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Posts Tagged ‘Autism and Vaccines’

By Alison Singer

Over the past two days, members of our team have been in Philadelphia, where a coalition of non profit organizations has come together for the 2nd annual “Social Media Summit” to learn about social media and improve our communications with the families who rely on our organizations for accurate, timely information. As part of this summit, all of the organizations created a new suite of online resources focusing on the importance of immunization.

The new initiative is called “Real Guys Immunize”. It was created in 24 hours, as an instructional vehicle for those of us at the conference, as a salute to dads who work so hard to protect their families, and also as a way to share important information about the fact that vaccines save lives.  As an autism advocacy organization, we supported the choice of this topic since in many instances parents still cite concerns about vaccines causing autism (Pediatrics, April 2010). As a result, children are being left unprotected from diseases that can be deadly, and we are seeing a resurgence of vaccine preventable disease, such as pertussis, that have not been in the United States in decades.  “Real Guys Immunize” will provide facts and debunk rumors.

http://www.vaccinatenow.org/realguysimmunize
http://facebook.com/guysimmunize
http://twitter.com/guysimmunize
http://youtube.com/user/RealGuysImmunize

Take some time to check out all the great information posted within the last 24 hours and then watch for improvements to the Autism Science Foundation’s own social media activities. We have learned a lot in the last two days and can’t wait to put all the great ideas and social media tools into action to improve the way we disseminate autism research news to our ASF families.  

PS: I fear this blog post does not meet even the minimum standards as outlined in the seminar “to blog or not to blog”. Here are a few items on the checklist:

Have you included something funny?  I’ve been to Philadelphia about a dozen times this year and on this trip I finally got to see the Liberty Bell. Yes, it was all it is cracked up to be.  (ok, attempt at funny)

Have you included a personal anecdote? While in Philadelphia I had dinner at what just may be the best tapas restaurant ever.

Have you shown humility in your post?  My sense of direction being what it is, I cannot for the life of me tell you where the tapas restaurant is. Somewhere in Philadelphia is the best I can do.

Have you included links to high quality, highly relevant sites that add value to your post?  Yes, but don’t ask if I have optimized them for search engines or inserted title tags.  #SMSPhilly

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We highly recommend PBS’s “The Vaccine War” which aired last night on PBS. In a rare display of tv news common sense, one side is simply declared to be wrong. The science is very clear; vaccines do not cause autism and it’s time to move on from this well debunked myth and find out what does.

 
The show features interviews with ASF Board Member Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Arthur Caplan, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Cynthia Cristofani, Dr. Anders Hviid & Dr. Eric Fombonne, as well as with actress Jenny McCarthy and JB Handley of Generation Rescue. 
 
“Scientifically, I think the matter is settled,” says Anders Hviid, an epidemiologist at the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark. In one of the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological studies available, Hviid and colleagues analyzed data on more than a half million children and found no link between the MMR “triple shot” for measles, mumps and rubella and an increased rate of autism — a link that’s been strongly asserted for years by anti-vaccine activists. Similar epidemiological studies in Denmark also failed to reveal a link between the mercury preservative thimerosal and autism. In fact, around the world, peer-reviewed epidemiological studies have found no link between autism and either the MMR shot or thimerosal.
 
You can watch the full episode online or check local listings, as we’re told by PBS that the show will air multiple times this week.  

View scientific studies regarding autism and vaccines here

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The award winning “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure” by Dr. Paul Offit, was released today in paperback. 
 
Opponents of vaccines have taken the autism story hostage,” Dr. Offit says. “They don’t speak for all parents of autistic kids, they use fringe scientists and celebrities, they’ve set up cottage industries of false hope, and they’re hurting kids. Parents pay out of their pockets for dangerous treatments, they take out second mortgages to buy hyperbaric oxygen chambers. It’s just unconscionable.”
 
The paperback edition includes a great new preface by Dr. Offit in which he describes parent reaction to the book. “After publication-an event that I thought would only galvanize those who disliked me-I received hundreds and hundreds of letters and emails from parents of children with autism thanking me. Some had been on the fence and were now convinced by the science presented in the book. But many never believed that vaccines had caused their children’s autism and were angry at those who did. “Jenny McCarthy presumes to represent me,” one mom wrote, “but she doesn’t.” They were the Silent Majority of autism parents-a group that the media had consistently ignored.” 
 
If you haven’t read this book yet you need to! And if you have, order a lightweight paperback copy or give one as a gift, because Dr Offit, who serves on ASF’s board of directors, has generously agreed to donate all royalties from this book to the Autism Science Foundation.  Order yours today! 

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ABC World News Tonight  (includes interview with ASF Board Member Dr. Paul Offit)

USA Today

New York Times

National Public Radio

Reuters

LA Times

CBS Evening News (includes interview with ASF President Alison Singer)

View scientific studies regarding autism and vaccines here

Read a summary of the King case here (from Kathleen Seidel at Neurodiversity.com)

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By Alison Singer

This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (i.e. Vaccine Court) issued its decision on whether thimerosal-containing vaccines can cause autism.  The decision, handed down by three Special Masters, was a resounding “NO!”.

From King: “This case is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories…based upon all the evidence that I have reviewed, I find that it is extremely unlikely that Jordan’s autism was in any way causally connected to his thimerosal-containing vaccines. In short, this is a case in which the evidence is so one-sided that any nuances in the interpretation of the causation case law would make no difference to the outcome of the case.

From Dwyer: “In an effort to render irrelevant the numerous epidemiological studies of ASD and TCVs (thimerosal containing vaccines) that show no connection between the two, they contend that their children have a form of ASD involving regression that differs from all other forms biologically and behaviorally. World-class experts in the field testified that the distinctions they drew between forms of ASD were artificial, and that they had never heard of the “clearly regressive” form of autism about which petitioners’ epidemiologist testified. Finally, the causal mechanism petitioners proposed would produce, not ASD, but neuronal death,and eventually patient death as well. The witnesses setting forth this improbable sequence of cause and effect were outclassed in every respect by the impressive assembly of true experts in their respective fields who testified on behalf of respondent.

From Dwyer: “Petitioners propose effects from mercury in [vaccines] that do not resemble mercury’s known effects in the brain, either behaviorally or at the cellular level. To prevail, they must show that the exquisitely small amounts of mercury in [vaccines] that reach the brain can produce devastating effects that far larger amounts experienced prenatally or postnatally from other sources do not.”  

The special master also dismissed claims that some groups of children are unusually susceptible to the effects of mercury. “The only evidence that these children are unusually sensitive is the fact of their [autism] itself.”

This whole process began back in 2002 when the Special Masters from the Vaccine Court createdan omnibus proceeding for handling the claims that alleged that vaccines were associated with autism. Today’s ruling focuses on whether thimoerosal-containing vaccines can cause autism. Last August, the court ruled that thimerosal in combination with MMR vaccine could not cause autism.

There are two key points to keep in mind today. First, the special masters are not scientists and they did not answer a scientific question today. The science has been in for some time now in and it’s quite clear. Vaccines do not cause autism.  We have multiple studies (www.autismsciencefoundation.org/autismandvaccines.html) that have been done looking at whether or not thimerosal, at the level contained in vaccines, causes autism and again, looking at hundreds of thousands of children on several different continents by several different investigators and different populations of children. Children who received thimerosal in vaccines as compared to those who received lesser quantities of thimerosal in vaccines or no thimerosal in vaccines all had the same risk of autism. And frankly, the amount of mercury one is exposed to in the environment or even breast milk as compared to what’s in vaccines would argue against vaccines being causative.

Secondly, when you look at the history of vaccine court, this court hasn’t always come down on the side of the science. The standard of evidence bar is purposely set very low in vaccine court. The court was designed to compensate victims of vaccine injury, which of course is very real. The standard of evidence is biologic plausibility, rather than scientific evidence. In other words, you don’t have to prove that thimerosal actually causes autism, only that it might. One of the goals of the legislation creating the vaccine court in 1986 was to be generous with compensation because there are people who have very real, very serious adverse reactions to vaccines and they should be compensated.  And if you look at other rulings, this court tends to err on the side of overcompensating to avoid a big spillover into civil courts. Another goal of the vaccine court is too avoid massive civil litigation that could put us back where we were in the early 1980s where companies were exiting the vaccine manufacturing business over fear of litigation.

I can understand wanting to find a reason for why your child was diagnosed with autism. As a mother, it’s hard to accept the idea that your child is going to struggle and have all these challenges.  It’s natural to want to blame someone or something. Believe me, I’ve been there. We love our children so much and we just want to do everything possible to help them. I can understand parents who are upset and angry and just want to know how this could have possibly happened, and I feel for the families who filed in vaccine court because they are clearly in a lot of pain. But they need to look at the data. You can’t be so focused on anger that you lose sight of what the science is saying because that’s not in the best interest of the kids.  At the Autism Science Foundation we always encourage parents to look at the science and make decisions based on the science.  And this is what the special masters did. They looked at the data.

And I want to stress one more point; this is really not an issue over which parents and scientists disagree. Parents have access to the studies on the internet and we know how to read. The studies are very clear. The vast majority of families have come to the same conclusions as the special masters. It’s not a scientists vs. layperson or scientist vs parents issue.  Everyone is coming to the same conclusion, except a small, vocal minority of parents who just don’t want to believe what the data clearly show.  And frankly it scares me to see children with autism being put at risk by therapies that have grown out of the incorrect vaccine hypothesis, like heavy metal chelation, that have no evidence of efficacy and can do real harm, especially when they divert time and energy away from therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis which have been proven to help our kids.

Hopefully after today’s ruling, we can put this issue behind us and move forward and direct our scarce autism research dollars to studies that will provide new information about what causes autism and how best to treat it.

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By Justine van der Leun 
 

The subject of autism is one that often ignites a fiery debate, namely because so much remains unknown about the illness. Doctors, parents, caregivers and even people living with autism are sharply divided on everything from the causes to the possibility of a cure to the correct course of treatment. The most recent autism-related bombshell? The February 2, 2010, retraction by the medical journal The Lancet of a paper it published in 1998 alleging a connection between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism. The claims made in the study, which led to a significant drop in vaccination rates for children, were determined to be false.

While most experts agree that there is a genetic component to autism, many other questions remain. To get two different medical viewpoints on the major issues, we conducted separate interviews with Paul Offit, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure” and Geri Dawson, M.D., chief medical officer of Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization.

AOL Health: How do you define autism?

Paul Offit: Autism is a problem with speech and language and communication. It’s a neurological condition probably existent from birth.

Geri Dawson: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by different areas of social interaction and communication. Individuals often have preoccupations, a restricted range of behaviors, stereotypical or ritualistic behaviors like hand flapping or are overly focused on a range of behavior.

Read more

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Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer has an OpEd on CNN.com/Opinion about the medical journal The Lancet ‘s decision to retract the controversial 1998 paper that first linked the MMR vaccine to autism and set off an unfounded fear of vaccination. Singer says new research has been overshadowed as some cling to the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. She says research must move forward with science as the guide.  Read the full story here.

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By Shannon Des Roches Rosa, BlogHer

Have you ever wondered why, exactly, vaccines are erroneously associated with autism? I’ll tell you: In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield held a press conference to announce that his research had revealed a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. He published his findings in the respected independent medical journal The Lancet, and spent the next few years promoting his vaccine-autism “concerns” through media outlets like the TV news magazine 60 Minutes. 

The result was panic, a vaccination rates nosedive, and the resurrection of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.

In 2004, it was revealed that Wakefield had also been conducting a separate, simultaneous study funded by lawyers seeking compensation for clients who claimed their children suffered from vaccine damage. Ten of Wakefield’s twelve original paper co-authors, horrified by Wakefield’s conflict of interest as well as the public health crisis they’d help cause, issued an official retraction in The Lancet [PDF], stating, “We wish to make it clear that in [Wakefield’s] paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient.”

Read more at:  http://www.blogher.com/verdict-vaccination-boogeyman

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