Friday, May 15, 2009

Vaccine-Autism War: National Post Ripped Over Junk Journalism

Vaccines have saved the lives, and continue to save the lives, of many children.

To my knowledge no one doubts that fact. No one doubts that vaccine programs serve the public interest. Many people, however, want to be informed about the negative aspects of vaccines. Contrary to what many in the media believe there are serious, legitimate questions that remain about the possible role of vaccines and vaccine ingredients in relation to autism. Many parents of autistic children refuse to shut up and be silent. They refuse to be told that they can not discuss vaccine safety issues in public. They refuse to be told that vaccine programs are sacred cows which must not be questioned.

There is a need for more research to be done on vaccine safety issues generally and in relation specifically to autism. Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Dr. Duane Alexandre and neurologist and autism dad Dr. Jon Poling, he who successfully reached a settlement on behalf of his autistic daughter in a vaccine damage claim, have all called for more research to be done on possible vaccine autism connections. Sounds reasonable but many "journalists" have climbed aboard the "speak no evil", "ask no questions", "shut up and be a good little mommy or daddy" train of thought which dictates that it is wrong to discuss or research these issues. Such efforts to suppress free discussion by parents seeking to protect their children are counter-productive. The failure of such a strategy was recognized by the IACC, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee when its recently released strategic plan included vaccine autism research; if only to restore public confidence in vaccine programs.

Media outlets though continue to talk as though no legitimate questions have been asked. They offer completely one sided pictures of the legitimate vaccine autism issues. One recent example is the National Post article Junk science has a new cover girl in which the National Post attacks any and all who presume to ask questions about vaccine safety and autism. The NP article focuses on Jenny McCarthy and Oprah Winfrey and is blatantly one sided. Autism blogger Lea Schizas at Shaking the System, a blog she co-authors with Litsa Kamateros, has critiqued the NP's "journalism" in her aptly named comment Junk Journalism Once Again. Lea has written a letter to the National Post which I reprint here with her permission:

How like a newspaper to give a one-sided account and not bother to contact the biomedical specialists who are doctors and get their input. Has the newspaper business become so afraid to counter the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry and give a thorough investigation?

Allow me the opportunity to dissect Mr. Allen’s article with my own input:

A parent is a parent is a parent. As doctors themselves state we are the ones who best know our children. So whether Jenny was once associated with Playboy is not the issue but only a glamorous put down by this journalist. Jenny is not the only one who noticed a change in her child but thousands, and I state thousands because there were 4900 cases pending in the US last year all waiting to have their chance to say how vaccines had injured their children.

Also, I didn’t read the part where Jenny states she is pro-vaccine but wanting the medical profession to change the vaccine schedule for the children who might hide a disorder/dysfunction that makes them susceptible to multi-vaccines. Missing, too, was the fact that in the 80s US children received 10-12 vaccines by the age of 6 and now up to 36. Are you telling me that these compounded vaccines do not have the possibility of harming a toddler, ones who might have a mitochondrial dysfunction?

Where, also, is mention of the Hannah Poling or Bailey Banks cases where they were conceded in the courts that vaccines DID cause these children’s autism? How many cases of vaccine-injured children do we need to show that some children cannot handle the accumulated toxins needled into them? The medical professionals need to devise a test to try and evaluate a child’s susceptibility before their vaccines begin. And please get it right that no one disputes that vaccines have helped and will continue to help. But a better or delayed schedule should be considered. Children are now given at day one of birth the Hepatitis Vaccine, an age where any hidden health issues might not have surfaced yet.

And your mention of Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong, and Elvis Presley advocating for vaccines gives no credence to an issue that back then had no clue about autism as much as there is now.

Research continues in various levels from genetic to environmental factors. And if you’re going to bash Jenny McCarthy, then why not mention Robert Kennedy as well with his own backing and autism advocacy about a meeting behind closed doors of top specialists and organizations where whispers of the possibility of vaccines harming children were spoken.

For this reason my title to Mr. Allen’s article is Junk Journalism Once Again.

Lea Schizas

In addition to the blog Shaking the System Lea Schizas and Litsa Kamateros publish on their web site The Autism Epidemic.

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Unknown said...

I encourage you to visit to see how together, with Sen. Arlen Specter we can unstrangle the cure and medical innovation. I have hope that the CAN Act will help to ease the pain of families across the nation.

Marni Wachs said...

Thumbs way up for you Harold for your article here and Lea Schizas.

Where is this garbage journalism coming from? Is there an public health agency with some funding for PR acting on a government-sanctioned PR plan to silence the public?

I was just debating online regarding a similar article of junk journalism from the CBC - "Linking vaccines, autism tantamount to crying 'fire' where there isn't one". I suspect that someone or someones are busy "lunching" these journalists, the ones who they know will be compliant and will fail to investigate further. I'm not sure this is a "comliment" to these particular journalists. Qualifications - their known, they "play ball" and they don't function as a journalist should. Done we'ce got "our man" (or could be a woman too).

Thank G*d for the internet so people can connect and and not just believe what they are spoon-fed by the media.

It is reassuring that more and more people are aware that they need to follow the money on any information they are provided with, even and probably especially the media.

Unknown said...

Thank you for printing my letter to the National Post, Harold. Yet once again the media deems it necesary to 'edit' a short letter that fit in with their guidelines, an article approved by the editor and stated it will be published. They fittingly omitted mention of the two cases conceded in court: Poling and Banks. Makes one wonder why they so persistently feel the need not to promote these court cases.

farmwifetwo said...

One thing in the package I sent to the Fed's I made very certain not to take sides. I did voice my opinion as it pertained to my world. But I made it clear it was my opinion and my world, while at the same time giving information and links for the "powers that be" could go and read for themselves.

I am certain there are as many variations of autism and it's cause as there are children w/ ASD, and as many variations of therapy required as there are children w/ ASD.

Including.... vaccines.

Who am I to judge her or her child?? I wasn't there. There are things Jenny's done that make me roll my eyes.... but that's my opinion and my opinion only.


Roger Kulp said...

This article does not mention mitochondrial disease.This article specifically addresses what has been the previous claim of those who claim vaccines caused their children's autism.This being the claim that the thimerosol in vaccines directly caused autism in otherwise healthy children.This claim has been largely disproven.

Now,if you want to claim that vaccines triggered mitochondrial disease in your child,with autism as the initial presentation,that is a different matter entirely,and one that has some real science behind it.

Does anybody know if Jenny McCarthy or Jim Carey has come out and said if their child has had any mitochondrial testing ?If I had a child who I thought had developed autism as a result of vaccines,and I had any sort of public venue where a lot of people were listening to me,I would make damn sure I had my child tested for mitochondrial disease,or mutations.

Mitochondrial autism is something very specific,and you need to know what you're talking about before you start throwing terms like this around.Vaccines do not mutate normal mitochondria.

Were you able to open the link to the file I posted the other day?If not here is the whole thing:

Dr. Marvin Natowicz is a neurogeneticist previously practicing at Mass General Hosp., Boston and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Waltham, MA where he was the Medical Director of Genetics.  He is now a member of the metabolic team at the Cleveland Clinic. Natowicz is specifically interested in metabolic disorders in autism and, in a 1999 Boston based "LADDERS" lecture, enumerated a number of "red flags" which invite investigation into underlying metabolic (including mito) disease in autism:

Red flags requiring further scrutiny by metabolic clinicians:

1.The autism is not classic and/or the diagnosis is not straightforward when observed by credible specialists.Examples of this are children who may score as autistic or PDD-NOS by DSM-IV criteria because they have language, social and behavioral deficits.However, professionals often say that they have "too much eye contact" or a certain "eye quality" or are "too social" even though their social skills are below expectations for developmental age. 

Diagnosticians use terms like "atypical autism" or "features of atypical autism," or they may say, it's "not quite autism" but we're not sure what it is either.This is a "squishy" diagnosis.

2.Developmental regression:  Because some 25-33% of autism is regressive in the first year of life,some clinicians discard these kids as unworthy of further scrutiny.Loss of previously attained skills is always significant and should be carefully regarded by medical professionals.  Video documentation is very helpful.

3.Neurological regression:This might manifest as loss of muscle strength or physical ability, easy fatigue or lethargy.  Be on the look out for intermittent loss.

4.Seizures:Some 33% or more of children with autism are expected to show EEG abnormality or seizure activity in their lifetime so many clinicians discard this very important marker for metabolic stress. 

5.Food intolerances or avoidance:  If foods cause changes in neurological status, this is significant for metabolic disorder. A child who has typical or near typical muscle skills but becomes frankly ataxic upon eating a certain food,may have a "leaky form" or partial defect associated with a given metabolic disorder.  For example, children with less advanced maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) can become clumsy after eating foods high in branched chain amino acids (generally proteins).  The disorder may be more apparent under circumstances where there is a greater catabolic demand on the body such as during fasting (i.e. overnight) or infection.  For this reason, first in the AM urine is often preferred for analysis.  This underscores the need to collect urine samples during times of obvious unbalance or muscle loss.

6.Given the proper educational, behavioral and therapeutic supports, children with autism are capable of learning.  When children do not learn (or lose cognitive skills), one may first question whether the child is being taught appropriately.  If the answer is “yes” or if the educational piece is corrected and the child still does not make progress, metabolic scrutiny is often appropriate.  When observed together with one or more other "red flags," lack of learning in autism demands scrutiny.

7.Family history:a second affected sibling cries out for metabolic scrutiny.I would venture to add here that families who have a history of miscarriage along with an affected child, should demand further metabolic work up in their child.

8.Unusual findings on physical examination including:
*growth retardation or excessive growth
*small head circumference esp.if this declines over time relative to over-all-size
*significant motor dysfunction
*atypical biochemical findings [examples include but not limited to low blood CO2,high blood ammonia,liver function abnormalities,creatine phosphokinase (CPK) abnormalities indicative of muscle injury, etc.. Some clinicians feel that values must be at least 2 standard deviations from the mean in order to be significant. Most agree that flagged values (i.e. any value outside the normal reference range) warrent a repeat blood draw for validation.]
Lea,Litsa,and Harold,if you are planning to take up the cause of mitochondrial autism,I commend you for it,but you need to learn more about it first. Perhaps you could contact either Dr. Natowicz,or Dr.Bruce Cohen,also at Cleveland,and interview them for your blog.I belong to two online groups,made up of parents of children with both autism,and mito. If you want the links,send me a private email,and we can tell you all you want to know.

As an adult with an autism diagnosis,and probable mito,we need as much awareness of this thing as possible,but spouting disinformation,pro or con is no service to anybody.

nhokkanen said...

Thank you for posting the letter by Lea Schizas. How puzzling that so many in media refuse to ask questions about vaccine safety.

And how tragic that thousands upon thousands of vaccine injury reports go uninvestigated by public health administrators and vaccine manufacturers. Ignoring product quality is no way to maintain high vaccination rates.

Also frustrating is the shrill fear-based outcry from those who inaccurately use the "anti-vaccine" label. There's a huge difference between those who don't want governmental mandated shots and those who question the quality of those shots -- often too late, after the damage has been done.

Mitochondrial dysfunction and disorder can be both exacerbated and caused by vaccines in genetically susceptible individuals.