Preventing Autism: What You Can Do to Protect Your Children Before and After Birth
OverviewA groundbreaking approach to preventing autism—from a renowned pediatrician.
Something is happening to our children, and Dr. Jay Gordon is determined to stop it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eighty-eight children in the United States is being diagnosed with developmental disorders on the autism spectrum (ASD). The accelerating ASD epidemic parallels industry’s increased use of untested chemicals in manufacturing and our food supply. Preventing Autism identifies the toxic environmental triggers that can cause autism in susceptible children. Dr. Gordon presents a practical plan for safeguarding the neurological development of your children, from pre-pregnancy preparation through your baby’s first twenty-four months.
When you are pregnant, everything you experience—the air you breathe, what you eat and drink, the chemicals to which you are exposed, your emotions—is shared with your baby. Your child’s health depends on creating an optimal environment for growth before and after birth. Preventing Autism presents a comprehensive program that covers:
- The latest research on the causes of ASD and the relationship between genetic factors and toxins that trigger developmental delays.
- How to reduce toxic exposure from your food, home, clothing, and cleaning and personal care products.
- The male biological clock. Recent research shows that mutations in older sperm contribute significantly to the incidence of autism. The book includes advice on keeping sperm healthy.
- Planning a nursery that is a healthy nest.
- Dietary guidance for moms-to-be, babies, and nursing mothers.
- Dr. Gordon’s sensible approach to decisions about vaccinations.
New CDC Study Says No Link Between Vaccinations and Autism
By Vanessa Evans | Yahoo! Contributor Network 3/29/13
Yet another study has found no link between the number of vaccines a child gets in their early years and an increased risk of being diagnosed with autism. The study, which was published online in the Journal of Pediatrics on Friday, also found that the frequency and spacing of vaccinations makes no impact on the risk of diagnosis.
The study’s authors acknowledged that despite mounting evidence that continues to find no association between childhood vaccinations and autism, up to one-third of all parents nevertheless continue to be concerned that there is one. The researchers also noted that this fear has led approximately 10 percent of American parents to either have their children’s vaccinations delayed or to refuse to vaccinate them altogether, leaving them vulnerable to diseases such as measles or pertussis.
Here is some of the key information that emerged on Friday regarding this new study into the concern regarding vaccinations and autism.
* The biggest concern of parents regarding childhood vaccinations continues to be the quantity and frequency of the vaccinations for children beginning from birth to age 2.
* Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined forces with Abt Associates Inc. to look at the vaccination data for some 1,008 children vaccinated between 1990 and 1999. Of that number, 256 had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and 752 had not.
* The study revolved around the number of antigens that a child was given through vaccinations between birth and age 2. As explained by the National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, antigens “are substances, usually proteins” found “on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria.” The body’s immune system recognizes the presence of antigens in the body and builds defenses to destroy the substances that contain them.
Vaccine Court Awards Millions to Two Children With Autism
By David Kirby
The federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, better known as “vaccine court,” has just awarded millions of dollars to two children with autism for “pain and suffering” and lifelong care of their injuries, which together could cost tens of millions of dollars.
The government did not admit that vaccines caused autism, at least in one of the children. Both cases were “unpublished,” meaning information is limited, and access to medical records and other exhibits is blocked. Much of the information presented here comes from documents found at the vaccine court website.
Some observers will say the vaccine-induced encephalopathy (brain disease) documented in both children is unrelated to their autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Others will say there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.
What’s more, these cases fit the pattern of other petitions, (i.e., Poling and Banks) in which the court ruled (or the government conceded) that vaccines had caused encephalopathy, which in turn produced permanent injury, including symptoms of autism and ultimately an ASD diagnosis.
And most of these children now have taxpayer dollars earmarked for applied behavioral analysis (ABA), an effective therapy specifically designed to treat ASD.
Meanwhile, parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors of both children testified they were developmentally normal, if not advanced for their age when they developed seizures, spiking fevers and other adverse reactions to their vaccines. According to these eyewitnesses, the children never fully recovered, and instead began losing vocabulary, eye contact and interest in others around them, all classic symptoms of regressive autism.
In the first case, involving a 10-year-old boy from Northern California named Ryan Mojabi, the parents allege that “all the vaccinations” received from 2003-2005, and “more specifically, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccinations,” caused a “severe and debilitating injury to his brain, described as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”
The parents, who did not want to be interviewed, specifically asserted that Ryan “suffered a Vaccine Table Injury, namely, an encephalopathy” as a result of his MMR vaccination on December 19, 2003.” (“Table injuries” are known, compensable adverse reactions to immunizations.)
Alternatively, they claim that “as a cumulative result of his receipt of each and every vaccination between March 25, 2003 and February 22, 2005, Ryan has suffered . . . neuroimmunologically mediated dysfunctions in the form of asthma and ASD.”
In vaccine court, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acts as the defendant and Justice Department attorneys act as counsel.
In 2009, Ryan’s case was transferred to vaccine court’s Autism Omnibus Proceedings, according to the docket. A year-and-a-half later, the government conceded that MMR vaccine had indeed caused Ryan’s encephalopathy.
HHS agreed that “Ryan suffered a Table injury under the Vaccine Act — namely, an encephalitis within five to fifteen days following receipt,” of MMR, records show. “This case is appropriate for compensation.”
Whether HHS agreed with Ryan’s parents that his vaccine-induced brain disease led to ASD is unknown. The concession document is under seal.
In December 2003, when Ryan was nearly two, he received his first MMR and hepatitis B vaccines before his family left for an extended trip overseas. That day, his mother testified, Ryan began shaking with uncontrollable tremors and “was really uncomfortable, he didn’t feel well at all.”
The nurse at Ryan’s pediatrician said the symptoms were “pretty normal after the vaccination,” and advised Tylenol. The next day, Ryan began crying, “but it’s not a normal crying,” his mother testified. “He didn’t go to sleep, he was without energy.”
The family considered postponing their holiday, but that wasn’t feasible. The doctor’s office said it was fine to travel. Prior to leaving, Ryan’s mother said, the boy had difficulty breathing and “was without energy and sleepy.” He could no longer hold his head up, something “he could do prior to the vaccinations.” At the airport, Ryan began “screaming,” she recalled. “He was just opening and closing his eyes so hard, he was pulling my hair.”
After his shots, she added, Ryan “stopped saying those words that he had, even mommy and daddy, that he had repeated a hundred times before.”
In early January, while still abroad, Ryan was rushed to the hospital with vomiting, high fever and red spots covering his body “from head to toe in a measles-like rash,” the attending physician said. Ryan was diagnosed with “febrile convulsion, probably related to MMR.”
The next day, another doctor diagnosed him with “high fever, skin rash, tremors, and lethargy,” which were “most likely due to an adverse reaction to multiple vaccines he received earlier.”
Two days later, Ryan returned to the hospital with a persistent fever of 104 or more.
Ryan’s parents testified that, upon returning home, they expressed worry to their pediatrician about behavioral problems, non-responsiveness and language loss, which later produced an ASD diagnosis.
At trial, however, the government argued powerfully that written medical records, and the recollections of Ryan’s doctor, were inconsistent with his parents’ testimony. If Ryan had truly suffered an MMR encephalopathy, for example, his family would never have taken him overseas. And his parents’ complaints of ASD symptoms were raised a full year after returning from abroad, they alleged. It looked like the family had a weak case.
But then something changed.
In October, 2010, Ryan’s attorney filed four new exhibits (under seal) and proposed amending the court’s “findings of fact.” In January and May of 2011, several more exhibits were filed, along with a motion to further supplement the findings of fact.
A month later HHS conceded the case, which moved into the damages phase.
Award details were announced a few days ago: A lump sum of $969,474.91, to cover “lost future earnings ($648,132.74), pain and suffering ($202,040.17), and life care expenses for Year One ($119,302.00),” plus $20,000 for past expenses.
Another undisclosed sum, several millions more, will be invested in annuities to cover yearly costs for life, which could total $10 million or more, not accounting for inflation. Nearly $80,000 was earmarked for ABA in the first two years.
The second case involves a girl named Emily, whose mother, Jillian Moller, filed back in 2003 and has been fighting in vaccine court since. The docket, crammed with 188 items, documents Moller’s extended but victorious struggle to win compensation for Emily, who has seizure disorder and PDD-NOS, a form of ASD.
Moller alleged that Emily was severely injured by a reaction to the DTaP vaccine at 15 months (when MMR, HiB and Prevnar were also given). “She had a vaccine reaction and she just spiraled out of control,” Moller said in an interview.
Emily’s fever spiked to 105.7 and she began screaming. She stared blankly and developed seizures. Before long she began “shaking episodes” at night and “repetitive behaviors, including arm flapping and spinning,” court documents show. Like Ryan, she developed a measles-type rash.
Things went from bad to worse. Emily’s medical record is filled with damage and suffering. One neurologist, for example, noted that Emily “had staring spells and an abnormal EEG.” Another diagnosed “encephalopathy characterized by speech delay and probable global developmental delay that occurred in the setting of temporal association with immunizations as an acute encephalopathy.”
Moller filed for an encephalopathy Table injury in 2003, unaware her daughter would be diagnosed with ASD.
Two hearings were held in 2005. “I was badgered and harassed for four hours on the stand,” she said. “They said Emily couldn’t have been that sick, or else I would’ve taken her to the ER. But I took her to my doctor and he said not to bring her to the hospital!”
Government lawyers insisted that Emily had suffered neither a vaccine injury nor encephalopathy. But every alternative cause they suggested “made no sense, because she showed no signs of those things before that vaccination,” Moller said.
The case dragged on for years, with motions and counter-motions, status reports and expert medical reports. In 2007, Moller filed for summary judgment. That also took years, as more medical records were submitted to bolster Emily’s case.
After the ASD diagnosis, the judge reportedly became convinced that Emily would prevail. “My attorney said she was angry, she felt forced into a corner with no choice but to find for us,” Moller said. “She said, ‘Emily has autism, and I don’t want to give other families who filed autism claims any hope.’”
The government agreed to settle. Last spring the case went into mediation and, on December 3 HHS made its proffer, which was entered into the record on the 28th. Emily was awarded a lump sum of $1,030,314.22 “for lost future earnings ($739,989.57), pain and suffering ($170,499.77) and life care expenses for Year One ($119,874.88) plus $190,165.40 for past expenses.” Some of that money will go to ABA therapy.
Based on the first year payout, another estimated $9 million will buy annuities for annual expenses through life, which after inflation has the potential to pay over $50 million dollars.
HHS did not admit that vaccination caused encephalopathy or autism, but merely decided not to dedicate more resources to defending the case.
“I don’t understand why they fought so hard,” Moller said. “We had the evidence: the EEG, the MRI, everything was consistent with encephalopathy, post-vaccination. How can government attorneys claim what our doctors said happened, didn’t happen?”
Perhaps the feds were loath to concede yet another vaccine case involving autism. Four cases in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings were recently compensated. Three of those cases are marked with asterisks, indicating the government did not conclude that autism can be caused by vaccines. But the fourth autism case that was paid out in 2013 (Ryan’s case? We don’t know) has no such caveat.
As for Emily, she is “not too good,” Moller said. “Her emotional state is fragile, at best. She has seizure problems and autoimmune issues… And it’s a constant fight when you have a vaccine-injured child. It’s not just the disability, it’s the ignorance. The hatred from the medical community towards families like ours is intense.”
Meanwhile, as HHS says it “has never concluded in any case that autism was caused by vaccination,” it is still underwriting autism treatments such as ABA for children in its vaccine-injury program.
Breastfeeding Rate Has Increased, But Few Mothers Are Nursing
By: Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer Published: 02/07/2013 12:04 PM EST on MyHealthNewsDaily
More U.S. mothers are breastfeeding their infants, but very few continue to do so for the recommended 12 months, a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Between 2000 and 2008, the percentage of new mothers who said they breastfed their infants for any amount of time increased from 70.3 percent to 74.6 percent; the percentage who said they breastfed for six months rose from 34.5 percent to 44.4 percent; and the percentage who said they breastfed for one year climbed from 16 percent to 23.4 percent.
“Despite increases in the prevalence of breastfeeding, fewer than half of the infants in the survey were still breastfeeding at 6 months, indicating that women who choose to breastfeed their infants need support to continue breastfeeding,” the report said.
“Many mothers who want to breastfeed are still not getting the support they need from hospitals, doctors, or employers,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “We must redouble our efforts to support mothers who want to breastfeed,” Frieden said.
Such support may be especially necessary for black women, who reported lower levels of breastfeeding than women of other ethnicities. In 2008, the percentage of black women who said they had ever breastfed their infant was about 59 percent, compared to 75 percent for white women and 80 percent for Hispanic women, the report said.
Black women may be more likely to encounter unsupportive work environments, or other factors that interfere with breastfeeding, the researchers said. Strategies that may encourage continued breastfeeding among black women include increasing support for organizations that promote breastfeeding in minority women, and increasing the number of lactation consultants in minority communities, the researchers said.
Hospitals may also help to increase breastfeeding by following up with mothers regarding their breastfeeding efforts after they’ve gone home, the CDC said in an earlier report published in August 2011.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for six months in addition to giving the baby doctor-recommended supplements to ensure that the child gets vital vitamins and minerals not found in high quantities in breast milk. After that, women should continue to breastfeed their baby until the first birthday in addition to feeding him or her other foods. Breastfeeding has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of childhood obesity and certain childhood infections.
The new report is published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Pass it on: Mothers who breastfeed their infants may need additional support to continue breastfeeding for the recommended one year.
By SHEILA V KUMAR and SHAYA TAYEFE MOHAJER – 9/26/11
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Last year’s class of California kindergartners had a record high percentage of parents who used a personal belief exemption to avoid immunization requirements, a development that concerns state health officials.
More than 11,000 kindergartners missed at least one vaccine in 2010 because their parents decided to forgo inoculation. At nearly 2.5 percent of the state’s 470,000 kindergartners, that’s California’s highest rate of declined vaccines since at least 1978, the year before the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was required.
The percentage is more than double that in certain parts of the state, particularly in more affluent coastal communities in Northern California.
The public debate over childhood vaccinations has been growing throughout California, where last year a deadly spike in whooping cough cases killed 10 babies and sickened more than 9,100 people. The outbreak prompted a state law that requires middle and high school students to get whooping cough booster shots before going back to school this year.
The percentage of parents who sign vaccine exemptions based on personal beliefs has been rising steadily since 2004. The increase coincides with rising use of the Internet for information, said John Talarico, chief of the immunization branch for the California Department of Public Health.
“We really think a lot of it is due to honest, valid concern that parents do the best thing for their child coupled with misinformation that gets out through various forms of communication,” he said. He said state health officials want to study the personal-belief exemptions to better understand trends and behaviors. For now, he is hoping the trend will begin to slow, especially with media coverage of last year’s whooping cough deaths.
Just last week, state health officials said the number of reported measles cases in California had reached a 10-year high of 28. Of those, 22 people were either unvaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown. “When people can see disease around them, it generally drives them to think about the benefit the vaccine can give their children versus whatever else they hear,” he said.
Vaccine statistics for this year’s kindergartners will not be available until 2012.
Parents can file two types of vaccine exemptions – a medical exemption or a personal belief exemption. The medical exemption is rarer and typically is reserved for children who cannot be vaccinated because of auto-immune disorders or allergies. It requires a doctor’s signature.
For a personal belief exemption, parents are not required to supply any information to explain their decision. Doctors and medical experts say vaccines are a reliable means of preventing illness with little risk of injury, but some parents don’t buy into the safety of immunizations. They cite concerns about vaccines making their children susceptible to autism or diabetes.
In a comprehensive safety review of vaccines issued last month, the Institute of Medicine found there is no link between vaccines and autism or diabetes. The institute, part of the National Academy of Sciences, found that serious side effects of vaccines are rare and can include fever-caused seizures and occasional brain inflammation.
The increasing number of kindergartners entering school without immunizations poses a risk to others, especially children who have legitimate medical exemptions that prevent them from getting their shots, said Linda Davis-Alldritt, a school nurse consultant at the California Department of Education. “Disease prevention is really a very important thing,” she said. “These are diseases that can be very serious, and it can cause death and it can cause long lasting illnesses.”
Parents receive information from schools and the Department of Education about the importance of inoculation and the dangers of unvaccinated children spreading infectious diseases to the rest of the community.
Overall immunity of a population to illness typically is achieved when 90 percent of the population is properly immunized. But Talarico, California’s top immunization officer, said that can be misleading because unvaccinated children tend to cluster in pockets where like-minded parents decide to forgo immunizations.
“When we see these clusters, that represents the possibility of transmission of disease more quickly and in a more sustained fashion,” he said.
A cluster of unimmunized children in San Diego led to an outbreak of measles in 2008 that infected 12 children. Nine of them had not been inoculated because of their parents’ objections, while three others were too young to be immunized.
In some schools, as many as 30 percent of kindergartners are vulnerable to at least one vaccine-preventable communicable disease, according to data from the state Department of Public Health. The majority of schools have 100 percent immunization rates.
Certain areas of California have higher exemption rates than others. In Marin, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties, more than 6 percent of incoming kindergartners in 2010 had parents file a personal belief exemption. By comparison, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno counties had rates below 2 percent. Barbara Lowe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center in Vienna, Va., said parents sometimes decide to file the personal belief exemption form because they cannot find a doctor who will sign a medical exemption form.
“We’ve had families whose children have had reactions to vaccines, and some of them have become injured or even died. They want to make an independent, informed decision for their other children, and they can’t find doctors who will write medical exemptions,” she said.
She said the mission of her nonprofit is to prevent vaccine-related injuries or death through public education. It does not take a position on whether parents should have their children vaccinated, but it does defend a parent’s right to opt out of a vaccine.
Some parents base their decision on what they hear from others or see on the Internet, rather than in consultation with a medical expert, said Catherine Flores Martin, director at the California Immunization Coalition, a Sacramento nonprofit that receives some of its funding from vaccine manufacturers. “Parents have access to so much information on the Internet and I think a parent, even when they’re really well educated, will have a hard time sifting through the credible resources versus the anecdotal stories,” she said. “You can find whatever you want on the Internet to support your belief.” ___ Tayefe Mohajer reported from Los Angeles.
by Mike Stobbe – AP – 11/28/11
ATLANTA — A rising number of parents in more than half of states are opting out of school shots for their kids. And in eight states, more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners do not get all the vaccines required for attendance, an Associated Press analysis found.
That has health officials worried about possible new outbreaks of diseases that were all but stamped out. The AP analysis found more than half of states have seen at least a slight rise in the rate of exemptions over the past five years. States with the highest exemption rates are in the West and Upper Midwest. It’s “really gotten much worse,” said Mary Selecky, secretary of health for Washington state, where 6 percent of public school parents have opted out.
Rules for exemptions vary by state and can include medical, religious or – in some states – philosophical reasons.Parents’ reasons for skipping the shots vary. Some doubt that vaccines are essential. Others fear that vaccines carry their own risks. And some find it easier to check a box opting out than to get the shots and required paperwork.Still others are ambivalent, believing in older vaccines but questioning newer shots against, say, chickenpox. The number of shots is also giving some parents pause. By the time most children are 6, they will have been stuck with a needle about two dozen times – with many of those shots given in infancy. The cumulative effect of all those shots has not been studied enough, some parents say. “Many of the vaccines are unnecessary, and public health officials don’t honestly know” the effects of giving so many vaccines to such small children, said Jennifer Margulis, a mother of four and parenting book author in Ashland, Ore., a small liberal community that has unusually high vaccination exemption rates.
But few serious problems have turned up over years of vaccinations, and several studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism, a theory from the 1990s that has been widely discredited.
To be sure, childhood vaccination rates remain high overall, at 90 percent or better for several vaccines, including those for polio, measles, hepatitis B and chickenpox. In many states, exemptions are filed for fewer than 1 percent of children entering school for the first time. Health officials have not identified an exemption threshold that would likely lead to outbreaks. But they worry when some states have exemption rates climbing beyond 5 percent. The average state exemption rate has been estimated at less than half that. Even more troubling are pockets in some states where exemption rates are much higher. In some rural counties in northeast Washington, for example, vaccination exemption rates in recent years have been above 20 percent and even as high as 50 percent. “Vaccine refusers tend to cluster,” said Saad Omer, an Emory University epidemiologist who has done extensive research on the issue.
Parents who let their kids skip some vaccines put others at risk, health officials say. Because no vaccine is completely effective, if an outbreak begins in an unvaccinated group of children, a vaccinated child may still be at some risk of getting sick.
Studies have found that measles has suddenly re-emerged in some communities with higher exemption rates. Vaccinated kids are sometimes among the cases, or children too young to be vaccinated. And measles isn’t the only risk. Last year, California had more than 2,100 whooping cough cases, and 10 infants died. Only one had received a first dose of vaccine. “Your child’s risk of getting disease depends on what your neighbors do,” Omer said. While it seems unlikely that diseases like polio and diphtheria could make a comeback in the U.S., immunization expert Dr. Lance Rodewald says it’s not impossible. “Polio can come back. China was polio-free for two decades, and just this year, they were infected from Pakistan. And there is a big outbreak of polio in China now. The same could happen here,” Rodewald, of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email. He cited outbreaks of Hib, a disease that can lead to meningitis, among the Amish who don’t consistently vaccinate their children. Russia had a huge diphtheria outbreak in the early to mid-1990s, he said, because vaccine coverage declined.
For its review, the AP asked state health departments for kindergarten exemption rates for 2006-07 and 2010-11. The AP also looked at data states had previously reported to the federal government. (Most states do not have data for the current 2011-12 school year.) Alaska had the highest exemption rate in 2010-11, at nearly 9 percent. Colorado’s rate was 7 percent, Minnesota 6.5 percent, Vermont and Washington 6 percent, and Oregon, Michigan and Illinois were close behind. Mississippi was lowest, at essentially 0 percent. The AP found 10 states had exemption rate increases over the five years of about 1.5 percentage points or more, a range health officials say is troubling. Those states, too, were in the West and Midwest – Alaska, Kansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Arizona saw an increase that put that state in the same ballpark.
Exemption seekers are often middle-class, college-educated white people, but there are often a mix of views and philosophies. Exemption hot spots like Sedona, Ariz., and rural northeast Washington have concentrations of parents who prefer alternative medicine, as well as libertarians who fear giving government too much authority.
Opposition to vaccines “is putting people together that normally would not be together,” observed Elizabeth Jacobs, a University of Arizona epidemiologist looking at that state’s rising exemption rates. A national survey of roughly 750 parents, published last month in the journal Pediatrics, found that more than 1 in 10 parents said they refused or delayed shots mainly because of safety concerns. Many exemption-seeking parents conclude that the dangers posed by vaccine-preventable diseases are less important than the possible harm from vaccines. “We are being told this by every government official, teacher, doctor that we need vaccines to keep us safe from these diseases. I simply don’t believe that to be true. I believe all the diseases in question were up to 90 percent in decline before mass vaccines ever were given,” said Sabrina Paulick of Ashland. She’s a part-time caregiver for elderly people and mother of a 4-year-old daughter. “I don’t think vaccines are what saved the world from disease,” she added. “I think effective sewer systems, nutrition and hand-washing” are the reasons.Parents say they would like to reserve the right to decide what vaccinations their children should get and when. Health officials reply that vaccinations are recommended at an early age to protect children before they encounter a dangerous infection. “If you delay, you’re putting a child at risk,” said Gerri Yett, a nurse who manages Alaska’s immunization program.
Analyzing vaccination exemptions is difficult. States collect data differently. Some base their exemption rates on just a small sample of schools – Alaska, for example – while others rely on more comprehensive numbers. So the AP worked with researchers at the CDC, which statistically adjusted some states’ 2010-11 data for a better comparison. It’s also not clear when an exemption was invoked against all vaccines and when it was used to excuse just one or two shots. CDC officials think the second scenario is more common.Also, states differ on some of the vaccines required and what’s needed to get an exemption: Sometimes only a box on a form needs to be checked, while some states want letters or even signed statements from doctors.
Meanwhile, some parent groups and others have pushed legislators to make exemptions easier or do away with vaccination requirements altogether. The number of states allowing philosophical exemptions grew from 15 to 20 in the last decade. Some in public health are exasperated by the trend. “Every time we give them evidence (that vaccines are safe), they come back with a new hypothesis” for why vaccines could be dangerous, said Kacey Ernst, another University of Arizona researcher.
The exemption increases have come during a time when the government has been raising its estimates of how many children have autism and related disorders. Some parents believe the growing roster of recommended shots must somehow be connected. “I don’t understand how other people don’t see that these two things are related,” said Stacy Allan, a Summit, N.J., mother who filed religious exemptions and stopped vaccinating her three children.
Several parents said that while they believe many health officials mean well, their distrust of the vaccine-making pharmaceutical industry only continues to grow. “I wouldn’t be one to say I am absolutely certain these things are hurting our children,” said Michele Pereira, an Ashland mother of two young girls. She is a registered nurse and married to an anesthesiologist. While her daughters have had some vaccinations, they have not had the full recommended schedule. “I feel like there are enough questions out there that I don’t want to take the chance,” she said. ––––––––––––––––– Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore., contributed to this report.
EDITORIAL – New York Times
The Puzzle of More Autism Cases
Published: April 1, 2012
The latest federal survey suggests that more than 1 percent of all children in the country have been identified as having autism or two related disorders by the age of 8, a far higher percentage than found in previous surveys. But no one knows whether the increase shows that the disorders are more common or whether it simply reflects better detection of cases that would previously have been missed. Either way, the survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more children and parents may need help in coping with these disorders in their schools and communities. Related News
Diagnoses of Autism on the Rise, Report Says (March 30, 2012) The survey examined records at health clinics and schools for evidence that children were suffering from either full-fledged autism, Asperger syndrome, or a related disorder known as pervasive development disorder. These so-called autism spectrum disorders run the gamut from severe cases in which the children don’t talk and have limited intelligence to relatively mild cases in which children are socially awkward but able to function at a reasonably high level.
Last week, the agency reported that the most recent survey, conducted in 2008, showed the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among 8-year-olds in 14 areas of the country was 1 in 88, a 78 percent increase from 2002. Thomas Frieden, director of C.D.C., said there is “a possibility” that the increase in cases is entirely the result of better detection. Advocacy groups for autism patients suggested that much of the increased prevalence is real.
There is a move within the psychiatric profession to tighten the criteria for autism to exclude many of the milder forms of the disorder. If that change were to appear in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the surveys would adopt the new definition and the prevalence numbers would likely decline.
The surveys say nothing about the disorder’s cause. Some parents continue to blame vaccines taken in childhood, but a wide range of research has firmly exonerated vaccines as the cause. The surveys showed that the median age at which children were first identified with the disorders was 4 — at least two years later than when most experts recommend autism screening. The earlier therapy begins, the better the chances the child will benefit.
Families Who Reject Inoculations Told to Find a New Physician; Contagion in Waiting Room Is a Fear
By SHIRLEY S. WANG, WSJ.com 2/15/2012
“There’s more noise among pediatricians, more people willing to argue that it’s OK to do this versus 10 years ago,” said Douglas Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Diekema wrote the AAP’s policy on working with vaccine refusers, which recommends providers address the issue at repeated visits, but respect parents’ wishes unless it puts a child at risk of significant harm.
Most pediatricians consider preventing disease through vaccines a primary goal of their job. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AAP issue an annual recommended vaccination schedule, but some parents ask if their child’s immunizations can be pushed back or skipped altogether, pediatricians say.
While rates for several key inoculations in young children rose between 2009 and 2010, according to the CDC, lower immunization rates have been blamed as a factor in U.S. outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.
Parents often voice concerns about autism or that their child’s immune system may be overwhelmed by too many vaccines at once. Worries about a link between vaccines and autism arose because some parents noticed their children regressed, or lost some skills, around the time
of their vaccinations at two years of age. Another concern centered on the former use of mercury as a vaccine preservative.
Numerous studies since have dispelled these concerns among scientists. Rather, scientists say, it is more likely that autism symptoms begin showing up around the same age children are vaccinated.
The rise in patient firings reflects another factor. As patients have become savvier and more willing to challenge doctors, physicians have become increasingly reluctant to deal with uncooperative patients, said Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, doctors may feel financial pressure to see more patients and so have less time to contend with recalcitrant ones.
Pediatricians fed up with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children out of concern it can cause autism or other problems increasingly are “firing” such families from their practices. Stefanie Ilgenfritz has details on Lunch Break.
For Allan LaReau of Kalamazoo, Mich., and his 11 colleagues at Bronson Rambling Road Pediatrics, who chose in 2010 to stop working with vaccine-refusing families, a major factor was the concern that unimmunized children could pose a danger in the waiting room to infants or sick children who haven’t yet been fully vaccinated.
In one case, an unvaccinated child came in with a high fever and Dr. LaReau feared the patient might have meningitis, a contagious, potentially deadly infection of the brain and spinal cord for which a vaccine commonly is given. “I lost a lot more sleep than I usually do” worrying about the situation, he said.
“You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice,” added Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that “this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics.” Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.
Pediatricians disagree about what their duty is to these families. “The bottom line is you should try to do whatever you can to maintain the family in the best care,” said Michael Brady, chair of the pediatrics department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP’s immunization committee. “If they leave your practice, they’re probably going to gravitate toward another practice with unhealthy practices.”
Other physicians say they rarely have had luck persuading vaccine opponents to change their minds.
David Fenner and his 20-plus colleagues at Children’s Medical Group in Rhinebeck, N.Y., discuss vaccine concerns but ask families to leave if they don’t comply by a certain point.
Dr. Fenner said he tells new families, “You’ve been bombarded with information before you came here, some accurate and some not.” Iif a family refuses to vaccinate after a discussion of the issue, he tells them “there are so many things we’re not going to see eye-to-eye on.”
So far, the practice has fired a couple of families per year since it implemented the policy about five years ago.
Pamela Felice, who lives in an Atlanta suburb, had difficulty finding a pediatrician for her two children though they have waivers from a previous pediatrician exempting them from school requirements for immunizations. Her older child had gastrointestinal trouble and regressed development after receiving vaccines, she said, which she believes were related to the shots.
Ms. Felice received a letter from her pediatrician a few years ago stating that because the family chose not to vaccinate, it needed to find another doctor. She called four or five other practices but none would agree to an appointment after she told them she was opposed to vaccines. The family ended up with an elderly family doctor who said he had “seen it all” and was willing to treat the children if they got sick, Ms. Felice said.
“A doctor should feel obligated to discuss [potential vaccine] risks with any parent who wants to discuss them,” said Ms. Felice.
Shirley S. Wang at email@example.com
Mailing Chickenpox Lollipops And Other Infected Items Is Illegal, Prosecutor Tells Parents
By ERIK SCHELZIG 11/ 4/11 04:42 PM ET Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Parents fearful of vaccinations are being warned by a federal prosecutor that making a deal with a stranger who promises to mail them lollipops licked by children with chickenpox isn’t just a bad idea, it’s against the law.
Jerry Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said he was spurred by reports this week by KPHO-TV in Phoenix and WSMV-TV in Nashville about people turning to Facebook to find lollipops, spit or other items from children who have chickenpox.
“Can you imagine getting a package in the mail from this complete stranger that you know from Facebook because you joined a group, and say here, drink this purported spit from some other kid?” Martin told The Associated Press.
Isaac Thomsen, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, said it’s unlikely the items will succeed in giving other children chickenpox.
“If there’s a very high load on the virus and shipped very quickly, it’s theoretically possible,” he said. “But it’s probably not an effective way to transmit it. It typically has to be inhaled.”
But Thomsen warned the lollipops could carry more dangerous viruses, including hepatitis.
Martin said it is a federal crime to send diseases or viruses across state lines, whether through the U.S. Postal Service or private services like FedEx or UPS. Sending the lollipops would be illegal under the same law that makes it illegal to mail contagions like anthrax. He said a conviction could lead to a sentence from less than a year to 20 years in prison.
Martin said the items are sought by parents who don’t want to give their children vaccines. He said he could neither confirm nor deny that his office is investigating or seeking charges against anyone.
According to the TV reports, parents have turned to a Facebook group called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area” to link up people looking to share the virus.
One of the Facebook postings from Wendy Werkit of Nashville offered a “fresh batch of pox in Nashville shipping of suckers, spit and Q-tips available tomorrow 50 dollars via PayPal.”
Werkit told WSMV that the money was used to cover the shipping costs of the lollipops had been licked by her children.
“They can’t get (chickenpox) the normal way anymore of just naturally catching and just naturally getting the immunity for life,” Werkit said.
Thomsen, the Vanderbilt physician, said he was even more concerned by a person in the KPHO report seeking items tainted with measles to avoid a school-required vaccination. Measles has a significant mortality rate, causes more complications and is very infectious compared with chickenpox, he said.
And law enforcement won’t take any such cases lightly, Martin said.
“If you are engaged in this type of behavior, you’re not only potentially exposing innocent people to dangerous viruses and illnesses and diseases, you’re also exposing yourself potentially to federal criminal prosecution,” he said.
ATLANTA — A government panel wants young boys as well as girls to get the controversial HPV vaccine, in part to prevent them from spreading the sexually transmitted virus to girls.
The HPV vaccine has been recommended for young girls to protect them against cervical cancer and genital warts for the last five years. But the vaccine has been slow to catch on – only about a third of adolescent girls have gotten all three shots.
Experts say the HPV vaccine could protect boys against genital warts and some kinds of cancers. But they also say vaccinating 11- and 12-year old boys could help prevent them from spreading the human papilloma virus to girls.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation Tuesday in a unanimous vote. Federal health officials usually adopt what the panel says and asks doctors and patients to follow the recommendations.