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Autism Coach

Immunizations and Autism


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September, 2004.  News concerning the connection between immunizations and autism was provided in People Magazine of all places!  According to an article in the September 27 issue of People Magazine, a report issued to a congressional subcommittee on September 8, 2004 shows thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury that has been widely used in vaccines) triggered autism-like symptoms in a strain of mice genetically susceptible to autoimmune disorders (as are many autistic children).  Researchers at Columbia University found mice exposed to thimerosal displayed damage to their brains similar to autism.  Head researcher, Dr. Mady Hornig said, "Identifying the connection is extremely exciting because it enables us to intervene and limit that exposure in a specific population."  

Dr .Hornig and her colleagues studied four strains of mice, including one strain - called SJL/L - in which mercury had previously been shown to stimulate autoimmune disorders. New-born mice of each strain were injected with either thimerosal or a thimerosal-vaccine combination at ages corresponding to those when human infants are typically immunized. The doses of mercury were also comparable to those used in humans.  The three strains of mice with no autoimmune susceptibility showed no effects from either type of inoculation. 

But virtually all of the SJL/L mice developed a variety of problems, including delayed growth, abnormal response to novel environments, decreased exploration of their environments, abnormalities in brain architecture and increased brain size.  All of those were typical of children with autism, Dr Hornig said.   Researchers found lab mice exposed to the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, displayed brain abnormalities, growth delay; reduced locomotion; exaggerated response to novelty; and densely packed, hyperchromic hippocampal neurons with altered glutamate receptors and transporters.   The authors of the study wrote "These findings implicate genetic influences and provide a model for investigating thimerosal-related neurotoxicity". The study is published in the Journal, Molecular Psychiatry.

"This is clearly showing that there is an interaction of genes with the environment," said Dr Daniel H. Geschwind of UCLA, who had been looking for genetic causes of autism and was not involved with the Columbia study. "The strain difference is … quite fascinating. This will clearly rev the debate [about vaccines] up again."  "I believe this has enormous implications for public health," said Dr. Julio Licinio of the University of California, Los Angeles, editor of the journal Molecular Psychiatry, where the report was published. "Showing that genetic background impacts on the outcome of thimerosal exposure is a major breakthrough."  

Independently, three new studies published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons challenge the validity of a widely sited Danish study in which data was collected from 500,000 Danish children to determine if there was a link between increase in the incidence of autism with the introduction of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.  This study reported in its findings that there was no statistical correlation between vaccination and incidence of autism.  However, according to three new studies which re-examine the data, the Danish study was wrongly carried out and gave inaccurate results.  The first new study, by Dr. Samy Suissa, an epidemiologist at McGill University, Montreal, who looked at the same data the Danish doctors used, concludes that children who received the MMR were 45 per cent more likely to develop autism than those who were not given it. A second piece of research by Gary Goldman and Dr Fouad Yazbak shows a 400 per cent rise in autism after the introduction of the MMR vaccine in Denmark, even after taking into account greater awareness of the condition. A third study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who first made the link between the MMR vaccine and autism in 1998 and Dr Carol Stott of Cambridge University, shows autism cases in Denmark have increased by 14.8 per cent each year since MMR was introduced.

Goldman and Yazbak report, "According to the U.S. Department of
Education, the number of cases of autism among individuals in schools aged 6
to 21 increased from 12,222 in 1992/93 to 118,602 in 2002-03, for an overall
increase of 870%. Similar increases have been reported in school-age
children in England, Scotland and Canada. These increases are larger than
those in Denmark because of the number of vaccinations in those countries
and the use of thimerosal."

Information about the congressional testimony and immunization studies are as follows: 

FDA testimony regarding reducing use of Thimerosal in Vaccines - September 8, 2004

New Assessment of Data from Danish Study - Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol. 9, No. 3, Fall 2004.

September 2014.  Some of the additional citations I had in this article including testimony by Senator Tom Harkin and Tom John Ashcroft's Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, which allows the National Guard to forcibly immunize citizens if a state of emergency is declared. were mysteriously deleted from my website.