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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Get Mercury Out Of Vaccines -- NOW!

By Evelyn Pringle

Mercury-based thimerosal, used as a preservative in childhood vaccines until recently, is now being blamed for a host of neurological problems, including autism, ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.

The number of children with these problems can vary greatly depending on who you listen to. Some experts say there are about 800,000 learning disabled children in the US, while others put the number as high as eight million, according to Dr. Jay Gordon.

Dr. Gordon is a California pediatrician who has worked as a consultant for CBS on children's programming. He was ABC’s medical correspondent for the Home Show for five years and has appeared on Good Morning America to discuss vaccines. On his website, appropriately called Dr. Jay Gordon, he addresses many of the issues related to vaccine policies in the US.

Granted, there are plenty of research studies to document the fact that some vaccines are necessary to protect against serious diseases. However, there is very little data to support the methods that are used to vaccinate children in the US.

In a March 7, 2005 article in the LA Times, Dr. Gordon broke ranks and disputed claims that all vaccines are safe. Parents choose Gordon as their pediatrician because of his stance on vaccinations. They know he will lend a sympathetic ear to their concerns about the possible adverse side effects of childhood vaccinations, according to the Times.

On his website, Gordon explains how he addresses the issue of early vaccination: “In my office, with families I know well, I believe that the main idea I convey is that we should vaccinate later and slower. One shot at a visit starting later in the first year and perhaps in the second year of life. I have many families in my practice who have chosen to give their children no vaccines,” he adds.

“In my opinion, we vaccinate in an unscientific and potentially dangerous way,” he says.

Gordon also doesn’t “like the financial ties that vaccine researchers have to the manufacturers because some of these same experts help make the official decisions about which shots will be approved and/or required.”

Over the past 15 to 20 years, the number of cases of autism in children has gone from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 150 today. Learning disabilities were first noted in 1963, but the problem was rare and very few children were identified with the disorder. Today, one child in six is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD).

According to Dr. Gordon’s website, ADD or ADHD affects millions of children. Currently accepted statistics say that as many as 10% of the school-aged population have ADHD, and about another 20% have symptoms suggestive of ADHD. These children will continue to manifest these symptoms and problems in adulthood, according to the site.

The number of recommended vaccines in the Federal immunization schedule has nearly tripled since 1988. The agency now recommends vaccines for 12 diseases. Because some shots must be given more than once, a child may receive as many as 23 shots by age 2 and might receive as many as six shots during a single visit to a doctor.

The biggest source of parental concern about vaccines is the claim that vaccines are linked to a rise in autism rates. For example, in California, between 1987 and 2002, there has been a more than six-fold increase in autism cases, according to a 2003 report by the California Department of Development Services.

Although government “experts” continue to maintain there is no link between autism and vaccines, they offer no alternative theory for the skyrocketing number of cases.

Because the onset of autism usually begins during the period when children are receiving many vaccines, most parents are convinced that vaccines trigger the disorder. Thousands of parents have filed lawsuits in the Court of Federal Claims alleging that thimerosal used in vaccines until 2002 is the cause of autism and a host of other neurological disorders.

Ann Dachel -- A Mother's Perspective

If all these problems are not caused by vaccines, “I wish the medical community would explain where all the damaged children are coming from,” Ann Dachel says.

Anne is from Chippewa Falls, WI. She is a school teacher, a member of the National Autism Association, and the mother of a boy with autism and a daughter who developed epilepsy after receiving a Hepatitis B vaccine.

She firmly believes the Hepatitis B vaccine her daughter Kate received is the direct cause of three years of seizures that followed the vaccine. “No one seems to want to look into the correlation of the use of known neurotoxins in vaccines and the epidemic in neurological disorders among children,” Ann says.

“Our Federal health agencies,” she notes, “took years to even recognize an increase in the autism rate.” Once they were forced to acknowledge the rise in autism, Ann says, their feeble explanations for the epidemic range from “better diagnosing and an expanded spectrum of autism disorders” to a “genetic cause.”

She disputes these claims. “Doctors aren't suddenly smarter and believe me, no one can ‘miss’ an autistic child,” Ann says, “genes don’t cause epidemics,” she adds.

“Do they need children dropping over dead in the doctor’s office or setting off metal detectors at airports before they’ll blame the deadly neurotoxin for the neurological damage done to our children?” Ann asks.

In her teaching capacity, Ann works with a group of ADD and ADHD kids and she says, “almost all of them have health problems like asthma, allergies, chronic ear infection, etc.”

“I was at a talk the other night by a speech therapist and nutritionist who works with children in hospitals and schools,” Ann reports, “she brought up the fact that today's children are the sickest in history.”

Are So Many Vaccines Really Necessary?

Currently, between birth and six months, newborns get a total of 13 doses of vaccines. Between 12 and 24 months, they get another 10 vaccines.

When asked which vaccines should be given the first year, Gordon advised, “I prefer to give no vaccines or just the DPT during the first year,” the Times reports. “DPT is relevant because you can get whooping cough-diphtheria,” it adds.

Many of these vaccines are unnecessary because some diseases are virtually nearly non-existent in the US today. There have been no new polio cases in the last decade, and it's highly unlikely that a baby would contract Hepatitis B. There are only a few dozen cases of tetanus each year, according to Gordon.

“The diseases against which we vaccinate used to be much more common,” he explains, “but we are now down to an average of one case of diphtheria (the “D” of the DPT) per year ... a few thousand cases of Pertussis (“P”) and 30 or so cases of Tetanus each year.”

The best example of unnecessary vaccines used solely to boost profits for the drug companies is the Hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B is a disease transmitted through high-risk adult behavior involving intravenous drug use and unprotected sex.

When following the Federal Immunization Schedule, infants receive a shot of Hep B within hours of birth, and six weeks later they get shots of Hep B, Hemophilus Influenza B (HIB), Polio, and Prevnar, the latest vaccine to be added to the schedule.

While Gordon admits the Hep B vaccine works very well, he says it may have autoimmune complications and should only be given after a careful evaluation of the risks and benefits to the child.

In a report titled, “The Saga of Pediatric Hepatitis B Vaccination,” F Edward Yazbal, MD claims government health authorities have been lying to the public about the need for the Hep B vaccine, and mandated a vaccine for babies when there was no reason to do so. He says the CDC has contradicted its own previous pronouncements about the numbers of Hepatitis B cases in America to justify adding this vaccine to the schedule.

The Prevnar vaccine was produced to protect higher-risk people from a specific group of dangerous bacteria,” Gordon explains. “It was never intended to be, and is not very effective, as an ‘ear infection’ shot.” “The diseases that it prevents are extremely rare,” he adds.

Dr Gordon acknowledges that Meningitis is a dangerous, potentially fatal infection and the vaccine given to combat Meningitis is effective and has eliminated over 95% of this illness. However, “I personally have not seen a case if HIB meningitis in at least 7 or 8 years, maybe more,” he says, but “some scientists and others now think that the vaccine may cause “autoimmune” problems -- the immune system mistakenly attacks one’s own body -- such as diabetes,” he warns.

“The MMR vaccine merits an entire page of its own,” Gordon says, “But there is enough evidence that these “live-virus” vaccines may not be as safe as we thought to convince me that we need much more study before we can stop looking,” he adds.

“Chickenpox is a relatively benign disease in childhood,” Gordon maintains. He says this vaccine was invented in the 1970s to protect children on chemotherapy or high dose steroids for asthma and other illnesses. He explains that “normal kids get immunity from the illness which might actually have been better than that acquired from the shot.” Gordon recommends trying to get children natural chickenpox for four or five years and then get the shot later if that is not successful.

Thimerosal Is Still In Vaccines

Drug companies began claiming they were reducing the amount of thimerosal in vaccines back in 1999. Some drug makers said there was only a trace amount of mercury in their products and others claimed they are producing mercury-free vaccines.

Wanting to determine whether mercury was truly absent from vaccines today, the group, Health Advocacy in the Public Interest (HAPI), recently sent four vaccines off to be tested. The test results showed that all four vials contained mercury, despite claims by two drug makers that their products were totally mercury free.

HAPI also discovered that thimerosal is still being used in the manufacturing process of most vaccines. However, drug makers claim they filter the thimerosal out of the final product. But Boyd Haley, who is the Chemistry Department Chair at the University of Kentucky, told HAPI that claim is false because mercury binds to the antigenic protein in the vaccine and cannot be completely filtered out 100%.

It is more than apparent that at this point in time no one can guarantee parents that all mercury has been removed from childhood vaccines. In fact, drug companies admit that flu vaccines still contain an unsafe amount of thimerosal and the government still recommends flu vaccines for pregnant women and some children.

Anne Dachel wants to know, “How long the CDC and FDA will make claims that deadly mercury is perfectly safe when injected into tiny babies? How many children will have to be damaged before we stop this? How long will they just deny the obvious?”

Until they can be assured with absolute 100% certainty that thimerosal has been eliminated from all vaccines, no parent should be forced to inject their children with potentially poisonous vaccines.

Evelyn J. Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Study links autism to mercury from coal plants

Emissions may contribute to rise in cases, Texas researcher says

Updated: 9:40 a.m. ET March 17, 2005

SAN ANTONIO - Mercury released primarily from coal-fired power plants may be contributing to an increase in the number of cases of autism, a Texas researcher said on Wednesday.

A study to be published on Thursday in the journal “Health and Place” found that autism, a developmental disorder marked by communication and social interaction problems, increased in Texas counties as mercury emissions rose, said Claudia Miller, a family and community medicine professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

“The main finding is that for every thousand pounds of environmentally released mercury, we saw a 17 percent increase in autism rates,” she said in an interview.

About 48 tons of mercury are released into the air annually in the United States from hundreds of coal-burning plants.

The study looked at Texas county-by-county levels of mercury emissions recorded by the government and compared them to the rates of autism and special education services in 1,200 Texas school districts, Miller said.

“The study shows that there may be a very important connection between environmental exposure to mercury and the development of autism,” she said in an interview.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said it does not know how many cases of autism there are in the country or whether the number has increased, but that the issue is under study.

Some experts estimate there are 1.5 million people in the United States with autism, most of them children, and say the number of cases has risen rapidly in recent years.

“Autism has increased dramatically over the last decade or so and the reasons for that have really stumped the medical community,” Miller said.

“Now we think that due to the rising exposures in pollutants like mercury, they may be at the root of some of these cases,” she said.

The Bush administration this week ordered power plants to cut mercury pollution by 50 percent within 15 years, but environmentalists said the action fell short of what was needed. They have called for a 90 percent cut in mercury emissions.

“This research has implications for toxic substance regulation and prevention policies,” said Raymond Palmer, an autism expert at the San Antonio school who helped in the study.

“Policies regarding toxic release of mercury and the incidence of developmental disorders should be investigated,” he said.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Dorothy

Monday, March 14, 2005

Autism, ADD, ADHD - Vaccine Related

by Evelyn Pringle

According to the most recent estimates by the CDC, about 1 in 150 children in the US suffers from an autistic disorder. Recent studies have shown that exposure to mercury in childhood vaccines, not only causes autism but can also result in immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions similar to traits associated with autism.

Thimerosal is a vaccine preservative that was developed in the 1930s by Eli Lilly, and has been regularly used in vaccines ever since. It contains 49.5% mercury. The amount of mercury considered safe for adults, by the EPA is 0.1 microgram per kilogram of weight.

As a neurotoxin, thimerosal, has been linked to the depletion of the protective anti-oxidant, glutathione, which helps rid the body of mercury. People with autism seem to be more susceptible to this effect and most have low levels of glutathione. Therefore, their bodies have difficulty excreting mercury.

In 1999, many drug companies claimed they were reducing the amount of thimerosal in vaccines. Some companies even provided product inserts that claimed that only a trace amount of mercury still existed in the final product. Others claimed to be producing vaccines that were completely mercury-free.

A few months ago the group, Health Advocacy in the Public Interest (HAPI), sent four separate vials of different vaccines to be tested for mercury content by Doctor's Data, an independent lab, which specializes in heavy metal testing.

The testing revealed that all four of the vials contained mercury, despite the claim by 2 companies that their vaccines were completely mercury-free. According to HAPI, all four vaccines also contained aluminum which greatly increases the toxicity of mercury in causing neuronal death in the brain.

In fact, during further investigation of the matter, HAPI discovered that mercury-based thimerosal was still being used to produce most vaccines. The drug makers claimed that after production, they use a process to filter the preservative out of the final vaccines.

However, Scientist, Boyd Haley, Phd, who is the Chemistry Department Chair at the University of Kentucky, told HAPI that its not possible to filter out all of the thimerosal because mercury binds to the antigenic protein in the vaccine and therefore, cannot be completely filtered out 100%.

We are not going to see a drastic decline in autism due to the fact that we have been misled about when thimerosal was actually eliminated from vaccines. Because the FDA has never ordered drug makers to recall all the vaccines previously manufactured and shipped to health care providers, to this very day, several different mercury-containing vaccines remain in the inventories of health care facilities, and some have an expiration date as late as September, 2005.

In addition, pregnant women and their unborn infants, are still being injected with thimerosal in flu vaccines, and a shot to combat the RH negative factor. The FDA and CDC have ignored the tremendous amount of scientific evidence of injury from these vaccines discovered by all the various studies, and have continued to recommend flu vaccines for pregnant women and certain children.

Most flu vaccines recommended for pregnant women contain 25 micrograms of mercury. Which means a fetus, through the vaccination of its mother, receives a dose of mercury that exceeds the Federal guidelines by several hundred-fold.

Experts Weigh In

To what degree of scientific certainty can the epidemic of autism be blamed on mercury in childhood vaccines? David Ayoub, MD, answered this question for Independent Media TV, “I can state that the certainty of the science supporting mercury as a major cause of autism is probably more overpowering than the science behind any other disease process that I studied dating back to medical school,” he said.

In 2002, the research team of David and Mark Geier, released a study based on tens of millions of doses of vaccines given to children in the US during the 1990s, that presented the first epidemiologic evidence that associated the increase in thimerosal from vaccines with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Specifically, the Geier’s analysis of the Federal government's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database showed statistical increases in the incidence rate of autism, mental retardation, and speech disorders in children receiving thimerosal-containing diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines, when compared with those who received thimerosal-free DTaP vaccines. The VAERS database has only been maintained by the CDC since 1990.

According to the Geiers, the usual course of DTaP vaccine consists of primary immunizations administered at 2, 4, and 6 months, followed up by booster doses at 18 months and at 5 years.

Using the database, the Geiers determined that there were a total of 6575 adverse reaction reports after thimerosal-vaccines, compared to only 1516 adverse reactions reported after thimerosal-free vaccines.

Lisa Blakemore-Brown, a Psychologist in the UK, also maintains that thimerosal is the cause of autism, and suspects it is also the culprit involved in a wide variety of other health problems showing up in children these days.

"The epidemic of health and developmental problems in so called advanced countries is now undeniable," Blakemore reports, "1 in 10 children suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, 1 in 4 have asthma."

According to Blakemore, the current autism epidemic did not occur earlier because children "were given single vaccines with single amounts of mercury,” she says, “but with the introduction of triple vaccines the amount of mercury contained within the preservative was multiplied and the cumulative effects are only just now being discovered by the public," she adds.

Thimerosal is now also being blamed for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD), which affect millions of children and their families. Currently statistics suggest that as many as 10% of the school-aged children have ADD and another 20% exhibit symptoms of ADHD.

Since they believe vaccines may have caused these disorders, many parents have come to resent the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is now raking in huge profits from the sale of drugs to treat these disorders by the same drug companies that caused the injury in the first place. Number Of Vaccines Too High

The number of vaccinations given to children before the age 2, has nearly tripled since 1988, according the CDC, which currently recommends vaccination against 12 diseases. Because some vaccines must be given more than once, children get as many as 23 shots by the age of 2.

Under the CDC immunization schedule, here are the vaccines recommended for children before two years of age.

Birth-6 months: Hepatitis B: 2 doses; Diphtheria, Pertussis (DPT), Tetanus: 3 doses; Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib): 3 doses; Inactivated poliovirus: 2 doses; Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): not recommended; Varicella: not recommended; Pneumococcal conjugate: 3 doses. Total 13 doses

12-24 months: Hepatitis B: 1 dose; Diphtheria, Pertussis (DPT), Tetanus: 1 dose; Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib): 1 dose; Inactivated poliovirus: 1 dose; Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): 1 dose; Varicella: 1 dose; Pneumococcal conjugate: 1 dose; Pneumococcal polysaccharide*: 1 dose; and Influenza: 1 dose

Hepatitis A*: 1 dose; Total 10 doses

* Vaccines recommended in selected states and regions and for certain high-risk groups.

The worst example of an unnecessary vaccine being sold to boost drug company profits, is the injection of Hepatitis B into newborns to an adult lifestyle disease contracted through sex and sharing needles with drug addicts. Plain and simple, the industory needed a market for a new vaccine so they got together with their cronies in the FDA and CDC and hatched a scheme to target nation’s infants using the Federal immunization program.

Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, Hepatitis B among children was almost unheard of. According to the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, in 1986, there were only 279 cases reported in children under the age of 14.

Even in adults, the incidence rate of Hepatitis B has always been low. In 1991, for instance, there were only 18,003 cases within a total population of approximately 248 million people.

Dr Jay Gordon is a pediatrician who was named CBS TV's Medical Consultant for Children's programming and also worked for 5 years on ABC, as the on-air medical correspondent. He has appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss vaccinations.

On his website, Gordon says, "I also don't like the financial ties that vaccine researchers have to the manufacturers because some of these same experts help make the official decisions about which shots will be approved and/or required."

He is concerned about the needless vaccines being given to children. “The diseases against which we vaccinate used to be much more common,” Gordon says, “but we are now down to an average of one case of diphtheria (the "D" of the DPT) per year in the US, a few thousand cases of Pertussis ("P"), and 30 or so cases of Tetanus each year,” he explains.

“We have not had a case of "wild" polio in America since 1979 and the entire Western Hemisphere has been free of the disease for some years,” Gordon adds. He claims “it's highly unlikely that a young child would contract hepatitis B; there are only a few dozen cases of tetanus in this country each year.”

"In my opinion, we vaccinate in an unscientific and potentially dangerous way," Gordon says. He believes it would be better to vaccinate children later and slower, “The expedient and economically superior method, doesn't serve our babies well,” he warns. In my day, we got a few vaccines. And my children (now 33 & 36) got a few during their school years. Due to the fact that no one from those two generations ever got the 3 dozen vaccines currently mandated, one question keep rolling around in my mind. If three dozen vaccines are really necessary to fight off these highly-contagious diseases, in the 54 years that I’ve been on this earth, why have I never met a single unvaccinated person who caught one?

Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing government corruption

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mercury-based preservative in vaccines may be putting infants at poisoning risk

amNewYork Staff Writer

Manhattan attorney Bob Krakow is convinced that his five year-old son Alex has neurological problems because of a flu shot he got when he was two years old.

Alex was born perfectly healthy. He was brimming with personality, bright-eyed and talkative with a joyful smile, Krakow told amNewYork. But soon after getting vaccinated for the flu, Alex began to descend into "a downward spiral." He stopped talking, his eyes wandered aimlessly and he wouldn’t respond to his name when called.

Krakow believes his son's condition was caused by heavy metal poisoning from thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used by the pharmaceutical industry to prevent bacteria from contaminating a wide variety of vaccines and immunizations.

"There is no question in my mind that mercury in vaccines causes neurological disorders in children," Krakow told amNewYork. That belief puts him at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which both insist that there is not enough evidence to support a link between mercury exposure from vaccines and neurological problems such as autism and attention deficit disorder.

"No harmful effects have been reported from thimerosal at doses used in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site," according to the CDC's Web site.

The CDC and FDA might not agree, but there is "a growing body of evidence" that supports Krakow's point of view, said David Kirby, author of "Evidence of Harm; Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy," which is due out next month.

"Proof is a very loaded word," Kirby told amNewYork. "There are people who would argue vehemently that there is proof that mercury in vaccines harms kids and others that would argue just as intensely that there is proof that it does not. But the bottom line is there is a growing body of evidence showing that it does harm. And that evidence is compelling enough to warrant urgent research."

The fact that Alex improved so dramatically after receiving treatments, with a pricetag upwards of $60,000, to remove mercury from his body is proof enough for Krakow.

"When I smile at him, he smiles back at me, and I couldn't say that two years ago," he said.

The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of vaccines containing the mercury based chemical and would be the third state, behind Iowa and California, to do so. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Family Practice have all called on the industry to stop using the potent neurotoxin. The bill in New York’s Senate is sponsored by Sen. Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican. An identical bill in the Assembly is sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a Long Beach Democrat.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

David Ayoub MD - Thimerosal Definite Cause Of Autism

by Evelyn Pringle

To what degree of scientific certainty can we prove that current epidemic of autism was caused by the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, in childhood vaccines?

In response to this question, David Ayoub, MD, told Independent Media TV, "I can state that the certainty of the science supporting mercury as a major cause of autism is probably more overpowering than the science behind any other disease process that I studied dating back to medical school."

"I think a disease that effects more individuals than AIDS or cancer, in previously normal infants and children," he states, "has created a sense of urgency amongst researchers."

According to Ayoub, "A growing number of experimental, epidemiological and biochemical research, has unequivocally shown that mercury is directly linked to the development of autism spectrum disorders and is significantly toxic to the gastrointestinal, immunological, metabolic and neurobiological systems in children."

"The science of causality is known and understood down to the manner in which mercury impairs the neural pathways of attention," he adds, "I really don't see the need for more research to prove causality." He believes the focus should be "directed towards methods to remove mercury from the body and repairing those biochemical systems that are injured by mercury."

Ayoub is the Director of the Prairie Collaborative for Immunization, an organization that is self-funded, which aids organizations, journalists, and legislators obtain accurate information to assist their work. He is also the author of the report, "Pregnancy and the Myth of Influenza Vaccination-Is it safe, is it effective, is it necessary? What the CDC documents reveal."

Vaccines With Thimerosal

When asked what vaccines still contain the mercury-based, thimerosal, Ayoub said, "The major culprit today is the influenza vaccine." About 80% of flu vaccines contain as much as 25 micrograms of mercury per dose. Since the EPA has set a limit of 0.1 mcg/kg (1 kg =2.2 lbs), Ayoub warns, everyone who receives the vaccine will be overdosed.

He explained that in 1999, "the Public Health Service (including the CDC and FDA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal levels in vaccines should be reduced or eliminated."

However, he adds, "Contradicting its own policy, the CDC then increased mercury exposure to the fetus and infant by allowing the inoculation of pregnant women and young infants with the mercury-containing influenza vaccine."

On May 28, 2004, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice of the CDC released its annual report with recommendations for the prevention of influenza. The report included pregnant women amongst those who should receive the flu vaccine, even though the report noted only a minimal benefit from the vaccine in pregnant women:

"Researchers estimate that an average of 1-2 hospitalizations can be prevented for every 1,000 pregnant women vaccinated" (1, page 10)

In fact, for the 2003-04 flu season, the CDC reported "only 3 to 14% of those who got vaccinated were protected against the flu." It seems overly aggressive, Ayoub maintains, for the CDC to recommend that all pregnant women be vaccinated when, in fact, scientific data to date shows only marginal benefits and the only documented benefit seems to be fewer hospitalizations, not fewer morbidities or mortalities.

The benefit of influenza vaccination during pregnancy becomes even more questionable when considering the resulting risks to unborn infants. According to the ACIP, the safety of influenza vaccination is established by the following research:

One study of influenza vaccination of 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine."

However, according to Ayoub, "In the April 12, 2002 MMWR, this same statement was followed by the caveat "additional data are needed to confirm the safety of vaccination during pregnancy." The comment was then dropped from the CDC's 2004 version of the report, but no new safety data was cited.

This solitary reference cited to establish influenza vaccine safety was co-authored by researchers at Boston University in 1973, but Ayoub advises that, "Upon closer inspection ... the study appears to have very little to do with influenza vaccine safety, but rather that of polio vaccination safety during pregnancy."

It is inexplicable, Ayoub says, that the ACIP would cite a paper in support of its conclusion of influenza vaccine safety while the Institute of Medicine rejected the same paper on the basis of the flawed analysis of polio vaccine safety.

Few doctors realize that most flu vaccines contain 25 micrograms of mercury per dose. Both the EPA and FDA's allowable daily exposure limits are 0.1 microgram per kg, meaning that recipients of a flu vaccine must weigh at least 550 pounds to meet federal exposure guidelines.

Therefore, by injecting the mother, the fetus would receive a dose of mercury that exceeds the federal limits by several hundred-fold. Furthermore, Ayoub adds, all federal guidelines are based upon studies of exposure tolerances in adults, not a fetus.

He questions why the CDC is so certain that ethylmercury can be safely injected into children or pregnant women, when the FDA and EPA have stated that ingestion of methylmercury can have harmful effects on the fetus, with warnings such as:

"some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. . . . Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are advising women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid some types of fish and eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. . . While it is true that the primary danger from methylmercury in fish is to the developing nervous system of the unborn child, it is prudent for nursing mothers and young children not to eat these fish as well."

More recent studies have detailed the life-long damage of mercury to the brains of unborn children. For instance, on Feb 28, 2005, the Associated Press reported, "Lower IQ levels linked to mercury exposure in the womb costs the United States $8.7 billion a year in lost earnings potential, according to a study released Monday by researchers at a New York hospital."

The Mount Sinai Center for Children's Health and the Environment combined a number of previous studies to determine hundreds of thousands of babies are born every year with lower IQ associated with mercury exposure, according to AP.

Lead researcher and pediatician, Leonard Trasande, reports that annually, between 316,588 and 637,233 infants are born with umbilical cord blood mecury levels linked to IQ loss.

As an example, Trasande said each year, about 4% of babies are with blood mercury levels between 7.13 and 15 micrograms per liter. That level of mercury causes an IQ loss of 1.6 points, the researchers concluded.

A 1.6 point drop in IQ could cost a person more than $31,000 in potential earnings over a lifetime, the study calculated, due to missed educational opportunities or jobs.

Manufacturers of the flu vaccine themselves, include package inserts that admit adequate studies have not been conducted on this vaccine. For example, the Fluzone insert stated:

"Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Influenza Virus Vaccine. It is not known whether Influenza Virus Vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity."

Considering the rapid growth of autism, and other related neurodevelopmental disorders, and the number of reports documenting the causal relationship to mercury-based preservatives, Ayoub advises, "influenza vaccines should not be administered to pregnant women, and perhaps other high-risk groups, especially young children."

Why Would FDA & CDC Approve Mercury-Based Vaccines?

Ayoub believes that the CDC and FDA embrace marginal research and unsupported policies because of conflicts of interests. It may come as a surprise to most physicians, he explains, "that the CDC has a built-in conflict of interest with regards to its dual role in vaccine policy." One limb of the CDC that oversees vaccine safety has a budget of approximately $30 million, while the limb that promotes vaccine usage (ACIP and NIP) has a $1 billion budget, he says.

The CDC and FDA policy decisions are made through physician advisory panels whose members often have financial relationships with the very same pharmaceutical companies that they are supposed to regulate.

For example, during a congressional hearing on potential conflicts of interests at the FDA, it was revealed that 60% of the advisory members who voted to approve the poisonous rotavirus vaccine had financial ties to the drug companies manufacturing the vaccine. The committee also found that 50% of the CDC members were tied to the rotavirus makers.

However, according to Ayoub, the CDC and FDA do not have exclusive rights in coddling the industry. An investigation of doctors involved in co-authoring forty-four different Clinical Practice Guidelines for drug companies found:

85% of guideline authors have some sort of relationships with drug companies, and they are often not disclosed

38% of respondents said they had served as employees or consultants for drug companies; 58% received research money

59% had links with drug companies whose medications were considered in the particular guidelines they authored, almost all cases predating the guideline creation process

These numbers may be even greater, as only 52% of authors responded

"Most clinicians would be surprised by these revelations which challenge the blanket trust of a healthcare governance with uncomfortably close ties to the pharmaceutical industry," Ayoub says.

Available Treatment For Autism

When asked what treatments are available for autism, Ayoub said "The buzz these days is chelation," but there is no short answer to this. Suffice it to say, there are 2 ways to get mercury out of the body - one is pull it out directly by chelation agents."

The 2 top chelation people in the world are Gary Gordon, MD, and Rashid Buttar, MD, he adds.

Chelation agents such as DMPS and DTPA, are given orally, by IV, and recently with transdermal as a cream. According to Ayoub, the agents essentially bind free blood or loosely bound heavy metal agents, and eliminate them through stool and urine. They lower the total body burden and allow for natural redistribution from brain to blood for further removal. Ayoub claims side effects are uncommon, and the process is far safer than a vaccine.

The other method of removing mercury from the body is through a variety of biomedical therapies, all dietary or supplemental, "most of which act to jumps start the bodies own internal mercury detoxification pathways," Ayoub explains, but "the science here is very sophisticated," he added.

However, unfortunately, "many parents read about a diet or supplement, try one or two therapies on their own and fail," he says, and that "treatment is very dependent upon the experience of the health care provider, critically so," he advises.

Why The Constant Denial?

Ayoub was asked why government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, are working so hard to keep the truth about the mercury-autism link hidden. He says it is a long story, but the main reason is because if they admitted guilt, it would mean the government agencies, drug companies and medical organizations, "have taken part in the largest iatrogenic epidemic known to man."

The fallout over admission of causality would be unprecedented, Ayoub adds. The lost confidence in American medicine would likely cause people to turn to alternative methods of medicine, and a rise in deeper investigation might reveal the truth about other suppressions related to cancer therapy, hypertension Rx, or Atherosclerosis.

Ayoub told Independent Media, "This is really the tip of the iceberg and I see a waterfall effect."

Evelyn Pringle is a columnist with Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Merck Misled on Vaccines, Some Say

The firm supplied shots containing a mercury compound after
saying it had halted its use.

By Myron Levin
Times Staff Writer

Drug maker Merck & Co. continued to supply infant vaccine containing a mercury-based preservative for two years after declaring that it had eliminated the chemical.

In September 1999, amid rising concern about the risks of mercury in childhood vaccines, Merck announced that the Food and Drug Administration had approved a preservative-free version of its hepatitis B vaccine.

"Now, Merck's infant vaccine line," the company's press release said, "is free of all preservatives."

But Merck continued to distribute vaccine containing the chemical known as thimerosal, along with the new product, until October 2001, according to an FDA letter sent in response to a congressional inquiry.

The thimerosal-containing supplies had expiration dates in 2002.

Merck executives confirmed the details in the FDA letter but defended the accuracy of Merck's announcement in 1999, saying the company had indeed begun to produce preservative-free vaccine.

Merck continued to supply the preservative-containing version "during the transition period to ensure an adequate supply of vaccine to help protect the nation's children," said spokeswoman Mary Elizabeth Blake.
She said package labels disclosed which lots of vaccine were preservative-free.

Parent groups and a congressional critic of U.S. vaccine policy are crying foul.

"As far as the world knew, the product coming out of Merck had no thimerosal in it," said Sallie Bernard, executive director of Safe Minds, a group concerned about childhood exposure to mercury, a neurotoxin. Parents and doctors who wanted a thimerosal-free product "would be totally confused," she said.

Rep. Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican and a physician, said what Merck did was "misleading."

"You had people literally into 2002 getting shots with mercury, having been told it was all taken out in 1999," he said. "There should have been a much more cautious announcement that we're going to eliminate the mercury over time." The FDA letter was sent to Weldon in June 2003 in response to his questions about progress in removing mercury from vaccines.

Thimerosal, which is nearly 50% ethyl mercury, has largely been eliminated from most routine childhood vaccines, though it still is present in most flu shots. It had been widely used as a sterilizing agent to prevent bacterial contamination from repeated insertion of needles into multi-dose vials of vaccine.

More than 4,200 claims have been filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program by parents alleging that their children suffered autism or other neurological disorders from mercury in their shots.

Last year California banned thimerosal in childhood vaccines as of 2006.

Vaccine makers and many health officials say there is no credible evidence of harm from the small doses of mercury once widely present in kids' shots. They cite a report last May by the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that available evidence "favors rejection of a causal relationship" between vaccines and autism.

Parents have cited contrary findings and say the studies cited by the institute's panel were flawed.

Though they said there was no proof of harm, the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics in July 1999 acknowledged that mercury exposures from a multitude of shots exceeded federal health guidelines, and they called on manufacturers to voluntarily eliminate thimerosal from kids' vaccines.

Last month The Times disclosed a leaked Merck memo from 1991 showing that the company was aware at that time of concerns about thimerosal. In the memo, a former Merck scientist calculated that 6-month-old children who received their shots on schedule could receive a mercury dose up to 87 times higher than the guideline for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

"When viewed in this way, the mercury load appears rather large," said the memo by Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman, an internationally renowned vaccinologist and a former senior vice president of Merck. "The key issue is whether thimerosal, in the amount given with the vaccine, does or does not constitute a safety hazard."

Hilleman and Merck executives have declined to discuss the memo.

Merck's announcement of the new thimerosal-free vaccine figured strongly in a shift in federal immunization policy.

In issuing their 1999 appeal, federal authorities also recommended that the first hepatitis B shot, typically given to newborns in their first 12 hours of life, be postponed except for at-risk infants — those whose mothers had tested positive or whose hepatitis B status was unknown.

But that caveat was lost in confusion over the new policy, and some hospitals delayed the birth dose even for at-risk children. Fearing that these babies could contract the serious disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinstated the birth dose for all newborn babies, citing the availability of the new Merck vaccine.

The Merck release was issued Sept. 9, 1999, and the CDC announced the revised policy the next day.

The CDC notice cited the introduction of the Merck vaccine and the expectation that a preservative-free version from a second manufacturer would be available soon. It called on hospitals and doctors to assure that they had enough of the new product for newborns before giving it to older babies.

"There was a belief there was enough thimerosal-free hepatitis vaccine, so they went back to the birth dose," said Glen Nowak, a spokesman for the CDC.

Dr. Eric Mast, chief of the prevention branch in the CDC's division of viral hepatitis, said the agency had not conducted surveys to determine the percentage of newborns who got mercury-free shots. But he said the CDC had not received reports "from state health departments or providers that there was a problem with access" to preservative-free vaccine.

Weldon, however, said that with the old product continuing to flow into the market, he was "fairly confident that newborns continued to get mercury-containing vaccines."

"It would have to be a very well-informed and diligent pediatrician to make sure all of the stock he supplied contained no mercury," he said.

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UK Psychologist Says Definite Link Between Vaccines & Autism

by Evelyn Pringle

Lisa Blakemore-Brown, is a Psychologist in the UK, who believes there is a definite link between the mercury-based preservative used for years in childhood vaccines and the many new health problems that children have become plagued with in recent years, including autism.

Although, exposure to mercury leads to primarily neurologic effects, a number of other organ systems may also be involved, including gastrointestinal, respiratory, hepatic, immune, dermal, and renal, according to Toxicol Ind Health, April 18, 2002.

"The epidemic of health and developmental problems in so called advanced countries is now undeniable, 1 in 10 children suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, 1 in 4 have asthma," Blakemore reports. As an example of the increase in health problems, she tells how a colleague "last week mentioned that out of 16 children on a school trip involving his child, 15 had asthma."

She also blames the vaccines for the widespread problems in recent years where "children are arriving at school unable to use a knife and fork, pay attention or understand their social worlds, highly sensitised to all aspects of the real world."

Mercury-based Thimerosal, is a preservative developed in the 1930s by Eli Lilly, which has been routinely used ever since in vaccines as well as many other products. It contains 49.5% ethyl mercury which is known to accumulate in fish. The amount of mercury considered safe for adults is 0.1 mcg of Methyl Mercury per kilogram of weight. Yet Blakemore reports that "Babies have been given 25 microgrammes in each of the following vaccines: whole cell DTP and Hib, and the Hep B in the US."

She explains why the autism epidemic did not occur sooner. "Over the course of the last century, individuals were given single vaccines with single amounts of mercury," Blakely reports, "but with the introduction of triple vaccines the amount of mercury contained within the preservative was multiplied and the cumulative effects are only just now being discovered by the public," she adds.

According to Blakemore, "Early papers on autism and battered baby syndrome appeared following the introduction of vaccines containing this preservative in the 30's and 40's." However, "following the introduction of triple vaccines there has been an epidemic of autism - and genetic epidemics do not occur without some outside influence," she adds.

The preservative is a neurotoxin which is linked to the depletion of the protective anti-oxidant, glutathione, and some people are more susceptible than others to such effects. Autistics have been found to have lowered levels of glutathione, and to have greater difficulty excreting mercury. Therefore, Blakemore explains, "It is not impossible that earlier generations of constitutionally susceptible individuals were affected by the Mercury in their very early vaccinations, phenotypes were altered and in turn their offspring increased their risk factors for susceptibility to mercury damage."

Such susceptibilities, combined with an already weak immune system - in a baby or other medically vulnerable individual such as an elderly person - further increase the risk factors, according to Blakemore.

As the changes triggered by mercury appear at cellular level, including cell death and increased cellular permeability, it is not surprising that many forms of impairment are found, she reports.

The constant reference to allergic effects and immune system interference echo Blakemore's own findings that early vaccines seemed to trigger various allergies and intolerances in some children. She determined during the mid to late 1990's, "that it was these medically vulnerable and allergic individuals who were more likely to have reacted to the MMR - which contains no Thiomersal."

Unfortunately, she reports, "because of Red Herring arguments and denial of what is known, we have yet to fully explore in a scientific way, why so many children reacted to vaccines."

Blakemore says: "When we have removed the Red Herrings - and those who cook them up - we might begin to take responsibility again for the health of millions across the world."

Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government

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“A Dragon By The Tail”

The Corrupt World of Global Vaccine Politics

by Lisa Reagan
Byronchild Magazine March 7, 2005
VRAN Newsletter Spring/Summer 2005

History of the IOM's Immunization and Safety Review Committee
Conflict of Interest in IOM Governing Council
GAVI – Using Corrupt Research to Vaccinate the World?
World Economic Forum questions GAVI's Global Vaccine Campaign
Autism – An Epidemic Too Big To Ignore
States Take Matters Into Their Own Hands
Senate Bill 3 – Dissolution of Civil Rights?
Side Bar 1: Not The First Leaked Transcript
Side Bar 2: Sweeping Ethics Reform to End Culture of Corruption?
Sidebar 3: Who is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3?

On the eve of an historic, billion-dollar world vaccination campaign, a leaked transcript ignites questions of vaccine safety and research corruption. Meanwhile, US senators fast-track a bill to protect vaccine manufacturers from litigation. With millions of lives at stake, and billions of dollars to lose, will a merger of philanthropy, big business and compromised science win an epic race between corporate agendas and medical ethics? In this world exclusive report, byronchild exposes how the most powerful medical research bodies in the United States compromise their vaccine safety research for vested interests, as they assist in a global vaccine policy, while a bill looms in the background to protect it all.

On January 24, 2005 -- the same day the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) announced the receipt of $750 million for its historic world vaccination campaign -- seven US Senators introduced a bill to protect vaccine manufacturers from thousands of pending federal lawsuits filed by parents of vaccine-damaged children.

The unprecedented act named Senate Bill 3, extends comprehensive liability protections to vaccine manufacturers, restricts Freedom of Information Acts on drug/vaccine safety, and preempts states' rights to ban mercury from children's vaccines, all under the bill's official title: ‘‘Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005''.

Meanwhile in Texas, a US District Court judge has ordered the worlds' “big five” vaccine manufacturers to “produce any and all documents relating to payments made to, or stock ownership” by the seventeen members of the Institute of Medicine's Immunization and Safety Review Committee who issued a report last year denying a link between childhood vaccines and the country's autism epidemic.

The judge issued the order after receiving a leaked internal transcript in the first civil juried lawsuit against the vaccine manufacturers that allegedly proves the Institutes of Medicine's committee members “predetermined the necessity of not finding causality between vaccines and autism and/or neurological injury” in its official reports on the issue.

Judge T. John Ward also ordered the vaccine manufacturers to produce all communications with “members of the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine, the Brighton Collaboration, or the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization relating to the issue whether the thimerosal contained in pediatric vaccines causes autism or other neurological disorders.”

The vaccine manufacturer's legal counsel balked at the amount of expense involved in producing such extensive documentation for the court; however, Judge Ward reassured the defense that the process could be useful for the more than 300 pending lawsuits waiting to be tried in the US .

Vaccine manufacturers Aventis Pasteur, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth and Eli Lilly and Co. are cited as defendants in the lawsuit brought by the parents of a child who developed autism after receiving mandatory routine childhood immunizations.

The same IOM reports denying a link between vaccines and the country's autism epidemic have been used:

• to endorse standardized case definitions for Adverse Events Following Immunizations for “global dissemination”;

• as justification for Senate Bill 3's sweeping provisions and protections;

• as a cause for no further federal monies to be spent on research of the potential vaccine/autism link;

• as a reason to silence media inquiries into vaccine safety issues;

• and as a defense for dismissing over 4,500 petitions for vaccine injuries in a federal court.

Is it possible that a closed meeting transcript alleged as proof of a ploy to ignore vaccine risks, a near billion dollar grant for a global vaccination campaign, emerging lawsuits for vaccine injuries and a sweeping federal bill to protect vaccine manufacturers are unrelated?

Is it possible that in spite of US Congressional hearings and reports citing widespread conflicts of interest between federal policy makers and the vaccine industry that Senate Bill 3 will defy the US Constitution's provisions for state and civil rights in order to shield vaccine manufacturers from liability?

And finally, how will a world vaccine policy influenced by allegedly “predetermined” safety reports implemented through a global alliance of international governments and vaccine manufacturers with a fund of billions headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, support or protect the health and human rights of targeted Third-World country peoples?

History of the IOM's Immunization and Safety Review Committee

Insight to these questions may lie in the pivotal year of 1999, a year preceded by a decade of declining vaccine sales, major breakups within the manufacturing industry, increased requirements for routine childhood vaccines, a growing autism epidemic, and researchers and media reports questioning the safety of vaccines and their possible link to autism.

In 1999, as a US Congressional Government Reform Committee initiated an investigation into the rampant conflicts of interest between federal vaccine policy makers and manufacturers, a global rescue effort of the sinking vaccine industry began with the formation of GAVI.

Originally funded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates through his Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI's partnership of international governments and vaccine manufacturers salvaged lagging sales through an overhauled world vaccination campaign that placed GAVI, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, at the center of the reorganized alliance.

Also formed in 1999 were the international Brighton Collaboration and the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety.

Brighton's sole purpose was to create standardized case definitions for Adverse Events Following Immunizations for “global dissemination”. Brighton's steering committee members currently hail from the US FDA, CDC, and Aventis Pasteur, a vaccine manufacturer and federal lawsuit defendant.

Brighton's website does not include autism among its listed adverse events.

The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has “ concluded that there is currently no evidence of mercury toxicity in infants, children, or adults exposed to thimerosal in vaccines” and “that current WHO immunization policy with respect to thimerosal containing vaccines should not be changed.”

The Brighton Collaboration has been cited as being “fraught with pitfalls and merges regulators and the regulated into an indistinguishable group.”

“ I am very concerned about the development of the Brighton Collaboration,” stated US Congressional Representative Dave Weldon, MD, (R-FL) at an Autism One Conference in May 2004. “Particularly troubling is the fact that serving on the panels defining what constitutes an adverse reaction to a vaccine, are vaccine manufacturers. What is even worse is the fact that some of these committees are chaired by vaccine manufacturers. It is totally inappropriate for a manufacturer of vaccines to be put in the position of determining what is and is not an adverse reaction to their product. Do we allow GM, Ford and Chrysler to define the safety of their automobiles?”

In 1999, with GAVI's international partnership and Bill Gates' billions on the way to rescue the industry, the CDC hired the IOM's Immunizations and Safety Review Committee to examine multiple “vaccine safety challenges”.

In its public report, the CDC specifically sited a 1998 British Lancet study recommending more research into a potential link between the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, negative press, public information vaccine conferences, the Rotavirus vaccine recall and seven congressional hearings questioning vaccine safety as impetus to employ the IOM.

However, the CDC's ability to objectively and fairly evaluate vaccine risks has been denounced by a three year long US congressional investigation: “To date, studies conducted or funded by the CDC that purportedly dispute any correlation between autism and vaccine injury have been of poor design, under-powered, and fatally flawed. The CDC's rush to support and promote such research is reflective of a philosophical conflict in looking fairly at emerging theories and clinical data related to adverse reactions from vaccinations…

“The CDC in general and the National Immunization Program in particular are conflicted in their duties to monitor the safety of vaccines, while also charged with the responsibility of purchasing vaccines for resale as well as promoting increased immunization rates,” states the congressional report. (View the report)

“They serve as their own watchdog -- neither common nor desirable when seeking unbiased research,” Weldon has stated in describing the CDC. “An association between vaccines and autism would force CDC officials to admit that their policies irreparably damaged thousands of children. Who among us would easily accept such a conclusion about ourselves? Yet, this is what the CDC is asked to do,” Weldon said.

When byronchild asked CDC spokesperson Curtis Allen for a copy of the contract that would detail the agreement between the IOM and the CDC, Allen stated that the contract would be available only in a heavily “redacted” or blacked-out format.

The IOM stated “no comment” to byronchild about the leaked transcript or its use in the pending civil court case.

The Transcript of the First Organizational Meeting of the IOM Committee
click here to see full IOM transcript

On January 11, 2001, the IOM's Immunization and Safety Review committee members gathered for its first organizational meeting in Washington, DC. It is this meeting's transcript that has been submitted as an exhibit by Waters and Kraus, a Dallas, Texas law firm.

During the IOM's open meeting, Walter Orenstein, MD, the Director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC, charged the committee to specifically address: “the causal relationship between the vaccine and adverse effect; the biologic mechanisms that could account for the adverse effect; and the significance of the safety concern in the context of society at large.” (Orenstein presided over another leaked CDC transcript from June 2000, see sidebar 1. )

However, according to Gordon Douglas, MD, Director of Strategic Planning for the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the IOM committee was hired by the CDC to “rule out the proposed links”. The NIH serves as America's medical research agency.

Douglas stated in a Princeton University lecture summary that, “Four current studies are taking place at the CDC in collaboration with the NIH to rule out the proposed links between immunizations and autism, immunizations and possible developmental regression, inflammatory bowel disease and the MMR vaccine, and thimerosal and the risk of autism. In order to undo the harmful effects of research claiming to link the MMR vaccine to an elevated risk of autism, we need to conduct and publicize additional studies, strengthen the program to assure parents of MMR's safety, and further educate pediatricians and primary care physicians.”

Formerly Douglas served as the president of vaccine manufacturer and federal lawsuit defendant Merck Vaccines from 1991 to 1999. According to an LA Times story on February 8, 2005, while serving as president of Merck, Douglas received a memo from Maurice R. Hilleman, MD, an internationally renowned vaccinologist, who told Douglas that six-month-old babies who received their vaccines on schedule would receive a mercury dose 87 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency deemed safe. (The NIH announced a “sweeping ethics reform” on February 1, 2005, see side bar 2. (To view the Merck memo)

From the beginning of the IOM committee's meeting behind the closed doors of the National Academies of Science building on January 12, 2001, committee members repeatedly expressed their “need for reassurance” and concern over their charge, evidence, methodology, and public communication goals, especially to parents.

“We've got a dragon by the tail here,” states a committee member in the transcript. “At the end of the line, what we know is – and I agree – that the more negative that presentation [the report] is, the less likely people are to use vaccination, immunization, and we know what the results of that will be. We are kind of caught in a trap. How we work our way out of the trap, I think, is the charge.”

Instead of focusing on scientific data which could possibly tarnish the current routine childhood vaccine policy, “The transcript sets forth in significant detail stated biases, preferences and/or predetermination of various committee members in January, 2001, i.e. before any medical or scientific evidence had been presented to the committee (emphasis added),” states the court document.

Specifically sited are statements by the IOM's study director Kathleen Stratton, PhD, and committee chair Marie McCormick, MD. These statements, the law firm says, strongly suggest Stratton and McCormick deliberately railroaded their committee into specific outcomes (all in italics directly from court document):

Dr. McCormick, for example, in speaking of the CDC, noted that the agency “wants us to declare, well, these things are pretty safe on a population basis.” (See Exhibit 1 at page 33).

“The committee's bias and predetermination of the causality issues presented are found at page 74 in a comment from Dr. Statton:

Dr. Stratton: “We said this before you got here, and I think we said this yesterday, the point of no return, the line we will not cross in public policy is to pull the vaccine, change the schedule. We could say it is time to revisit this but we will never recommend that level. Even recommending research is recommendations for policy. We wouldn't say compensate, we wouldn't say pull the vaccine, we wouldn't say stop the program.”

Similarly, Dr. McCormick, at page 97 in discussing whether autism could be associated with vaccines, stated that “we are not ever going to come down that it is a true side effect,” despite the fact that the committee had not yet considered any evidence on this issue.

At page 123, Dr. Stratton indicated that, despite not having heard any of the evidence, the probable conclusion was going to be that the evidence was “inadequate to accept or reject a causal relation.” “Chances are, when all is said and done, we are still going to be in this category. It is just a general feeling that we probably still are not going to be able to make a statement.”

Stratton joined the IOM in 1990 and was later awarded the IOM's Cecil Research Award for her contributions to vaccine safety. McCormick is the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Congressmen, researchers and parents petitioned the IOM Committee to delay their final meeting and report last year until an animal study demonstrating a link between mercury and autism by Mady Hornig, MD, an associate professor at Columbia University, could be completed.

The IOM refused to delay their final meeting and issued their “no link” report on May 2004. The Columbia University study confirming the link between mercury and autism was completed and presented to the public in June 2004.

“This is a perfect example of the scientific findings that the IOM ignored when creating their recent report on the potential of the vaccine-autism link,” stated Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, NP, president of Safeminds, an independent nonprofit organization. “The IOM was well aware that studies like these were due for release, but chose to ignore them…The findings in this study make clear that the IOM was more interested in regurgitating CDC spin than incorporating hard science like Dr. Hornig's report. Such information would force the government to face the reality of the mercury threat and take definitive action to protect countless children from potential neurological damage.”

The US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) – an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency that serves as a channel for whistleblowers -- forwarded hundreds of disclosures “alleging public health and safety concerns about childhood vaccines that include a mercury-based preservative known as thimerosal, and its possible link to neurological disorders, including autism” to the US Congress on May 20, 2004, the day after the IOM issued its “no link” report.

The OSC letter requesting congressional action was addressed to US Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) – who introduced Senate Bill 3 and its provisions for liability protection for vaccine manufacturers on January 24, 2005.

The OSC's letter to Gregg stated, “it appears there may be sufficient evidence to find a substantial likelihood of a substantial and specific danger to public health caused by the use of thimerosal/mercury in vaccines because of its inherent toxicity…”

“Due to the gravity of the allegations, I am forwarding a copy of the information disclosed to you in your capacity as Chairmen of the Senate Committee and House Committee with oversight authority for HHS. I hope that you will review these important issues and press HHS for a response to this very serious public health danger,” states the OSC letter to Gregg. (To view the OSC letter)

Conflict of Interest in IOM Governing Council

Currently, members of the IOM's governing Council include, among 19 others , Gail H. Cassell, PhD, of Eli Lilly and Company and Helene D. Gayle, MD, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the same foundation that donated the world's sixth largest charitable gift of $1.5 billion to create and sustain GAVI.

Lilly is the original manufacturer of thimerosal, a mercury derivative used in childhood vaccines as a preservative. The result of a discovery process by law firm Waters and Kraus showed that Lilly knew of mercury's toxicity as early as 1930 but nonetheless “secretly sponsored a human toxicity study on patients already known to be dying of meningococcal meningitis.”

“Lilly then cited this study repeatedly for decades as proof that thimerosal was of low toxicity and harmless to humans," states a press release from the law firm.

While Lilly ceased the sale of thimerosal in 1991, their licensing agreements demonstrate continued profits from the product until at least 2010.

Lilly is the single biggest contributor to the Republican Party from the pharmaceutical industry donating $1.6 million in the last US election.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3, was the author of a controversial bill that contained a provision that would protect Eli Lilly and other vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits over mercury in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.

Frist's other notable tie to Lilly is the fact that the vaccine manufacturer bought 5,000 copies of the senator's book on bioterrorism and distributed them to physicians after September 11, 2001.

The basis of the Frist family fortune is the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, which was founded by Frist's father and brother. (For more on Senator Frist see sidebar 3).

GAVI – Using Corrupt Research to Vaccinate the World?

GAVI's public and private sector partners include governments in industrialized and developing countries, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, WHO, the World Bank, non-governmental organizations, foundations, vaccine manufacturers, and public health and research institutions. WHO and GAVI's headquarters are both in Geneva, Switzerland.

To date a total of almost $1.3 billion, in addition to the Gates endowment, has been raised from international governments and private sources as well as an additional $1.19 billion in pledges toward GAVI's goal of a 90% routine immunization rate by 2010 for all of its 70 underdeveloped countries/grantees.

For vaccine manufacturers, the Gates' billions for GAVI represent a guaranteed pipeline of money. For governments of undeveloped countries, the funds may be used for any aspect of health as long as their country's vaccine rate increases. If the rates drop, so do the funds.

According to GAVI figures, 4 million children have been vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough; 42 million more children have been vaccinated with hepatitis B; and 991 million single-use disposable syringes have been produced for the program.

“ GAVI relies on technical and scientific information and advice from the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety. Based on the committee's findings, GAVI and its partners will continue to support the use of vaccines that contain thimerosal,” responded Gates Foundation spokesperson Jenny Sorensen to byronchild's inquiry.

If the accusation that the IOM “predetermined” the outcome of their reports is true, what does this bode for a worldwide vaccine policy that is now being routinely employed through GAVI's partners and the governments of undeveloped countries who rely on the IOM's vaccine safety information to be accurate?

World Economic Forum questions GAVI's Global Vaccine Campaign

Is the solution for creating a healthy world a global vaccine campaign?

During the World Economic Forum's 2003 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, GAVI's global vaccine campaign was intensely debated by panelists.

WEF panelists were not convinced that GAVI's goals were realistic or a panacea for the complex needs of underdeveloped countries.

"There is a strong tendency to see vaccines as a cure-all that can work in isolation," said Geoffrey Foster, Founder and Consultant, International Child Welfare and Health, Family AIDS Caring Trust, FACT, Zimbabwe, and Social Entrepreneur. “Instead, vaccines must be set firmly within a realistic and holistic context. In the past, in Europe, death and disease dropped because of nutrition and education. Vaccines must accompany poverty alleviation or children will be stunted both physically and intellectually.”

The World Economic Forum is a global community of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society. The forum is an independent international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation and has NGO consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Autism – An Epidemic Too Big To Ignore

During the years that the IOM reports were drafted, 2001 to 2004, more than 4,500 petitions for “vaccine injuries resulting in autism spectrum disorder”, piled up in an Omnibus Autism Proceeding with the US Court of Federal Claims.

Currently, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, with one in 166 US children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, up from 1 in 2500 a decade ago, and over 1.77 million affected.

In the last four years alone, the number of cases of autism has nearly doubled in California. “It is growing much faster than the growth of the population and other forms of childhood disabilities,” states Cliff Allenby, director of the State Department of Development Services.

A report by the independent Environmental Working Group issued in December 2004 found that autistic children had less glutathione, an antioxidant that helps rid the body of toxic metals, when compared to a sample of healthy children. The study, led by Jill James, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, found that a glutathione deficit “may contribute to the development and clinical manifestation of autism."

Autism is not a disease but a ‘condition' often characterized by a failure to bond, lack of social interaction, avoidance of eye-to-eye contact, difficulties in language development, and repetitive behaviors known as stimming (self-stimulation). Milder forms of autism are Asperger's Syndrome , Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder . Collectively they are known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.

States Take Matters Into Their Own Hands

After multiple congressional hearings on conflicts of interest within the vaccine industry and government, repeated IOM reports stating no link between vaccines and autism, and with no official FDA recall for mercury containing vaccines, US citizens and state legislators took matters into their own hands and in May 2004, Iowa became the first state to ban mercury in vaccines.

During the same three-year period the IOM committee reviewed its data on the vaccines and autism link, the Iowa Human Resources Committee reviewed scientific and biological data from independent researchers.

‘After three years of review, I became convinced there was sufficient credible research to show a link between mercury and the increased incidents in autism,' said Iowa Senator Ken Veenstra. ‘The fact that Iowa's 700 percent increase in autism began in the 90s, right after more and more vaccines were added to the children's vaccine schedules, is solid evidence alone…The IOM has not convinced me this action is not needed. I feel strongly we need to pursue a use of alternative vaccines.”

US Congressional Representative Dave Weldon, MD, (R-FL), called the IOM reports “heavily biased and unrepresentative of all the available scientific and medical research.” Weldon said the reports discounted the biological evidence presented by US Congressional investigative reports and university studies. It also discounted thousands of parent activists who pointed to the parallel increase in vaccination requirements and the rise in autism rates starting in the early 1990s.

California Governor Arnold Swcharzenegger signed his state's mercury ban last year and more than a dozen other states are currently considering their own bans.

Senate Bill 3 would seek to repeal the current states bans and to prohibit more states from enacting their own bans on mercury, a violation of the US Constitution's Tenth Amendment . (See side bar 4 for a complete list of the bill's proposals.)

Senate Bill 3 – Dissolution of Civil Rights?

Citing the IOM reports' green light to justify the act's proposed sweeping protections for the vaccine industry, the bill states that, “ After considering recent changes in the litigation environment with respect to vaccines as well as recent scientific evidence and reports by the Institute of Medicine (italics added) and others with respect to the safety of vaccines and their components and ingredients, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General shall, not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, jointly submit recommendations to the appropriate committees of Congress concerning necessary modifications to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and Federal rules regarding litigation involving vaccines.”

“The war on terror is a different kind of war and requires a different kind of preparedness,” US Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) said in a press release about the bill. “Specifically, this bill encourages development of products needed to protect the nation against biological, radiological or nuclear agents as well as infectious diseases. It expands the availability and accessibility of vaccines. Finally, it strengthens capacity and coordination, so we can respond effectively during public health emergencies.”

“This bill is labeled as an ‘anti-terror' bill, but it is power grab by the federal government and an assault on self-governance and the informed consent ethic. It takes away the freedom of the people to make their voices heard through their elected state representatives and protect themselves from unsafe drugs, such as Celebrex and Vioxx, and unsafe vaccines, such as those that contain high levels of mercury. It gives unprecedented liability protection to the drug industry and broad powers to federal officials to hide the truth from the people about vaccine and prescription drug risks,” said Barbara Loe Fisher, president of America's largest and oldest vaccine safety and consumer watchdog organization the National Vaccine Information Center.

“Protecting the public health was not delegated to the federal government and public health laws, including laws governing use of vaccines, have always been under the control of citizens residing in each state,” said Fisher. “The irony of this bill is that it is using the families of citizens who have given their lives to defend our nation's freedom in order to take rights and freedoms away from other families. Military veterans should not be used to protect the drug industry and take away the freedom for all Americans to have their voices heard through their elected state representatives… This bill does not serve justice or freedom.”

An internationally renowned bio-ethicist who has previously spoken on vaccine policy issues at the National Vaccine Information Center conference, told byronchild magazine that people should not be surprised by the contents of the IOM transcript or Senate Bill 3. ‘Old paradigms do not die easily,' he said. ‘This is just the nature of the beast.'

Related articles
Autism is treatable – hope that is real treatment that heals - by Lisa Reagan
Claiming our Sovereignty – by Kali Wendorf

Side Bar 1: Not The First Leaked Transcript

The 2001 IOM transcript is not the first to be leaked to the public. Another closed meeting transcript from June of 2000 recorded 53 scientists from the CDC, FDA, and the vaccine industry at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center in Georgia to review the findings of a statistically significant correlation between mercury-containing vaccines and neurological conditions.

The discovery was made by CDC employee Thomas Verstraeten, MD, using the CDC's own data. The meeting was not open to the public or announced in the Federal Register, and the CDC has still not made their findings public. Verstraeten has since left the CDC to work for a vaccine manufacturer in Belgium. He has also not responded to a US Congressional subpoena.

However the meeting transcript was included in the “Mercury in Medicine: Taking Unnecessary Risks?” report that was the result of a three year investigation by the US Congress' Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, Committee on Government Reform's Report published in April 2003.

The Simpsonwood meeting was presided over by Walter Orenstein, MD, the Director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC. Orenstein presented the public charge to the IOM committee on January 11, 2001, the day before the closed organizational meeting.

To read the Simpsonwood transcript

To read the Verstraeten study: http://www.nomercury.org/science/documents/ThimerosalVSDstudy001.pdf

Side Bar 2: Sweeping Ethics Reform to End Culture of Corruption?

Drug industry influence on medical research and practice and on the prescribing of drugs is pervasive. After a yearlong investigation into the “culture” of conflicts of interest between its scientists and manufacturers, on February 1, 2005, the National Institutes of Health, the US leading agency for medical research, announced a “sweeping ethics reform”.

Under the new rules which reversed a 1995 decision that allowed “moonlighting” between the scientists and industry, all NIH employees have been prohibited from engaging in employment with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, supported research institutions, including NIH grantees, health care providers and insurers. NIH employees were also required to sell their stock in any of the above.

In a “town hall” meeting for employees on February 3, 2005, NIH director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, announced the need for a summit of government and academic leaders to address conflicts of interest throughout American medical research as part of the ethics reform.

The NIH announcement came after a year-long investigation in to conflicts of interest and the “discovery, made by congressional investigators, that more than 100 NIH employees had not disclosed various relationships they had with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, in violation of government ethics rules” according to a Washington Post article on February 3, 2005.

"I came to the conclusion that we have a systemic problem," Zerhouni said in an LA Times interview on February 12, 2005. "They were not just isolated events. They reflected the complete set of rules that had been adopted over the years, which had transformed the culture. I said, if that's the case, let's bring back the culture to where it needs to be: That is, public first.

"That's the hardest part," he said. "It's easy to come up with regulations. It's not easy to change a culture."

To read the NIH report: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/feb2005/od-01.htm

Sidebar 3: Who is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3?

According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, these are some facts about Senator Bill Frist, MD:

• The basis of the Frist family fortune is the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, which was founded by Frist's father and brother.

• Frist and his wife have $26 million in HCA stock in a so-called “blind trust.”

• HCA has agreed to pay the federal government more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties, the largest health care settlement in history, for massive Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare billing fraud.

• Frist has gotten more than $2.3 million from doctors, health insurers, drug companies and others in the health care industry, roughly 20 percent of all the contributions to his two Senate races, raising more cash from health-care interests than 98 percent of his colleagues.

• Frist has voted against patients' rights to sue their HMOs for failure to provide adequate treatment while supporting tax subsidies to HMOs and insurance companies to offer prescription drugs to seniors, rather than providing them through Medicare. Frist has received $123,750 in campaign cash from HMOS.

• To date, Frist has received $265,023 from the pharmaceutical industry. The
pharmaceutical industry was also the largest single contributor to the National
Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that Frist chaired, giving about $4 million — and Lilly was the single biggest contributor to the GOP from that industry, having given $1.6 million in the last election cycle.

• In 2002, Frist engineered the insertion of a provision into the Homeland Security bill that would protect Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical giants from lawsuits over mercury in vaccines. Not long after Frist introduced the legislation, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's trade group, gave $10,000 to his political action committee.

This report from: http://www.centerjd.org/free/mythbusters-free/Frist.pdf

Side Bar 4: Senate Bill 3 – What It Could Do

Of major concern to vaccine safety and civil rights advocates are the following provisions in Senate Bill 3:

* Eliminates a state's right to more strictly regulate vaccines and drugs and more fully inform their citizens about vaccine and drug risks than does the federal government. Laws already passed in California and Iowa limiting mercury content in vaccines would be repealed.

* Gives comprehensive liability protections to drug companies. Eliminates a citizen's right to seek justice in state courts for drug and vaccine injuries and deaths and limits awards in federal courts. Gives tax credits, grants and patent extensions to the drug industry.

*Allows the Department of Health and Department of Justice, the defendants in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, to write the terms of their own defense in order to further limit awards to vaccine injured children.

* Creates and funds a mandatory, national electronic tracking system operated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to monitor vital records of citizens relating to both notifiable and non-notifiable diseases and "new trends" and "patterns in public health." Creates penalties for states and health care providers not reporting in a "timely manner" to the national tracking system. There are no provisions for mandatory reporting of serious health problems following vaccine and prescription drug use or punishments for not reporting serious side effects.

S. 3 is being promoted by sponsors as a military veteran benefit bill because it raises the death benefits and other financial support for the families of soldiers who lost their lives in the war in Iraq.

From the National Vaccine Information Center's website. For a point by point examination of the bill, visit the site at http://www.nvic.org/ActionAlerts/S3Article.htm .

For the actual bill: Senate Bill 3

A byronchild world exclusive report Release: March 7, 2005 Contact: Naomi Radunski,
Marketing and Strategy Byron Publications P/L
7 Palm Avenue Mullumbimby,
Within Australia phone : (02) 6684 4353
Outside Australia phone 61 2 6684 4353

“This article may be freely posted, reproduced and distributed with acknowledgement to both Lisa Reagan (author) and byronchild magazine (also list http://www.byronchild.com)If you do so, please notify byronchild magazine through Naomi Radunski and forward all copies (electronic and printed) to vaccine@byronpublications.com or the above postal address.
Click here to download the abridged version of this article in .pdf format

NB: Source of most documents http://www.nomercury.org

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Toxic Tipping Point - Mother Jones Article from 2004

Are the CDC, the FDA, and other health agencies covering up evidence that a mercury preservative in children's vaccines caused a rise in autism?

By Andrea Rock
Mother Jones March/April 2004 Issue

In August of 2001, Rita Shreffler of Nixa, Missouri, sent her son's baby tooth to a lab. A year earlier, nine-year-old Andy had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and Shreffler had just read a report in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggesting that such neurological disorders might be the result of mercury poisoning associated with an additive in children's vaccines.

Wayne Middleton, of Middleton Microbiological & Environmental Testing Laboratory, was so astonished at Andy's results that he even used his own children's baby teeth as controls. Andy's tooth registered a mercury level of 3,040 parts per billion. By comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency's limit for mercury in drinking water is 2 ppb, and the limit for mercury content in waste going into a landfill is 200 ppb.

"Wayne asked me how on earth Andy could have been exposed to so much mercury," recalls Shreffler. "When I explained that a vaccine preservative called thimerosal had exposed babies to excessive levels of mercury, he said that couldn't be true because he used to work for a lab that made animal vaccines, and thimerosal had been discontinued in vaccines for cattle back in the early 1990s. He was sure it wouldn't be allowed in children's vaccines."

He was wrong.

The Battle Lines

Did the use of a mercury preservative in vaccines directly contribute to the autism epidemic plaguing the country? And did federal health officials—fearful of liability facing their agencies and vaccine manufacturers, and loss of compliance with the federal vaccine program—put such concerns above the health of millions of infants? Are the recent studies discounting a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) and autism really rife with conflicts of interest and data manipulation? Or are the parents, researchers, and members of Congress who make such claims seeing conspiracies where none exist?

The stakes in this debate are high indeed. In 2002, an estimated 1 in 250 American children was diagnosed with autism, up from 1 in 500 in 2000, and 1 in 5,000 in the 1980s. If vaccine manufacturers and government agencies are found liable for neurological damage to millions of infants, TCV litigation could rival that of tobacco or asbestos. Currently, some 3,500 families of autistic children are slated to go before a special federal vaccine court—a step that Congress has required before they engage in any civil litigation, but one that will probably be just the first in a long legal battle.

The controversy began back in July 1999, when the American Academy of Pediatrics and federal health officials unexpectedly announced that thimerosal would be phased out of children's vaccines—a change, they insisted, that was purely precautionary. "The current levels of thimerosal will not hurt children," said then-AAP president Joel J. Alpert. "Reducing those levels will make safe vaccines even safer."

Prior to the AAP announcement, there had been no public outcry against TCVs. But there had been increasing concern about mercury in fish and other food, so much so that Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) authored a bill requiring the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate mercury levels in all food and drug products—including vaccines. This accounting unearthed a disturbing fact: Throughout the 1990s, as new TCVs were added to the list of a child's required shots, federal health officials had inadvertently nearly tripled the amount of mercury—a potent neurotoxin—being injected into some babies during a critical period for brain development. Astonishingly, as each new vaccine was added to the schedule, no one bothered to total up how many micrograms of mercury children would receive as a result. By 1999, a baby who received all recommended vaccines at her two-month checkup could be injected with up to 62.5 micrograms of mercury—118 times the EPA's limit for daily exposure. (These guidelines are based on methylmercury, while thimerosal contains ethylmercury; the difference regarding human toxicity is thus far unclear.) During the 1990s, when some 40 million children were vaccinated, the number of TCVs given to children nearly tripled, while autism rates inexplicably increased tenfold.

Though the public didn't know it, this discovery alarmed health officials. Consider a June 29, 1999, email sent by Peter Patriarca of the FDA, which licenses vaccines, to Martin Meyers, head of the CDC office that monitors vaccine safety and formulates immunization policy in concert with the AAP. Facing pressure from AAP vaccine expert Neal Halsey to assess and disclose the thimerosal problem, Patriarca said he feared the FDA would be criticized for being "'asleep at the switch' for decades by allowing a potentially hazardous compound to remain in many childhood vaccines and not forcing manufacturers to exclude it from new products." Noting that calculating the cumulative dose really involved nothing more complicated than ninth-grade math, Patriarca posed the questions he feared would be asked: "What took the FDA so long to do the calculations? Why didn't CDC and the advisory bodies do these calculations when they rapidly expanded the childhood immunization schedule?"

Transcripts of CDC meetings show that officials compounded this remarkable lapse in oversight with concerted efforts to minimize both the extent of the problem and any liability their agencies faced. "We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits," noted one CDC adviser, "and I am concerned." Regulators chose not to act aggressively to reduce infants' exposure to thimerosal, and as a result TCVs mandated for infants remained on the U.S. market until November 2002. (The CDC and FDA refused Mother Jones' requests for interviews, as did vaccine makers, citing pending litigation.)

"You would think the CDC and FDA would be totally mobilized," says Rep. David Weldon (R-Fla.), "that they would be making rapid efforts to get mercury out of all the vaccines, bringing in independent scientists to study this, and really doing a very thorough investigation. But their response has been totally inadequate."

As a conservative and a physician, Weldon is an unlikely critic of either the vaccine program or of pharmaceutical companies. But he sat on the Committee on Government Reform, and when its then chairman, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), was prompted by his grandson's autism diagnosis to investigate the risks posed by mercury in vaccines, Weldon found himself listening to three years of testimony on the subject. Now, like many parents of autistic children and a growing number of scientists, he believes that exposure to thimerosal among infants born with a heightened sensitivity to mercury or an inability to excrete it could have contributed to the autism epidemic.

Dr. Weldon is also troubled by what he described in a November 2003 letter to CDC director Julie Gerberding as a "disturbing pattern" of collusion among vaccine-program officials, the pharmaceutical industry, and others with a vested interest in minimizing liability. Weldon specifically addressed a just-published and much-publicized Pediatrics article that analyzed CDC vaccine data and claimed there was no consistent link between TCVs and autism. Weldon's review of the study revealed the "appearance of selective use of data to make the associations…disappear." He also noted that Pediatrics failed to mention that the study's author now works for a vaccine maker facing liability and instead identified him as still being a CDC employee, which "undermines this study further."

Weldon also asked that the CDC provide all its vaccine data to independent researchers, which thus far it has been unwilling to do. "If it is eventually determined that an entire generation of kids was essentially poisoned, a class-action suit against the federal government could be on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, and so there's very good reason for them to try to cover this up," says Weldon. "And then when they appear as though they are covering it up, it makes you suspicious that it's all true."

Between the Cracks

ANYONE WHO RECALLS the stinging sensation of having a skinned knee painted with a reddish-orange antiseptic called Merthiolate has an intimate acquaintance with thimerosal, simply another name for the bacteria-killing compound developed by Eli Lilly in 1929. Early internal safety data on injections containing thimerosal were not encouraging. In 1935, for example, a researcher reported to Lilly that adverse reactions indicated that thimerosal was "unsatisfactory as a preservative for serum intended for use on dogs."

Yet that same year, thimerosal began to be added to childhood vaccines. Mostly it was used in large, multidose vials in which contamination can arise from repeated needle re-entry. Individually bottled vaccines don't require preservatives but are more expensive, and a mercury-free preservative has been used by one pediatric vaccine maker since 1997; but in 1999 most infant vaccines used in the United States contained thimero-sal (as, indeed, some flu and booster shots—and most infant vaccines used in the developing world—still do).

Back in 1935, the FDA didn't yet regulate drugs and vaccines. But even once it did, remarkably, thimerosal was never required to undergo clinical testing. When FDA officials asked Lilly for safety data in 1973, shortly before reviewing thimerosal's use in over-the-counter products, Lilly's director of regulatory affairs responded, "[I]t would be difficult to get recognized researchers to conduct new studies for safety or efficacy. They believe that over 40 years of wide usage has proven efficacy and safety beyond that which could be done in special studies." Nine years later, FDA officials recommended pulling over-the-counter products containing thimero-sal from the market, though 16 years passed before they were. And, still, its use in vaccines went unexamined. Thimerosal also continued to bypass toxicity testing, even after federal regulations for reviewing vaccines required it. "The absence of appropriate preclinical testing of thimerosal is a staggering oversight," FDA drug reviewer Dr. Eric Colman wrote in 2002, after his son was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder.

The Tipping Point?

WHEN AUTISM WAS FIRST RECOGNIZED as a neurological disorder in 1954, the symptoms described were essentially the same as those currently used for diagnosis of classic autism: severely limited speech, impaired social interaction, and repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping. Today, the broader autistic spectrum includes less severe forms in which some children may speak but have unusual behaviors and learning disabilities, or have high IQs but difficulty with social interaction, a common characteristic of Asperger's syndrome.

Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim once convinced doctors that autism was attributable to the bad parenting of "refrigerator moms." After that theory was scrapped, autism was assumed to be an unavoidable genetic fate. But the exponential rate increases have led more and more scientists to suspect that autism might result from an interplay between genetic vulnerability and nongenetic causes, says Harvard pediatric neuroscientist Dr. Martha Herbert. "This new line of investigation calls for a knowledge of toxicology, genetic individuality, and biochemistry much more detailed than most current autism researchers possess."

Those who believe in the thimerosal/autism theory suggest that the precise form the disease takes simply reflects the degree of mercury exposure. Vaccines are just one pathway for mercury to reach and accumulate in the fetal or infant brain, but a high exposure at a key time might—especially for children genetically ill- disposed to flush the toxin—be the tipping point. For infants born to women with high mercury consumption, AAP vaccine-policy expert Neal Halsey commented back in 1999, "no one knows what dose of mercury, if any, from vaccines is safe.… We can say there is no evidence of harm, but the truth is no one has looked."

After the AAP announcement, a group of parents founded Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders, or Safe Minds. Many members of Safe Minds (and other groups) are doctors, nurses, and researchers who stress that they are "anti-mercury, not anti-vaccine," says board member Mark Blaxill. "Virtually every step forward of any consequence with respect to the scientific agenda has come from parents. This is a new phenomenon: direct scientific activism by parents using their own professional skills to aggressively take on anyone who makes arguments based on sloppy science to try to make this problem go away."

In 2001, two Safe Minds board members, Lyn Redwood, a nurse, and Sallie Bernard, a market researcher, published a study in the journal Medical Hypotheses that detailed overlaps between symptoms of autism and those of mercury toxicity. They noted, for example, that a brand of teething powder containing mercury was popular until the 1950s, when a doctor finally connected it to Pink's disease, which had symptoms similar to autism. Once the teething powder was removed from the market, Pink's disease disappeared.

Blaxill himself published a paper in the April 2003 Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders that outlined errors made in a study by public-health experts who argued that the rise in autism rates could be partly accounted for by diagnostic substitution, i.e., children previously categorized as mentally retarded now diagnosed as autistic. Blaxill's analysis prompted the study's authors to concede that his criticisms were valid. A partner in a leading business-strategy firm, Blaxill says that he "learned to be skeptical of 'experts'" in his business. "I'm not intimidated by numbers or science," he says. "I know how people can lie with numbers, and if there's one thing I'm good at doing, it's taking those numbers apart to find the truth. The CDC has been lying with numbers regularly."

Blaxill also contributed to a study led by Louisiana physician Amy Holmes, who is the mother of an autistic child, which analyzed mercury levels in samples collected from baby hair. The August 2003 International Journal of Toxicology study revealed that healthy children excreted eight times more mercury via their hair than did autistic children. In fact, the more severe a child's autistic symptoms, the less mercury was excreted in her hair, indicating that mercury also could be retained in the child's tissue, including her brain.

Because mercury crosses the placental barrier, the study also examined maternal exposure to mercury via food, dental fillings, and the thimerosal-containing Rho D immunoglobulin injections typically given to Rh-negative women—16 percent of the population—during pregnancy. Prior to the mid-1980s, an Rh-negative woman was given this injection only after delivery to prevent complications that can occur if the baby is Rh-positive. But Rh-negative women now receive Rho D injections at 28 or 34 weeks, and any time there is a chance of a mother's blood mixing with the baby's—after undergoing amniocentesis, for instance. The study found that nearly half of the autistic children's mothers had received Rho D injections, compared with only 9 percent in the control group. In addition, 37 percent of mothers in the autistic group also had 10 or more fillings containing mercury, compared with only 18 percent in the control group. The authors suggest that the near absence of mercury in hair samples of autistic infants despite higher exposure indicates that TCVs could be the last straw for children whose ability to excrete mercury is impaired or who are near a dangerous threshold due to maternal exposure.

But it's not just parents who are conducting important research about thimerosal. Boyd Haley, a University of Kentucky biochemist who researches heavy-metal neurotoxicology, explains that APO-E—a protein crucial in carrying mercury out of the body—comes in three varieties, ranging from one that can carry out two atoms of mercury for every molecule of APO-E, to the least protective version, APO-E4, which doesn't carry out any. Both autistics and Alzheimer's patients tend to have APO-E4. "There is clearly a subpopulation of people who can't excrete even low levels of mercury effectively," says Haley. He also found evidence that may explain why for every autistic girl, there are four autistic boys. When he added estrogen to a petri dish of thimerosal and brain cells, the hormone reduced the rate of brain cells killed by thimerosal, whereas adding testosterone dramatically increased the death rate. Based on his results, Haley says no level of mercury can be considered a "safe dose" for infants.

Haley—whose thimerosal research was tangential to what he's best known for, developing successful diagnostic tests for Alzheimer's—says that once he published the risks of mercury in vaccines and dental fillings, he found himself turned down for NIH grants, after being consistently funded for decades. "People told me I would have funding problems if I worked on mercury, and they were right," Haley says.

Richard Deth, a Northeastern University pharmacologist, has found that even low levels of thimerosal affect a critical neural pathway regulating brain-cell growth. When Deth submitted his study to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he said he was rejected on the grounds that it hadn't met standards for "exceptional importance and novelty." Deth was dumbfounded: "I keep hearing from public-health officials that there is no scientific basis to support a connection between thimerosal exposure and autism. Yet here I am bringing it to you and it's not considered important?"

"We are treated all too often," says a researcher who insists that anonymity equals continued funding, "to patronizing remarks by researchers about 'hysterical parents' who 'can't accept their child's genetic fate'; highly publicized but methodologically weak and conflict-of-interest-ridden studies that claim to definitely refute any role for various vaccines in the increased rates of autism but raise no alarms about the increased rates themselves; and a press blackout on subsequent critiques and refutations."

Rep. Weldon has heard similar complaints from other researchers and is examining whether the NIH peer-review system has become as politicized as they contend. "I've heard that if you start wading into this," he says, "you can ruin your career."

Protect the Herd

Why would there be a backlash against researchers who investigate the interplay between TCVs and autism? Aside from liability issues and conflicts of interest (more on that later), the medical establishment is deeply protective of the national vaccine program, and "herd immunity"—ensuring that the highest number of people are vaccinated—is key to preventing diseases such as polio and rubella, which the program has been so successful in stamping out. And the anti-thimerosal lobby tends to get lumped in with the anti-vaccine movement, which threatens the herd.

In March 2003, a Pediatrics paper by Dr. Karin B. Nelson, a neurological researcher at NIH, and Dr. Margaret Bauman, a Harvard neuropathologist, challenged the thimero-sal/autism link first publicized by Safe Minds' Bernard and Redwood. They pointed out that there is no clear evidence that the ethylmercury in thimerosal has the same ability as the methylmercury found in fish to cross from the blood to the brain. (NIH researchers now studying thimerosal say it does but is flushed from the body much quicker and thus might not be as cumulatively toxic.) The Pediatrics paper also questioned whether autism increases are indeed real: "There has clearly been a broadening of the criteria for autism, better case-finding, increased awareness by clinicians and by families, and an increase in referrals…. Whether the sum of these is sufficient to account for the more frequent diagnosis of autism is a matter of contention and is properly settled by careful research."

But careful epidemiological research is being done by the state of California, where classic autism diagnoses nearly doubled between 1998 and 2002, and are 6.3 times higher than in 1987. The state commissioned a study to see if the increases could be explained by factors suggested in Pediatrics. Investigators, led by University of California-Davis epidemiologist Dr. Robert S. Byrd, verified all diagnoses and ruled out all alternative explanations except for better case finding and increased public awareness, which they didn't study. "That could be a contributing factor," says Byrd, "but for hyperawareness to explain the increases we've seen, we would have had to be missing 2 out of 3 cases of autism, so I don't think that's a plausible explanation....The increase we are seeing is real and unexplained."

An Interpretive Dance

As the court dates draw closer, a flurry of studies both to disprove and support the thimerosal/autism link has been released. Typically they have been criticized by one side or the other as conducted by researchers with a bias or conflict of interest. And some rely on small sample sizes that can be easily dismissed. Which is why the latest flash point is over what could be a comprehensive source of data. Several HMOs are paid by the federal government to provide children's immunization and medical records for the CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink, a database used to track pos-sible adverse side effects of vaccines. After the discovery that mercury levels had exceeded EPA guidelines, the CDC's Thomas Verstraeten reviewed medical records of 110,000 children. A confidential February 29, 2000, version of his report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed that the "relative risk" for autism in infants receiving 62.5 micrograms or more of mercury by the age of three months (as had most children abiding by the vaccine schedule) was 2.48 times higher than in infants who did not. In courts of law, a relative risk of 2.0 or higher has been considered sufficient proof that a given exposure causes disease. The figure was especially significant given that autism is typically not diagnosed until after age three, and 40 percent of the children in the study were younger.

Yet these findings were never published or even disclosed to CDC advisory-committee members. Prior to a meeting of the committee in June 2000 to discuss the report, CDC officials apparently added to the study's database children born with congenital disorders (who had previously been excluded) and two groups of babies not yet one year old. Such statistical adjustment reduced the relative risk for autism to 1.69, comfortably below the legal threshold for causation. The lower number was provided to the CDC's advisory-committee members.

Nevertheless, as a transcript of that meeting reveals, even the adjusted results—which still showed statistically significant relationships between thimerosal exposure and subsequent diagnoses of attention deficit disorder, language and speech delays, and a host of other neurodevelopmental problems—startled committee members.

When one member asked Verstraeten why risks of neurodevelopmental problems were higher in children with greater exposure to thimerosal, he replied, "Personally, I have three hypotheses: My first hypothesis is it is parental bias: The children that are more likely to be vaccinated are more likely to be picked up and diagnosed. Second hypothesis: I don't know—there is a bias that I have not recognized, and nobody has yet told me about it. Third hypothesis: It's true—it's thimerosal."

Asked by another member whether that third hypothesis was clearly biologically plausible, Verstraeten responded, "When I saw this, and I went back through the literature, I was actually stunned by what I saw, because I thought it was plausible."

Bill Weil, a pediatrician representing the AAP's environmental-health committee, noted, "There are just a host of neurodevelopmental data that would suggest that we've got a serious problem.… The number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before."

"Forgive this personal comment," added Dr. Richard Johnston, a Colorado immunologist, "but I got called out for an emergency call and my daughter-in-law delivered a son by C-section. Our first male in the next generation, and I do not want that grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on."

Verstraeten's results also worried committee member Robert Brent, a developmental biologist and pediatrician from Thomas Jefferson University. "The medical/legal find- ings in this study, causal or not, are horrendous, and therefore, it is important that the suggested epidemiological, pharmacokinetic, and animal studies be performed," Brent said. "If an allegation was made that a child's neurobehavioral findings were caused by thimerosal-containing vaccines, you could readily find a junk scientist who would support the claim with 'a reasonable degree of certainty.' But you will not find a scientist with any integrity who would say the reverse with the data that is available…. So we are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits if they were initiated, and I am concerned."

Perhaps because of such concerns, the committee decided to go along with the CDC's view that it should refrain from stating a preference for thimerosal-free vaccines. The fear was that such a statement would discourage physicians and clinics from using existing inventories, and immunization rates might fall if thimerosal-free versions weren't available everywhere. But the financial impact to manufacturers was mentioned three times by the CDC's Roger Bernier. "It could entail financial losses of inventory if current vaccine inventory is wasted," he said. "It could harm one or more manufacturers and may then decrease the number of suppliers."

Transcripts also reveal that some members of the committee went on to discuss various ways to "push" and "pull" the data further. Weldon and other critics allege that's just what happened. When the final version of the study was published in the November 2003 Pediatrics, Verstraeten—who'd since left the CDC to work for vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline—claimed he had found "no consistent significant associations between TCVs and neurodevelopmental outcomes."

Writing to the CDC director, Rep. Weldon says that given the appearance of data ma-nipulation and conflict of interest, the CDC should open up its entire vaccine database to independent scientists. He notes that geneticist Dr. Mark Geier paid the CDC for data sets, only to be given many with no usable data—treatment Weldon characterizes as "abysmal and embarrassing." Overall, he later wrote, "I have lost confidence in the ability of the CDC officials to give an honest evaluation of the matters at hand."

Thanks to Weldon's intervention, Geier has now been able to use the CDC database to compare autism rates among more than 85,000 children who received a TCV for diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis (DTaP) with rates among nearly 70,000 children who got the thimerosal-free version. In the TCV group, the risk of autism was 27 times higher. Geier's analysis is before two journals. Meanwhile, Dr. Walter Spitzer, a highly respected epidemiologist, has reviewed it and says, "This is important and needs to get out immediately. I see no major flaws. It is sound epidemiologically."

"Denying the existence of the tragic, massive autism epidemic will neither cure the problem nor restore confidence in our much-needed vaccine program," says Geier. "Rather, we must admit our past mistakes openly and honestly and then work to improve current and future vaccines. The first step is the removal of thimerosal from all vaccines, which we predict will result in the end of the autism epidemic."

Full-Court Press

And that's the true test of the thimerosal theory: Will rates of autism and related disorders decline in the years ahead? In May 2003 the AAP stated, "All routinely recommended infant vaccines currently sold in the U.S. are free of thimerosal as a preservative and have been for more than two years." Yet because the FDA maintained it did not have the scientific evidence to justify a recall of thimerosal, vials distributed prior to the introduction of thimerosal-free versions were allowed to remain on the market until they became outdated. That means that regularly mandated TCVS were still available until November 2002. And injections of Rho D containing 10.5 micrograms of mercury per dose were on the shelves until April 2003, even though Rho D was produced in single-dose vials that don't require a preservative. "Because the FDA chose not to recall thimerosal-containing vaccines in 1999," the House Committee on Government Reform April 2003 report concludes, "in addition to all of those already injured, 8,000 children a day continued to be placed at risk for overdose for at least an additional two years."

This timetable is crucial to the coming legal battle. If federal health officials had ordered the removal of thimerosal by a specific date, there would be a clear line in the sand to definitively indicate whether exposure promoted neurological damage. As it is, the beginning of a trend may be detectable in 2004, but due to the typical age of diagnosis, a full assessment won't be possible until late 2008 or early 2009.

Meanwhile, though, the federal vaccine injury court is seeking to determine whether sufficient evidence exists that thimerosal caused harm to the children in the 3,500 cases before it. The court was created in 1988 to prevent drug companies from abandoning manufacturing vaccines due to rising liability costs. Before suing manufacturers, families must file claims through the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which awards damages from a fund financed by a fee tacked on to each vaccine's price. A team of special masters hears claims; the federal government is represented by the Justice Department. Regardless of the outcome, families can then move to civil court. In November 2002, the Justice Department asked the vaccine court to seal all documents in the autism cases; only days earlier, congressional Republicans had sneaked a provision into the homeland security bill that would shield Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies from civil suits over thimerosal. Both moves were thwarted by public outcry from parents' groups. Still, because government agencies and industry have been recalcitrant about handing over documents, the discovery process has stalled and families are starting to be allowed to move to civil court.

If the thimerosal theory starts to gain traction in court, the cost to the $8 billion-a-year industry could be gigantic. Approximately 40 million American children were immunized in the 1990s. If current rates hold true, roughly 160,000 will be diagnosed with classic autism, another 270,000 with autistic spectrum disorders, and as many as 2 million with pervasive developmental disorders.

But whether or not thimerosal is found to be instrumental in the problems facing any of these children, the systemic flaws that allowed mercury levels in vaccines to exceed federal guidelines must be fixed. In a move observers consider highly significant, former AAP official Neal Halsey also wrote a letter to Pediatrics criticizing Verstraeten's study. In it, he suggests that an independent scientific body should review the data and take charge of evaluating vaccine safety. Having the CDC recommending vaccines and assessing their safety, Halsey has said, "is a problem."

And while the immunization program is laudable, zeal for full compliance sometimes backfires. In an email sent to AAP officials back in 1999, Ruth Etzel of the Department of Agriculture made that point eloquently: "As you know, the Public Health Service informed us yesterday that they were planning to conduct business as usual and would probably indicate no preference for either product. While the Public Health Service may think that their 'product' is immunizations, I think their 'product' is their recommendations. If the public loses faith in the PHS recommendations, then the immunization battle will falter. To keep faith, we must be open and honest now and move forward quickly to replace these products."

The jury is still out as to whether thimero-sal injections caused the autism epidemic or whether the concern over ethylmercury will expose methylmercury or another compound to be the true culprit. But what is certain—as evidenced by a 10-year interagency push to study all possible causes of autism announced last November—is that researchers and policymakers are no longer dismissive of environmental factors. "To cling to a purely genetic explanation for autism is a desperate attempt to maintain the illusion that one lives in a comfortable and rational world where new chemicals and technologies always mean progress; experts are always objective and thorough; corporations are honest; and authorities can be trusted," says Harvard's Martha Herbert. "That human actions, rather than genes, might be responsible for compromising the health of a significant proportion of a whole generation is so painful as to be, for many, unthinkable."

Soon, however, jurors will be joining the ranks of those who've been forced to give the matter some very serious thought.

Andrea Rock received the National Magazine Award for journalism in the public interest for her article documenting the failure of both the blood-bank industry and public-health officials to cope with the spread of HIV via blood transfusions and products. Her new book, The Mind at Night, explores recent scientific research about how and why we dream and what that reveals about the brain in waking consciousness.

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