Autism and vaccination

"Secret and Lies" by Lesli Mitchell; "A Recipe for Disaster" by Arthur Allen

By Salon Staff
Published August 4, 2000 7:30PM (EDT)

Read Lesli Mitchell's story

Read Arthur Allen's story

My son, Matthew, was developmentally normal -- a bright-eyed, verbal, affectionate toddler -- until he received his MMR and Hib vaccines. Within seven days he developed a terrible ulcerated rash on his diaper area and chronic diarrhea which persists five years later. I took him to numerous specialists, gastroenterologists included. He even developed shingles. I met Dr. Andy Wakefield last October and asked him if he could help my son. Matthew had not slept through the night for over three years. Every night he would wake up screaming in his bed. I took Matthew to the Royal Free Hospital in England. There, doctors diagnosed Matthew with severe constipation -- in fact he had a fecal mass the size of a cantaloupe in his colon. (The physicians used a simple X-ray to find the obstruction.) We cleaned his colon out and he has been officially diagnosed with autistic enterocoliti, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. His gut biopsies show the presence of live measles virus. Now Matthew is able to sleep because we are treating this medical condition with anti-inflammatory medications.

I recently became involved with a group called the Coalition for SAFE MINDS (Sensible Action for the Elimination of Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders). Members of this coalition, as well as a physician and toxicologist, testified in front of Rep. Dan Burton's committee on July 18th regarding the amount of mercury children are being given. The amount that children are exposed to in routine vaccinations exceeds, in some cases, 125 times the adult maximum allowable dose in one day.

Mercury is a known neurotoxin. The similarities between mercury poisoning and autism are remarkable. Coalition for SAFE MINDs members have researched this connection and written a paper which was presented this spring to the FDA and CDC entitled: "Autism: A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning." The CDC has looked at their large linked database and presented findings at the June ACIP meeting in Atlanta which show a statistical association between neurodevelopmental delays and the administration of thimerosal-containing vaccines. At the July 18 meeting, Roger Bernier, Ph.D. of the CDC stated that there is enough thimerosal-free vaccine on the market to safely vaccinate American children today. Yet the FDA refuses to remove these toxic vaccines from the market. The Coalition for SAFE MINDS has filed a citizens' petition to Jane Henney, M.D., commissioner of the FDA, requesting removal of these toxic products from the market. We are prepared to pursue all available legal means to ensure that the children in this country receive the safest products available.

My son's immunologist believes that the mercury contained in the vaccines he received suppressed his immune system to the point where he actually contracted the measles from the MMR vaccination. We are in the process of treating him for mercury poisoning. He is a very different little boy than he was a year ago. I have Dr. Wakefield and the other brave parents and researchers who have the determination to find the cause cure for this terrible disorder to thank for giving me my life and little boy back. Matthew has a long way to go to recover but at least we know what is wrong with him finally.

-- Liz Birt
Matthew's Mother
Founder, Medical Interventions for Autism

As the parent of two vaccine-injured children and one of thousands of families that I know who believe their children contracted autism and other spectrum disorders from toxic doses of ethylmercury from vaccines, I wanted to say Lesli Mitchell's was a great article and I was happy to see it. The counter article by Arthur Allen is seriously flawed. Autism doesn't crop up from nowhere. Does he think the doctors, educators and parents of 10-15 years ago were just too stupid to recognize SERIOUS behavioral disturbances? One look at these kids and you know they could not have been mistaken for anything else.

This is an epidemic, caused by thimerosal poisoning and/or allergy. My son was not born with autism, but contracted it after mandatory "routine" immunizations. The current system needs to be revamped, quickly. Kids are getting too many vaccines too early. Doctors tell us it's for convenience. Well, I have news for you: autism is not convenient! The EPA stated that children receive toxic doses of thimerosal when given two shots containing mercury, and most children get six to eight in a day (MMR, Hib, Polio, and DTaP, flu, chicken pox)! MMR does not contain mercury but the mercury in the other vaccines may pave the way for the measles to seat itself in the gut.

Vaccines need the ethylmercury removed (which is being done now) and better safety testing. (Did you know some vaccines contain antifreeze?) What the government has allowed, and mandated, to happen to our children through its negligence should be criminal.

-- Holly Bortfeld

I very much appreciate the opportunity for your readers to be able to be more informed through your story regarding autism. I, too, am the proud mother of a child, now 11, with autism. I, too, saw my child develop normally until around 1 year of age. Then, the regression started. I, too, have seen the signs of regression relating to what other mothers are seeing after vaccinations.

Autism is a devastating diagnosis for any family to be given. It not only affects the parents, but sibling and grandparents as well as others. This is a diagnosis which drastically changes the entire family's habitat. I will never allow my son, nor his younger brother, to be given another vaccination. There are too many unanswered questions.

Autism is a very expensive disease, usually not covered by insurance and certainly not covered through government programs. My son has received speech and language services, occupational therapy, sensory integration, dolphin therapy, secretin, auditory integration therapy, behavior management therapy, school services, educational therapy, psychological therapy, casein and gluten and yeast-free diet, preservative-free diet and frequent medical tests. Currently, we travel from Tennessee to Texas for our son to see a doctor who is treating him as an individual and listening to our needs as a family regarding our son.

I feel that it should be left up to the individual family whether or not to immunize their children. I have listened to enough doctors to last a lifetime and very few have listened to me or helped my son. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your articles.

-- Cheryl Matthew

Let me begin by saying that autism is a terrible disease that strikes young children with no known cure. It must be frustrating to parents, who hold high hopes for their child's future, to watch a child "slip away" into their own private world.

However, there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism, and no matter how much parents want to believe that they have found the cause of their child's autism, they simply haven't.

The only study linking vaccines to autism (Wakefield, the Lancet, 1998) was conducted on a mere 12 children. The theory posited by the study, that poor absorption of nutrients caused by inflammatory bowel disease leads to developmental disorders, isn't supported by the clinical data. In at least four of the 12 cases the behavioral problems began before the onset of the inflammatory bowel disease (the purported mechanism for autism development).

In a later study conducted by the same researchers (Wakefield, et. al.), specific laboratory examinations of intestinal tissue in patient with inflammatory bowel disease turned out negative for the measles virus.

Moreover, the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine is well-documented and thoroughly researched. The life-threatening illnesses children face from getting measles, mumps or rubella far outweigh the risks associated with the vaccine. These risks, which are nonfatal and affect a few children per million, are identified and reported every year to the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), so doctors can ensure vaccine safety.

Unfortunately, vaccines are not 100 percent effective. Some children are simply resistant to developing immunity to diseases. So when children who could develop immunity to measles, mumps or rubella avoid getting vaccinated, they increase the chances they will infect someone who has no or less protection from those diseases.

By promoting a mother's impassioned plea and conspiracy-theory support group sessions as equal to the mountains of scientific evidence supporting vaccination, you are encouraging parents to believe that their own intuition is the best judge of scientific facts. This leads to unscientific fear-mongering, which endangers the lives of not only their own children, but other children around then. (For reference information about vaccines and autism, read here -- specifically, section 9.)

Fighting against vaccination will not decrease the incidence of autism. It will only lead to an increase in deaths that could be easily prevented.

-- Joshua Burgin .

Unfortunately, the fact that a disease only appears after the first year of life doesn't rule out a genetic explanation, as Lesli Mitchell asserts. Many other genetic problems only surface much later than that. Huntington's chorea and ALS are two adult-onset examples: Woody Guthrie and Lou Gehrig appeared perfectly healthy, too.

Regarding the ethics of biomedical research, as someone who does it for a living, I can cite many, many examples of medications that fail in safety trials despite huge financial incentives for them to succeed. While there have been botched studies and faked data (the business is conducted by humans), I have to resist the implication that it's the norm.

-- Derek Lowe

The author's self-described "Pitocin-and-epidural labor," and the formula-ear infection-antibiotic cycle might also be involved in the increase in allergies, asthma, ADHD, learning disabilities and seizure disorders, as well as autism. These drugs are thrown at infants as commonly as vaccines are.

-- Donna Maindrault

I am a mother of an autistic child and I am sick and tired of hearing about how this or that "causes" autism, when the truth is that a) there are several indicators pointing to a genetic factor, and b) many parents who claimed their child developed normally the first year are usually only looking at motor skills (which are mainly listed in most childhood publications) and do not seek out charts listing specific social/emotional skills and language development.

The connection to ear infections is also laughable. My daughter is 6 and has had two ear infections in her entire life, both after the age of 4. My daughter's developmental pediatrician and I discussed her first year and found that she was displaying autistic symptoms within 24 hours after birth, and only got worse (which was missed because everyone focuses on motor skills during the first year and communication/socialization isn't looked at very hard until the second year).

Why don't you do a story about the real face of autism -- a child whose parents dare to admit that symptoms were present at birth -- instead of trying to blame coincidences?

-- Christine Moore

Salon Staff

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