Moms: Understanding Vaccines and Autism

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Question: A recent report by retired MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour host Robert MacNeil has reignited the debate about childhood vaccines. The report focused on MacNeil’s daughter, Alison, who said her son was developing fine until receiving the DTaP, MMR and Hib vaccinations at 15 months and soon thereafter began showing signs of Autism.

Do you share Alison MacNeil’s concerns about vaccinations? Have you or anyone else you know made a decision to forgo vaccinations or alter their child’s vaccination schedule because of concerns about Autism? What things should be considered when considering the benefits of vaccination versus the concerns about Autism?

: While on the road over the April vacation, I heard an interview on the radio with Robert MacNeill about his week long series of reports on the MacNeill/Lehrer Newshour. I did not have the opportunity to see the actual reports on public TV, however.

Yes, the topic of the vaccine schedule and combining of vaccines is of concern. I do know parents who have altered the schedule and a few that skipped the Chicken Pox vaccine all together.

With my 9-year-old, I asked the doctor to spread out the vaccines, but was talked out of it. Fortunately, my son did not develop Autism or I would have always been left to wonder.

I do believe vaccines may play a role in triggering Autism in some children who are already predisposed genetically to it. Since we do not know, yet, who is and who is not predisposed to Autism, everyone should follow their instincts on what to do. I also believe diet may play a role helping alleviate some symptoms. 

I recommend Jenny McCarthy's book “Louder Than Word,” not because it gives any answers, but it gives encouragement to follow your mothering instincts and advocate for your child.

: These Mom's Talks can hit some touchy subjects. This is a subject that is very complicated because it is not as simple as scientific evidence informing the public about the correct choices to make. I think the answer lies in a parent’s own research of studies (and who is funding them) and their gut instinct.

For my children, I chose a delayed immunization schedule. I do believe that immunizations have changed the world and saved many lives, but I feel that too many shots are given to children at a young age. Our children's shot schedule I created with help of my supportive doctor. My children only got one shot per visit so their bodies could adjust to the shot.

Kristine Giammarino Nicholas April 28, 2011 at 02:31 AM
My son has high-functioning autism. I belong to an autism support group that has 8 other moms. Three of us saw changes in our children right after vaccination. My son was 2 months old, and I had never heard anything about the autism-vaccine controversy at that time. He was developing normally. He was smiling, laughing, and rolling over. The day he got his vaccines, he was lethargic. He didn't eat - just slept all day. Late that night, he woke up screaming a high-pitched scream that I had never heard before. He continued for 3 days and nights without stop. I looked it up online, and discovered that this was listed as a "rare" reaction. I called his pediatrician, who was not concerned at all. My son didn't laugh again for over a year. It took months for him to smile again, and those were few and far between. He lost his gaze, and stopped rolling over. After that, everything he did was on a delayed schedule. Those were the last vaccines he got. My dr. felt it was coincidence & didnt make a report to VAARS, even though his reaction was one that was listed as one worth reporting. I feel strongly that my son's autism was caused by vaccines (he was also later diagnosed as having mitochondrial disorder. There have been judgements made in favor of the children when they had mitochondrial disorders, and it's important to note this is NOT tested for before vaccination.) I also feel that his autism would have been substantially worse had he been subjected to additional vaccines.
Holly April 28, 2011 at 10:46 AM
My daughter had 8 sezires after her 4-month old shots and was autistic by 5-months old. Holding her was like holding a dead baby; she stared into space and was dead weight in my arms.
Amy April 28, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Touchy indeed. I am very sorry for the pain of so many with children affected with autism. Vaccines do not cause autism. Genes cause autism, and they have a trigger. In some, it *might* be vaccination or it might be that environmental toxins have risen to such a high level that they are affecting fetuses more aggressively and triggering the genes. I agree with Jennifer Flynn's post, and add that you should look very hard at your family tree before you decide on a vaccination schedule. There are so many adults out there that clearly have high-functioning autism that went 'undiagnosed' and learned to manage it. If that is the case, discuss a modified vaccination schedule with your physician. In the end, vaccination is about the good of the many versus the good of the few. If you choose not to vaccinate your child, that is your concern, but don't go trying to blame someone else for your child's measles or meningitis or tetanus or whooping cough or mumps or hepatitis B or chicken pox. You're probably safe from Polio or diphtheria (yay Balto!), but don't do any world traveling,...ever, because these are much worse when you get them as an adult. I highly recommend this article, from a science writer discussing the work of an actual physician, instead of a former playgirl and media attention seeker. http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience/
Robert April 28, 2011 at 02:59 PM
I deeply sympathize with parents whose children have been afflicted with autism. It is a very heavy burden, physically, emotionally, and financially. However, after exhaustive study spanning a decade and hundreds of thousands, it is perfectly clear that there is no connection between vaccination and autism. What is clear, are two things: that the parents of autistic children will cling to any explanation that gives them someone to blame, and that there are numerous unscrupulous individuals who are eager to take advantage of the latter. As for the reason so many people "see changes" in their children "after" their vaccines, the answer is very simple. Millions of children get vaccinated every year. Thousands are diagnosed with autism. It just so happens that the age at which children show signs of autism is also the age at which they receive a lot of vaccinations. It's simply the natural history of the disease. With millions of children involved, there will be hundreds of thousands, whose presenting symptoms come within weeks of their vaccinations. It's inescapable. But the old "post-hoc ergo propter hoc" is a well-known fallacy. If it happened after it, therefore it must be because of it, right? Well, in that case, I am sure I can make a case for millions of people a year who die less than a day after drinking water. Is water a poison? Don't let emotions cloud your judgment! By clinging to this idea, you are putting millions in danger.
Mark April 28, 2011 at 04:22 PM
What do you think of this study Robert? Acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death Pediatrics. 1998 Mar;101(3 Pt 1):383-7. Acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with further attenuated measles vaccines: a review of claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Abstract METHODS: The medical records of children who met the inclusion criteria of receiving the first dose of these vaccines between 1970 and 1993 and who developed such an encephalopathy with no determined cause within 15 days were identified and analyzed. RESULTS: A total of 48 children, ages 10 to 49 months, met the inclusion criteria after receiving measles vaccine, alone or in combination. Eight children died, and the remainder had mental regression and retardation, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits, and movement disorders. The onset of neurologic signs or symptoms occurred with a nonrandom, statistically significant distribution of cases on days 8 and 9. No cases were identified after the administration of monovalent mumps or rubella vaccine. CONCLUSIONS: This clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy exists as a complication of measles immunization. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Robert April 28, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I raise you tens and hundreds of thousands, without selection bias: Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal and Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations Fombonne E et al. Pediatrics. 2006; 118(1):e139-50 Study of thimerosal and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine uptake in 28,000 Canadian children born between 1987 and 1998, of whom 180 were identified with a pervasive developmental disorder. CONCLUSION: The data rule out an association between pervasive developmental disorder and either high levels of ethyl mercury exposure comparable with those experienced in the United States in the 1990s or 1- or 2-dose MMR vaccinations. A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism Madsen KM et al. New England Journal of Medicine. 2002; 347(19):1477-82 Compared relative risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children vaccinated with measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and unvaccinated children born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998. Of the 537,303 children in the cohort, 82% had received the MMR vaccine. Researchers identified 316 children with a diagnosis of autism and 422 with a diagnosis of other ASDs. There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of autism. CONCLUSION: This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.
Mark April 28, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Um, you might be interested in this little tidbit Robert. Ouch! http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/13/us-crime-research-funds-idUSTRE73C8JJ20110413 "CDC researcher Poul Thorsen, who famously headed up the “Denmark Study” that many claim disproved any link between autism and vaccines, has been indicted in Atlanta (4/13/11) by a federal grand jury on 21 felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering and defrauding research institutions of grant money." Need I say more?
Gloria April 29, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Robert, thank you. My son showed signs of autism at about three months of age. He was not diagnosed then but I knew something was not right. After reading , researching and from my personal experience of growing up in a third world country where vaccines were not available and I have actually held children dying of "simple" childhood diseases my husband and I vaccinated all three of our children. My son is my oldest and the only one that has autism. I have actually been blamed for his autism and for being foolish for having my other two children vaccinated. Even with all the real studies out there and facts this is still a hot issue. Thank you for speaking up with common sense. It is appreciated.
Francesca May 01, 2011 at 10:21 AM
To: Amy and Robert Amy, I dont understand how you can say: "Genes cause autism, and they have a trigger. In some, it *might* be vaccination or it might be that environmental toxins...". I have always felt this is drug co's way of disguising vaccines or other external factors, as the cause of autism among other things. Just say if one person has a certain type of genes, or weaker genes, or an immune system that is not as strong as anothers, and a vaccine *triggers* autism, surely it is the vaccine that is the cause and not genes: as if it were not for the vaccine that person would still be autism free. So in effect, a person has a certain type of gene that does not tolerate a vaccine as well as another. Do you not think then, it is the vaccine that is the cause, and not the gene? If a person is as they say is *genetically predisposed to autism*, but will not develop autism, if it were not for vaccination or some other *external* factor outside of the body. Then the body has not caused the autism, but the external factor. It is all smoke and mirrors with the drug co's and their research conclusions. Robert, I think it is APPALLING and INSENSITIVE that you can JUDGE *every* mother out there who has gone through the experience of having a child develop autism, by saying: "parents of autistic children will cling to any explanation that gives them someone to blame". To Moms - keep trusting your intuition - you know your children intimately and better than anyone.
Francesca May 01, 2011 at 10:33 AM
what I have done was looked into every vaccine and weighed up the pro's and con's for injecting each individual vaccine into my baby. Also, I wanted to wait until my baby was at least 2 years old (this is the time the brain developments the most in a persons lifetime and I did not want to interfere with that development) before any vaccinations (if any). If you look at the vaccines, many are not relevant, and have such a low likelihood of occurring. Some others may have a higher likelihood of occuring but the effects of that illness do not warrant immunization such as chickenpox or gastro type illness. If they are a risk factors for illnesses that are higher in overseas countries, then only get it done if you are needing to travel overseas. My child just turned 3 and as yet, I have not been convinced to vaccinate.


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