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Friday, January 16, 2009

Autism and environmental factors

In the orchardWhen I was pregnant with my first child, I had read some of the literature on vaccinations and autism and how many parents believed there was a link between getting the MMR vaccination and their children "contracting" autism as a result.

So, needless to say, I was a bit circumspect when it was time for my son's MMR shot. The press about it certainly didn't prevent me from having him get it, since the benefits far outweigh any risk, but it did stay in my mind. So, we discussed the risks with his physician and, given the fact there is little if any scientifically proven link between autism and vaccines, we chose to vaccinate both our children.

Now, I know there are still many parents out there that believe that vaccines have played some contributing factor in their child's autism, but the scientific data just isn't there to either prove it or even suggest it. The main problem has been, what I believe to be, the confusion between cause and correlation and a fundamental distrust or misunderstanding of the scientific method.

Autism does not often become apparent until around the time when children receive their first MMR vaccination. So, to a parent, it may seem clear that their children regressed around the same time as they got their MMR vaccination, and that the vaccine must be the cause of their regression. When, in fact, it could be merely a correlation.

Obviously, this is still a heated debate, but not within the scientific community. I think that mainstream media has done a huge disservice to parents by essentially advertising alternative treatments or even "cures" by those profiting off of them. Once again, the media has sensationalized the misfortune of others, creating controversy where there really isn't any.

The acting surgeon general, Dr. Steven K. Galson, has issued a statement saying that "childhood immunizations are one of the greatest achievements of all time" and that "scientific evidence clearly shows that vaccines do not contribute to autism". In fact, for all the media coverage given the anti-vaccine crowd, his office said he had not been questioned by journalists about vaccines and autism. So much for equal coverage.

The other confounding issue with autism is that is can abruptly appear as well as improve. Parents will oftentimes see an improvement in their child that they will attribute to whatever alternative forms of therapy they are doing with their child. Again, this is a confusion between causation and correlation as there is no scientific evidence at this point showing any benefit to these therapies. Any evidence out there is all anecdotal at best.

Having an autistic child can be devastating. When my son was an infant he exhibited classic characteristics of someone on the spectrum. I fully believed he had Aspergers and it wasn't until he was formally diagnosed with a different neurological impairment at age 5 that I thought otherwise. Spectral disabilities are extremely difficult to diagnose and kids on the spectrum improve in some ways while regressing in others. We've personally seen that rather dramatically over the last few years.

We also have had our experience with trying alternatives such as the gluten-free/casein-free diet as well as other supplements and we still get advice from other well-meaning individuals who suggest we try different supplements or dietary restrictions or different courses of alternative treatments that worked for their child. I really don't think that any of these treatments have much merit and, generally, the only people who benefit are those who sell the "antidotes". But, one thing I cannot fathom is why millions of parents are taking the anecdotal advice of celebrities over the advice of their doctors and denying their children vaccinations.

Dr. Offit, author of Autism's False Prophets, makes the argument that "opponents of vaccines have taken the autism story hostage. They don’t speak for all parents of autistic kids, they use fringe scientists and celebrities, they’ve set up cottage industries of false hope, and they’re hurting kids. Parents pay out of their pockets for dangerous treatments, they take out second mortgages to buy hyperbaric oxygen chambers. It’s just unconscionable."

There is a huge biological element to autism. How the environment fits into how it is expressed is definitely a complicated one. My main concern with this incessant focus on vaccines is that it is leading us down a never-ending rabbit hole that is precluding research from focusing on something else in the environment that may be a bigger contributing factor. It's a scientific sleight of hand because money that would go into autism research is being spent on something that has been proven for the last ten years to be a non-issue, whether the focus is on thimerosal or proteins in the vaccines.

At risk are thousands of children who are not getting vaccinated for truly deadly diseases because of a fear that is relatively unfounded. Also at risk are the millions of Americans who depend on the basics of universal vaccination to prevent and keep diseases at bay, without which it makes all of us (even those of us vaccinated) susceptible to these diseases since we lose some immunity over time.

All that said, what's your opinion on the vaccine debate? For those of you still on the fence (or not), I urge you to read the excerpt from the book mentioned above.

Related reading:
Book Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crusade (from the NY Times)
Book Excerpt: Autism's False Prophets
Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (by Dr. Sears)

74 comments:

Kim said...

It's a debate I have littler understanding for at all. Perhaps it is because I do have a firm trust in solid science-- and a firm understanding of correlation vs. causation-- but the benefits immunizations have delivered over the last 100 years alone are so overwhelmingly evident and there is so little to support the autism link that the cost/benefit analysis seems clear to me.

I certainly understand some of the concerns with immunizations, they way they are prepared etc, I certainly understand some of the concerns concerning the pharmaceutical companies...but those concerns just don't away the obvious benefits of immunization.

Eliane said...

I completely agree with you that the media has done us a disservice. Here in the UK, the "debate" reached hysterical proportions and has led to a significant decline in the rates of immunization. Of course within the scientific community there is no debate, but the media insisted on presenting both sides as if it were 50/50 for and against. The result is that the UK currently has one of the worst rates of measles in Europe, with more cases last year than in the previous 12, and an enormous increase over that period from c. 300 to over 1200 per annum, including one death last year.

I have friends who didn't immunize their own children until an outbreak of measles in their area. Also friends who were told by homeopaths that they should try to build up their child's immunity naturally rather than using a vaccine. Such dangerous nonsense. Too few people really understand or are told what "herd immunity" means or what the real and dangerous risks of these childhood diseases are.

Arkansas Mom said...

I am in the minority among the crowd of moms I hang out with, but I too don't agree with the vaccines linked to autism argument. It's been blown entirely out of proportion.

That said, I firmly believe that the vaccine industry is nothing more than a big business. It's main priority is their money, not the health of the masses, and I have a big problem with that. The money they dish out for marketing is astounding...vaccine propaganda is everywhere, and it has most people convinced that it is everyone's best interest for everyone to be vaccinated. They try HARD to convince people that their products are beyond necessary, effective, and completely harmless and that the "diseases" they are protecting us against are deadly.

I won't argue that some diseases we are all vaccinated against are deadly, but the complete terror some have over chicken pox, measles, rotavirus, and a few others is ridiculous.

The more I researched the diseases and the vaccinations the more I was disgusted. Take a look at the CDC website and check out possible side effects of the MMR and chickenpox vaxes.

Even if you are fully up to date on your tetanus shot, if you are exposed to it and go to the Dr, you will be treated as though you've never received a vaccine. You will be given a shot regardless if you can prove you're up to date or not. Why on earth do they even suggest everyone keep on top of their Tetanus shot? Oh yes...money.

I have a really long, thought out blog on this topic if anyone cares to read it. :-)

knutty knitter said...

I'm with Arkansas here. I think the autism thing is ridiculous but I also think that mass vaccination is rather unnecessary and can lead to other problems.

We have allergies in our families and this makes vaccines far more risky so we just don't go there. We have had most things without any harm so I just can't justify the risk.

I would immunize for really dangerous diseases where necessary but it would have to be something really horrible and local.

viv in nz

Carla said...

"But, one thing I cannot fathom is why millions of parents are taking the anecdotal advice of celebrities over the advice of their doctors and denying their children vaccinations."

This is your perception. I would venture to say that most parents who choose to not vax or delay vax, do ask the advice of their docs, they do review statistics, they do read the research put out there by licensed physicians. They do not base their decisions on what celebrities have to say.

Your review of the correlating time frames between MMR vaccination and the diagnosis of autism is what has been repeated by doctors and big pharma for years. "it is just a coincidence". Autism is just one of many neurologic, behavioral, and autoimmune disorders that have increased as the number of vax given to children have increased. Did they cause this increase? Maybe not, but maybe. The fact that there may be a link between the toxins we inject into kids, and the rise in autoimmune and neurologic disorders is enough to make me wonder. The fact that the govt created a fund to pay off parents of vaccine injured children should be enough to make every parent question the safety of vaccines. The fact that there are outbreaks of pertussis and measles among vaccinated children, should make everyone question the efficacy of vaccines.

If you can't guarantee that vaccines are 100% safe, and they've been proven to not be 100% effective, why would I put my child at risk? I will accept the known risk of measles and other childhood diseases over the unknown risks of an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Arkansas Mom said it well. "They try HARD to convince people that their products are beyond necessary, effective, and completely harmless and that the "diseases" they are protecting us against are deadly."

Vaccines are big business, and children are expendable.

Willo said...

I think when it comes to something like Autism that there should be more studies done about all potential causes. I saw an interview with a man a couple years ago who had gathered evidence that extensive TV watching might trigger autism (he started his research with his own daughter). So I think that should be explored more, as should vaccines, etc... And I would like to see all kinds of treatments explored more as well, including change in diet.

Robyn M. said...

I vaccinated both of my children, but were I to have another, I would opt for delayed vaccinations. I have seen independent research (which didn't have anything to do with vaccinations) which points to immune system complications as a potential factors in kicking off autism. It was suggested, due to this research, that it's not any specific feature of vaccinations (e.g., mercury, etc.) that can kick off autism, but the fact that we're messing with a baby's immune system before it's up & functional. We're administering vaccinations far earlier now than we have in the past, and vastly more of them at once than ever before.

There isn't really any reason to vaccinate as early as we do; as long as the population as a whole has been vaccinated, then a baby can easily and safely go without vaccinations via herd immunity until at least two months of age, when their immune system is more fully online. Also, I would space out the immunizations, rather than pounding my child's system with up to 20 different immunizations at one time. Again, there's no need for it, as long as we assume an immunized population. As I understand it, most western populations don't even start immunizations until around 1 year old.

Carmen said...

I agree with Willo. More ideas need additional study. Crunchy is right on about the misunderstanding of causation and correlation and scientific method. However, correlation is often the first step in finding a causation. Today, science doesn't have any concrete ideas about what causes autism, how to prevent it, or how to consistently mitigate it. I can empathize with parents who feel helpless and look for their own solutions. It takes a long time and a lot of money to learn and prove causation. Children today will probably be grown by then. If I were in that position, I'd be trying lots of ideas that people had, just to see if they were effective.

But, with regards to vaccines, I think the public health interests of stopping highly contagious diseases that can wipe out 100s of thousands of people is too important. Here, the science IS strong that this is not the cause, and the risk to public health is to strong not to immunize our children.

Farmer's Daughter said...

While I'm not convinced of the vaccine-autism link, I am concerned about mercury in vaccines. I feel that we need to question our doctors so that we can make informed decisions, instead of just doing what convention decrees.

Robyn M. said...

Hmm... Actually, my earlier post made me think about the way that I really do distrust science here, especially medical science. Everything we know about autism indicates that there are probably *multiple* factors involved in its onset, and these factors probably confound each other regularly. Some factors may be at work in some cases, not in others, and so on. But this is exactly NOT what the scientific method can handle. The scientific method, and the single-cause ideation of the medical field that's built up on it's foundation, is not able to cope well with multiple potential causes. You can only test one thing at a time--more than that skews the data, and admits for too much error. Medical science, as it is today, pretty much demands that all effects have one root cause. Unfortunately, it's likely that this just isn't what's going on in autism--there probably *isn't* just one root cause, so no study is ever going to back up any particular view.

You point to confusing causation and correlation, and that's true, we do it all the time. But notice that in this case it's not us mistaking one for the other, it's a genuine *confusion*--we cannot tell which it is. It may be correlation, OR it may be causation, and unfortunately our investigative mechanism cannot distinguish the two. If autism has, say, five different causal mechanisms, all mostly independent from each other, active in cases varying from 10%-30% of the time, medical science will not be able to distinguish any particular cause from a correlation between developmental stages or other environmental effects. So no, I don't place my complete trust in science in this case.

Malva said...

I'm doing extremely delayed and selective vaccination.

But what's stopping me has nothing to do with autism.

It has to do about the aluminum content of some vaccines (what is it? Several times what you're allowed to be exposed to in your environment yet it's fine when it gets shot straight into your bloodstream? I wish I had The Vaccine Book on hand for the exact numbers).

And it has to do about illnesses my baby isn't likely to get if breastfed and not in daycare, or illnesses that used to be common childhood ones one or two generations ago. Or illnesses that mostly cause you to miss a week's work to stay home with your sick kid.

And it certainly has to do about vaccines that haven't been on the market long enough for me to be convinced they are safe. HPV anyone? My 9yo daughter isn't getting that!

If my circumstances were different (didn't have benefits, missing work a big deal, workplace a germy one, chronic illness, other kids with weaken immune system per example) I'd vaccinate my kids.

But for now, I'll be dragging them as teens for tetanus shots and vaccines I deem important from a public-health-let's-keep-the-world-free-of-this standpoint.

Karen said...

I agree with you 100 percent. It's only because we are so far removed from children dying/suffering from the classic childhood diseases - polio, mumps, measles, etc. - that anyone can even consider not immunizing their child. By choosing not to immunize parents put not only their own children at risk, but other children, the elderly, etc. Thank you for writing this.

Joyce said...

Vaccination has been around for a long time, but only in recent years have we seen the phenominal uptick in autism rates. It just about has to be something else. To my way of thinking it's something environmental, or food additives (perhaps ingested by mom), or something that possibly combines with a genetic predisposition. I think diagnoses are up because of awareness, as well. I can remember children I went to school with in the early 60s that we just considered "different" who probably were on the mild end of the spectrum.

Whatever the cause, the stress and guilt parents face when others insist that they try every possible "cure" is very regretable.

Adrienne said...

I totally agree with Joyce. The increase in autism means (to me, at least) it's *got* to be something environmental, and we just don't know. There are an infinite number of combinations of things that might be a trigger. Something a child is exposed to at just the wrong time. I don't think it's vaccinations, or at least not vaccinations alone, it could be vaccinations *and* ??? who knows what.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I think this is really going to touch a nerve with a lot of your readers whether they are for or against vaccines. No parent wants to believe that something they are doing (or not) might be endangering their child so the vaccine debate often brings out very passionate feelings in everyone.

I would encourage you and your readers to take a look at my husband's blog posting on interpretation of science and the issue of vaccination. He is a both an M.D. and a trained homeopath. THe link is:

http://greenfamilyhealth.blogspot.com/2008/12/immunizations-controversy-or-non.html

While I believe there *may* be a relationship between vaccinations and autism, it is not clear cut. The number of vaccines we are giving to our kids today is significantly higher than when I was a child in the 70s. Plus, we have a severe lack of food, environmental, and product safety standards that protect us and our children from the ever increasing amounts of toxins in our lives. Combine all of these things with the sheer volume of birth and pregnancy interventions (repeated ultrasound etc...) and it seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.

Last point, I would encourage you to look into the background of Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Offit holds a patent on RotaTeq, a RotaVirus vaccine which he developed through grant money from Merck (the pharma behemoth responsible for the Vioxx disaster.) RotaTeq, and its predecessors, have been suspected of causing bowel obstruction in infants as well as Kawasaki Disease. Despite this, Dr. Offit vehemently defends the use of the vaccine and has become a very rich man because of it. I have a hard time considering the opinion of someone whose bread is buttered by Merck.

foodrenegade.com said...

I think RobynM and Malva are pretty much where I'm at. I'm not against all vaccinations, but I do think we give them far too early and often.

And, Joyce, we actually *have* been vaccinating considerably more in the last 20 years than we were before that.

Most Western nations don't have a vaccine schedule for children until they're 1 or 2. We start them as early as 2 weeks!

I chose not to vaccinate my boys until they were older.

And, for those who want a BALANCED look at the issue, the best book I've read (and I've ready many, both pro and con) is Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide by Aviva Jill Romm.

Anonymous said...

Crunchy, my dh worked in the Autism field for several years. To pin down the "cause" of autism is like looking for a needle in the haystack. He worked with families from all social, economic and cultural backgrounds. The only thing that these people had in common was that they had an autistic child. Some families had more than one. BUT immunizations were not really considered a true factor. We did get our children vaccinated. It's rough when your looking for answers, and its easy to grab onto anything that may offer some sort of explanation to the "why" questions.

Tameson said...

Not to sound crass, but I hink the decline in childhood mortality has more to with the increase in autism than vaccines do. Think about it, how many accidental deaths were because the kid didn't respond to parental warnings not to touch the fire, or go near the well, or play in the bulls pen. Now that we've protected our children from themselves to the point that we don't have all these deaths we have many more people around tht wouldn't have made it to 1st grade in decades past.

I vaccinate my kids for the herd. I deal with other peoples autistic children daily - there are 2 aspergers cases on my bus alone. Thanks for speaking up about this one crunchy.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading about BPA in canned goods and its effects on pregnancy and early nervous system development, and wonder if that has anything to do with the rise in autism. Even organic canned food has BPA in it.

knittinandnoodlin said...

My younger son has Asperger's, and I think the three most important things I can do to help him are a) be a positive role model and advocate for him; actively participate in therapy with him; and lastly and most importantly -- don't read an article in a magazine or see someone interviewed on Oprah and base my son's treatment plan on it.

That last part seems to be where many parents of autistic children primarily get their information regarding treatment strategies. It is far more important to read the hard books -- the medical journals, research materials, and books written by actual doctors (not Jenny McCarthy for crying out loud -- seriously people). Sure, some of us do that, but I've seen too many children of extraordinarly lazy parents not getting the help they need because their parents leave it to the school to deal with it and don't give it a second thought.

As far as vaccinations go, I think people who don't vaccinate their are ignorantly putting everyone's children at risk. The reason we don't have deadly epidemics racing through schools is because of childhood vaccinations. If you aren't going to vaccinate your child, then I don't think you have any right to put him or her in a public school. Period.

There isn't even anecdotal evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism.

There is, however, tons of evidence that says that active parents who maintain a positive attitude and work with their autistic children in therapy do get results.

So, people need to stop whining about vaccinations and/or whatever the autism cause du jour is, and start looking at what they can do to help their kid.

just me said...

A very balanced and thoughtful book is The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Sears. (It's actually by Dr. William Sears' son, Dr. Robert Sears.) It is unfailingly fair and balanced, presenting all known information about each and every vaccine on the schedule, as well as his view of its importance, and why some parents choose to decline for their child. It also lists the ingredients for each vaccine, and how it is prepared. At the end of the book is an excellent vaccine schedule that Dr. Sears recommends, in which children are still vaccinated, while being exposed to 'safe' amounts of mercury and aluminum and not overloading their immune systems.

That said, I have two vax and two non-vax kids, for complicated reasons. I'm completely stymied by the whole topic.

hollydlr said...

I have many reasons that I mistrust the vaccination program in our society, and I am a Master's level trained biologist, so I certainly do not mistrust the scientific method. One of the first rules of valid scientific research is a lack of conflict of interest on the part of the investigators. Virtually all the research that exists on the safety and efficacy of vaccines is wrought with conflict of interest, having been funded and conducted by the manufacturers of the vaccines. How can anyone take the word of someone who stands to make billions of dollars? "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." -Upton Sinclair

One other fact that disturbs me is regarding the notion of herd immunity. Vaccine supporters like to claim that the worldwide eradication of smallpox was due to vaccination, but did you know that only 10% of the world's population was ever vaccinated? So much for the herd... The real reason is due to improved sanitation, nutrition, medical care, and the natural life cycles of these diseases, just as it has been with all other "vaccine-preventable" diseases.

The unknown potential harmful effects of vaccines (neurological damage, allergies, autoimmune disorders, asthma, etc.) give me far more pause than the small risk that my child may get the diseases that vaccines may or may not actually protect him against. At that point, I do trust in modern supportive medical care, good nutrition and hygiene to get him through!

Lastly, I know there are many out there who sell unproven antidotes to supposed vaccine-caused ailments, and it is unfortunate that desperate parents feel they have no other options. But I'm quite sure none of these "snake-oil salesmen" are making as much profit as Merck.

For good reading on this subject, see The Vaccine Safety Manual for concerned parents and health professionals.

hollydlr said...

knittinandnoodlin said:
"As far as vaccinations go, I think people who don't vaccinate their are ignorantly putting everyone's children at risk. The reason we don't have deadly epidemics racing through schools is because of childhood vaccinations. If you aren't going to vaccinate your child, then I don't think you have any right to put him or her in a public school. Period."

If vaccines work, then why would vaccinated children in school be at risk from unvaccinated children?

Please listen to the words you are using and realize the fear-mongering that they are coming from. The "vaccine-preventable" diseases are almost never fatal for children who were healthy to begin with and have access to clean water, good food, and supportive medical care. Its not fair, for example, to call a chicken pox outbreak a "deadly epidemic." Measles, mumps, etc., were all considered about the same as chicken pox a generation or two ago, it just through a few decades of fear mongering that people now believe these are deadly...

EJ said...

I vaccinated my son (now 28) at 14 against rubella, and against tetanus when he was young.
These were the only diseases he was likely to get that are dangerous to a young child with a healthy immune system. Yes, measles and other childhood diseases can lead to other problems but mostly if your child is not well or if she is not given enough time to recover before being sent back to school (think time = $).

A hard decision for sure but be sure to consider the risk of getting sick (how many people get sick, how sick, can you deal with a sick child) which diseases your child will likely be exposed to, if it is possible to vaccinate at a later date (more mature immune system) and not just the benefits of not getting sick at all.

Green Bean said...

While I do not believe vaccines cause autism per se, I do think that they might be another of many environmental factors that trigger neurological challenges in children predisposed to retaining toxins and the like.

Say what you will about vaccines being around forever and preventing childhood diseases but the fact remains that our children get WAY more vaccines at a MUCH younger age than we ever did. Those vaccines contain, among other things, aluminum and other known neuro-toxins. So, while I don't believe that giving my kid a shot will make him autistic, better safe than sorry. We are slowly vaccinating our children, bit by bit, one or two at a time. No need, imo, to overwhelm an already immature immune system with sixteen different vaccines (think of the 4-in-1 shots) on a single day.

nava said...

I was going to respond along the same lines as holly. We are delaying vaccines for several reasons, including a history of very bad reactions, vaccines just plain "not working" (my FIL got vaccinated for smallpox 5 times and still does not have any antibodies for it) and because we really don't know the full effect of vaccines on young children. When we dbegin vax, it will be because we feel there is a need, and along those lines I am not giving them the MMR ever because those diseases are simply not deadly with proper medical care in a healthy child, both of which we have. Polio? Maybe. Except that the only cases of polio in the US in the past 20+ years have been as a result of vaccinations because of the nature of the disease (they have not yet been able to formulate a polio vax that ensures immunity without the risk of contraction). If they could perfect the vax to ensure immunity without transmission, well then, why not? As for the "causation versus correlation" argument, well, it does seem very he said/she said at this point, and not ALL members of the scientific community are actually on board with the "no link" conclusion. however, I do not fault parents for making the informed decision to vaccinate their children; we are all doing what we can to protect our kids as best we can, and if we disagree, well, we still need to respect each other.

Anonymous said...

i don't care which direction a parent chooses as long as it is based on sound self E.D.U.C.A.T.I.O.N. so many parents 'choose' because someONE told them to... be it the doc or oprah. great debates like these help along the way.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Hi Crunchy. HOpe you're having a good day.

I wrote a post about this exact same topic only you did a much better job than I did! I really agree with you, and it makes me very sad and a bit upset at all the parents who are willing to put their child at risk for measles, pertussis, etc. No, of course vaccines are not guaranteed 100% safe, but the alternative is a LOT more dangerous. And, the "safeness" of a vaccine is a lot higher than the correlation between autism and MMR vax.

Parents who think they can protect their child from these diseases are very mistaken. What if a person carrying the disease flies on an airplane with an unvaccinated child? What if a person travels to another country and brings that disease back, then touches the same grocery cart as an unvaccinated child? And, just google things like "measles outbreak" or "mumps outbreaks" and you will find results as late as fall 2008! It happens! Parents are protecting their child much more by getting them vaccinated.

And, maybe I'm out of the loop, but how can these children enroll in school if they aren't vaccinated? Maybe these parents are planning to homeschool, but otherwise how would these kids get into school?

Laura said...

I must say, personally, I trust someone with a PhD in Immunology that also spent 30 years in Biotech developing many different drugs and technologies for the betterment of the human species. He did not vaccinate his children and advises parents not to vaccinate children under the age of four. My daughter, was vaccinated at a young age and had a reaction. After discussing all of the options, I've determined that its best to wait until she's older, around 4 years old, with a developed immune system that can actually handle the vaccines. Also, that the vaccines are cultured from human tissue and that they are given one at a time, not in a cocktail.

Also, my daughter is on a gluten free diet due to a massive yeast build up that occurs in her gallbladder. Her father has Asperger's and there is a correlation to the diet and its affects on the mind. You are what you eat.

Yes there is a big debate on vaccines and diets and treatments. I personally put my trust in someone that has a PhD in the subject and that spent the majority of his adult life developing drugs/cures that we take rather than someone with a medical degree that's been biased. There are times when the risks don't outweigh the benefits. It's best to have the full picture. Autism->Vaccine, the evidence is not there. However, the way we vaccinate our children is harmful and wrong. Watching your child seize from getting a vaccine is scary and nerve racking. Giving a child a vaccine when they're immune systems may not even recognize the vaccine so we have to do it to them three times? Infants do not have an immune system, which is why we as mothers, need to breast feed, in order to protect them and give them our immune system. You need to know what's in the vaccine and delaying is the best way to ensure its safety. Multiple vaccines can be dangerous and may not even work. There's much more to an immune system than vaccinating. Vaccines affect the T2 response. When you actually get sick, that affects the T1 response. If you don't develop the T1 response, you'll never get to the T2. For example, HIV affects the T1 response. Since there's no T1 response left, because it gets decimated...when an infection invades the body, nothing happens. It is important for our children and bodies to get sick. Now, I will vaccinate my daughter for Polio and I thank God we have that vaccine. However, chicken pox, etc? Hell no. It is important and vital that she gets that so that way she can protect her children when she gives birth. So that way, when a similar infection comes around, her body is capable of attacking it and being safe. Vaccines have their own risks, mercury; being cultured in pigs; etc. Those are risks that I'm not willing to inject into my child. Safety standards need to be met prior to injection.

There's just much more going on with vaccines than a link to Autism. There are real safety issues and concerns. With the media covering only the vaccine->autism link, people may believe that all vaccines are safe or that all vaccines aren't. There is more at stake than big pharma making money...yes they make money off of vaccines, but look at the Research and Development side. There are those people that develop this stuff in order to save lives, because in the end, that's the point.

Anonymous said...

Read "Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians" by Bryan Jepson, M.D.

http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org/pr/jepson_book.htm

Until my son got his autism diagnosis, I vaccinated and trusted public health administrators. Then I started meeting parents of children whose biopsied showed vaccine-strain measles in lesions lining the gastrointestinal tract. Or whose lab tests showed toxic levels of heavy mitals, or mitochondrial dysfunction, or PANDAS, or antibodies to myelin basic protein.

Then I started reading minutes of federal committee meetings, and FOIA documents of communications between vaccine program administrators. Very disillusioning.

This is not a black/white issue, and vaccine critics are not to be confused with anti-vaccinationists (just as Meryl Streep is not "anti-apple.") Vaccines help many, but are harming some -- and public health administrators are not finding out why.

No child should be written off as collateral damage in the war on disease.

Spice said...

Smidgeon was vaccinated on a slower schedule, for many of the reasons everyone here lists.

We actually live in an area where not vaccinating your child actually could be a death warrant. We live among the most conservative Amish community in N. America. They don't immunize.

It's common to have Scarlet Fever and Rubella running through the children. Last year several kids died from Rubella and a few years before Scarlet fever killed some kids and blinded others. (Side note here, some kids also died from malnutrition)

It's really hard to ignore these diseases when your neighbors are suffering and carrying them. I'll take my chances with big pharma, even though I know they're not my friend

Alex said...

Thank you for writing this post! My sister is a med student and she tabled at the local farmer's market about the importance of vaccines. It was heartening to hear the overall pro-vaccine response, but it wasn't unanimous. As you said, the general publications and the technical scientific publications show very different results.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mama Mama Quite Contrary.

From what I've seen, vaccines are not tested adequately and have not been proven safe. How safe could they be with all the known neurotoxins involved in their manufacture?

I'm currently pregnant with my first child and have been researching this issue. Our fear of normal childhood illness is blown completely out of proportion - that fear drives the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

I found the book Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy by David Kirby to be quite enlightening.

Alex said...

I skimmed through some of the posts, and I wanted to add two more points. One, when I was little it was common to let your kid get chicken pox when they're young, so they could build up the immunity for themselves. My youngest sister got the vaccine instead, because now we understand that the chicken pox virus never leaves your body, it just lies dormant until it can resurface as Shingles, a much more dangerous, potentially lethal illness that affects the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. As regards what you're likely and unlikely to contract, two years ago I caught pertusis, aka whooping cough, from my brother, who caught it from a classmate, who picked it up in China over summer vacation. Since we were all more than ten years past our last vaccination it spread like wildfire through his school and our family. Aside from fracturing several ribs and nearly passing out from coughing multiple times, once diagnosed I was forbidden by a doctor to return to my class until I had finished my antibiotic regiment, and was told to tell my roommates and anyone with whom I'd had close contact that all they had to do was go to a hospital and explain that they had been in close contact with a Pertussis carrier, and they would be given antibiotics without an exam. The CDC called me a month later, and while I was no longer contagious I was still definitely miserable. And lastly, I would encourage everyone who is concerned to look up the most recently information on mercury in vaccines, because I believe the vast majority of vaccines no longer contain mercury. I'm not 100% sure, but I'm pretty close to it.

Denise said...

My son is autistic and was fully vaccinated according to the programme used here in the UK. He was in the first group of babies to receive the MMR vaccine in 1988, and my daughter also received it that year at the age of 2. Why is he autistic? It's hard to say; there is autism in my extended family, statistically, as a boy, he is more likely to be autistic, but I don't believe there is a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Unfortunately the hysteria in recent years has meant many children have not received the vaccine and as a result there have even been deaths of children from measles. I sympathize with those parents who truly believe their children have autism as a result of environmental causes, but I believe the explosion in numbers is more to do with recognition of the condition, and maybe even a little bit of what Tameson suggests - that the increased life expectancy of our babies means more of them reach the age where they can be diagnosed. Good topic to raise. Thanks

mommustwrite said...

Delurking myself a bit here -- I've been reading for quite awhile, and I don't think I've ever commented.

Anyway, I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for speaking out against all the BS out there on autism being connected to vaccines. My husband and I keep wondering if there's going to be a huge measles, mumps, or rubella epidemic some time soon because of all the people flouting the sound research in favor of vaccines. My big (albeit, selfish and a bit silly) fear is that my infant is going to contract one of these horrible diseases because of all the people we know not getting vaccinated. Hopefully people will grow a brain soon and do some research for themselves.

carsick said...

I'm on the fence here. Three of my kids all had shots just like they were supposed to. When number 4 rolled in something in my gut SCREAMED NO DON"T DO IT!!!! He has had some shots. He is missing some 18 month shots and I won't let him have any more until a later date. I know there are many factors here and I personally talked with my Dr. and we agreed that my son would wait. When he had his next MMR it will be in single doses and given over a space of time.
I know vaccinations are very important but so is my son and everyone elses children.
I also stay home and homeschool so he is not in a public situation a whole lot.
On a side note, both of my girls have had scarlet fever. Twice. The first time they had it they were showing no signs of even being sick until the scarlet fever. They had all of their shots. The greater problem was and is that they are allergic to MANY different antibiotics and to treat them was scarier.

knittinandnoodlin said...

In response to Holly's suggestion that I am "fear-mongering" I need to point out something...diseases mutate.

Right now there are not epidemics in our schools because our children have been vaccinated. If people stop vaccinating their children, and we start having childhood epidemics running through our schools, it is possible (and even likely) that those diseases will shift into a form that is not addressed by the vaccinations our children have already had.

So, yes, unvaccinated children are putting all children at risk.

That's not fear-mongering...that is just common sense.

Erika said...

Like Arkansas Mom, I believe that vaccine manufacturers are more akin to big business than any sort of well meaning helpers (someone else mentioned the fact that you can't successfully do pure research, if the pocket you will be lining with one outcome vice the other will be yours... another fantastic point).

I do not have children yet, but have heard the story of my childhood many times over. With each shot given to me, I quickly developed a fever, all except one, as an adult, over 104 (the one as an adult was over 103), with the pertussis vaccine, my mom was the poor soul who drug me back to the ER (every time I had the shot) and told the nurses to take me before she killed me - I screamed - not cried, not whined, but screamed the scary, blood-curdling scream that parents dread - for up to two days STRAIGHT. My mom stuck to the CDC's vaccine schedule, and I had all of my shots against pertussis on time, yet, as a teen, I came down with the disease THREE TIMES. I broke several ribs, was asked to stay home from school until I was done coughing (which usually lasts at least a month - even after antibiotics - you see, the problem with pertussis is that it isn't the bacteria that causes the problem, but the toxins created by the bacteria.), and learned to sleep sitting upright. Fast forward 20-some years... I worked in a vaccine clinic, and later ran such a clinic in the military. I was required to be immunized against smallpox. The small, dime-sized scar that was supposed to appear on my left shoulder turned into a **skip if you have a weak stomach** grapefruit sized mass that leaked pus and blood, swelled so much I couldn't put a shirt on, and caused so much swelling in my lymph nodes on the left side of my body that my head rested on my right shoulder, and my left arm had to be held straight out. **okay** I also had a fever that wouldn't budge (103.2) even with tylenol, motrin, and IV fluids. I was told that my immune system "overreacted" to the vaccine - causing all my problems.

I don't have much to comment on as far as Autism goes, simply because I am not sure where I side with the research. What I do know is that my children won't be vaccinated along the schedule that the CDC recommends. Unless we decide to pack up an head for a third world country, we will delay most vaccines until our kids are teens and can decide for themselves.

Regarding the debate on herd immunity, I don't want to take advantage of herd immunity, because that means that several other families must make the choice to follow CDC guidelines (many of those folks blindly follow the schedule that is handed to them by the receptionist at their doctor's office), but the concept is fairly straight forward, and is one of the keys in preventing VPDs (vaccine preventable diseases) in the public health arena - if person A is not vaccinated against a specific VPD, and persons B-R are, and they are the only people that A comes in contact with, then A should be immune from S-Z's infection of a VPD; the same reason you don't go visit a newborn when you have a nasty cold.

I think I've said this before... maybe not here. But my bottom line on the whole vaccine debate (and many others) I don't care what you decide, but I do have two requests: 1. LET ME DECIDE for my family and myself, and 2. USE YOUR BRAIN to weigh the risks and benefits for your family. We can all look at the same data, but we will all find different solutions. I just get tired of folks blindly following "big science" without a second thought.

--Erika

Sharlene said...

There has always been something "different" about my son. We couldn't put a finger on exactly what it was but I knew he was sensitive in a way most kids aren't so I chose to delay some vaccines and spread them out over time. We now know he has severe Sensory Processing Disorder and may have Aspergers as well. My gut says he isn't autistic. I guess in time we will know for sure. But what I do know is that the immunizations he has had have nothing to do with his potential autism. I think people who see their kids struggling and don't know why feel the need to place the blame somewhere. And that does have merit. I personally think it is an environmental factor that is causing the increase in autism. I have no idea what it is but there are some many chemicals that our children are being exposed to now that children were never exposed to in the past. It frustrating. We want answers. They just aren't there yet and grasping at straws and clinging to concepts that superficially seem like causes just isn't responsible in my opinion. I made sure not to vaccinate my kids with any mercury containing vaccines. I spread them out so they wouldn't be as exposed to any harmful side effects. I tried to be as safe as possible in the delivery of vaccines but I also knew what the bigger picture was. Getting any of these childhood diseases could have been a much bigger disaster. I live less than 10 miles from the southern border. Immigrants bring in diseases all the time and there is always news of outbreaks of diseases we "shouldn't" have in the US. You can't keep your kids holed up in a compound. And that is really the only way you can guarantee their safety from these diseases. But you can vaccinate and pray that they are part of the vast majority that these vaccines work for.

Sasha said...

You can still get shingles from the chicken pox vaccination.

Public health is a numbers game. There will always be vaccination failures just as there will be injuries due to vaccinations. The real question is whether there will be more ill health with vaccinations or without and it really seems that there is no mystery there; just look at places where vaccination are not available or google "measles outbreaks" as someone else suggested.

I am no fan of big pharma but it is entirely possible for there be a causal link between vaccinations and autism (or ms or other illnesses) and still have vaccinating children be the right choice from a public health perspective.

Anonymous said...

Vaccines do not cause autism, this is a ridiculous myth propagated by the media and people with little or no scientific knowledge. People do not want to think that their DNA caused their child to have some sort of "defect" therefore they conveniently blame it on something else. People who do not vaccinate their children are putting everyone else at risk and I think their children should be kept out of schools and away from responsible people who vaccinate their children as we all should. Every time I hear about this it makes my blood boil and I realize how incredibly self-indulgent most of society truly is.

Joon Bug said...

This past year, I wrote my Extended Essay on the causes of autism and analyzed whether or not vaccines or genetics caused it. After finishing my research, I came to the conclusion that autism can be caused by vaccinations if there is a genetic predisposition. And despite what many people think, there is a lot of evidence leading to the conclusion that thimerosal is at fault, because it can activate the genes that cause autism, or it can impair the body to such an extent that the end result is autism.
Thimerosal is a drug that was first created in about the 1930s-1940s, before the FDA was around. Because of this, thimerosal never underwent the tests required to for it to be approved by the FDA. Instead, it was simply "grandfathered" onto the list of approved chemicals. According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, thimerosal is “toxic by ingestion and inhalation,” and lab workers were told to “seal contaminated clothing in a vapor-tight plastic bag and evacuate the room” in case of a spill.
Also, there are children who are mercury sensitive, and injecting them with even small dosages of mercury would result in symptoms that are very similar to autism. However, children are not just injected with small amounts of mercury, the levels of mercury increased each year until about 2005, when thimerosal was completely removed from vaccines. As the mercury levels increased, it became more and more likely that the vaccines would finally hit a child’s sensitivity point.
Now, I do not advocate not vaccinating children. There is a reason we have vaccinations. However, I do advocate postponing vaccination to maybe 3 or 4 years old. It is just not good for a child to be obtaining so many vaccines in such a small period of time and at such a young age. It affects their bodies even more than it would affect an older child.
I cannot give you all of my research right here, but I spent 2 years researching this topic as part of my Diploma grade. I would be happy to send you my research if you are at all interested. My mom is The Pirate Farmer, and you can reach me through her.

maya said...

I have done a lot of research on this and also find the links dubious. I think that in all likelihood it is a combination of the toxins which surround us combined with a faulty immune system which wreaks havoc with the brain. Private Practice, the show, just did an episode on it that I fell both showed the dangers of non-vaccinating (good) and also ridiculed and demonized (bad) the parents who don't vaccinate. I have friends who did not vaccinate and I think that they made the right choice for them... Just not for me. I think if you have reason to believe your child is very sensitive to toxins and has a haywire immune system, a slower or more selective vaccination scedukle is in order. My son did not receive any vaccines with themerasol in them, our doctor gave us the choice -- a gamma shot without it or seperate shots with it. I believe in choice -- on all levels, in all matters.

Anonymous said...

You know, it is really difficult to read all these posts using thoughtless language (i.e. 'grow a brain', 'self-indulgent' etc) to describe parents of autistic children. My eldest daughter is autistic, was fully vaccinated, and I have spent years and gone deeply into debt trying to alleviate some of her issues. It is a very complicated situation. I joined a few different Yahoo groups for people like me, and therefore have read the postings of thousands of parents in my situation. I don't recall EVER reading anyone's story who was basing these major decisions on some celebrity's book. Just because Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity does not mean that she is not also a parent who is determined to help her child. She is not looking to make buckets of money from her book.

My younger 2 daughters are on a very delayed vaccination schedule. I, and every other parent of an autistic child that I personally know, do the late-night research myself & also the soul-searching that is necessary when you are venturing into uncharted waters, medically speaking. The autism epidemic is real, and until more research into bio-medical therapies is funded & completed, we only have anecdotal evidence of causation. I personally believe there are many factors - genetic predisposition and environmental triggers seems to make the most sense to me.

And the doctors who are busting their asses to figure this out? It seems unfair to dismiss them as fringe snake oil salesmen. They usually have a family member on the autism spectrum themselves, and are trying to help solve the medical involvement puzzle.

My 2 cents.
Emily

Anonymous said...

I have met a filmmaker who made one of those movies with one Bostin doctor. She is always showing her movie around here, never mind it is ttally outdated, too... I thin it is interesting to note that her own son, age 5 is very abusive to other children, even babies, and lies constantly. He is the only child I have ever met that reminds me of the scary "Omen"/psychopath kids in movies. Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

I have 2 children with autism. You may be shocked that I disagree with the whole MMR causes autism theory. When my youngest was little he was late on his shots due to the fact that we lost our insurance. He had his MMR shots after he exhibited problems. He was lining up his toys and leggos instead of playing with them and would throw temper tantrums for hours until I put him in his room and he fell asleep.

My middle child was missed until kindergarten when he had so much trouble we had to pick him up at school almost everyday for 4 months. Both had delayed speech.

My oldest, who is a 'typical child' - aka child without autism - had all of his shots on time.

The sad thing is the debate has pretty much ended with the whole vaccination theory. Even if it does 'cause autism' a child is more likely to die from contracting measles, mumps or rubella than autism. My life may be full of stress but my children are physically healthy and some children dont even have that.

Tanya

Condo Blues said...

"The main problem has been, what I believe to be, the confusion between cause and correlation and a fundamental distrust or misunderstanding of the scientific method."

I think that this statement covers a lot of ground. Not only with autism but with a lot of environmental issues as well. I am very suspious when celebrities start spewing "facts" about "studies" when most havent' studied science or medicine. Do they really know what they're talking about or are they using their professional training to act like they know what they are talking about? I'm not sure.

I wonder if autism rates are really on the rise or if the medical community is just getting better at diagnosing it?

Jen said...

Unfortunately I don't have the time (or the will, I'm tired of the vaccine debate) to read all the responses, but I did want to chime in and say I totally agree with your stance on vaccines. I did very little research with my first kiddo who we fully vaccinated, and a TON with my second, for whom we will probably delay the Hep B but follow the full course of the others. I simply never found an argument against vaccines that seemed well-founded on hard science.

That said, I have total respect for parents who deny vaccinations. I don't think there are so many of them that they're truly hurting our herd immunity, and I think most of them make well-thought-out, informed decisions. I don't think they're just victims of snake-oil salesmen and the media, as you imply.

Emily T. said...

Coming out of lurkdom to say that I totally agree with you. I also agree with other who say that if parents experienced some of the more virulent illnesses the vaccines are designed ot prevent, they would vaccinate their children.

For example, I had a very nasty case of measles in the fourth grade, and was quite relieved when my children were vaccinated. Let me say that - in contrast to some posters' assertions - that it does not even compare with having the chicken pox. It is much worse, and you get much sicker.

psuklinkie said...

Even though I was immunized with the whole cocktail, I still caught all of the bugs (except measles, go figure). There was some sort of tampering with the vaccine and, as a result, the vaccine didn't work. I was quarantined as a child because I attended a non-vaccinating Mennonite pre-school and church that didn't need or want my rubella, chicken pox, or whooping cough sickening their children.
Despite my vaccine horror story, I will definitely be vaccinating my children when they come. Not vaccinating means possibly exposing children to those horrible diseases I suffered with and almost died from.
On the other hand, though, I agree with Robyn M. about the "pounding" with vaccines... I got all my immunizations in one office visit. I can't help but wonder, if I'd taken them over the course of several weeks or months, if I would have developed better immunities.
Great discussion, Crunchy. Thanks for posting about this important topic.

sophstar's mama said...

I have some concerns about vaccinations, but it's more along the lines of getting too many at once rather than getting any at all. My daughter wil (eventually) have all her vaccines - but I'm doing it on a slower schedule, and finishing one vaccine before starting another. What especially irks me is newborns being given Hep B vaccine hours after birth. Seriously - it's contracted through unprotected sex and illicit drug use. In newborns?? Sometimes there are other circumstances, though - for instance, I want my daughter to get MMR (because of the public health risk rubella causes to pregnant women), but she can't get it because I am immunosuppressed and it would make me sick.

knittinandnoodlin said...

Sophstar's mama...hep b can also be transmitted to the baby via its mother's blood/body fluids during the delivery process. If the mother has an unknown hep b infection, that transmission could be deadly for the baby.

Raven said...

Hep. B can also be contracted through ear piercings, kids having a bicycle wreck and jamming their hand against a discarded needle (this happened to a friend of mine), becoming "blood brothers" with someone in middle school, getting into a fight with someone positive where you're both bleeding, having a condom break... etc., etc.

Vicky Harper said...

Thank you!
Vaccinations save lives.

Q: Why does every child need to be vaccinated to protect the other children?

A: Because the more un-vaccinated kids there are in a group of children, the more likely there is to be an epidemic (think of how fast colds spread through your child's school--now imagine it was polio spreading that fast!)

Some children will always be un-vaccinated: sometimes vaccines don't "take": i.e. they weren't refrigerated correctly, or they were expired, or there was a bad batch of vaccines.
This happens!
OR because some kids have REAL medical reasons not to get vaccines(allergies, compromised immune systems, etc.)

But you want there to be as few un-vaccinated kids as possible!
If there are lots of un-vaccinated children, then you are risking an epidemic. And then the kid whose parents thought she was vaccinated but got a bad dose, OR the kid with REAL medical problems that prevented him from getting vaccinated, could get sick and DIE because some selfish, superstitious parents didn't get their kids vaccinated.

Why do I feel so strongly about this?
Because in the midwest in the early 70s there was a bad batch of the MMR. When I got to college in the 90s there were measles epidemics.
Remember this happening?
The thought that this could happen in my child's elementary, not because of an accident, but because other parents didn't vaccinate on purpose, horrifies me!!

I don't want my child or any of their friends to DIE!

Please stop listening to people who are trying to sell you their alternative whatever and VACCINATE YOUR CHILD!!!

Carla said...

For the comments about Hep B, yes it can be transmitted from mother to baby if the mother is Hep B positive. However, most women are tested for Hep B during their pregnancy. If they are positive, their babies are automatically innoculated with the Hep B vaccine and immunoglobulins. If they are neg., the vaccine is optional, as it should be.

Thimerosol is a known neurotoxin. While it supposedly was removed from childhood vaccines, it is still used as a preservative in the flu vaccine and some others. You would have to read the vaccine insert info to determine if a vaccine is truly thimerosol free. I can tell you, the Hep B vaccine used at the hospital I work in clearly lists thimerosol as a preservative. The fact that we give it to babies within hours of birth is horrendous.

And not to open another can of worms, but it is the Hep B vaccine that has been linked to increased rates of SIDS.

The vaccine issue isn't just about autism.

Thank you Joon Bug for sharing your research.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that MORE parents aren't concerned with putting 3 different vaccines into a 10 pound baby. That they follow a "schedule" mandated for the masses in order to increase compliancy rates. There are two main populations who tend not to vaccinate...those who are below the poverty line and those with a 4 year education and higher. So it cracks me up when we are told to "grow a brain". How many people who thoughtlessly vaccinate actually do the research on it? Have you checked out the VAERS database? Did your know there is a court system set up strictly for vaccine-related lawsuits in order to put a cap on how much someone can sue a pharmaceutical company for vax-related injuries? Vaccines have a place. But it is NOT a one-size fits all medical intervention.

Anonymous said...

As someone who works every day with the scientific method every day, you CAN ask the question does A + B + C give you the result of Z. Or any number of factors and what percentage. That is the beauty of the scientific method. However, those types of studies take much more time than does A give you Z.
It's similar to coming up with a new recipe for a pie. You start playing around with one ingredient and you get something pretty good, but then as you start adjusting the others, you have to revisit the previous ones so you get the best pie. Needless to say this takes many more pies than just messing with one ingredient.

Unfortunately the people who are in charge (from Congressmen to the heads of the FDA to the big Pharma) want results for their money. For at least the last decade the total Science budget has decreased or remained flat funded. This means that as every year that goes buy the cost of things go up and then there is effectively less money to go around ($100, 10 years ago doesn't buy the same as $100 today). Yes you might hear that such and such field got a budget increase, but did they take it away from somewhere else to fund that? Most likely yes.

Funding of grants and studies comes with a price. Everyone is competing for the same cash. If you are lucky to get some of the money you are reviewed every year or two. You have to show progress. Usually this means publications. Can A cause Z can get you progress much much faster than A+B+C cause Z. Unfortunately the longer projects such as A+B+C are going on the back burner because of this funding situation.

Please think about this the next time you are in the voting booth.

Correne said...

I just want to thank you, Crunchy, for bringing up this topic. My kids have only been partly vaccinated, because I keep vacillating between what I am more afraid of: the vaccines or the illnesses they are supposed to protect me from.

Unfortunately, I don't have an unshakeable trust in science like some other people do. I actually think it's analogous to people who don't "believe" in global warming (there are a LOT of people here who think it's hogwash.)

Environmentalists point to the science and say, see, here's the proof, but people like me don't actually understand the science, and the stuff that the climate change "deniers" are saying sounds pretty scientific to me, too, so who am I supposed to believe?

It's the same with vaccines. Doctors and public health nurses insist that there is lots of scientific proof that vaccines are safe and good, but then there are a bunch of people saying that they're not. I feel completely untrained and unable to properly evaluate either sides' claims.

I am planning to read the books that some of the commenters recommended. Hopefully, it will help me make a real decision.

statia said...

This is a big can of worms. I definitely have had my own personal experiences with this. I don't think that it's solely vaccines. I think that there are circumstances where vaccines COULD aggravate something that is genetically disposed. But I also think that there's a lot of other environmental factors at play.

My son, while he had some spectrum like quirks at a young age, did change after his DTaP vaccine (we opted to delay his MMR, and I'm glad we did). But that said, I also think that given the fact that I have ADHD, the chances of him inheriting that from me are high. I also think there were quite a few other environmental things that contributed to him getting "sick." Like the fact that he was a product of IVF (and I still wonder that could be a contributing factor too) And I did several things to possibly help him. I cut out the rest of the conventional cleaners that we were using. I got rid of any possible offending skin care products etc. There were quite a few things we did, and like you said, kids sometimes get better and there's really no way of knowing if the measures we took are what made him better. I can't go back and choose the other fork in the road. The only thing I do know is that we were lucky. Very lucky. If delaying his vaccines is going to help him recover, regardless of what science says or not (and I'm leary of believing anything scientists, because I always have to wonder if their ulterior motive is in the form of "charitable donations" from the pharma industry, and having worked in pharma, I'm not unwise to that actually happening), that's absolutely a risk I'm willing to take.

I also don't really buy into the media hype. I don't base my decisions based on what the media says (either pro or against vaccines), I base it on my own personal evidence, and what I've gone through. I do my research and I do what I feel is best for my family. I'm not against vaccines. I think they have their place, but even despite what Offit says, I don't think that babies can tolerate that many vaccines in such a short period of time. I'd like to see him administer 10,000 vaccines on himself.

daharja said...

My son is autistic.

During the pregnancy, I was taking sodium valproate, an anti-convulsant commonly parketed as Depakote or Epilim.

This drug is still commonly given to women of childbearing age all over the world, and they are not warned that they stand a very high risk of having an autistic child.

Several lawsuits are currently underway against the manufacturers for failing to disclose the risk of autism, which leaked sources indicate has been known about for two decades or more.

The risk is high - in my autism support group, more than half of the mothers were taking this drug during their autistic child's pregnancy.

None were informed of the risk.

The jury is still out on vaccinations, but when I planned my pregnancy, I asked my neurologist about the risks and side effects of the drug. He mentioned cleft palate and spina bifida, and said that was it.

This is a good example of why many of us in the autism community do not trust the medical 'professionals'.

Now my son is in recovery and improving dramatically with a gluten-free, dairy-free, whole foods vegetarian locally-based diet.

We supplement with B12, probiotics, omega 3 oils and other vitamins.

Once again, the medical 'professionals' are not supportive. They claim that diet will not make a difference. Which shows how little they keep their eyes and ears open, and how little they know their patients.

What causes autism - this syndrome that now affects 1 in 150 - up from one in 10 000 a generation ago? The 'experts' claim it's all genetics. Which shows how little they understand genetics.

Blame the parents. Anything rather than toxic drugs and a toxic world and maybe some toxic ultrasounds or vaccines as well.

We don't know the answers yet. But in a system where almost all the research is being funded by drug companies with vested interests, it's bit like being told by McDonalds that their hamburgers are really healthy.

The thing above all that makes me wary of vaccines though is the fact that we administer the same dose to a newborn baby as we do to a 12 year old - or an adult. I wouldn't give a full strength aspirin to a newborn, but according to the vaccine companies, dose and weight doesn't matter.

As I said, my son (now 4) is autistic. We're pretty sure it was the sodium valproate. But he *was* also vaccinated.

But I'll tell you one thing. You couldn't pay me enough dollars or gold in the whole world to vaccinate my 1 year old daughter. I'd never do it. Not ever.

And that's without any proof.

jewishfarmer said...

Deanna, I've been mulling over writing about this for a while, and never quite pulled me comments together. I'm glad you did this post.

I have an autistic son, as many people know. I believe he was autistic from birth - from infancy he played oddly, was extremely sensitive to things that don't bother other babies, etc... I also know that he regressed for a period between 2 and 4 - but I don't believe it had much to do with vaccination, but with patterns of autism.

My frustration with the vaccination issue is not with parents attempting to sort out causes and resisting the conventional medical analysis - I'm not convinced that that has been so well done that this is a major problem. My feeling is that autism is almost certainly going to turn out to be the consequence of *another* environmental factor, and I feel the exclusive focus on vaccinations has left us unable to seriously look at other causes.

That said, I do think Robyn M. has a great point about the limits of medical science here, and while I vaccinate, I do think that we don't always do so rationally - my kid doesn't have much chance of catching Hep B as a newborn, and yet, that's when they get their vaccination.

I grew up by the ocean, in a family that fished off the Gloucester coast for a living - it is almost certainly true that my body contains more mercury than most vaccines. For me, I want to know, and stop the damned problem - I don't want to get caught up in false solutions.

Sharon

konnie said...

Autism, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder are all potential pitfalls when a child doesn't have proper child development. I think all families should be wary of this.

emily said...

I am curious about the numbers of autism cases "rising". Have we seen a rise in the number of diagnoses, or a rise in the number of actual cases? And can we still figure that out? Part of me suspects that autism was not, or was incorrectly, diagnosed for a long time. The whole spectrum that Crunchy refers to has not been recognized as such for all that long. And I know, for example, that when my father was 20, people accepted the idea that crazy or bad mothers caused schizophrenia. Was "bad parenting" the cause for behavorial signs that we now recognize to be autism? ...somebody's comment about autistic children dying younger in earlier centuries also seems like a valid point to me.

But I should admit that I haven't read up, and stop here.

--a different Emily from the others that already posted :)

Joy said...

I read, like you, and decided in the end, like you, the benefit far outweighed the risk.

I asked a man who had polio what he thought - and well, you can imagine what he said, "VACCINATE!"

So, I have six healthy kids aged 19-2 and they are all vaccinated. I worried - prayed - worried - prayed and left it in God's hands.

daharja said...

Hi Emily - Re the rise in autism numbers.

The short answer is both. Both a smaller increase in diagnosis AND a much larger increase in incidence have created the rise from one in 10 000 a generation ago to the current less than 1 in 150 across the western world.

The huge number of journals I am researching on the matter indicate that although diagnosis has improved, and cases of autism that were misdiagnosed are now being categorised, due to autism being redefined as a spectrum disorder, there is most definitely a huge increase of children with this disorder.

It is interesting to note that autism is more common in families with eczema, asthma and hayfever, and among the children of women with diabetes and epilepsy. The possibility exists that the drugs (both topical and internal) that these women take may be the cause though, rather than the womens' genetics.

While there are definitely genetic weaknesses at play (meaning, some families have a susceptibility to autism), these weaknesses in the past did not result in full blown autism.

A (poor) analogy is a family having an increased risk of, say, type 2 diabetes, but needing the lifestyle factors to bring the disease out and cause the devastating effects.

In the case of autism, there are definitely environmental factors at play, resulting in the rapid increase of cases, but we have not yet confirmed what they are.

Frontrunner likely suspects that trigger Autism Spectrum Disorder include mercury and heavy metal contamination, and immune system overload.

Both of these may be linked to vaccination damage - one dose may not suit all, and for the vaccination industry to assume that the same dose of drug for an 80 pound child is appropriate for a 9 pound newborn is absurd in the extreme).

Prenatal ultrasound (sonograph) damage is also a candidate. Ultrasound is used to encourage permeable skin and absorption of drugs and chemical uptake in farming of animals, and it has been linked with neuronal migration in rodents. Ultrasound has still not been proven safe, yet is widely practiced across the western world. Although coincidence does not mean causality, the use of prenatal ultrasound maps very neatly with the increase of autism. Autism is particularly common amongst the children of female sonographers.

The fact is that although we do not know for certain what causes autism yet, these are some of the more likely risk factors.

What I would say, as a mother with an autistic son, and as someone who is doing a truck load of research in the area, is that I do believe the current vaccination schedule and dosages are unnecessary and dangerous; that ultrasound is used carelessly and in the vast majority of cases, for vanity rather than necessity without regard to the unknown side-effects (it is NOT proven safe); and that NO drug is proven to be absolutely safe during pregnancy or just before - be it topical, over the counter, or otherwise.

These are just my thoughts. I hope that we find the answers to the autism puzzle, and soon.

daharja said...

Hi Joy, and others - I would also, just quickly, like to point out the the vast majority of families with autistic children *DID* vaccinate. Our autistic kids are among the vaccinated.

My (autistic) son was vaccinated up until he started showing signs of autism.

All the autistic kids I know (quite a few, through various support networks) were also fully vaccinated.

This is not an 'us and them' issue. We're all in this together, trying to make our children - all of them - as safe as possible.

If vaccinations are a risk for autism for any child, we need to know this, with unbiased, independently funded research. This research STILL isn't happening.

We also need to acknowledge that what is safe for most children (say, 149 in 150) may not be safe for 1 in 150.

For example, peanuts are perfectly safe for most people, but will kill some on contact with their lips.

It IS possible that some vaccinations, or some ingredients in some vaccinations, cause or trigger autism in some children.

When my son developed signs of autism, I decided to cease his vax schedule immediately.

I have subsequently declined to vaccinate my 1 year old daughter, who is fine.

Yet I have received a lot of criticism for this decision, from a GP, from government officials, and from other parents.

I wonder what their decision would be in my position?

In the end, we all want the same - healthy kids. This discussion isn't about whether we should vax and why, but are these vaxes safe for everyone and if not, why not and who is at risk.

Vaccination is a decision only a parent can make - NOT a government or a medical worker.

But we all deserve to have as much honest information about the real risks and benefits of these dangerous drugs as possible. And we all deserve the right to decline without harrassment.

I hope and pray for a cure for autism, and the end of this nightmare epidemic.

ZombieKitteh said...

This might sound off topic sort of but this youtube account that I subscribe to SxEPhil said something that caught me by surprise.
Phil said that maybe autistic people aren't regressing but progressing. I don't know how many people believe in evolution but maybe these children are evolving. I mean you have to admit they are smart as a whip! Eh whatever just thought I would throw that out there.

I can't find the youtube video anymore so here's a link to someone else talking about it.

http://autisticbfh.blogspot.com/2008/04/autism-and-evolution-i-stand-corrected.html

daharja said...

Hi ZombieKitteh - I think SxEPhil doesn't know what he/she is talking about. I wonder if he/she has even ever had anything to do with people with autism, or with the autism community at all, or is just spouting some funky sci-fi theory with no basis in fact.

As a parent of a child with autism, and as someone who knows well over a dozen people on the autism spectrum at various levels, I can only conclude that this is a disorder that is disadvantageous.

Some of these kids can barely function, and end up needing lifelong support. They would not survive without a lot of care and support.

If that's evolution, it is a dead end for evolution.

We seek a cure because we seek what is best for our children, and we want them well and healthy and happy, just like any sensible parent, not because we want to breed some weirdo brainiac race of superbeings.

Sorry for getting aggro, but I've had my share of support workers who claim that our children are 'evolved higher spiritual beings' and other such nonsense as well.

These are ordinary kids with a terrible disorder, that's all. And it's on the increase. The sci-fi loopheads and new age nutcases need to get over themselves, and get out of our lives if they can't see fit to help in a productive way.

And as a parent with a kid with autism, I will do anything and everything I can to help him achieve a full and satisfying life, where he needs as little external care and support from specialists as possible.

Sorry for the rant.

Cheers,

Daharja.

Brooke said...

Wow. I couldn't disagree more. There is no scientific study proofing that autism is not caused by MMR or other vaccines. Very little research has been done. If there is even a correlation, should they at least look into it a little deeper? Instead of putting out false scientific studies where any children with any disabilities were completely removed?

Also what makes measles, mumps and rubella deadly? Even when these diseases were common very few people died of them. What about all the deadly diseases we don't have vaccines for?

The denial of the potential of help from alternative cures is insulting and a huge blanket statement. There is plenty of scientific data showing that certain alternative cures do help with disabilities like autism. They are less expensive then the therapies offered by a doctor...and trust me homeopathic doctors don't make much money. Diet changes are free. Also don't drug companies make money? Should I believe they wouldn't harm millions of children/people to make a buck? Well I don't. I don't believe that the anyone who says vaccines are safe are not being paid by these companies either.

When it comes to environmental causes, I can't find anything more hypocritical then bashing anti-vaccinating parents with blanket statements and false information, but then pointing a finger at environmental damage as a cause. HELLO! Drug companies are pouring all sorts of chemicals into our environment! By paying for a vaccine, you are supporting their environmental destruction!

daharja said...

Hi Brooke - what you said about environmental pollution caused by drug companies is absolutely right.

But I wanted to comment on your point about dietary changes being free. They're not.

We have my son (who has autism) on a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian whole-foods diet, plus various supplements (multivitamins, B12, probiotics, flax oil etc.) - and it is NOT cheap.

We are seeing HUGE improvements in him, but he still has a long way to go. But it does cost a lot of money. We're lucky to be in a civilised country where our medical bills are all covered by taxes, and everything is affordable, but if we had to pay for his speech therapy, OT, in-class aide and so on, we'd be a LOT poorer than we are now.

Autism, aside from being devastating on an emotional and mental level, is tremendously expensive. We'll do everything possible for our son, but I can't help wondering "what if?"

In the meanwhile, we're among the lucky ones. My son is very mild and on the high end of the spectrum. Many others aren't so fortunate.

The thing that would do the autism community more benefit than anything would be more support from the wider community, treating our children like ordinary kids (because they are - they just do it tougher!), and helping out any mums or dads you know who have a kid on the spectrum.

Community support is worth far more in value than any drugs or treatments we have at present.

mark said...

While many regard the objections of the anti-vaccine crowd as tantamount to hysteria, I can say as a physician that the worries people have about vaccine injury are not totally without foundation. Injuries do occur, which is why the government has established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Vaccines are not 100% safe. And many of the effects are not fully understood. There is a long track record in medicine of drugs, devices and other treatments being approved by the FDA only to find years later that they cause birth defects, cancer, neurologic disease and so on. Some people view research as the "final word" on safety and efficacy, overlooking the fact that research is fluid and constantly changing. Today's truism is tomorrow's worn out myth. Who knows what will prove to be safe 10 or 20 years from now. I advise my patients, and I have followed this advice for my own 3 children to be judicious about each and every vaccine. Learn about it and examine the evidence. If there is research supporting it's safety, assure yourself that it is quality research, not industry-biased, and that the conclusions are warranted by the data (they often are not).

Medicine is an industry and all industry tends to defend itself as safe and beneficial for the world, but as we know, there is a long history of bias here, and only a vigilant and openly skeptical public can protect itself from the devastation that so- called "scientific data" has wreaked by industry on humanity. So don't blindly dismiss the data; and neither blindly accept it. Both are the lazy and wrong way of construing it.

Elizabeth said...

I know that I am extremely late in responding to this post, but I just found the site. I have to make a comment even at this late date.
I am a nurse and when I was doing my student rotations (about a million years ago), I assisted a veteran RN at a children's hospital care for a young child with Pertussis. I myself did not give primary care to this child because of the extreme nature of the disease but I assisted. I will never forget the terrible condition of that little guy. He routinely, day after day, hour after hour coughed so hard that he vomited, he turned blue gasping for air, he almost died multiple times and was hospitalized for 6 weeks....from an illness that was easily preventable. It made such an impression on me as a young nurse that I vowed I would never allow any of my children suffer like that little boy suffered. Most people have not witnessed the terrible misery these preventable diseases cause.

Because of that one experience, I immunized my four kids without hesitation.

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Story-one of my husband's close friends got pregnant, back in the early 90's. The little girl was born healthy and beautiful. Eight weeks old she contracted measles. The baby girl survived... her eyesight didn't. She is blind to this day.
People forget how awful those diseases were and still are. Yes, there are risks with immunization. There are risks crossing the street. But the benefits outweigh the risks.
And big pharma doesn't make a whole lot of money off of vaccines. Think about it. Would they make more off of a drug given maybe 3 times in a person's entire life.. or meds for cancer, heart disease, blood pressure, pain etc. where people are on them every day for their entire life? Vaccines are NOT big profit in the larger scheme of things.

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