Responding to the spring issue

Call for a commonsense study on vaccines and autism

I am the proud grandfather of a lovable 9-year-old, nonverbal boy, who "regressed" and was diagnosed autistic just prior to 3 years of age. Admittedly, our family has no scientific evidence to prove our little guy's "regression" was "caused" by the numerous vaccines he received, most of which contained thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative then commonly found in childhood vaccines. Unfortunately, in the six-plus years since he "regressed," public health officials have given us no scientific evidence that would rule out that possibility.  Instead, they have given us a carefully constructed statement there is"no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism," which is not as scientifically certain as a statement declaring they have found the "cause" of autism and that cause is not vaccines.

In any event, public health officials have resisted pending federal legislation that seeks to fund an independent, scientific study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations to ascertain, once and for all, if BOTH populations have suffered the same, inexplicable increase in childhood chronic autoimmune diseases, which CDC reports, affect one in every six American children. Perhaps you know why public health officials would refuse to conduct such a commonsense study?

After all, parents have every right to expect public health officials to explain why this generation of children, arguably the most heavily vaccinated generation in our nation's history, suffer chronic autoimmune diseases, such as autism, allergies, asthma, juvenile type 1 diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and ADHD,which were far less common in all previous generations.

My friend's parents have reported the exact same experience of taking their perfectly healthy child to a pediatrician and having the child receive numerous vaccines, then watching helplessly as their child's health deteriorates—extraordinarily high temperatures, seizures, convulsions, chronic diarrhea, bizarre behaviors, sleepless nights for weeks on end, withdrawal, and an eventual diagnosis of autism. Obviously, public health officials have taken the position the child's sudden deteriorating health is merely coincidental to, not caused by the vaccines. Perhaps this explanation would suffice were it only a few hundred or even thousand parents who reported this experience. But when literally tens of thousands of parents make the same report, common sense suggests more than mere coincidence may be responsible.

I did appreciate Dr. Pakula's thoughtful comments on vaccines and her willingness to at least accept there is much research to be done, research that should be funded and conducted by independent sources outside the public health agencies responsible for both regulating vaccines as well as recommending them.

Bob Moffitt
Proud grandpa of Bobby Moffitt,
"regressed" 6-plus years
Sloatsburg, New York

Editor's Note:

You obviously are one of the people of whom Joseph Cubells was speaking when he said involvement of families is vital for the care of people with autism (Emory Health, Spring 2009).

Your concerns about the effects of vaccines containing thimerosol were heard at the national level by those involved with vaccines, which were changed to contain no thimerosol despite a lack of evidence of a relationship between thimerosol and autism. Although U.S. manufacturers removed the agent from vaccines by the end of 2001, no decrease in the incidence of autism has occurred. Sadly, removing thimerosol from vaccines has not helped prevent autism.

Regarding the larger question of whether vaccines elevate risk for autism, scientists have not undertaken the study you suggest, comparing the health and outcomes of children who were vaccinated with those who did not receive suggested vaccinations. However, there are epidemiologic data that do not support an autism-immunization link. As Amy Pakula's essay mentioned, our clinicians sometimes see negative outcomes for children who were not vaccinated even today, and an Emory epidemiologist collaborated on a recent study that suggested the health of the comunity at large is at elevated risk when a high proportion of children are not vaccinated.

As our article indicated, strong evidence supports the importance of genetic causes of autism, and Emory scientists are hard at work in the search for related genes, including susceptibility genes that might offer new clues as to what happened to your grandson and whether it was related to vaccines, the environment, or a host of other factors. We share your wish that scientists will one day be able to find all the causes of autism and what to do about them.

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