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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Age of Autism: Adverse events


Years before the alarm sounded nationwide about a possible link between vaccines and autism, some doctors were making that connection themselves.

The evidence: 83 reports filed with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System associating the onset of autism with childhood immunizations. The reports, compiled and catalogued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, were analyzed by Age ofAutism.

A report from 1992 listed Feb. 21 as both "vaccination date" and "adverse event date" for a 1-year-old boy: "Patient received MMR vaccination (measles-mumps-rubella) and experienced fever, autistic behaviors, encephalitic condition, began to tune out; sound sensitivity,hand-flapping, wheel-spinning, nighttime sweats, appetite increase."

The child's diagnoses included autism, encephalopathy (brain swelling), mental retardation, personality disorder and speech disorder.

Another report: Two days after being vaccinated in August 1994 a 1-year-old girl experienced "low fever, much discomfort. Patient laid in bed and cried and moaned; three-four days post-vaccination, rash traveled over patient's body and lasted at least one week. Within six weeks of vaccination patient was observed as losing previously gained language and social skills; diagnosed autistic."

The reports do not prove that any of the autism cases resulted from vaccination. Rather, their potential significance is that a number of qualified observers -- primarily doctors and other health professionals -- suspected a connection and made the effort to report it well before the issue was on the national radar.

In July 1999 the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that manufacturers begin phasing out a mercury-based preservative that was in several childhood vaccines. The concern: As the number of required vaccinations expanded around 1990, children inadvertently gottoo much mercury, a known neurotoxin.

Since then federal health officials, along with a panel of the Institute of Medicine, have dismissed the concern as unfounded. But some scientists and parent groups continue to assert that childhoodimmunizations are behind a major rise in autism diagnoses.

The adverse-event reports examined by Age of Autism were sent to VAERS between June 1991 and June 1999 -- the month before the CDCrecommendation to phase out thimerosal.

Based on a 1994 report by a California physician, 10 of the 83 cases are unknown children "who received vaccination and (were) diagnosed with autism and encephalopathy." That doctor reported "there are currently 10 cases of autism in children who received DPT/OPV/MMR at 15-18 months." (The reference is to the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, polio and MMRvaccines.)

That report also cites a statement from an unidentified vaccine manufacturer: "Dr. ... is not treating physician and does not possess any original records; unclear whether reporter is suggesting possiblecausal association."

The following excerpts start with the date the report was received by VAERS and the age of the child when vaccinated. The type of vaccine is not always clear and is indicated here only when specified in the eventnarrative. Medical abbreviations are spelled out for clarity.

Since 1999, the federal government's vaccine databases have come under scrutiny from critics who charge they have been manipulated to show no connection between vaccines and autism. They also say the CDC has a built-in conflict of interest because it sets the universal childhood immunization schedule that is then adopted by the states.

The agency vigorously defends its research and denies that its role in vaccination policy compromises its objectivity.

Last week Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said he plans to seek funding for an independent review of another CDC vaccine database.

"Part of what I'm going to require in this amendment we're going to put up is that the independent studies not only look at the data, but actually talk to some of the -- examine some of the kids and families to go over family histories," Lieberman said.

This ongoing series on the roots and rise of autism welcomes reader comment. E-mail: dolmsted@upi.com

Posted by Becca

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