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The Autism/Vaccine Connection - The Jury is Still Out

See What You Want to See

The vaccine crazies are out in force again. Hide your children!

Seriously – hide your children.

Vast wasteland

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) apparently doesn’t want you to watch anything on television that runs contrary to their position in the autism/vaccine debate.

AAP officials seem to believe that any bad news about vaccines – even if it’s in a completely fictional setting, such as a kooky comedy/drama – will prompt parents to refuse vaccines for their children.

The AAP recently attempted to goad ABC into self-censorship with an open letter that implored ABC executives to cancel the premiere of “Eli Stone” – a new show that featured a subplot about a vaccine lawsuit. A single mom, represented by lawyer and title character Eli, sues a drug maker for producing a vaccine with a mercury-based preservative that was given to her healthy son just before he displayed the first symptoms of autism.

Happily, ABC execs didn’t cave (although I expect they thoroughly enjoyed the free publicity), so I watched the show, and it was fun. Not only did the mom win, she won big ($5.2 million), AND the drug company executives and their smug top-dollar lawyers were completely humiliated. In other words, it was a total fantasy.

A couple of days before the airing of the Eli Stone premiere, the AAP issued a heavy- handed press release that included this ominous curse (which is most effective when spoken in an overly-theatrical voice, preferably in an echo chamber): “If parents watch this program and choose to deny their children immunizations, ABC will share in the responsibility for the suffering and deaths that occur as a result.”

Cue lightning effects and rolling thunder. The AAP has spoken!

Hiding in plain sight

The AAP press release also notes that no scientific link as been found between vaccines and autism. And that’s primarily because organizations like the AAP refuse to recognize existing evidence.

For instance, a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons examined extensive vaccination data. Results showed that kids who receive just three vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal are 27 times more likely to develop autism compared to children who get vaccines with no thimerosal. (Thimerosal breaks down into ethyl mercury in the body, and this is the suspected culprit that triggers autism.)

So please – enough with the nonsense that there’s no evidence. If you WANT evidence, it’s there. It isn’t the ultimate evidence and it isn’t the Last Word in this debate, but it’s there.

The mindset of “I see nothing” is evident in a new study that appears in the current issue of Pediatrics – the official journal of the AAP. Researchers at the University of Rochester traveled to Argentina where thimerosal is still used in vaccines for kids.

Researchers drew blood from more than 200 infants before and after vaccination. Results showed that mercury levels were highest right after the children received the vaccine, and then returned to normal within a few weeks. This is offered as some kind of vindication of thimerosal because mercury levels were lower than expected and dropped much faster than expected.

But these results beg two glaringly obvious questions 1) How much mercury might it take to trigger autism? No one knows. And 2): How long might mercury need to be in the blood stream to trigger autism? An hour? A year? No one knows.

The authors of the study also admit they don’t know what happened to the mercury once it left the blood. No mercury turned up in the urine, and the mercury content in stool samples spiked at first, but then dropped much more slowly than mercury in the blood.

So where’s the mercury? The bones? The brain? The liver? The immune system? All of the above? No one knows.

In addition, this study focused on one vaccination. But when U.S. kids were getting vaccines that contained thimerosal, they routinely received multiple shots given over a period of several years.

And here’s the best part of this thimerosal “vindication”: An Associated Press article about the study notes that the lead author “received research grants and served as a consultant to several vaccine makers, but said there was no industry involvement in the new study.”

Right. In other words, any notion that this is anywhere close to a Last Word in the autism/vaccine debate is completely out the window.

“American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for Cancellation of ABC’s ‘Eli Stone’ Premiere” American Academy of Pediatrics press release, 1/28/08,
“Mercury Levels in Newborns and Infants After Receipt of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines” Pediatrics, Vol. 121, No. 2, 2/1/08,
“Mercury From Vaccines Disappears Quickly” The Associated Press, 1/30/08,