosal containing shots that they had already made. Those carried expiration dates until at least 2002 and there are still reports of parents finding them at their pediatricians’ offices as recently as two months ago. Chandler was born in March of 2002, so there is a chance he may gotten one of those shots.
The pediatrician that my boys see currently does not use mercury containing vaccines, but he has not been under his care for his whole life, so I can't be sure of what he got or what he didn't get. I have asked for all the lot numbers so I can look into all this.
One of the things that I am looking to see is if he may have gotten a "hot lot". It is rare, as vaccine manufacturing has gotten better and better, but manufacturing problems still occur on occasion. When a bad batch is distributed, unfortunately many times no one knows until all the shots are given, the damage is done and reports start rolling into the government and the manufacturers. It is for exactly this type of event that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund was established. Which leads me to the next question:
If it turns out he did get the mercury from his vaccines, are we going to sue the government, the pharmaceutical companies or our doctors?
A year ago when I began investigating this and found that there was evidence to suggest that their may be a link between the mercury containing vaccines and autism, that was being down played or outright ignored by those who set the vaccine policy in this country, I got angry and sick. Even though at that point, I didn't even know if he had mercury poisoning or not, or if had gotten the vaccines in question. I remember sitting at my computer in complete distress and wanting these people who had been entrusted with making vaccines and setting policy for my child to be punished. After a few minutes of having that much anger rushing through me, I feel like God stepped in and made me begin to see how easily that kind of anger could turn into real hate.
Autism is a long haul. I realized if I was going to hate the people that may have done this to him (even if it turned out to be a worst case scenario where they knew for sure that it was the one and only direct cause of Autism, took bribes to cover it up, and spent the money on cocaine and hookers) then I was going to be hating them for a long time. That state of mind is a cancer, and I just don't want to be that person.
I decided to take some time and not even look into this for a while so that I would not be burring my grief at Chandler's diagnosis into the anger that someone may have been able to prevent it and didn't.
Two months later we had a battery of tests on Chandler to see what was going on in his body. They found mercury poisoning along with lead poisoning, intestinal yeast, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, food allergies and other metabolic problems.
As an aside, among the clinicians that are researching and providing medical treatment for autism, the working theory on its source is that there are a subset of children born with a genetic predisposition for it, and that it is triggered by environmental factors. These children have unusual immune systems that lack the ability to fight off toxins that damage the brain, and that their metabolic problems prevent their bodies from providing proper nutrition to the brain.
The most interesting research that has come out this year is a study that showed that 90% of the kids with autism that they tested had low or insignificant levels of glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps the body process out metals and other toxins. The proposed scenario is that my two sons can get the same amount of mercury (from vaccines, the environment, amalgam fillings, tuna, etc...) and Webster's body can fight it off, but Chandler's can't and it ends up in his brain and does damage.
The most exciting thing about this discovery is that it may lead to a blood test for Autism! Babies could be tested at birth and if it was found that they lacked glutathione, it could be supplemented and neurological damage and autistic symptoms may never develop. It is still only a piece of the puzzle, but it is exciting. I will keep you posted on this.
When I found out that Chandler did have the mercury in his little body, I again took some time to let that digest before I took the next step in looking into this for him. A few months later I decided to tackle this issue and take a look at video tapes to see when exactly the lights started going out and then take a look at his shot record to see if there seemed to be any correlation. I didn't want to bias myself, so I watched the tapes first with out looking at the dates or shots on his record. After watching video tapes all night I found that he had stopped making eye contact sometime between Webster's birthday party and Halloween 2003. Halloween that year was the first time I noticed that something was wrong. The full story can be found on my blog at:
An Introduction to Chandler: Birth to Diagnosis
After I had established that, I got out his shot record and found out that he had received a round of vaccinations on September 18th, around 6 weeks before Halloween.
This is the experience of many parents and it is why so many are pushing so hard to see if there is a link between shots and autism.
That night I had to make that decision all over again. Even if it turned out that that specific shot combined with all this others was entirely responsible for his illness, trying to get my pound of flesh from the government would be choosing to go backward and to live in a very dark place. I decided to work on letting go of my anger over the possibility of injury, and forgiving anyone might have been involved in it no matter how good or how bad their intentions.
Why if that is my attitude and I posting articles accusing the CDC of malfeasance? Because the government needs to be held accountable; and because parents and doctors need to know the truth so that autistic children can be treated with the appropriate medical care.
Very specifically, some one asked me if I was planning suing any of Chandler’s doctors if it turned out he got a mercury vaccine from them. I had not even considered this before.
I think the vast majority of pediatricians go into their field because they care about kids and want to keep them safe and healthy. The fact that they spend all day dealing with drool and snot another unpleasant things to take care of our kids is evidence of their good motives.
Good Pediatricians work according to the best practices of their profession and follow the guidance of state and federal law, their professional associations, CDC, NIH, IOM and the information published in respected medical journals. If these institutions are unwilling to take a critical look at the issue (or as in the case of the Verstraten study, burry evidence of a link when they find it) then how would local pediatricians be liable for such a vaccine injury? They see plenty of cases of children who get sick with vaccine preventable diseases and want to make the best use of the tools they have to prevent that in their patients.
To my way of thinking, if it turns out that Thimerosal is a trigger for autism, and the powers that these pediatricians look to for professional guidance are confirmed hiding evidence to that effect, then what they have done to these doctors is almost as horrible as what they have done to the children.
I think that the only thing more painful than being a parent who knows they allowed their child to be injected with the substance that triggered their autism, would be what a doctor would experience knowing that there is even a chance that he could have caused harm to these little ones whom he has dedicated his life to protecting.
So as of yet it remains to be seen if Chandler is a case of Thimerosal poisoning. I will keep you apprised as we find out more about what he was given.
Tomorrow: Why this disucssion even matters.
June 21, 2005
What I Think
I have spent the last week looking further into it, reading meeting transcripts and work papers, going over the 4 versions of the study in question that were generated between 1999 and 2003 before it was finally published, noting the changes they made to it along the way, looking at emails between the researchers and finally a letter that the main author published defending accusations made against him. After all this, I have found that there is more than enough evidence to assert that Tom Verstraten et al. found a link and then spent 4 years trying to 'unfind' it and I believe should be investigated by congress.
I am currently preparing a more detailed account of this and will post it soon.
In the mean time I have beginning to get lots of questions. Questions like:
- Do you know if Chandler's autism was caused by vaccines or that the mercury poisoning he has came from vaccines?
- If it was are you going to sue?
- If it wasn't, and they are taking mercury out of vaccines, then why does this matter?
- I thought it was illegal in California to have mercury in vaccines?
- Are you anti-vaccine and should I worry about getting my kids vaccinated?
I decided to answer all these in a series.
June 20, 2005
Rick Santorum on Autism
Have a listen
Single Father Who Loves His Adoptive Autistic Son
Father's love can be thicker than blood
By Joe Marciano
"I want to tell him: This is how I found you, Joseph. When you were born, you didn't have a dad and your mom couldn't take care of you. So God chose me to take care of you."
Read the whole thing.
June 17, 2005
Why Won't the CDC Allow Access to the Vaccine Safety Datalink?
Memo to CDC: We're not getting our money's worth
May 23, 2005
Can mercury in vaccines cause autism in children? This hotly disputed question will only burn brighter as more biological evidence surfaces to suggest a link. But a definitive answer might take years. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sitting on a multi-million-dollar database – paid for by you and me – that could probably resolve this contretemps within weeks.
They have the data. We paid for the data. Yet we cannot see the data. The information is kept under lock and key within the massive health agency -- as jealously guarded as nuclear secrets.
The CDC tells us that they have looked at the data exhaustively and found “no evidence of harm.” They implied that their own scientists are perfectly capable of analyzing the data, thank you very much, and outside researchers cannot be trusted to independently verify their analyses, nor to protect the confidentiality of patients whose numbers they would be crunching.
But, as any high school student can tell you, the replication of a study is the hallmark of all good science. Without access to the raw data originally used by the CDC researchers, it is impossible to verify their work. All we can do is trust that they got it right.
The CDC, which has budgeted nearly $200 million to operate the Vaccine Safety Datalink, spent four years analyzing data from children who received varying amounts of thimerosal in their vaccines. The study went through five different permutations before being published in November, 2003. Early study “generations,” which were never meant to see the light of day, showed highly elevated, statistically significant increased risks for autism and other disorders among the kids receiving the most mercury.
But by the time the study was published, most of these associations had somehow disappeared entirely.
Only two outside researchers, Mark and David Geier, have managed to gain access to the raw CDC data. They faced daunting hurdles to get into the CDC computer center, and nearly crippling software malfunctions once they were inside. But among the data they did manage to mine, they reportedly found highly elevated risks for autism among children in the highest mercury exposure group.
So we now have two extremely different interpretations of the same data. It is way past time that the CDC allow a third team – outside researchers completely acceptable to all parties involved in this dispute – into the database to conduct any analyses they see fit. (Patients names are removed from the data, making it exceedingly hard for researchers to identify anyone, even if they desired, which is extremely unlikely in itself).
It sounds reasonable, it sounds nice. But don’t hold your breath. The CDC is hardly issuing engraved invitations to come trawl its mainframes, despite a harshly written report earlier this year from the Institute of Medicine. The IOM complained of CDC foot dragging, and even insolence, on this matter, and suggested that vaccine officials at the health agency seek “legal counsel.” Why? Because the original datasets of children used by the government have, as they say, gone missing. (Actually, the official explanation was that they “were not archived in a standard fashion.”) The intentional loss or destruction of taxpayer funded data or datasets is a violation of the Federal Data Quality Act. It is a felony, and someone could go to jail for it.
Meanwhile, the data just sit there. Our data, not theirs. CDC officials insist they have an “open mind” on this issue, and that thimerosal has not been ruled out as a possible cause of autism and other disorders. But they also insist that the vaccine safety database yielded no evidence of harm.
If that is true, then why are they so reluctant to let someone else in to verify this claim? I cannot answer that question, because the CDC is not talking to me. But I do know that people with nothing to hide are unencumbered by doubts of what others will find if they rifle through their closet.
If the data can prove that injecting a known neurotoxin into infants at levels up to 125 times over federal safety limits was a safe and sane thing to do, then why isn’t the CDC having an open house for all researchers worth their salt to come on down and have a look-see for themselves?
Without access to the raw data, parents who support the thimerosal theory – and their allies in Congress, academia and law – are falling back on other recent studies that show a possible link between mercury and autism. They may not have the epidemiology on their side, yet, but the mounting evidence emerging from the fields of biology and toxicology is becoming too urgent to ignore. Recent published studies have shown:
+ Autistic children retain mercury at much higher rates than non-autistic kids.
+ Autistic children lack certain sulfur-based proteins that bind to heavy metals and remove them from the body.
+ Autistic children have a dysfunctional immune profile generally consistent with mercury toxicity.
+ The rate of increase in reported autism cases peaked between 1987 and 1992, the same years that new mercury-containing vaccines were added to the U.S. schedule.
+ Mice with autoimmune disorders react horrifically to mercury exposure from vaccines, whereas typical mice of the same species do not.
+ In primates, mercury from vaccines was more likely to become trapped in the brain than mercury from fish.
+ Children who live near mercury spewing power plants have an elevated risk of developing autism.
These are all intriguing, to be sure. But what we really need is to get our hands on the raw CDC data – our data.
David Kirby is author of "Evidence of Harm" (St. Martin's Press) www.evidenceofharm.com
June 16, 2005
Governmnet Corruption at its Best
By ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
Rolling Stone Magazine/Salon.com
In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Georgia. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session -- only private invitations to fifty-two attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly "embargoed." There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.
The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children. According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children. "I was actually stunned by what I saw," Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants -- in one case, within hours of birth -- the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteen fold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.
Even for scientists and doctors accustomed to confronting issues of life and death, the findings were frightening. "You can play with this all you want," Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results "are statistically significant." Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado whose grandson had been born early on the morning of the meeting's first day, was even more alarmed. "My gut feeling?" he said. "Forgive this personal comment -- I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on."
But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line. "We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits," said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. "This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country." Dr. Bob Chen, head of vaccine safety for the CDC, expressed relief that "given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let's say, less responsible hands." Dr. John Clements, vaccines adviser at the World Health Organization, declared flatly that the study "should not have been done at all" and warned that the results "will be taken by others and will be used in ways beyond the control of this group. The research results have to be handled."
In fact, the government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children's health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.
Vaccine manufacturers had already begun to phase thimerosal out of injections given to American infants -- but they continued to sell off their mercury-based supplies of vaccines until last year. The CDC and FDA gave them a hand, buying up the tainted vaccines for export to developing countries and allowing drug companies to continue using the preservative in some American vaccines -- including several pediatric flu shots as well as tetanus boosters routinely given to eleven-year-olds.
The drug companies are also getting help from powerful lawmakers in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, has been working to immunize vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that have been filed by the parents of injured children. On five separate occasions, Frist has tried to seal all of the government's vaccine-related documents -- including the Simpsonwood transcripts -- and shield Eli Lilly, the developer of thimerosal, from subpoenas. In 2002, the day after Frist quietly slipped a rider known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" into a homeland security bill, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism. The measure was repealed by Congress in 2003 -- but earlier this year, Frist slipped another provision into an anti-terrorism bill that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders. "The lawsuits are of such magnitude that they could put vaccine producers out of business and limit our capacity to deal with a biological attack by terrorists," says Andy Olsen, a legislative assistant to Frist.
Even many conservatives are shocked by the government's effort to cover up the dangers of thimerosal. Rep. Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana, oversaw a three-year investigation of thimerosal after his grandson was diagnosed with autism. "Thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is directly related to the autism epidemic," his House Government Reform Committee concluded in its final report. "This epidemic in all probability may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding a lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal, a known neurotoxin." The FDA and other public-health agencies failed to act, the committee added, out of "institutional malfeasance for self protection" and "misplaced protectionism of the pharmaceutical industry."
The story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public is a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed. I was drawn into the controversy only reluctantly. As an attorney and environmentalist who has spent years working on issues of mercury toxicity, I frequently met mothers of autistic children who were absolutely convinced that their kids had been injured by vaccines. Privately, I was skeptical.
I doubted that autism could be blamed on a single source, and I certainly understood the government's need to reassure parents that vaccinations are safe; the eradication of deadly childhood diseases depends on it. I tended to agree with skeptics like Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, who criticized his colleagues on the House Government Reform Committee for leaping to conclusions about autism and vaccinations. "Why should we scare people about immunization," Waxman pointed out at one hearing, "until we know the facts?"
It was only after reading the Simpsonwood transcripts, studying the leading scientific research and talking with many of the nation's pre-eminent authorities on mercury that I became convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real. Five of my own children are members of the Thimerosal Generation -- those born between 1989 and 2003 -- who received heavy doses of mercury from vaccines. "The elementary grades are overwhelmed with children who have symptoms of neurological or immune-system damage," Patti White, a school nurse, told the House Government Reform Committee in 1999. "Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier; however, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children."
More than 500,000 kids currently suffer from autism, and pediatricians diagnose more than 40,000 new cases every year. The disease was unknown until 1943, when it was identified and diagnosed among eleven children born in the months after thimerosal was first added to baby vaccines in 1931.
Some skeptics dispute that the rise in autism is caused by thimerosal-tainted vaccinations. They argue that the increase is a result of better diagnosis -- a theory that seems questionable at best, given that most of the new cases of autism are clustered within a single generation of children. "If the epidemic is truly an artifact of poor diagnosis," scoffs Dr. Boyd Haley, one of the world's authorities on mercury toxicity, "then where are all the twenty-year-old autistics?" Other researchers point out that Americans are exposed to a greater cumulative "load" of mercury than ever before, from contaminated fish to dental fillings, and suggest that thimerosal in vaccines may be only part of a much larger problem. It's a concern that certainly deserves far more attention than it has received -- but it overlooks the fact that the mercury concentrations in vaccines dwarf other sources of exposure to our children.
What is most striking is the lengths to which many of the leading detectives have gone to ignore -- and cover up -- the evidence against thimerosal. From the very beginning, the scientific case against the mercury additive has been overwhelming. The preservative, which is used to stem fungi and bacterial growth in vaccines, contains ethylmercury, a potent neurotoxin. Truckloads of studies have shown that mercury tends to accumulate in the brains of primates and other animals after they are injected with vaccines -- and that the developing brains of infants are particularly susceptible. In 1977, a Russian study found that adults exposed to much lower concentrations of ethylmercury than those given to American children still suffered brain damage years later. Russia banned thimerosal from children's vaccines twenty years ago, and Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain and all the Scandinavian countries have since followed suit.
"You couldn't even construct a study that shows thimerosal is safe," says Haley, who heads the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky. "It's just too darn toxic. If you inject thimerosal into an animal, its brain will sicken. If you apply it to living tissue, the cells die. If you put it in a petri dish, the culture dies. Knowing these things, it would be shocking if one could inject it into an infant without causing damage."
Internal documents reveal that Eli Lilly, which first developed thimerosal, knew from the start that its product could cause damage -- and even death -- in both animals and humans. In 1930, the company tested thimerosal by administering it to twenty-two patients with terminal meningitis, all of whom died within weeks of being injected -- a fact Lilly didn't bother to report in its study declaring thimerosal safe. In 1935, researchers at another vaccine manufacturer, Pittman-Moore, warned Lilly that its claims about thimerosal's safety "did not check with ours." Half the dogs Pittman injected with thimerosal-based vaccines became sick, leading researchers there to declare the preservative "unsatisfactory as a serum intended for use on dogs."
In the decades that followed, the evidence against thimerosal continued to mount. During the Second World War, when the Department of Defense used the preservative in vaccines on soldiers, it required Lilly to label it "poison." In 1967, a study in Applied Microbiology found that thimerosal killed mice when added to injected vaccines. Four years later, Lilly's own studies discerned that thimerosal was "toxic to tissue cells" in concentrations as low as one part per million -- 100 times weaker than the concentration in a typical vaccine. Even so, the company continued to promote thimerosal as "nontoxic" and also incorporated it into topical disinfectants. In 1977, ten babies at a Toronto hospital died when an antiseptic preserved with thimerosal was dabbed onto their umbilical cords.
In 1982, the FDA proposed a ban on over-the-counter products that contained thimerosal, and in 1991 the agency considered banning it from animal vaccines. But tragically, that same year, the CDC recommended that infants be injected with a series of mercury-laced vaccines. Newborns would be vaccinated for hepatitis B within twenty-four hours of birth, and two-month-old infants would be immunized for haemophilus influenzae B and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis.
The drug industry knew the additional vaccines posed a danger. The same year that the CDC approved the new vaccines, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, one of the fathers of Merck's vaccine programs, warned the company that six-month-olds who were administered the shots would suffer dangerous exposure to mercury. He recommended that thimerosal be discontinued, "especially when used on infants and children," noting that the industry knew of nontoxic alternatives. "The best way to go," he added, "is to switch to dispensing the actual vaccines without adding preservatives."
For Merck and other drug companies, however, the obstacle was money. Thimerosal enables the pharmaceutical industry to package vaccines in vials that contain multiple doses, which require additional protection because they are more easily contaminated by multiple needle entries. The larger vials cost half as much to produce as smaller, single-dose vials, making it cheaper for international agencies to distribute them to impoverished regions at risk of epidemics. Faced with this "cost consideration," Merck ignored Hilleman's warnings, and government officials continued to push more and more thimerosal-based vaccines for children. Before 1989, American preschoolers received only three vaccinations -- for polio, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and measles-mumps-rubella. A decade later, thanks to federal recommendations, children were receiving a total of twenty-two immunizations by the time they reached first grade.
As the number of vaccines increased, the rate of autism among children exploded. During the 1990s, 40 million children were injected with thimerosal-based vaccines, receiving unprecedented levels of mercury during a period critical for brain development. Despite the well-documented dangers of thimerosal, it appears that no one bothered to add up the cumulative dose of mercury that children would receive from the mandated vaccines. "What took the FDA so long to do the calculations?" Peter Patriarca, director of viral products for the agency, asked in an e-mail to the CDC in 1999. "Why didn't CDC and the advisory bodies do these calculations when they rapidly expanded the childhood immunization schedule?"
But by that time, the damage was done. Infants who received all their vaccines, plus boosters, by the age of six months were being injected with levels of ethylmercury 187 times greater than the EPA's limit for daily exposure to methylmercury, a related neurotoxin. Although the vaccine industry insists that ethylmercury poses little danger because it breaks down rapidly and is removed by the body, several studies -- including one published in April by the National Institutes of Health -- suggest that ethylmercury is actually more toxic to developing brains and stays in the brain longer than methylmercury.
Officials responsible for childhood immunizations insist that the additional vaccines were necessary to protect infants from disease and that thimerosal is still essential in developing nations, which, they often claim, cannot afford the single-dose vials that don't require a preservative. Dr. Paul Offit, one of CDC's top vaccine advisers, told me, "I think if we really have an influenza pandemic -- and certainly we will in the next twenty years, because we always do -- there's no way on God's earth that we immunize 280 million people with single-dose vials. There has to be multidose vials."
But while public-health officials may have been well-intentioned, many of those on the CDC advisory committee who backed the additional vaccines had close ties to the industry. Dr. Sam Katz, the committee's chair, was a paid consultant for most of the major vaccine makers and shares a patent on a measles vaccine with Merck, which also manufactures the hepatitis B vaccine. Dr. Neal Halsey, another committee member, worked as a researcher for the vaccine companies and received honoraria from Abbott Labs for his research on the hepatitis B vaccine.
Indeed, in the tight circle of scientists who work on vaccines, such conflicts of interest are common. Rep. Burton says that the CDC "routinely allows scientists with blatant conflicts of interest to serve on intellectual advisory committees that make recommendations on new vaccines," even though they have "interests in the products and companies for which they are supposed to be providing unbiased oversight." The House Government Reform Committee discovered that four of the eight CDC advisers who approved guidelines for a rotavirus vaccine laced with thimerosal "had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that were developing different versions of the vaccine."
Offit, who shares a patent on the vaccine, acknowledged to me that he "would make money" if his vote to approve it eventually leads to a marketable product. But he dismissed my suggestion that a scientist's direct financial stake in CDC approval might bias his judgment. "It provides no conflict for me," he insists. "I have simply been informed by the process, not corrupted by it. When I sat around that table, my sole intent was trying to make recommendations that best benefited the children in this country. It's offensive to say that physicians and public-health people are in the pocket of industry and thus are making decisions that they know are unsafe for children. It's just not the way it works."
Other vaccine scientists and regulators gave me similar assurances. Like Offit, they view themselves as enlightened guardians of children's health, proud of their "partnerships" with pharmaceutical companies, immune to the seductions of personal profit, besieged by irrational activists whose anti-vaccine campaigns are endangering children's health. They are often resentful of questioning. "Science," says Offit, "is best left to scientists."
Still, some government officials were alarmed by the apparent conflicts of interest. In his e-mail to CDC administrators in 1999, Paul Patriarca of the FDA blasted federal regulators for failing to adequately scrutinize the danger posed by the added baby vaccines. "I'm not sure there will be an easy way out of the potential perception that the FDA, CDC and immunization-policy bodies may have been asleep at the switch re: thimerosal until now," Patriarca wrote. The close ties between regulatory officials and the pharmaceutical industry, he added, "will also raise questions about various advisory bodies regarding aggressive recommendations for use" of thimerosal in child vaccines.
If federal regulators and government scientists failed to grasp the potential risks of thimerosal over the years, no one could claim ignorance after the secret meeting at Simpsonwood. But rather than conduct more studies to test the link to autism and other forms of brain damage, the CDC placed politics over science. The agency turned its database on childhood vaccines -- which had been developed largely at taxpayer expense -- over to a private agency, America's Health Insurance Plans, ensuring that it could not be used for additional research. It also instructed the Institute of Medicine, an advisory organization that is part of the National Academy of Sciences, to produce a study debunking the link between thimerosal and brain disorders. The CDC "wants us to declare, well, that these things are pretty safe," Dr. Marie McCormick, who chaired the IOM's Immunization Safety Review Committee, told her fellow researchers when they first met in January 2001. "We are not ever going to come down that [autism] is a true side effect" of thimerosal exposure. According to transcripts of the meeting, the committee's chief staffer, Kathleen Stratton, predicted that the IOM would conclude that the evidence was "inadequate to accept or reject a causal relation" between thimerosal and autism. That, she added, was the result "Walt wants" -- a reference to Dr. Walter Orenstein, director of the National Immunization Program for the CDC.
For those who had devoted their lives to promoting vaccination, the revelations about thimerosal threatened to undermine everything they had worked for. "We've got a dragon by the tail here," said Dr. Michael Kaback, another committee member. "The more negative that [our] presentation is, the less likely people are to use vaccination, immunization -- and we know what the results of that will be. We are kind of caught in a trap. How we work our way out of the trap, I think is the charge."
Even in public, federal officials made it clear that their primary goal in studying thimerosal was to dispel doubts about vaccines. "Four current studies are taking place to rule out the proposed link between autism and thimerosal," Dr. Gordon Douglas, then-director of strategic planning for vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health, assured a Princeton University gathering in May 2001. "In order to undo the harmful effects of research claiming to link the [measles] vaccine to an elevated risk of autism, we need to conduct and publicize additional studies to assure parents of safety." Douglas formerly served as president of vaccinations for Merck, where he ignored warnings about thimerosal's risks.
In May of last year, the Institute of Medicine issued its final report. Its conclusion: There is no proven link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. Rather than reviewing the large body of literature describing the toxicity of thimerosal, the report relied on four disastrously flawed epidemiological studies examining European countries, where children received much smaller doses of thimerosal than American kids. It also cited a new version of the Verstraeten study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that had been reworked to reduce the link between thimerosal and autism. The new study included children too young to have been diagnosed with autism and overlooked others who showed signs of the disease. The IOM declared the case closed and -- in a startling position for a scientific body -- recommended that no further research be conducted.
The report may have satisfied the CDC, but it convinced no one. Rep. David Weldon, a Republican physician from Florida who serves on the House Government Reform Committee, attacked the Institute of Medicine, saying it relied on a handful of studies that were "fatally flawed" by "poor design" and failed to represent "all the available scientific and medical research." CDC officials are not interested in an honest search for the truth, Weldon told me, because "an association between vaccines and autism would force them to admit that their policies irreparably damaged thousands of children. Who would want to make that conclusion about themselves?"
Under pressure from congress, parents and a few of its own panel members, the Institute of Medicine reluctantly convened a second panel to review the findings of the first. In February, the new panel, composed of different scientists, criticized the earlier panel for its lack of transparency and urged the CDC to make its vaccine database available to the public.
So far, though, only two scientists have managed to gain access. Dr. Mark Geier, president of the Genetics Center of America, and his son, David, spent a year battling to obtain the medical records from the CDC. Since August 2002, when members of Congress pressured the agency to turn over the data, the Geiers have completed six studies that demonstrate a powerful correlation between thimerosal and neurological damage in children. One study, which compares the cumulative dose of mercury received by children born between 1981 and 1985 with those born between 1990 and 1996, found a "very significant relationship" between autism and vaccines. Another study of educational performance found that kids who received higher doses of thimerosal in vaccines were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with autism and more than three times as likely to suffer from speech disorders and mental retardation. Another soon-to-be published study shows that autism rates are in decline following the recent elimination of thimerosal from most vaccines.
As the federal government worked to prevent scientists from studying vaccines, others have stepped in to study the link to autism. In April, reporter Dan Olmsted of UPI undertook one of the more interesting studies himself. Searching for children who had not been exposed to mercury in vaccines -- the kind of population that scientists typically use as a "control" in experiments -- Olmsted scoured the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who refuse to immunize their infants. Given the national rate of autism, Olmsted calculated that there should be 130 autistics among the Amish. He found only four. One had been exposed to high levels of mercury from a power plant. The other three -- including one child adopted from outside the Amish community -- had received their vaccines.
At the state level, many officials have also conducted in-depth reviews of thimerosal. While the Institute of Medicine was busy whitewashing the risks, the Iowa legislature was carefully combing through all of the available scientific and biological data. "After three years of review, I became convinced there was sufficient credible research to show a link between mercury and the increased incidences in autism," says state Sen. Ken Veenstra, a Republican who oversaw the investigation. "The fact that Iowa's 700 percent increase in autism began in the 1990s, right after more and more vaccines were added to the children's vaccine schedules, is solid evidence alone." Last year, Iowa became the first state to ban mercury in vaccines, followed by California. Similar bans are now under consideration in thirty-two other states.
But instead of following suit, the FDA continues to allow manufacturers to include thimerosal in scores of over-the-counter medications as well as steroids and injected collagen. Even more alarming, the government continues to ship vaccines preserved with thimerosal to developing countries -- some of which are now experiencing a sudden explosion in autism rates. In China, where the disease was virtually unknown prior to the introduction of thimerosal by U.S. drug manufacturers in 1999, news reports indicate that there are now more than 1.8 million autistics. Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, autistic disorders also appear to be soaring in India, Argentina, Nicaragua and other developing countries that are now using thimerosal-laced vaccines. The World Health Organization continues to insist thimerosal is safe, but it promises to keep the possibility that it is linked to neurological disorders "under review."
I devoted time to study this issue because I believe that this is a moral crisis that must be addressed. If, as the evidence suggests, our public-health authorities knowingly allowed the pharmaceutical industry to poison an entire generation of American children, their actions arguably constitute one of the biggest scandals in the annals of American medicine. "The CDC is guilty of incompetence and gross negligence," says Mark Blaxill, vice president of Safe Minds, a nonprofit organization concerned about the role of mercury in medicines. "The damage caused by vaccine exposure is massive. It's bigger than asbestos, bigger than tobacco, bigger than anything you've ever seen."
It's hard to calculate the damage to our country -- and to the international efforts to eradicate epidemic diseases -- if Third World nations come to believe that America's most heralded foreign-aid initiative is poisoning their children. It's not difficult to predict how this scenario will be interpreted by America's enemies abroad. The scientists and researchers -- many of them sincere, even idealistic -- who are participating in efforts to hide the science on thimerosal claim that they are trying to advance the lofty goal of protecting children in developing nations from disease pandemics. They are badly misguided. Their failure to come clean on thimerosal will come back horribly to haunt our country and the world's poorest populations.
Update: Kennedy interviewed by Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. Note: Scarborough is the parent of a son with Aspergers.
June 14, 2005
The High Cost of Vaccine Injury
Evelyn Pringle: Autism + Vaccines = Tax Dollars
Tuesday, 14 June 2005,
We are on the verge of a welfare disaster in this country (USA). Eighty percent of autistic children are under the age of 17. In a few short years, the states are going to be forced to provide support for an overwhelming number of disabled autistic adults. “The costs will be in the trillions,” according to Ann Dachel.
Ann should know, she is a special education teacher,a member of the National Autism Association, and the mother of a boy with autismand a daughter who developed epilepsy after receiving a Hepatitis B vaccine.
Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that for many years was added to childhood vaccines to boost drug company profits. In the 1990's the CDC added more and more Thimerosal containing vaccines to the mandatory vaccine schedule without adding up the cumulative amounts of mercury that children were receiving from the vaccines.
Finally, in 1999, after watching the dramatic autism and other neurological disorders, officials at the CDC and FDA realized that a fully vaccinated infant was receiving up to 125 times what the EPA considered safe for mercury exposure.
Because half the officials involved were on payrolls of the drug companies they were charged to regulate, they have never ordered the pharmaceutical industry to stop using Thimerosal. In fact, the product is still used in some vaccines. Last year's flu vaccine had a mercury content eight times the EPA safe limit and it was recommended for six-month-old babies and pregnant women.
The generation of children poisoned by vaccines during the 1990s is now reaching puberty and if the Bush administration is successful in blocking lawsuits against the vaccine makers that caused this epidemic of neurological disorders, tax payers will be left holding the bag and a heavy bag it will be.
The theory of mercury toxicity and autism is not promoted by parents only. Its been verified by such esteemed biochemists as Andrew Hall Cutler, PhD and Boyd Haley, the chemistry department chair at the University of Kentucky. A study by Bernard et al titled "Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning" documents about 100 matching symptoms.
The transcript of a closed meeting in 1999 that was leaked to the press, attended by officials from drug companies and the CDC and FDA, reveals how the 52 vaccine policymakers at the meeting discussed ways to deal with statistics showing that children given mercury in vaccines had a much higher rate of autism, attention deficit and other disorders.
On August 18, 2003, Dr Leonard G Horowitz, warned members of the congressional committee at a Government Reform Hearing on Vaccines as a Risk Factor For Autism, "the great and grave likelihood that disease prevention through vaccinations is violently backfiring-dramatically increasing mortality and morbidity especially among America's youngest citizens."
Horowitz cited the dangers of our nation's "most established, generally accepted, public health practice of vaccination, and its links to skyrocketing rates of autism and brain damage in children."
This public health professional by training, and independent investigator with expertise in medical sociology and infectious disease research, told Congress, "I have unfortunately, over the past two decades, grown accustomed to instances of poor decision-making, gross negligence, and downright cover-ups in safety oversight and pharmaceutical industry control in the vaccine arena," Horowitz said.
In 2002, the research team of David and Mark Geier, released a study based on tens of millions of doses of vaccines given to children in the US during the 1990s, that presented the first epidemiologic evidence that associated the increase in thimerosal from vaccines with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Professor Lynn Adams, of Radford University, a speech-language pathologist who specializes in autism, says a 1999 study determined that the average child received 33 doses of 10 different vaccines by the age 5. She claims the multiple shots could "flip a genetic switch" in children predisposed to autism.
Lisa Blakemore-Brown, a Psychologist in the UK, also maintains that Thimerosal is the cause of autism, and suspects it is also the culprit involved in a wide variety of other health problems showing up in children these days.
According to Blakemore, the current autism epidemic did not occur earlier because children "were given single vaccines with single amounts of mercury,” she says, “but with the introduction of triple vaccines the amount of mercury contained within the preservative was multiplied and the cumulative effects are only just now being discovered by the public," she adds.
Parents Struggle With The Burden
Laura Bono is the mother of an autistic child and she wants the public to consider the latest research pointing to the mercury-vaccine link. For instance, researcher, Mady Hornig, recently announced the results of a study where mice were given Thimerosal at the level of the childhood immunization schedule and began exhibiting autistic behavior.
Laura cites a study where toxicologist, Dr Jill James, a former FDA researcher, found a problem with autistic children's methylation which made it difficult for their bodies to rid themselves of mercury. Laura notes the findings of Dr Richard Deth, that once in the body, Thimerosal shuts down the detoxifying methylation process.
Laura reveals how her son Jackson experienced a four month regression beginning days after receiving shots. He received HiB (with 25 mcg. of mercury), DT (with 25 mcg. of mercury), Oral Polio, and Measles-Mumps-Rubella. All totaled, he received 50 mcg. of mercury, three dead viruses and four live viruses. The 50 mcg. of mercury was on top of the 75 mcg. of mercury he had already received in his first year of life through one DPT and two other DT shots. The 50 mcg. of mercury he received in one day was 44 times the EPA exposure limit. He would need to weigh 550 lbs. on that day to process that much mercury. He weighed just 25 lbs. The total amount of mercury from 2 months old to 16 months was 139 times the recommended EPA exposure levels.
My outgoing, social, verbal child was a shell of his old self, Laura said, Jackson’s body was still here. But his personality – what made Jackson his smart, loving self was gone. The sick body replaced the well one. The sleeping child was replaced by one who would awake startled after a few hours and not go back to sleep all night. The one who had a healthy appetite was replaced by one who became picky and whittled his foods down to one or two. The happy child was replaced by an unhappy one. The child who at one time didn’t miss a thing and was the life of the room became distant and preferred to be alone. The one who was developmentally ahead of the crowd began making strange noises and exhibiting odd behaviors. The child God gave us was gone, Laura said.
Andrian Prokofiew of New Jersey, has a son who was developing normally until he acquired autism at 17 months after receiving 20 some vaccines containing Thimerasol. Within weeks of the last three vaccinations given in the same visit, "he lost all speech for 3 years, did not even look at me or know who I was. He screamed for two weeks, his ears turned red, his eyes dilated and he began to spin, flap his hands and bang his head," she said.
It took more than 3 years to find out what happened to him medically and Andrian says she was horrified to find out the pharmaceutical companies gave bonus dollars for each vaccine given.
"Words alone cannot express how devastating this disorder is for the family and child, emotionally as well as financially," she said.
Dr Allen Clark, a licensed physician for 30 years, has a son who developed severe neurodevelopmental symptoms (diagnosed as Asperger’s an autism spectrum disorder) at age 7½ after receiving a routine influenza vaccine containing 25 micrograms of Thimerosal, a dose which the EPA would calculate that would be safe only for a 550 pound adult. The doctor's son weighed only 50 pounds at the time he was vaccinated. Nancy and Tim Hokkanen are parents of Andy Hokkanen, age 6. Andy was exposed to mercury before birth from his mother's tooth fillings, which are 50% mercury, and from RhoGam shots for Rh factor incompatibility. After birth Andy also received Thimerosal from the mandated childhood vaccinations.
Tim's health insurance has covered much the cost of behavioral therapy for Andy but for about 9 months they were on Medical Assistance, which picked up many co-pays. They estimate that their insurance was billed about $100,000 for therapy so far.
Linda Weinmaster has a 13 year old son who also met with mercury poisoning before birth in the form the a mercury-containing RhoGAM shot that Linda received during her 28th week of pregnancy along with his childhood vaccines. He now suffers from a host of medical problems that require care.
Linda tell how her son's medications cost over $6,500 per month. Right now,insurance covers his meds less deductible but not his vitamins which run about $300 per month. Kendra Pettengill is a single widowed mother of a child with Autism, and Veteran of The United States Air Force.
Kendra is annoyed that anyone would believe that there is not an epidemic in autism and claim that it previously went undiagnosed. “The claim is better diagnosis,” she says, “as if parents, teachers, and doctors 10 or 20 years ago wouldn’t have noticed our spinning, rocking, flapping, head banging, self-biting, children who can’t speak and live in their own little worlds.”
“It is an insult, a slap in the face to parents to claim it is only better diagnostics that recognized our children,” Kendra notes, “A parent 10 years ago would have been just as terror stricken by their child’s condition as I was and would have demanded a reason just as I did.”
Kendra’s insurance company will not pay for her daughter’s medical therapy, the diet, or ABA therapy. In fact, once Autism is diagnosed they can refuse to pay for a doctors visit for the flu if your doctor checks the little Autism box on your insurance sheet, Kendra says.
“Every organization I contacted denied me assistance as they say my $30,000 a year income is too much to qualify,” Kendra said, “A good solid ABA program can cost more than that, per year,” she added.
“I have sold my house, spent my retirement, lost my medical insurance,” Kendra says, “all to save my child from a life of hopelessness.”
According to Kendra, her entire family is affected by her daughter‘s autism, “my parents even sold their house and moved by us to help out,” she said.
Bob Ashburn and his wife Jamie are from Ohio and they have two children with autism spectrum disorder.
Their son, Kyle, who is now 9, was the first to be diagnosed with autism. In many respects they say he was the perfect baby because he was so easy to get along with and yet there was something strange about him that they couldn’t pinpoint. They originally thought that Kyle might be deaf.
When he was about 15 months old, the family was eating at McDonalds when an alarm went off. Everyone in the place reacted to the noise except Kyle, he just kept sat there eating his French Fries. At first the Ashburns thought their daughter Kris, was just shy, and had strange habits, like regular hand washing and needing everything to be consistent. For instance, she needs to sit in the same seat in the car and needs to sleep with her same stuffed animals each night.
Kris is now 14 years old and is very artistically talented and has a great reading level. She can handle regular school but she really needs to have time to herself when she gets home and usually hides in either the bathroom or her bedroom for about an hour reading before she can face the world again.
The Ashburns worry about what kind of future their children will have, especially Kyle who has very few social skills and so many post-reactions to any interactions of a negative sort with people that they don’t know how he can live in society. When Kyle and Kris get upset they become violent and hit their parents, so the Ashburns have had to change their entire lifestyles so that everything is as consistent as possible and that transitions are made with lots of preparation.
Nothing, not even a quick shopping trip for a carton of milk, they say, can be done on the spur of the moment without some sort of violent reaction from either one or both of the children.
Jennifer Thompson tells how for a period of time, her autistic Zack developed OCD type behaviors about his clothing. "He would only wear certain clothes. No long sleeved shirts, only long pants, and they had to be tucked in!. He would only wear shirts that had buttons. This was an obsession.
You did not dare think you could make him do otherwise or he would go into an extreme meltdown. And I know most parents out there understand what a ‘meltdown’ is."
According to Lauro Bono, "What is measurable is the financial toll that this medical crisis takes on families. After the vaccines at 16 months old, Jackson’s medical and therapy needs began taking every bit of money we had saved or ever would have saved."
"The total we have paid for Jackson’s medical, nutritional and private therapy expenses so far," she says, "is roughly $685,000 since August 1990. That is approximately $53,000 per year."
In addition to medical costs, most autistic children can not be left alone and must be looked after and cared for non-stop every day of the year. Unless these kids and their families get the financial help that they deserve from the vaccine makers, the entire burden will eventually fall to the tax payers and the cost will reportedly exceed $2 million dollars per child.
Maybe that will make people wake up and listen.
June 11, 2005
Have Some Kleenex on Standby
By TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Writer
Fri Jun 10, 3:40 PM ET
CLOVIS, Calif. - The chant began late in the fourth quarter in the
basketball gym at Clovis East High. The students started it first,
clapping their hands in unison and pounding the bleachers with their
feet. It didn't take long for the parents to pick it up, too. The
noise grew until the whole gym seemed to shake. "We want Ryno. We
Pacing the sideline, coach Tim Amundsen felt himself getting goose
bumps. Less than 4 minutes remained in the game, and Clovis East was
winning comfortably over rival Buchanan High. Now Amundsen had a
decision to make.
It was senior night, the last time Ryan Belflower would wear his
home uniform. Everyone in the gym knew his story.
Ryan was a special education student who would do anything to fit in
and worked tirelessly to make that happen. His basketball career
began as a ninth grader passing out balls to the girls' team. Then
he hooked on with the boys' team, getting there every morning at
6:30, helping out in drills, running the practice clock and cleaning
Now, he sat proudly on the sideline in his own white No. 12 uniform.
The crowd wanted him in the game. Amundsen wanted him in, too. But
he was also afraid the slightly built 18-year-old might get hurt.
Amundsen considered all this as he walked toward Ryan and patted him
on the shoulder. Off came the warmup jacket, the buzzer blew and
Ryan kind of half hopped, half ran onto the court, his left leg
trailing slightly at an odd angle.
The noise was deafening as he ran out on the court.
In the stands, Justin Belflower was near tears. A few years earlier,
he was a jock at Clovis East, one of those big men on campus. He
knew how hard his kid brother had worked for this moment.
"If you had said four years ago he'd play in a varsity basketball
game, I'd say stop lying because it will never happen," Justin said.
On this afternoon in February, it did.
And Clovis East would never be the same.
Shooting a basketball was never that big a problem for Ryan. He
figured that out during countless hours of playing H-O-R-S-E with
Justin in the driveway of the family's modest home in this Fresno
Playing in a game was something entirely different. Ryan couldn't
grasp the concepts of filling lanes, going to spots, running routes.
As a child he struggled to understand the smallest things. He could
tell you his name, but for years he couldn't tell you his age.
"You would try to teach him at every birthday, but sometimes it just
didn't sink in," said his mother, Shauna Belflower.
His mother knew early on that Ryan was different. He was barely
speaking as a toddler, and he just didn't act like his older brother
did at that age. She took him to a speech and language specialist,
who examined Ryan for about five minutes before turning back to his
"I'm not sure how to tell you this, ma'am, but there's a lot more
wrong with your son than his speech," the woman said.
Shauna Belflower searched for answers, though few came as the years
went on. Ryan had autistic symptoms, but no one ever formally
diagnosed him with that. She took Ryan to different doctors, and
even locked him in a psychiatric hospital for 16 days when he was 5.
He went on medication, but it made him violent and he had to be
weaned from it.
"It was almost like having a little Helen Keller. He had no way of
communicating," his mother said. "He knew words were a way of
communicating, just no way of knowing what they meant."
In the end, there wasn't much doctors could do. Ryan would improve
as he learned things, but for years he struggled to understand and
carrying on a conversation was almost impossible. He would look at
the ground when he talked, and it was a long time before he could
answer a question like "How are you?"
Increasingly, though, that talk was about sports. Ryan memorized
statistics, watched ESPN constantly and found out everything he
could about his favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers.
Still, he struggled in his vocational special education classes,
struggled to find his place in a big high school, struggled with
life's little oddities every single day.
One day during his freshman year, girls basketball coach Meredith
Pulliam asked her class if anyone wanted to help the team.
In the back of the room, Ryan's hand went up.
Every day he'd be at practice, handing out balls, trying to figure
out how to run the clock. At first, the girls were wary of this boy
who said almost nothing but was always around. But, as time went on,
they grew to love the scrawny kid who worked so hard and did
everything he could for them.
Ryan was finally a part of something. And the kid who could barely
talk to anyone a few years earlier now wanted to be manager of the
boys' team. Maybe, just maybe, he could even play. After all, he did
know how to shoot.
"I had a long day to figure it out, but I wanted to play," Ryan
said. "I really did. And if I didn't make it, at least I tried."
Amundsen knew about Ryan's work habits and his determination. After
Ryan tried out as a junior, he told him he could be the boys' team
manager. If he worked real hard, maybe he would earn a uniform.
"A lot of times kids like that end up disappearing after two weeks,"
He got up early, swept the gym, put out basketballs and got players
"I paid the price," Ryan said. "I didn't want to quit and I wasn't
Just before the last game of the year, Amundsen handed him his No.
"He did it the right way. He earned it," Amundsen said. "You don't
see that much these days."
With Ryan finally in the game, the chant grew even louder in the
Clovis East gym.
"Give Ryan the ball. Give Ryan the ball."
Ryan wanted it, too. He ran down the court to the corner by himself
to wait in case someone saw him. If no one did, he would run back
behind the 3-point line to get a pass.
On defense, the 5-foot-6 player ran after Buchanan High's biggest
"Coach told me to guard anybody I saw," he would explain later.
Ryan had played a few seconds in a few games already his senior
year. It hadn't gone well.
In his first game, the other team was running a fast break off a
miss and Ryan couldn't get out of the way. He was sent sprawling
about 10 feet down the court. It wasn't anybody's fault, but it made
The other kids were bigger and stronger. They saw plays developing.
They reacted quicker.
About 2 minutes remained in the game, and Ryan's teammates were
trying their best to get him the ball.
Suddenly, he had it unguarded out beyond the 3-point line. As he
launched the shot, everyone in the gym froze. On the sideline, his
teammates rose as one.
The shot missed badly, clunking off the lower backboard.
By now, the Buchanan players seemed to recognize what was going on.
When Ryan got the ball again they fouled him, sending him to the
free throw line so he would have a chance to score.
But all the games of H-O-R-S-E hadn't prepared him for this moment.
His free throw arced high off the top of the backboard.
In the stands, Justin was crying tears of joy. His brother may have
missed, but at least he got a chance. He could always talk about the
night he played.
The final seconds were ticking off the clock and Clovis East got the
ball one last time. This time, Ryan found a spot just beyond the 3-
point line to the left of the key. He got a pass, and turned to
The noisy gym quieted for a split second as the ball seemed to hang
in the air forever.
It swished through, the way it did so many times in the driveway in
front of his house.
"Nothing but net," he exclaimed.
The buzzer sounded as Ryan ran joyously toward his bench, attempting
to chest butt a teammate in celebration.
In the stands, Justin tried to scream, but nothing came out. He
wasn't alone. Grown men and women hugged each other and cried.
The kid who wouldn't take no for an answer could now say he was a
"All the parents were bawling, and the students were too," Amundsen
said. "My coaching staff all had tears in their eyes. It was an
It wasn't over yet. As the teams shook hands, two football players
grabbed Ryan and hoisted him on their shoulders. He held his arms
high in celebration, a big grin on his face, as they carried him on
a victory lap around the gymnasium.
"I've never seen anything like it before and I probably never will,"
Amundsen said. "He'll be my example the rest of my life as a coach."
Word traveled quickly about Ryan's shot. He was on the front page of
the Fresno Bee. Local TV replayed his shot again and again.
The attention has been a bit overwhelming, but his mother says he
has handled it well. He makes sure he looks a visitor in the eye
when he talks about it.
"It's about showing the love," he said.
The entire Central Valley has shown its love to Ryan, too. He's not
really sure what it all means, but he knows he's been accepted.
"You can see how he's kind of trying to figure it out. I don't know
if he fully comprehends what is going on," said his special
education teacher, A.J. Blackburn. "His ability to process how huge
this has become isn't quite there. With disabilities you don't
understand abstract concepts. They need to be concrete. He
understands what he did was important, but doesn't truly understand
Ryan's future is uncertain. He walked with other students at
graduation, but the special education kids don't get diplomas. He
had never had a date, but recently worked up the courage to ask a
member of the girls' basketball team to the prom.
He's thinking of trying to be the team manager at Fresno City
College, and wants to have a career in sports. He memorizes
statistics and can tell you how every member of the 49ers did last
"My dreams now are to be a sports analyst," he says. "I know so much
and people say I'm good at it."
That dream will be harder to achieve than hitting a 3-pointer.
"It's going to be a tough transition from this sheltered place
called high school," Blackburn said. "Eventually I envision Ryan to
be for the most part independent with some counseling. He will
always need some assistance, but once he gets in a routine he will
be able to live a life much like the rest of us."
Whatever happens, they can't take away the moment that brought a
school together and made a town proud. They can't take away the shot
that made Ryan a hero.
"He's a guy who tries more than most people ever do," Pulliam
said. "He's probably put in twice the work and gotten half the
results of anyone else. But he gives others like him hope that there
might be a moment in life for them, too, in some way."
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org