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For Immediate Release
March 3, 1998
PARENT GROUPS AND VACCINE POLICYMAKERS CLASH OVER RESEARCH INTO VACCINES, AUTISM AND INTESTINAL DISORDERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Responding to newswire stories in which vaccine policymakers at the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics attempted to discredit a study published in the Feb. 27 The Lancet reporting a new syndrome involving inflammatory bowel disease and autism in children following viral infection or MMR vaccination, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) called the attack on the British scientists "a threat to independent scientific research and the public health."
Two parent research organizations, including Autism Research Institute and Cure Autism Now foundation (CAN), who support research into all potential causes of autism, joined with NVIC in calling for independent studies conducted by non-governmental researchers into the possible link between vaccines and autism using a portion of the one billion dollars appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) every year to create, buy and promote vaccines. NVIC is also calling on federal health agencies to publish an article in the medical literature detailing the prospective case controlled clinical trials and other safety data used to license the live MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and recommend a second dose of measles vaccine for all children.
The object of the attack by US vaccine policymakers were 13 British scientists, led by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, M.D., who reported that they studied 12 previously normal children between three and 10 years old who developed severe intestinal disorders. Eight of the 12 children also developed behavior problems and developmental delays diagnosed as autism, with the parents or the child's physician reporting the health problems began soon after MMR vaccination. Five of the children had a history of previous reactions to vaccination before receiving the MMR shot that was associated with a marked deterioration in their health.
The team of British scientists, who have announced they have investigated more than 40 other cases of children suffering from the same syndrome, emphasized in the published study that they were not claiming to have proved a cause and effect relationship between MMR vaccine and the children's health problems. They are calling for more studies to resolve the question of whether persistent viral infection, either from natural disease or live virus vaccines, can cause disregulation in the absorption of diet peptides leading to chronic inflammation of the bowel and damage to central nervous system development in some children.
Federal public health officials and vaccine policymakers in the American Academy of Pediatrics quickly jumped on Wakefield and his colleagues and attempted to publicly discredit the study. In an editorial published in the same issue of The Lancet, federal health officials Robert Chen and Frank De Stefano charged that "vaccine safety concerns such as that reported by Wakefield and colleagues may snowball" when the public and the media "confuse association with causality and shun immunization."
The CDC officials discounted the study's importance and suggested the children's health problems following vaccination were "coincidental" and not caused by vaccination. This was followed by a Reuter's newswire story on Feb. 27 that quoted AAP physician vaccine policymaker Neal Halsey saying it was "highly inappropriate" for the British scientists to discuss a possible association between the children's health problems and measles or MMR vaccines in their study. A leading proponent of mandatory measles vaccination, Halsey conducted studies in the third world using an experimental high potency measles vaccine that were eventually halted after the discovery of an excess of number of deaths in girl children who had been given the experimental measles vaccine.
Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, said that "for 15 years we have been hearing from parents and reporting to the government that children are dying and getting very sick after being vaccinated. It is tragic that vaccine policymakers in the government and the private sector would prematurely condemn independent clinical and basic science research which could lead to the identification of children perhaps genetically or otherwise at high risk of being injured by vaccines. The kind of cutting edge research that Dr. Wakefield has undertaken could lead to screening techniques and therapies for these children. We need more science and less stonewalling. Parents are outraged and they should be."
The incidence of autism and other chronic immune and neurological dysfunction in children has climbed dramatically in the US in the past 30 years. One in 1,000 children now diagnosed as autistic, making autism more prevalent among children than childhood cancer, multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis. Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., founder and director of Autism Research Institute and founder of the Autism Society of America, said "It is ludicrous to claim that the link between many cases of autism and vaccination is just coincidental. Dr. Wakefield's group has greatly expanded our understanding of one possible mechanism. The blunt truth is that some children are harmed by vaccinations. Research, not denial, is the proper response to this report."
Portia Iverson, founder and president of CAN, the Cure Autism Now foundation said "Approximately one-half of the hundreds of parents who call our office each month report that their child became autistic shortly after receiving a vaccination. While some of the criticism launched at Wakefield's preliminary results is valid in that, yes, the onset of epilepsy, autism and other developmental disorders often do occur at the same time vaccines are routinely given - isn't it the responsibility of the government to take a proactive position on behalf of these children rather than a defensive one? A more consumer protective response would be to conduct a scientific investigation that proves or disproves the association rather than to discredit the preliminary report of such an association and the reports by thousands of parents."
Although more than one billion dollars is appropriated by Congress every year to federal health agencies to develop new vaccines, buy vaccines and promote the use of vaccines, none of that money is used to fund independent, non-governmental researchers to investigate why and how some children develop serious health problems following vaccination. After the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 was passed, NVIC began calling for basic science research studies into the biological mechanism of vaccine injury and death as well as large controlled studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children for all morbidity and mortality outcomes over time to answer basic science questions about vaccine-associated immune and neurological dysfunction.
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) in Vienna, Virginia is a non-profit, educational organization founded in 1982 by parents whose children were injured or died following vaccination. The largest and oldest consumer vaccine safety advocacy organization, NVIC handles thousands of requests for information as well as vaccine injury reports every year and has 25,000 supporters in the U.S. and around the world. The Autism Research Institute founded in 1967 in San Diego, California conducts research and disseminates scientific information on autism and has the world's largest database on autistic children with more than 30,000 cases in 60 countries. Cure Autism Now foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, California was founded in 1995 and has 15,000 supporters nationwide and is currently the largest non-governmental funding agency for biomedical research into autism.
The National Vaccine Information Center is a non-profit educational organization founded by parents of vaccine-injured children in 1982.