October 29, 2006

J.B. Handley: Hey CDC, You Forgot to Count Our Son

Hey CDC, You Forgot to Count Our Son
By J.B. Handley

I'll never forget the late fall of 2003. It felt like every day on the news I was reading another story about the flu outbreak that was killing children in Colorado and other places, I can't quite remember where.

We were panicked. With two young small boys, death from flu was horrifying, and the news also explained how limited the supply of flu vaccines was around the country. I still remember the day I came to work with the sole focus of finding flu vaccine somewhere, anywhere to help my babies. After dozens of calls, I felt lucky enough to
happen upon a doctor with some extra vaccines who was ready to see our boys immediately. Whew, bullet dodged, I figured.

Our youngest son, Jamison, was the highest priority. Fourteen months old, he was sick a lot more than his four year old older brother. Jamison was on antibiotics all the time, and he had a lot of eczema. Could he handle the flu? It seemed like it would really be tough on him – he was at risk, he needed this shot.

I couldn't make the shot appointment, I was busy. As usual, my wife soldiered on without me and endured the cries from her two warriors who got vaccinated. Jamison had been particularly brave about the whole thing. How great, we thought! He's safe now!

Our Christmas video from the fall of 2003, just a couple weeks after the first flu shot, shows a happy and engaged Jamison, very excited about all the presents in our living room, and responding and watching his older brother celebrating. A happy kid, in our world, engaged. A part of the family.

January came. Flu deaths were still in the news, although not quite as often. The flu shot was actually a two-part shot that year. Get the flu shot, come back in 4 weeks later for a booster. That's what they told us. We decided to skip the booster for our oldest son, but we knew Jamison really needed it. Dutifully again, we made sure Jamison got that second shot.


A study came out this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It's called: "Safety of Trivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Children 6 to 23 months old."

It basically says the flu shot is perfectly safe for kids. It also says a couple of interesting things.

One. "Financial support for this study was provided in full by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Two. "Our primary outcome measure was any medically attended event associated with trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine in a 14-day risk window after vaccination."

Oh, and there's a third thing it says, too. It's at the end of the study. It says of the nineteen authors, nine have financial ties to vaccine manufacturers. And, four more of the authors work at CDC. Here's one of nine examples of the financial disclosure:

"Dr. Marcy reports working as a consultant for Sanofi Pasteur, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, and Abbott, and serving on the speakers' bureau for Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline." (Note: Sanofi Pasteur is the leading manufacturer of flu vaccine.)

I don't know, Dr. Marcy, I just don't know, can I trust you to tell me the truth if the vaccine hurt our kid?

Oh, and they also wrote this, towards the end of the study:

"It is also important to note that there is scant data on the efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccine in young children."


Like many parents trying to understand what happened to their child, we re-traced Jamison's steps back to that fall and Christmas of 2003. The decline seems to have begun sometime in January, soon after the second flu shot. He began to play alone. His words stopped. He started running back and forth along walls and fences. For hours.

Like many parents, it took us a while to figure out what was happening to our son. By March, we thought something was wrong. By April, we began to panic a little as his behaviors got worse and he seemed to always be sick. By May, we happened upon this test called the M-CHAT, and we realized our son met the criteria for autism.

Jamison didn't make the JAMA study. He didn't go to the doctor or hospital in the 2 weeks after he got the flu shot. His medical condition today, autism, is not one of the outcomes the study authors looked for.

In 2003, when Jamison got his flu shot, I didn't know that the CDC had released a 1999 statement saying:

"Because any potential risk is of concern, the Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agree that thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible. Similar conclusions were reached this year in a meeting attended by European regulatory agencies, the European vaccine
manufacturers, and the US FDA which examined the use of thimerosal-containing vaccines produced or sold in European countries."

I also didn't know the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in 2001 saying:

"Mercury in all of its forms is toxic to the fetus and children and efforts should be made to reduce exposure to the extent possible to pregnant women and children as well as the general population."

Jamison's 2 flu shots contained mercury. 25 micrograms each. I didn't know that. I do know that every time I hear the word "flu vaccine" I get sick to my stomach. How come CDC or AAP didn't make a point of telling me flu vaccine in 2003 still contained mercury? It would have impacted our decision.

I wish the thirteen study authors with clear conflicts could come to my house, watch my son's videotape, and review his medical tests. I wish all of them would have spent their time differently. Four years passed between the CDC's press release and Jamison's vaccine. Did the mercury really need to be there? And, why is it still there today, seven years later?

CDC, our son is not part of the data in your study. But he should be.

Oct 26, 2006

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