Tag Archives: vaccine myth

IOM: Vaccines safe and unrelated to autism

The print media devoted major coverage to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report showing that the benefits of vaccines far exceed their risks. In addition, the IOM assures professionals, researchers, policy makers, and, most importantly, parents, that vaccines are NOT associated with and DO NOT cause autism or autism spectrum disorders ASD). Continue reading

Alternative Medicine and Children – Part 6 – Vaccination and Alternative Medicine

The anti-vaccination movement has no better friends than in the alternative medicine world. In the Massachusetts study mentioned in my last blog, less than one-third of the homeopaths recommended immunization, and almost 10 percent actively opposed immunization. In England, the most common reason given for not having children immunized is the recommendation parents receive from a homeopath. Continue reading

Unbelievable: Nearly half of Americans still suspect disproven vaccine-autism link

Despite overwhelming evidence that there is NO association between any vaccine in particular, or vaccines in general, and autism, just a slim majority of Americans – 52 percent – think vaccines don’t cause autism, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found. Conversely, 18 percent are convinced that vaccines, like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, can cause the disorder, and another 30 percent aren’t sure. Continue reading

Public health officials urged to hold national discussion on vaccine risks, benefits

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Michael Willrich, an associate professor of history at Brandeis University, writes , “Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, roughly one in five Americans believes that vaccines cause autism—a disturbing fact that will probably hold true even after the publication, in a British medical journal, of a report thoroughly debunking the 1998 paper that began the vaccine-autism scare.” Continue reading

Investigator Planned to Make Vast Profit From Autism/MMR Vaccine Scare

Andrew Wakefield, the lead author on the 1998 study that reported a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and a new condition of regressive autism and bowel disease called autistic enterocolitis (AE), was planning to market a prestudy diagnostic testing kit with expected yearly sales of 28 million pounds (43 million US dollars), a new paper published online in the BMJ reports. Continue reading

“Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

In a recent blogs I’ve told you, “Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked” and “U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine.” But, even I was shocked when, while watching ABC World News last night, I saw a report suggesting, that the vaccine-autism link now appears to have been a deliberate fraud. Not only have untold children have been harmed because of this alleged fraud — but autism research has actually been set back. My hope is that criminal charges will soon follow. Here are the details:

ABC World News reported reported that many parents “know that vaccines protection their children from serious illness. But many still fear that the vaccines might cause autism because of all of the reports through the years.” Now, there is “new outrage over the doctor who first reported a link.”

USA Today reports, “An infamous 1998 study that ignited a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism — and led millions of parents to delay or decline potentially lifesaving shots for their children — was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ according to a scathing three-part investigation in the British medical journal BMJ.”

In 2009, “British medical authorities … found the study’s lead author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine in England.”

The BMJ now “reports that Wakefield, who was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers, was not just unethical — he falsified data in the study, which suggested that children developed autism after getting a shot against measles, mumps and rubella.”

“The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems,” the AP reports. “Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.”

The LA Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “none of the details of the medical histories of any of the patients could be matched to those cited in The Lancet article.”

What’s more, “all had been altered to make Wakefield’s claims more convincing. Ten of the authors subsequently asked that the paper be retracted.” In 2009, The Lancet withdrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper.

CNN points out that Wakefield’s “now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella.”

In the US alone, “more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.”

HealthDay reported that “besides harming those children who got sick after not receiving a vaccine, the alleged fraud may have even set back autism research, experts noted.”

Pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, stated that “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place], rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

This is a truly sad finale to a truly sad story. But, I’ll let you know about any future developments.

Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked

In a number of previous blogs, I’ve discussed vaccine myths, in an attempt to bring you information about vaccines that is reliable, trustworthy, and medically accurate. I recently found this review of the myth that vaccines cause autism and wanted to share it with you. It’s a discussion between Robert Dachs, MD, FAAFP (Ellis Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program, Schenectady, New York), Andrea Darby-Stewart, MD (Scottsdale Healthcare, Scottsdale, Arizona), and Mark Graber, MD, FACEP (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa) and was published in the American Family Physician (2010 Sep 15;82(6):586-592).

Are childhood vaccinations associated with subsequent development of autism?

Bob: In 1998, a British gastroenterologist, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, published a report in the Lancet on eight children who developed symptoms of autism within one month of receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.1 Since then, the media, advocacy groups, and celebrities have promulgated the link between childhood vaccinations (particularly the MMR vaccine) and the development of autism. But, is it true?

This month’s article clearly outlines the epidemiologic and biologic studies that should reassure physicians and parents that there is no connection between childhood vaccinations and autism.2 For the family physician, the data in this article are impressive and can be used to counter most parental concerns.

What does this article say?

Bob: This article reviews the three most commonly proposed hypotheses for vaccine-induced development of autism:

  1. the MMR vaccine damages the intestinal lining, allowing the entrance of encephalopathic proteins;
  2. thimerosal induces central nervous system toxicity; and
  3. multiple vaccinations overwhelm and weaken the immune system.

This article looks at the genesis of each theory and the data that debunk them.2

In regard to the MMR vaccine, Dr. Wakefield noted lymphoid nodular hyperplasia on endoscopy in eight children with gastrointestinal symptoms and signs of autism within one month of receiving the MMR vaccine. He then postulated that this intestinal inflammation allowed nonpermeable peptides into the bloodstream, subsequently affecting brain development.1

There are many holes in this argument.

  • First, this was a self-referred cohort without a control group.
  • Second, in Great Britain, approximately 50,000 children one to two years of age receive the MMR vaccine each month; this is a time when autism typically presents, making this likely a coincidental association.
  • Third, the MMR vaccine has not been found to cause chronic intestinal inflammation.
  • Fourth, no toxic encephalopathic proteins traveling from the intestine to the brain have ever been identified. Instead, genes that code for endogenous proteins, which influence neuronal synapse function, have been identified in children with autism.3

Mark: The most glaring flaw in the argument connecting an MMR-induced intestinal hyperplasia and subsequent autism development is assigning cause and effect to a potential association. Association should not be confused with causation.

Without a control group in the original study by Dr. Wakefield, it is imprudent to even suggest that there is an association between the MMR vaccine and intestinal lymphoid hyperplasia. Large-scale studies are often needed to demonstrate whether an association is statistically present.

Bob: The authors of this month’s article reviewed 13 such large-scale studies that demonstrate no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.2 These are separated into three types of studies:

Ecologic (studies comparing vaccination rates with autism diagnosis). In California and the United Kingdom, the diagnosis of autism increased through the 1980s and 1990s, yet MMR vaccination rates remained stable during this time.4,5 In Quebec, Canada, autism rates increased despite a decrease in MMR vaccination.6

Retrospective observational (studies comparing vaccination status with autism diagnosis using national registries). The best study was one conducted in Denmark in which 440,655 children born between 1991 and 1998 who received the MMR vaccine were compared with 97,648 children born during the same years who were not given the MMR vaccine. There were no differences in autism rates between the two groups.7

Prospective observational (a long-term vaccination project allows researchers to prospectively record adverse events associated with the MMR vaccine). In Finland, 1.8 million children were prospectively followed after MMR vaccination, and no cases of vaccine-induced autism were recorded.8

Andrea: To further refine the concept of association and causation, there are times when an association does represent a cause and effect. A good example is smoking and lung cancer rates. Clearly, smoking is associated with increased lung cancer rates, and a randomized, placebo-controlled trial is not needed to prove this. The association between smoking and lung cancer meets all of the following criteria: strength and consistency of the scientific data; existence of a temporal relationship (between smoking history and lung cancer); existence of a biologic gradient (increased exposure results in increased risk); a scientifically plausible association; and experimental interventions that work (smoking cessation decreases cancer rates).9 However, in the case of MMR vaccine–induced autism, none of these criteria are present. The data, in fact, overwhelmingly support no association.

Bob: Let’s briefly look at the second hypothesis of thimerosal-induced neurotoxicity. Thimerosal is an antibacterial agent that has been used in multidose vaccine preparations for more than 50 years. It is 50 percent ethyl mercury by weight. However, mercury poisoning has a distinctly different presentation than autism. The CDC has also demonstrated that the mercury in vaccines has not resulted in any subtle signs or symptoms of mercury poisoning.10 The authors of this month’s article review seven large-scale studies—again, ecologic, retrospective, and prospective studies—all demonstrating no association between thimerosal and autism.2

Mark: And, by the way, live vaccines like MMR do not contain thimerosal.

Bob: The third and final theory suggests that the simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines overloads the immune system, triggering autism in a susceptible host. However, because of advances in protein chemistry and DNA technology, the immunologic load has decreased from more than 3,000 immunologic components in the seven available vaccines in 1980 to less than 200 in the 14 recommended vaccines today.2

Andrea: Two more points: (1) an infant’s immune system is capable of handling the thousands of antigens it is exposed to early in life; and (2) autism is not an autoimmune disease. Therefore, this theory has no credibility.

Should we believe this study?

Bob: This month’s article clearly provides the science and statistics to dispel the theory that childhood vaccinations induce autism.2 A Cochrane review came to the same conclusion in October 2005.11

Andrea: Large-scale studies, smaller studies, retrospective studies, prospective studies, and case-control studies (you name it) all come to the same conclusion: there is no connection between vaccines and autism. The only outlier is Dr. Wakefield’s study, which suggests this possible link.1

Mark: Lo and behold, 10 of the 13 authors of Dr. Wakefield’s Lancet article have since publicly retracted the interpretation they reported.12 The editor of the Lancet has acknowledged that, had they appreciated the full context of Dr. Wakefield’s study, “… publication would not have taken place the way that it did.”13 On further review, the Lancet also recently published an official retraction of Dr. Wakefield’s study (http://press.thelancet.com/wakefieldretraction.pdf).

What should the family physician do?

Bob: Get this month’s article. It’s an easy read. Keep it handy for when parents are apprehensive about immunizing their child.

Andrea: A national survey conducted in 2003 to 2004 indicated that more than one fourth of all U.S. parents were either unsure of vaccine safety or refused or delayed vaccination of their children because of safety concerns. However, the most important take-home point from that survey was that the parents who changed their minds and immunized their children did so because of information and assurance provided by their health care professional.14 Indeed, we do make a difference!

Mark: Understand the consequences if we just give in to fear and myths. In 2008, only three fourths of preschool children in the United Kingdom received two doses of the MMR vaccine. The result: measles infection rates have reached more than 1,000 cases per year, the highest since monitoring began in 1995.15

Main Points

There are no epidemiologic or biologic studies that support a connection between childhood vaccinations and autism.

EBM Points

An association does not confer causation.

Multiple criteria should be examined when considering if an association implies causation, including strength, consistency, specificity, temporality, dose-response relationship, plausibility, coherence, experimental evidence, and analogy.9


  1. Wakefield  AJ, Murch  SH, Anthony  A, et al.  Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children [retraction published in Lancet. 2010;375(9713):445].  Lancet.  1998;35(9103):637–641.
  2. Gerber  JS, Offit  PA.  Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses.  Clin Infect Dis.  2009;48(4):456–461.
  3. Sutcliffe  JS.  Genetics: insights into the pathogenesis of autism.  Science.  2008;321(5886):208–209.
  4. Dales  L, Hammer  SJ, Smith  NJ.  Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California.  JAMA.  2001;285(9):1183–1185.
  5. Kaye  JA, del Mar Melero-Montes  M, Jick  H.  Mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine and the incidence of autism recorded by general practitioners: a time trend analysis.  BMJ.  2001;322(7284):460–463.
  6. Fombonne  E, Zakarian  R, Bennett  A, Meng  L, McLean-Heywood  D.  Pervasive developmental disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: prevalence and links with immunizations.  Pediatrics.  2006;118(1):e139–e150.
  7. Madsen  KM, Hviid  A, Vestergaard  M, et al.  A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism.  N Engl J Med.  2002;347(19):1477–1482.
  8. Peltola  H, Patja  A, Leinikki  P, Valle  M, Davidkin  I, Paunio  M.  No evidence for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine–associated inflammatory bowel disease or autism in a 14-year prospective study.  Lancet.  1998;351(9112):1327–1328.
  9. Simon S. Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. Causation. http://www.childrens-mercy.org/stats/ask/causation.asp. Accessed January 8, 2010.
  10. Thompson  WW, Price  C, Goodson  B, et al.; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team.  Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years.  N Engl J Med.  2007;357(13):1281–1292.
  11. Demicheli  V, Jefferson  T, Rivetti  A, Price  D.  Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children.  Cochrane Database Syst Rev.  2005;(4):CD004407.
  12. Murch  SH, Anthony  A, Cassen  DH, et al.  Retraction of an interpretation.  Lancet.  2004;363(9411):750.
  13. Horton  R.  The lessons of MMR.  Lancet.  2004;363(9411):747–749.
  14. Gust  DA, Darling  N, Kennedy  A, Schwartz  B.  Parents with doubts about vaccines and reasons why.  Pediatrics.  2008;122(4):718–725.
  15. Health Protection Agency. Measles figures soar. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webw/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1227774034336?p=1204186170287. Accessed December 6, 2009.

For more information on EBM terms, see the EBM Toolkit here.

More Evidence That Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism

Children exposed to high, low levels of thimerosal had similar odds for the disorder as children with no exposure to thimerosal, a new study has found. This should be absolutely no surprise for two reasons: (1) since thimerosal has been removed from virtually all vaccines, there has been an INCREASE (not a decrease) in autism, and (2) no study has found any evidence of an association between thimerosal and autism. Here are the details from this newest study from HealthDay News:

Infants exposed to the highest levels of thimerosal, a mercury-laden preservative that used to be found in many vaccines, were no more likely to develop autism than infants exposed to only a little thimerosal, new research finds.

The study offers more reassurance to parents who worry that vaccination raises their children’s risk for autism, the researchers said.

“Prenatal and early life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal in vaccines or immunoglobulin products does not increase a child’s risk of developing autism,” concluded senior study author Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the immunization safety office at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was released in the journal Pediatrics.

Thimerosal has been used as a preservative in vaccines since the 1930s, according to background information in the article.

Concerns about the chemical began to crop up in 1999, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that because of the increased number of thimerosal-containing vaccines added to the infant vaccination schedule, infants may be exposed to too much mercury. Thimerosal used to be found in hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines, among others.

During the ensuing years, the FDA worked with manufacturers to eliminate thimerosal from vaccines, according to the agency’s Web site. Today, thimerosal has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated seasonal flu vaccine, according to the FDA. Parents who are concerned about thimerosal can ask for a preservative-free version, DeStefano said.

And thimerosal wasn’t the only proposed autism-vaccine link. A 1998 paper in The Lancet suggested the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine might trigger autism. The journal later retracted the paper, and numerous studies have refuted any link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In February of 2009, a U.S. federal court ruled that there was no scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism.

In the new study, researchers examined medical records and conducted interviews with the mothers of 256 children with an autism spectrum disorder and 752 children matched by birth year who did not have autism. The children were all members of three health care management organizations in California and Massachusetts.

Researchers also gathered information about the manufacture and lot number of the vaccines that the children received, to determine how much thimerosal they were likely exposed to.

Children in the highest 10 percent of thimerosal exposure, either prenatally or between infancy and 20 months, were no more likely to have autism, an autism spectrum disorder or autism spectrum disorder with regression than children in the lowest 10 percent of exposure.

“This study adds to a large body of evidence indicating that early thimerosal exposure through vaccination does not cause autism,” said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for a leading advocacy group, Autism Speaks. Dawson was not involved with the research.

She urged parents to have their children vaccinated.

“We encourage parents to have their children vaccinated and to establish a trusting relationship with their child’s pediatrician so they can discuss any concerns they have,” Dawson said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on thimerosal here.

U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine

In past blogs, I’ve exposed what I consider to be the unethical and unscrupulous actions of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his so-called autism research. Here are just a few:

Wakefield’s now disproven 1998 study supposedly linked the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) to autism. Unfortunately, this led to a dramatic drop in vaccinations and a jump in measles cases around the world — causing who knows how many unnecessary childhood deaths.

Since then, at least 25 studies have found no link between the vaccine and autism.

And now, not only have the scientific methods of Wakefield been shown to be highly suspect, but so have his many financial conflicts. You can read more about these in a New York Times report.

Now, Britain’s top medical group has ruled that Wakefield can no longer practice in the U.K. Here are the details from an AP report:

The General Medical Council also found Dr. Andrew Wakefield guilty of “serious professional misconduct” as it struck him from the country’s medical register. The council was investigating HOW Wakefield and colleagues carried out their research, NOT the science behind it (the latter being long ago discredited).

When the research was published a dozen years ago, parents around the world abandoned the measles vaccine in droves, leading to a resurgence of the disease. Vaccination rates have never recovered and there are outbreaks of measles in the U.K. and the U.S. every year as a result.

In 1998, Wakefield and colleagues published a study alleging a link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Most of the study’s authors renounced its conclusions and it was retracted then by the journal, the Lancet, this last February.

Many other studies have been conducted since then and none have found a connection between autism and the vaccines. Wakefield moved to the U.S. several years ago and the ruling does not affect his right to practice medicine there or in other countries.

In 2005, Wakefield founded a nonprofit autism center in Austin, Texas, but quit earlier this year.

In January, Britain’s medical council ruled that Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a “callous disregard” for the children in their study. The medical body said Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party, paying them 5 pounds (today worth $7.20) each and later joked about the incident.

In a statement then, Wakefield said the medical council’s investigation was an effort to “discredit and silence” him to “shield the government from exposure on the (measles) vaccine scandal.”

In Monday’s ruling, the medical council said Wakefield abused his position as a doctor and “brought the medical profession into disrepute.”

But, worse than this, who knows how many childhood deaths now rest at his doorstep?

Delaying childhood vaccinations offer no benefit to children, and may be harmful

I’ve written in the past about the debate between doctors about delaying vaccines. This debate is based upon the fears among some parents that the current regimen of infant vaccinations involves too many vaccines too soon.

Then, to add to these fears came Dr. Robert Sears, a pediatrician in Capistrano Beach, Calif., who in October 2007, published “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” Included in Sears’ book was an alternative vaccine schedule that would allow parents to delay – and in some cases completely avoid – many vaccines for their children.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its updated childhood vaccination schedule, along with an article that deconstructs Sears’ popular and very controversial “delayed vaccine” schedule. Now to add to the AAP’s recommendations is a well-done study showing that delaying childhood vaccinations offers no benefit – and may cause some harms.

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “Now that the thimerosal-autism link has been thoroughly discredited, some autism advocates argue that neurodevelopmental problems are caused by overloading children’s immune systems with too many vaccines too early in life.”

Consequently, a “growing number of parents are asking pediatricians to use alternative vaccination schedules that spread out the shots, even though there is no evidence to suggest that the practice may be helpful.” That evidence, however, may be hard to come by, as scientists “cannot ethically conduct a clinical trial of delayed vaccinations because of the potential risks to the children involved.”

To get around that issue, researchers at the University of Louisville School of Medicine decided to turn to data compiled through a project spearheaded by the CDC, the Wall Street Journal reports. Launched in 1990 with the help of eight managed care organizations, the Vaccine Safety Datalink project aimed to monitor safety and outcomes.

The current study authors zeroed in on 1,047 children who received shots between 1993 and 1997.

Between 2003 and 2004, all of the children were subjected to 42 tests, which, among other things, assessed their IQs, verbal abilities, and coordination, Reuters reported. The cohort was then grouped according to whether they received all of their inoculations within the first year of life or somehow failed to follow the schedule.

Specifically, “children were classified as up-to-date if they had received at least two hepatitis B, three diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), three Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) and two polio vaccines on time during the first seven months of life,” HealthDay reported. ”

A vaccine was considered on time if it was given within 30 days of the recommended age.”

After conducting “two separate analyses,” the researchers “found no evidence to suggest that multiple vaccines in the first year of life negatively impact a child’s cognitive abilities later.

In fact, the first analysis revealed that children who received all their vaccines on time performed slightly better on two of the 42 tests,” whereas those “who missed or were late on one or more doses of vaccine didn’t do better on any test.”

Notably, “children getting vaccines later than doctors’ schedules were more likely to be from families with lower household incomes and had a lower percentage of mothers with college degrees,” WebMD reported.

In comparison, “those with on-time vaccinations were slightly younger at the time of neuropsychological assessment (mean 9.2 versus 9.4 years),” MedPage Today reported.

Nevertheless, “‘there was no evidence of neurodevelopmental delays or deficits associated with on-time vaccination,” Michael J. Smith, MD, MSCE, and Charles R. Woods, MD, MS, wrote in the study, which was published in Pediatrics.

Several vaccines at once absolutely OK for kids’ brains: Study

Reuters Health has a report saying, “Parents can rest assured that getting kids their vaccine shots on time will not hurt their mental skills later on.” Here are more details from Reuters:

“A lot of parents are concerned that children receive too many vaccines too soon,” said Dr. Michael J. Smith, of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. Some parents skip recommended vaccines out of fear of autism, for instance, and some choose to space out shots

Although there is no evidence that would be safer, Smith said, he wanted to study the issue to address parents’ concerns. So he and a colleague tapped into data from more than 1,000 preteen kids who had undergone extensive psychological tests of IQ, memory, attention, and language.

Then they divided the kids into those who had received all their shots on time in their first year of life and those who got them late, or only got some.

“Those children who were late, they never did better in any analysis,” said Smith, whose study is published in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, when comparing kids who had received the largest number of vaccines as toddlers against those who had received the smallest, the first group scored higher on 15 out of 42 tests.

But when the researchers took factors such as parents’ education level into account, that difference disappeared for all but two tests. And for those, the difference was minimal, Smith said.

Earlier studies based on the same data had shown that the mercury compound thimerosal, which was used as a preservative in vaccines until recently, had no impact on kids’ mental skills.

But until now, nobody had studied whether getting several vaccinations in a short time could have negative consequences, for instance by overloading the immune system, as many parents believe, according to Smith. He found that receiving as many as 10 different shots — including flu and whooping cough — had no impact.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher said the new findings send an important public health message.

“Parents that are considering delaying vaccination should realize that there aren’t any specific benefits, and that they are putting their child at risk, and not only their child but also the community,” said Dr. David Sugerman, of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service in Atlanta.

Misinformation About Vaccine Safety Puts Kids at Risk of Illness

Vaccine Myth #1: Vaccines Cause Autism

Misinformation About Vaccine Safety Puts Kids at Risk of IllnessAbout one-third of U.S. parents surveyed had delayed or refused early childhood immunizations. As I’ve told you in previous blogs, this is a decision that can potentially harm your child and his or her friends. Here’s a report from HealthFinder that confirms my beliefs:

Physicians report that children who don’t receive recommended vaccine doses by the time they’re 2 years old are at risk of developing a variety of diseases. But some anti-vaccine activists contend that the shots can cause side effects, including autism, although health officials say repeated studies have failed to uncover such a link.

For this study, researchers analyzed the results of a 2008 national survey of parents and health-care providers and found that almost one-third of U.S. parents surveyed delayed vaccines for their very young children and 12 percent simply refused to have their children immunized, possibly making them more vulnerable to illness.

Thirty-one percent of parents with children aged 24 to 35 months reported that they’d delayed vaccine doses on purpose in 2008. In fact, the percentage of parents who either delayed or refused to immunize their children grew from 22 percent in 2003 to 39 percent in 2008.

Not all the non-vaccinating parents oppose immunization; 44 percent of the parents who didn’t vaccinate their children on schedule said their child was ill. In addition, 27 percent thought too many shots were recommended; 26 percent questioned whether vaccines were effective; 25 percent were concerned about autism; and 24 percent said they feared side effects or thought vaccines weren’t entirely safe.

The study was scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 4, 2010)

Here are some of my other popular blogs on the topic:

Also, I did a popular series on VACCINE MYTHS. You can review the series starting with the first one:

Unvaccinated Children at Center of Measles Outbreak

Many parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, don’t realize the potential harm of this decision on both their children and the children in their community. The reason? Children whose parents refuse vaccinations for them provide fertile ground for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases. Here’s another case proving that point. This one is an investigation of a 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego. As one of the researchers reminds us, “It’s very important for parents to understand that the disease itself is always more serious than a true reaction to the vaccine.”

Action Points
Explain to interested patients that all 12 of the measles cases identified in this study were unvaccinated children, most of whose parents had refused the vaccine.

Here are the details, from a MedPage report:

Although the rate of two-dose immunization against measles was 95% in the area, a single case of measles from a 7-year-old child returning from overseas sparked an outbreak that exposed 839 people and sickened 11 other children, according to David Sugerman, MD, MPH, of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, and colleagues.

None of the 12 children, who ranged in age from 10 months to 9 years, had been vaccinated — nine because their parents had refused the vaccine and three because they were too young, the researchers reported in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Although the virus was not spread extensively, it came at a substantial cost of $176,980 for investigation, containment, and healthcare.

In San Diego, the overall rate of vaccine refusal — predominantly because of safety concerns — was low at 2.5% in 2008, but it had been rising since 2001.

The possibility that increasing rates of intentional undervaccination could lead to a rise in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases is “a monumental concern,” according to Anne Gershon, MD, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

“It’s very important for parents to understand that the disease itself is always more serious than a true reaction to the vaccine,” she said in an e-mail.

The endemic transmission of measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 because of widespread use of an effective vaccine, but the virus remains endemic in other parts of the world.

Occasionally, imported cases cause outbreaks. In 2008, there were 140 measles cases in the U.S., the largest number since 1996, when there were 508.

There are concerns that cases of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases will continue to increase as public focus shifts from the dangers of disease to vaccine safety.

To explore the effect of intentional undervaccination on an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness, Sugerman and his colleagues turned to the January 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego, sparked by a 7-year-old returning from a trip to Switzerland.

The child’s parents had signed a personal-beliefs exemption to refuse vaccination for their children.

The index patient directly infected his two siblings, two classmates, and four children who were treated at the same clinic.

The index patient’s sister then infected two of her classmates. One of the index patient’s classmates infected his brother, bringing the total number of cases to 12.

One child, a 10-month-old, was hospitalized, and received IV hydration for diarrhea.

A vigorous public health response, including quarantine of exposed children who had not been vaccinated, prevented the outbreak from progressing further.

In the study area, parents who refused vaccines for their children tended to be white, well-educated, and from the middle and upper classes.

There were clusters of vaccine refusal, occurring more often in public charter and private schools, as well as in public schools in upper-class areas.

William Schaffner, MD, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said in an interview that there is growing concern about these community clusters, because they create a pool of susceptible children who interact with each other on a daily basis.

Although high vaccination rates prevented the San Diego measles outbreak from extending into the general population, Schaffner said “you cannot rely upon herd immunity to protect each and every child.”

In discussion groups and surveys, most parents who refused vaccines for their children were concerned about possible adverse effects, including autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma, and allergies. They expressed skepticism about the government, pharmaceutical industry, and medical community.

In addition, “they believed vaccination was unnecessary, because most vaccine-preventable diseases had already been reduced to very low risk by improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene and were best prevented by ‘natural lifestyles,’ including prolonged breastfeeding and organic foods,” Sugerman and his colleagues wrote.

But, according to Schaffner, parents harboring those ideas are misguided.

“There’s nothing in that sentence that is correct,” he said. “You can have the purest water, eat the most natural food, be very healthy, and if exposed to measles, your child will get measles and can get a very severe case.”

He noted that people often forget that before vaccination was introduced in the U.S. in 1963, measles killed an average of 400 children a year in the U.S.

“People don’t recognize how potentially very serious these so-called childhood infections can be,” he said.

The best way to help inform parents about the importance of vaccination for their children remains the dissemination of science-based information through the media and doctors, Schaffner said, although he acknowledged that that approach does not seem to be working.

A longer-range solution, he said, would be to make sure school health curricula contain lessons on vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Schaffner said many current curricula are deficient in this area.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that when these teenagers in a few years become young adults and parents that they’re not very educated about vaccines.”

Court once again rejects theory that vaccines cause autism

A federal court has determined that the theory that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism is “scientifically unsupportable,” and that the families of children diagnosed with the condition are not entitled to compensation. Three special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims determined that the three families represented in the suit didn’t prove a link between the vaccines and autism. The three released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing these test cases.

Hopefully, this court ruling will put to rest the persisting delusion that some have that vaccines are associated with autism. Whether it’s the MMR vaccine or the vaccine preservative, thiomersol, there is no compelling reason to believe that either are causing the increasing numbers of kids with autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The New York Times reported, “In a further blow to the antivaccine movement, three judges ruled Friday in three separate cases that thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, does not cause autism.”

The rulings “are the second step in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding begun in 2002 in the United States Court of Federal Claims,” which “combines the cases of 5,000 families with autistic children seeking compensation from the federal vaccine injury fund.”

The fund pays “families of children hurt by vaccines,” but it “has never accepted that vaccines cause autism.”

The Los Angeles Times reported, “The cases that three judges, called special masters, chose to rule on as test cases were considered among the strongest, so the outlook appears grim for others making the same claim.”

Special Master Denise K. Vowell wrote that “petitioners propose effects from mercury in [vaccines] that do not resemble mercury’s known effects in the brain, either behaviorally or at the cellular level.”

Although Special Master George Hastings was sympathetic with one of the families and believed they brought their claim in good faith, he found “the opinions provided by the petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the … family that there is a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Jordan’s autism, have been quite wrong.”

“The cases had been divided into three theories about a vaccine-autism relationship for the court to consider,” the AP reported. The court previously “rejected a theory that thimerasol can cause autism when combined with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine,” and “a theory that certain vaccines alone cause autism.”

Although, Friday’s “ruling doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the dispute … with appeals to other courts available,” hopefully this will allow physicians, researchers, parents, and child activists to work together to find the real cause(s) of autism, and quit chasing our tails over a theory that no longer holds water or credibility.

You can read some of my blogs on autism here:

Survey Shows Parents Still Worry Unnecessarily About Vaccines

Most parents believe vaccination is a good way to protect their children from potentially deadly diseases, but a study shows more than half still worry about the possibility of vaccine side effects. The study concludes: Although parents overwhelmingly share the belief that vaccines are a good way to protect their children from disease, these same parents express concerns regarding the potential adverse effects and especially seem to question the safety of newer vaccines. Although information is available to address many vaccine safety concerns, such information is not reaching many parents in an effective or convincing manner.

Here’s an article on the survey from WebMD:

The study shows 88% of parents follow the child immunization schedule recommended by their doctor, but 54% are concerned about serious vaccine side effects.

Researcher Gary L. Freed, MD, MPH of the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and his colleagues say parents who are concerned about vaccine side effects are less likely to vaccinate their children. In fact, the study showed one in every eight parents has refused at least one vaccine recommended by their child’s physician.

Newer vaccines, such as varicella, meningococcal conjugate, and HPV (human papillomavirus) were more likely to be refused than older vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella vaccine).

In the study, researchers surveyed 1,552 parents about their attitudes regarding vaccines. Overall, 90% of parents said vaccines were a good way to protect their children from disease, and 88% said they generally do what their doctors say regarding vaccination.

However, the results show that despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting a link between autism and vaccinations, more than one in five parents continue to believe that some vaccines cause autism in healthy children.

Women were more likely than men to believe some vaccines cause autism, to be concerned about vaccine side effects, and to have ever refused a vaccine recommended for their children by a doctor.

The study also showed that Hispanic parents were more likely than white or African-American parents to say they followed their doctor’s recommended immunization schedule and less likely to have ever refused a vaccine. But Hispanic parents were also more likely to believe in a link between autism and vaccinations and be concerned about vaccine side effects.

“Although information is available to address many vaccine safety concerns, such information is not reaching parents in an effective or convincing manner,” write the researchers. “Continued high childhood immunization rates will be at risk if current safety concerns are not addressed effectively and increase in the future, resulting in more parents refusing vaccines.”

You can read more about vaccine myths in my book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child.

Here are other blogs in this series you might find useful:

Vaccine Myth #2: Vaccines Don’t Work

This is the second entry in a series from my book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child.

Probably the best recent example of the positive impact of vaccines is the Hib vaccine, which prevents meningitis, ear infections, and other serious infections caused by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib).

When the current Hib vaccine was introduced to this country in 1990, Hib was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis.

For decades, Hib had caused approximately 15,000 cases of meningitis and 400 to 500 deaths every year. After the current Hib vaccine was introduced, the incidence of Hib meningitis declined to fewer than fifty cases per year—typical of all widely used vaccines. Continue reading

Reader wants more proof on vaccine safety

A reader recently wrote: Hi Dr Walt I am having trouble finding a peer review or non drug company funded study proving that vaccines work out of the 2,427 (studies) you link to. Can you please identify one good one of these studies that proves they work for all the readers to read. Thanks.

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Researchers say non-vaccinated children face dramatically increased whooping cough risk

A new study reports, “Children who aren’t vaccinated against whooping cough are 23 times more likely to develop the disease than children who get all of their shots on time.” The study, “of 751 children enrolled in Kaiser Permanente of Colorado,” revealed that “one in 20 children who skipped the vaccine developed whooping cough, compared with one in 500 vaccinated children.”

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More on the Risks of Not Vaccinating Your Children

A past blog, that has been very popular, was on the topic of the Risks of Not Vaccinating Your Children (Friday, 6 February 2009). In response to that blog, Kelly wrote, “Hello, I was just wondering if you could answer a question for me. I run a day care out of my home. I was recently inquired about watching a girl who is 2 and has never been vaccinated or seen a doctor. I was wondering if this was any risk to myself or the other children in my day care? Thank you for your time.” I thought you might be interested in my response to her.

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Parents continue to have unwarranted fears and delusions about pediatric vaccines.

Infants and children get a lot of shots (vaccinations) to prevent against many different potentially fatal diseases. For this reason, parents or caregivers sometimes ask us as healthcare professionals to space apart, separate, or even not give some vaccines. Parents are worried that their child cannot handle so many shots at the same time. This is one of many concerns that parents may have about vaccinations. This blog entry provides you and your friends the facts about vaccines, to help you make an informed and wise decision about what’s best for your child. Please share this information with as many parents as you can.

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Radio Listeners ‘Angry as Hornets’ About Dr. Walt’s Comments on Childhood Vaccination

I was being interviewed about childhood vaccination on the KTIS radio station that broadcasts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. During the interview I stated, “In my opinion, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are committing a form of child abuse.” According to the station, my comments “stirred up a hornet’s nest.”

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Doctor Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crazies

A new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the claim that they cause autism, is galvanizing a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States. But, according to the New York Times, there will be no book tour for the doctor, Paul A. Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets. He has had too many death threats.

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Doctors Debate Delayed Vaccine Schedule

There are fears among some parents that the current regimen of infant vaccinations involves too many vaccines too soon. Adding to these fears is Dr. Robert Sears, a pediatrician in Capistrano Beach, Calif., who in October 2007, published “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” Included in Sears’ book was an alternative vaccine schedule that would allow parents to delay – and in some cases completely avoid – many vaccines for their children. Last Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its updated childhood vaccination schedule, along with an article that deconstructs Sears’ popular and very controversial “delayed vaccine” schedule.

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Vaccines: Separating fact from fiction

When it comes to the arguments about the safety of vaccines, what’s a worried mom to do? Between the scary claims about shots themselves and the scary news about what can happen without them, you might feel like you need a Ph.D. in immunology, toxicology, and biostatistics to make sense of it all. Never fear, Dr. Walt is here. The bottom line: No medical intervention is 100 percent risk-free, and no one but you can choose what’s right for your child. My job is to help that decision come a little easier, so here goes:

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Vaccine Myth #13: Vaccinations are made from aborted babies

This is the end of my 13-week series on Vaccine Myths. I hope the series has been helpful to you. Today, I’d like to address the fact that some people have questioned whether the use of fetal cells in the production of vaccines is moral and ethical. This question is timely due to a news story just out: Doctors and Families Asked to “Just Say no to New Aborted Fetal Vaccine!”

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Vaccine Myth #12: The Polio Virus Vaccine Is Contaminated with a Virus That Causes Cancer

Early batches of poliovirus vaccine used in the late 1950s and early 1960s were contaminated with a monkey virus called Simian Virus 40, or SV40. Recently an investigator found proteins made by SV40 virus in unusual tumors in adults. The studies were suggestive enough that the National Institutes of Health continued to research the association. Continue reading

Vaccine Myth #10: Vaccines, If Administered during the First Two Years of Life, Can Cause Diabetes

One researcher claimed that infants immunized with one dose of Hib vaccine at twenty-four months of age were less likely to get diabetes than if they received four doses of the Hib vaccine (at three, four, six, and eighteen months of age). He concluded that the risk of diabetes could be reduced if children did not receive vaccines at a young age. After carefully reviewing the data, researchers discovered that analytic methods used in the study were incorrect. Continue reading

Vaccine Myth #9: Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Occur More Often in Vaccinated People Than in Unvaccinated People

Superficially speaking, the statement (Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Occur More Often in Vaccinated People Than in Unvaccinated People) is true. However, it is important to understand why.

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Vaccine Myth #8: A Preservative Contained in Many Vaccines Harms Children

In 1999, a study revealed that the preservative thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound present in many vaccines, caused several infants to have levels of mercury in their blood that exceeded guidelines recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Preservatives are used in vaccines to reduce the risk of contamination by bacteria once the vial is opened. Exposure to high levels of mercury, especially in the developing child before birth, is associated with neurological disturbances. Therefore, parents began to fear that thimerosal may cause neurological difficulties, like autism. When this study was first described, physicians, scientists, and public health officials quickly assessed the situation and found that:

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