Vaccines, Autism and the Squelching of the Non-Believers

autism vaccines

A couple of interesting news reports on vaccines and autism were recently juxtaposed. 

The Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) has conducted extensive research on the vaccine compensation program as it relates to incidents of autism. In the face of overwhelming and concerted opposition, HDNet’s World Report and its Emmy-award winning journalist Greg Dobbs aired “Vaccines and Autism: Mixed Signals” on August 23. The show, which is available for download through iTunes, took an unbiased look at at cases in which the government has been compensating autism as a vaccine injury over the last twenty years, while still publicly denying the connection.

Dobbs requested interviews from Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, but none were granted. As a matter of fact, HHH Secretary Sebelius requested that the media stop covering parties who are critical of vaccine safety, an Orwellian turn of events in a society that is supposedly based upon free speech and freedom of the press. When pushed to confirm the quote that appeared in a Reader’s Digest interview, the HHS responded in writing that “no one here can remember or determine that this quote is factual.”

Subsequently, EBCALA calls for this response from government and media: 

1. Secretary Sebelius should disavow her censorship request. 

2. The media should report on censorship in the vaccine safety debate.

As if in call and response, the Institute of Medicine just released a new report based upon a review of 1,000+ research articles by a committee of experts that re-confirmed no causal link between vaccines and autism. In the fine print:

"However, there was convincing evidence that certain vaccines may be linked, albeit rarely, to 14 health outcomes, including seizures, inflammation of the brain and fainting. 

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (M-M-R II, Merck) may result in fever-triggered seizures in some cases, but the seizures rarely yield long-term effects (supposedly). This same vaccine may also cause brain inflammation in severely immunocompromised patients. 

The varicella vaccine (Varivax, Merck) was linked to brain swelling

Anaphylaxis may be caused by six vaccines: MMR, varicella, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal and the tetanus-containing vaccines."
ESCALA found a high correlation between children who suffered these adverse effects after vaccines and onset of autism. The report concedes one, but not the other. 

Now here’s the punchline:
“The review will be key to aiding the Department of Health and Human Services administer the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, according to the authors of the IOM report."
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is currently crushing the claims of autism with renewed vigor. This IOM report leaves them locked and loaded for the future and seems to further rule out any promise of congressional inquiry into vaccine safety.

Even Thoughtful House, whom I considered a beacon of light for investigating the synergy of vaccines given closely spaced, has seen an exodus of its founding members, a new name and a diluted, more publicly palatable purpose. Who is continuing on in search of impartial truth in the face of nearly insurmountable opposition?

I myself feel bludgeoned by reports of the definitive safety of vaccines. Trouble is, the more they say it, the less I believe it.


Susan Moffitt is the mother of high functioning twin sons with autism. When not advocating for them, she pursues her multiple creative passions of fine art, piano composition and writing. She is the author of "Upstream," a compilation of poetry, fiction and anecdotal tales that deal with raising twins with autism. For more information, visit

19 Responses to Vaccines, Autism and the Squelching of the Non-Believers

  1. What are free societies to do when citizens no longer trust their scientists? Thousands of parents are not vaccinating their children due to the fear that vaccines cause autism. The genesis of the lack of trust is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that this issue has serious, potentially deadly, implications.

    Governments, pharmaceutical companies and the medical community can wring their hands, create additional prestigious panels to do yet more meta-analyses and revisit the various studies done on autism and vaccines: that is not going to put the vaccine-autism issue to bed. No amount of cajoling or ridiculing parents of babies and toddlers is going to achieve this goal, either. Once the trust of a large swath of society has been lost, it is time to change course.

    The relationship between vaccines and autism desperately needs to be resolved; however, until parents of children with autism are convinced that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism, the vaccination rate will decrease and preventable childhood diseases will increase. What a completely avoidable tragedy.

    So…, now what? Well, it’s very simple. Instead of arguing about past studies that parents don’t trust, let’s address each and every parental concern, respectfully, head on in a new study. Here are the issues as I understand them.

    Three Theories Suggested by Anti-Vaccine – Autism Advocates

    There are three theories discussed in the community of parents regarding a causal link between vaccines and autism:
    1) DPT – the claim is that the mercury in the DPT vaccine causes autism.
    2) MMR – the claim is that the Measles part of the MMR vaccine causes autism.
    3) Vaccine Assault – the claim is that too many vaccines are given at the same time. They purportedly overwhelm the body and cause autism.
    The DPT problem has been resolved because the mercury (the thimerosal) that was used as a preservative in the vaccine has been removed; therefore, the alleged variable theorized to be the culprit in the DPT vaccine no longer poses a potential threat. The MMR autism vaccine theory suggests that the measles component of the vaccine assaults the immune system. This theory has the broadest support amongst parents (due to the Wakefield study, first published in the prestigious “Lancet” journal and then retracted). This is the main theory that needs to be tested. The outcome of the proposed MMR study would help determine whether a Vaccine Assault Theory test is necessary. More parents support the MMR Vaccine Damage Theory than the Vaccine Assault Theory; therefore, if the MMR was truly disproven as a potential culprit, more parents would vaccinate their children.

    New Study Design

    The new study must be designed as a true experiment and not a retrospective analysis. I won’t bore readers with the design (but go to my web-site if you are interested in a suggested study design).

    Science & Politics

    It is crucial for the scientific community to understand that this group of children has been poorly treated throughout the entire history of this condition by academics in a number of fields (i.e. medicine, psychiatry, special education). Consequently, only the most demonstrably impartial study will ever be trusted by the community of parents; therefore, in order for parents to have complete confidence in the results, researchers with any relationship to 1) government health policy and/or epidemiology (whether in a university or government setting), or 2) pharmaceutical companies, should be completely excluded from the research.

    Due to the serious public health ramifications of vaccine non-use, academic researchers are often funded by government departments, rather than “arms length” funding sources. This study must be different. In addition, no researchers from countries with nationalized i.e. government run, health care systems should have a role in this research (that includes British, Danish & Canadian researchers) due to the obvious conflict of interest. In short, the scientists who are chosen to conduct this research must be 100% disinterested in its results; otherwise, the vaccine-autism controversy will continue unabated, and a generation of children with be at higher risk for a variety of preventable childhood diseases.

    There will always be a small number of people who are anti-vaccine, despite the science; however, in this case there are thousands of concerned parents who are not ideologically anti-vaccine. These parents need to be presented with uncompromised data collected far away from researchers who are financially or ideologically compromised. Only then will the tremendous public health benefits of vaccines be secured for future generations. It is up to the scientific community to make this right.

    They need to get started post haste!

  2. Susan says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful ideas and respectful tone.

    Dr. Jacqueline McCandless, whom I utterly respect, has suggested getting the MMR in three separate doses, as in days of yore. Why were they ever bundled in the first place if not for convenience ie cost reduction?

    I still don’t understand the necessity of newborns being vaccinated for
    Hep B and now there’s talk of mandating meningitis vaccines for newborns.

    Has the huge increase in the number of vaccinations over the last two decades really made our children safer? What is driving the constant additions to the schedule? Who is going to study synergetic effects of closely spaced vaccines?

    I subscribe to a middle path that as yet has not been forged. A study such as you suggest would be an enormous contribution.


  3. Thanks for your comments. The reasons that vaccines are bundled together has to do with convenience (and the more convenient it is, the higher the probability that everyone will be vaccinated). I think the scientists need to take back the field from those who are not disinterested. Once the community of parents actually trusts the scientists again, and the appropriate studies are conducted, the vaccination rate will increase; however, until we can rule out the alleged relationship between vaccines and autism, the rates will continue to decrease…

  4. Susan says:

    Again, I appreciate your respectful tone. Autism parents don’t want to be demonized for their concerns. If there’s anything that can be done to make vaccines safer, it should be done. Impartial quest for truth is key.

  5. Lisa says:

    Doctors and scientists have prostituted themselves massively in their interactions with pharmaceutical manufacturers. They should not be trusted; it is in fact not intelligent to trust them. Their research in many areas has been found to be tainted. Until this situation improves, it is ludicrous to blame parents for not wanting to offer their babies up for their dubious services, such as a hep B vaccine on day one of life. I for one am mad that this protocol even exists–it endangers the future of our country, literally.

  6. J. Fenech says:

    Do not forget that when thimerasol was “taken out,” the amount of aluminum in the shots was doubled. I do respect the middle road tone of the comments here. It is a refreshing change.

    I have three questions: 1. Why were the shots for children moved up to the day of birth?

    2. At the same time the shots were moved up, why were there so many added to the schedule?

    3. Why is the HepB mandated at birth? Before the child is born, the mother is tested for HepB exposure. Why are children given this shot across the board and not because they may be infected by the mother?

    My daughter was diagnosed at the age of 2 1/2 and has just turned 18. It has been a frustrating journey. The medical community has either belittled my opinions, disregarded them or just talked down to me as “one of those mothers.” Visits to the pediatrician for my other children became a full scale assault on my “bad parenting” because I discontinued immunizations for all three of my children. If the doctors had put that much energy into protecting my daughter in the first place, I would not be typing this e-mail.

    It would be really great to be treated like the hard-working, common sense and loving mother that I am. I just want my children to be safe. Shouldn’t that be the same for her pediatrician? The autism epidemic is four times greater than the polio epidemic. Where is the urgency? We are well past the time of “autism awareness.” My 18 year old is now registered with the Social Security Administration. If we had “trusted” what the doctors had told us when she was 2 1/2 and not worked tirelessly to help her speak and learn on her own, she would have been institutionalized at this point. The medical community needs to rebuild that trust. Performing an unbiased study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children would be a good first step.

    P.S. Where are the results from the original (yes, original) Verstraaten study done in 1991? Where is the data that study was produced from?

  7. The issue is actually much broader than autism: I see the problem as politics interfering with science. If reputable scientists are left to do their work, then all the questions regarding autism vaccinations and treatments can be answered. I am very concerned that we are losing our ability to answer these crucial questions due to the way science is funded (not at arms length as was done in the past). I’ve actually written two books (on my website if you are interested) on the issue of biased science when it comes to autism treatments (not vaccines); however, the same mechanism is in place when it comes to vaccine research. As someone trained in the scientific method, I have a very strong respect for science and am convinced that these questions can be easily solved once the “science for sale” researchers are not working on these questions. We can easily test for: a) vaccine safety, & b) the efficacy of autism treatments; however, until we create better safeguards against biased science, parents will rightly not trust the science (with horrendous implications). I am particularly disturbed by the blind spot that the scientists have when it comes to the moral narcissism of their colleagues. In short, we need to return discipline to this field. By the way, if you need evidence regarding my assertion that science is, indeed, for sale, I have all the evidence in a book I wrote called, “Science for Sale in the Autism Wars”.

  8. Susan says:

    “I am particularly disturbed by the blind spot that the scientists have when it comes to the moral narcissism of their colleagues”.

    Amen to that!!

    I just read that there are fewer than 2,000 cases of meningitis/yr in the US, but they want to add the vaccine to the mandatory schedule and give it to newborns along with Hep B.

  9. Cherry Sperlin Misra says:

    I too appreciate your scientific approach. We do need more of that because before long the young people who grew up with the autism cohort, will be marrying and having babies of their own and they are not going to want to give any vaccine to their child that could conceivably cause him to develop autism,

    And here’s a tip worth investigating- Why did the autism tsunami in the US begin in 1985 in all states of the US at the same time and why did the autism tsunami in India begin post year 2000. Apparently doctors will say that it could not be due to the fact that those were the years in which more mercury-laden vaccines were added to the schedules of those countries- So then, what was it????

  10. The trouble with most of the studies & arguments in this area is that they are correlational instead of causal; correlation and cause are very different. That’s why true experiments must be conducted. Only through a true experimental design can one disprove an argument. One could argue that it would be unethical to create an experiment using children; however, it is more unethical to assume that the science is settled, and have all the children vaccinated, rather than have a small group vaccinated after they have been tested for autism, and autism has been ruled out.

  11. Dr Juan says:

    The military gives a huge amount of vaccine injections before duty in the mid east. This includes a series of Anthrax injections. 20% by numbers I have seen come down with Gulf war syndrome, from livable to severe.

    Foreign solders living and fighting side by side with American military never get Gulf war syndrome. The French studied this and concluded the only difference is the injections given the US soldiers. Squalene used in the injections to enhance potency is thought to be a real bad actor

    And wouldn’t you expect young children to be much more sensitive to problems with injections than young adults in their prime?

  12. Evelyn Pringle says:

    I’m always amazed when people state as fact that thimerosal was taken out of vaccines – falsely leading the public to believe the shots they receive do not contain mercury. By now I consider such statements by knowledgeable professionals reckless and deceitful.

    Thimerosal was not removed from all vaccines. It is still in the yearly flu vaccines recommended and pushed on pregnant women and infants. It was in the swine flu vaccines as well. Thimerosal is also in several other childhood vaccines and it is used in the manufacturing process of vaccines and traces are left in vaccines from that process.

    The vaccine makers also led the public to believe thimerosal was out of vaccines long before it was because they knew full well that they did not recall the inventory of vaccines shipped out for administration prior to the date they said the preservative was removed. When I was investigating this issue back in 2004, I found expiration dates on vaccines full of thimerosal as late as 2005.

  13. I was referring specifically to the DTP vaccine, where it is my understanding that the mercury was removed. I apologize if it was not clear that I was only referring to the DTP (since that is one of the vaccine trios that people hypothesize is implicated in autism).

  14. Evelyn Pringle says:

    When I reread your article I noticed you limited the thimerosal removal comment to the DTP. However, in discussing the vaccine assault theory you don’t mention that a major complaint in that theory was that infants got multiple doses of mercury when they received so many vaccines at one time or in close proximity.

    I think in all fairness, any article that discusses thimerosal and mentions that it was removed from vaccines, should also qualify that statement by listing the vaccines that still contain thimerosal. Especially in articles that in any way infer that the removal of thimerosal is proof that there was no link between the preservative and autism because there are still cases of autism.

    And it should specifically be pointed out that flu shots with a full dose of thimerosal are recommended for pregnant women, and infants and toddlers – each year.

  15. My intent is to isolate the hypotheses regarding autism and vaccines. This needs to be done sequentially. My goal is not to come down on one side of the argument, but rather, to test these hypotheses, and thereby, use science to determine whether there is, indeed, a relationship between vaccines and autism. As I mentioned in my original post, the DTP-mercury hypothesis does not need to be tested because mercury was removed from that particular vaccine. The next test needs to either support or disprove the measles – autism hypothesis (which is the one that Wakefield supported with his original study that was published in a very reputable journal — Lancet). The outcome of that study would help determine whether or not another study would need to be conducted. That’s the way science works. I have no agenda other than the truth; however, I am convinced that if we do not systematically test these hypotheses in an unbiased, objective manner, and there is, indeed, a causal relationship between the measles vaccine and autism,the epidemic will continue. In addition, the vaccination rate will continue to drop.

    My main point here is that we need to remove the politics from the issue, and use the scientific method to get at the truth.

  16. Susan says:

    I would love to see that happen, but frankly despair at the possibility.

  17. Wendy says:

    @autism pundit I agree wholeheartedly that science needs to be disengaged from political and commercial bias. If it’s to be faithful to the scientific method, it also needs to be disengaged from ANY bias. I note from your comments above that you appear firmly in the pro-vaccination camp. But the efficacy of vaccination has never been subjected to proper testing. It’s an article of faith, not scientific certainty. Until such studies are conducted, we cannot talk about “the serious public health ramifications of vaccine non-use”. It could equally well be a case of “the serious public health ramifications of vaccine use”.

    With many of the proprietary bread-winning drugs coming up to patent expiry and nothing much exciting on the horizon, the pharmaceutical industry is relying more and more on vaccine sales. Individually, the net profits of the biggest companies in this sector regularly exceed the GDP of 2/3rds of the world’s nations. Are the studies we’re talking about likely to be conducted? What do you think?

  18. I think it is unwise to enter into the larger vaccine debate since the issue is the relationship between vaccines and autism. We need these studies to be done; however, I am not confident that they will be done because of the politics surrounding vaccines in general — this I think is the bias to which you refer. If we can have scientists address the relationship between vaccines and autism specifically, they may uncover a relationship. At that point, we can take informed action on how to change the vaccine (or how to determine which children are at risk); however, until we determine whether there is a relationship, all other action is premature and this very legitimate question will continue to lose legitimacy.

  19. Wendy says:

    Unwise? In the narrow context of autism perhaps, and the necessity to answer the specific question of whether there is a connection between vaccines and autism. But this question can’t be divorced from its wider context. And by drawing in a wider population demanding proof of efficacy, much greater pressure is brought to bear on decision-makers.

    Let’s make this perfectly clear. Governments are asking – in many cases, requiring – that every parent take the risk of sacrificing their child’s life and/or future wellbeing for the greater good. This is the argument on which mandatory vaccination is based. But herd immunity theory remains unproven! A medical therapy that lays claim to being rigorously evidence-based must self-evidently walk its talk if the public are to have any confidence in it. And governments should base laws mandating compliance on scientific fact, not supposition.

    If vaccination confers the benefits claimed for it then why is there such reluctance to address this question? Why have these studies never been done? Surely if they are so confident in it as to make it mandatory, governments and the pharmaceutical industry should be leaping at the chance to prove their theory? Even if it’s not a very scientific approach to start with such enormous bias. As it stands at present, governments are engaging in one gigantic medical experiment, risking the lives and the health of future generations of the populations who elect them to act in their best interests. This is unacceptable.

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