By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
In early January 2011 the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a series of articles byJournalist Brian Deer that exposed fraudulent results of a 1998 study linking autism development to mumps, measles and rubella vaccines. Deer revealed that the lead author of the study, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, had falsified the medical histories of his study participants with hopes of engendering a law suit against vaccine manufacturers and creating a vaccine scare. When conducting the study, Wakefield had failed to disclose a grave conflict of interest, i.e. having received payment from a law firm which intended to file the suit.
In 2004, after personally interviewing some of the parents of Wakefield’s study participants then comparing his findings with the 1998 study data, Deer published an initial expose accusing Wakefield of fraud. Deer’s report prompted the UK General Medical Counsel to then launch a 217-day investigatory hearing with Wakefield, which resulted in the discrediting of Wakefield’s study in February 2010 and the revocation of his medical license later that May. In a summary of his articles posted on Deer’s website, Deer alleged that Wakefield’s publications “led to an unprecedented collapse in public confidence in the [MMR] shot.”
Stating that the autism scare allegedly created by Wakefield’s study has damaged public health by allowing resurgences of infectious diseases, the BMJ, in a related editorial, noted that “the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism,” are concerns of equal importance. BMJ, which has published several abstracts and articles by Wakefield and his colleagues, also questioned whether the rest of Wakefield’s work should be investigated and possibly retracted.
Wakefield denied falsifying his study data, and retorted by saying that Deer’s reports constitute a gross distortion of his and his colleagues’ work. In a recent CNN interview, Wakefield defended his study data, claiming that he’s been the target in a smear campaign designed “to crush any attempt to investigate valid vaccine safety concerns.” Questioning the funding behind Deer’s 7-year investigation, Wakefield called Deer a “hit man” hired by pharmaceutical interests and stated that the journalist did not actually interview the parents of his study participants. Both Wakefield and Deer have taken stands: Wakefield imploring people to read his side of the story in his new book and vowing to continue his research into the links between autism and vaccines, and Deer encouraging invitations to speak publicly about how he “unmasked the elaborate scientific fraud which lay at [the] heart” of the vaccine scare.
Who or What to Believe?
While Deer exposed Wakefield’s financial conflict of interest in his articles, Wakefield vehemently denied falsifying his study data and suggested that Deer had financial interests in the matter which remain undisclosed. Other sources, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have suggested that it is U.S. government officials who have prioritized personal monetary gain over public health. The 2005 publication of Kennedy Jr.’s article, “Government Health Agencies Colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks,”which documented government attempts to conceal alarming data about dangers associated with vaccines, catalyzed a strong, adverse reactions by the medical establishment and many leading news organizations. With all the finger pointing out there, it’s hard to know what to believe.
Many of Wakefield’s supporters who are parents of autistic children remain convinced that their children’s illnesses resulted from MMR vaccinations, despite lack of other (publicly available) research demonstrating results similar to Wakefield’s. In a CNN video on the issue, one parent explained that she became convinced after comparing her autistic child’s symptoms with adverse side effects associated with particular vaccines, as noted by the pharmaceutical companies. The reporter in the video then suggested that the parents may simply find comfort in some explanation for their children’s autism, even if from a discredited source.
What We Do Know
Vaccines are not without their side effects, and although autism is not officially recognized as an adverse effect, related symptoms are. According to the Centers for Disease Control, known side effects for MMR vaccinations include fever, rash, swollen glands, seizures, temporary joint pain and stiffness and low platelet count (which can lead to a bleeding disorder), severe allergic reactions and other severe problems such as deafness, permanent brain damage and long-term seizures, lowered consciousness or coma. Between 30 and 80 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) eventually develop epilepsy (long term seizures). Autism is characterized by communication difficulties, social impairments, and repetitive, restricted and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Could the symptoms of ASD fall within the scope of lowered consciousness and permanent brain damage?
A form of brain damage, autism may be caused by a variety of sources. Exposure to neurotoxins such as the ethyl mercury in thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, and aluminum, an immune activity booster (note that aluminum is also linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease), is part of the problem, as is immune system dysfunction and excess immune stimulation caused by administration of too many vaccines (not just MMR) within a child’s early years.
In his article, “The Dangers of Excessive Vaccination,” Russell Blaylock, MD explains, “In 1983, before the autism epidemic began, children received 10 vaccinations prior to school entry and the U.S. autism rate was on the order of 1 in 10,000. Today, children receive 23 or more vaccines prior to the age 2 years and 36 or more by the time of school entry and the U.S. autism rate is now greater than 1 in 150.” Blaylock goes on to describe the various mechanisms by which excessive and repeated immune stimulation may severely disrupt brain development and even cause neurodegeneration.
Are Vaccines Just Part of Autism’s Perfect Storm?
The rise in autism is probably due to many factors beyond excess vaccinations, including the propensity of certain children to develop ASDs based on family history of autoimmune disorders and exposure to environmental toxins such as the methyl mercury found in fish. It’s also highly possible that another source of toxicity – electropollution – has contributed to the rise of autism today.
In addition to a drastic increase in the number of vaccinations a child receives before age five, societal use of cellular and cordless phones, WiFi and other wireless technologies, including baby monitors, has exploded over the past two decades. Babies and children are now exposed to much more wireless radiation than previous generations. Because their tissues are rapidly developing, babies and small children are much more vulnerable to the health effects of radiation than adults. As such, a parent using a cellular or cordless phone, WiFi, or baby monitor near a child places that child at risk for health effects associated with the emissions from those devices. Likewise, a pregnant woman who absorbs radiation from wireless devices also places the developing fetus at risk.
Wireless emissions are thought to cause non-thermal health effects which may include increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier, a structure which prevents toxins from entering the brain while permitting entry of nutrients and expulsion of waste products. If overexposure to wireless emissions disrupts the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, the brain becomes more susceptible to damage by other toxins people consume or absorb, like pesticides on food or chemicals found in synthetic fragrances. Autism may very well be due to a combination of excess exposure to environmental toxins, electro-pollution, and vaccines which, together, simply overload a young child’s immune system.
Prevention is also Multifactorial
The truth about autism is that we need to learn more about it. Rather than assuming that vaccines are not-linked to autism due to the discrediting of one study, or expecting vaccines to automatically cause ASDs, we’re best off taking a multifactorial preventative approach and striving to maintaining immune system balance in ourselves and our children:
- Avoid environmental toxins: eat organic food, drink purified water, avoid breathing in polluted air, and avoid toxic chemicals in personal care and cleaning products. This is especially important for fetal development.
- Learn about health hazards associated with wireless technologies like cellular and cordless phones, baby monitors, and WiFi, and practice safer use of them.
- Detoxify: drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and moderately, consume plenty of insoluble fiber, sweat in a sauna (preferably a far-infrared one), and eat seaweed.
- Space out mandatory vaccines as much as possible so that your children are not exposed to more viruses than their immune (and nervous) systems can handle. Learn as much as you can about which vaccines your state mandates and their possible health effects, and question hospital practices based on them, e.g. whether your child really needs certain vaccines (like Hepatitis B) within a few hours of birth. Know your rights.
- Support immune system function: consume antioxidants and Vitamin D through food and supplements, ground, boost ATP production, get enough sun exposure (15 to 20 minutes a day), moderate exercise (30 minutes a day) and sleep, and avoid experiencing excess emotional stress and consuming too much sugar or alcohol.
Many naturopaths and other health professionals with expertise in detoxification are beginning to specialize in a new area of medicine: pre-pregnancy detoxification. Through multiple interventions, health practitioners can help women detoxify their bodies for 6 months to a year before becoming pregnant in order to help prevent ASDs in their children. A whole new world of vibrational medicine is on the horizon; health professionals will be able to offer their patients many new strategies to help overcome, among other things, the toxic environment we live in.
References and Resources:
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Possible Side Effects from Vaccines.” CDC.gov. Accessed Jan 9, 2010.
- CDC. “Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccines: What You Need to Know.” CDC.gov.Accessed Jan 9, 2010.
- National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
- Welborn, A. “Mandatory Vaccines: Precedent and Current Laws.” CRS Report for Congress. Jan. 18, 2005. [Abstract.] [PDF.]
- NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Autism Fact Sheet.” Ninds.nih.gov. Accessed Jan. 9, 2011.
- Sugarman SD. Cases in Vaccine Court: Legal Battles over Vaccines and Autism. N Engl J Med2007; 357:1275-1277.
- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. ” National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).” HRSA.gov. Accessed Jan. 11, 2011.
- Kennedy Jr., Robert. “Government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks.” Rollingstone.com, 2005.
- Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, et al. IIeal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children. Lancet 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):637-41. [Abstract.]
- Park M, Landau E. “Few Swayed by Fraud Finding in Autism Study.” CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2011.
- CNN Wire Staff. “Retracted autism study ‘an elaborate fraud,’ British Journal finds.” CNN.com, Jan. 5, 2011.
- CNN Wire Staff- Blog: “Medical journal: Study linking autism, vaccines is ‘elaborate fraud.’” CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2011.
- Sinatra ST. “Autism and the MMR Vaccine Study: An Integrative Point of View.” DrSinatra.com, Jan. 2011.
- Godlee, Fiona. “Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent.” BMJ.2011;342:c7452.
- Deer, Brian. “How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed.” BMJ2011; 342:c5347.
- Deer, Brian. “Nailed: Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the MMR – autism fraud.” Briandeer.com. Accessed Jan 9, 2011.
- Video. “Some still blame vaccine for autism.” CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2011.
- Video. “Author of autism study questioned.”CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2011.
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