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Subject: Experts Decry Vaccination Misuse
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2000 10:30:11 -0700

Home Page Stories Saturday, September 9, 2000


Don't give babies shots when immune system is weak, say doctors, scientists


ARLINGTON, Va. -- Vaccine safety advocates meeting here Friday decried the almost universal lack of testing infant immune systems before babies receive their shots to see if they've been compromised by infection or genetic weakness.

Scientists, academics and doctors attending opening sessions of the three-day International Public Conference on Vaccination 2000 expressed particular concern about a possible connection between childhood vaccinations and increasing rates of childhood chronic illness, especially autistic behavior.

Pediatricians are routinely giving infants and toddlers inoculations even if they have colds, flu or other sicknesses, potentially increasing the chances of adverse reactions, the experts said.

"Right on the manufacturer's information sheet packed with the dosage vial is a warning that says do not give the vaccine to immune-compromised or immune-suppressed individuals," said Utah State biologist Vijendra Singh, a leading researcher on autism. "Yet the vaccines are now given without any testing or thought of it.

"We should be doing immune-system testing before all vaccinations. It would only cost a few million dollars, and we could identify the individuals who should not be given shots."

Autism -- a severe developmental disability characterized by withdrawal from social relations, diminution of motor skills, refusal or inability to communicate, sensory dysfunction, self-absorbed detachment from others and a shutdown of language skills -- is increasing across the nation at a staggering pace. Some studies show a seven-fold increase in the past decade, and 27 states report more than 300 percent increases in diagnosed cases between 1992 and 1997.

In some well-publicized clusters, the incidence of autism in the 90's has grown from the national average of about three in 10,000 children to one in 150 children (Brick Township, N.J.) or one in 132 children (Granite Bay, Calif.)

California's legislature -- concerned with an increase in autism far outpacing other childhood disabilities like epilepsy, cerebral palsy and mental retardation-- recently appropriated $1 million for the University of California-Davis to study environmental or biological factors, including vaccine use, that could have triggered the autism growth.

Some researchers suspect a connection between autism onset and the measles, mumps and rubella shot (MMR) given at 12 to 15 months of age. One is Paul Shattuck, director of autism research at the University of Sunderland in Great Britain, who told the conference here that England is experiencing the same increase and autism clusters like the one in Wakefield where an average one in 138 children have been afflicted.

"It's scary and something is happening," said Shattuck. British health officials have denied any link between the MMR inoculation and autism, but Shattuck said, "there's a huge amount of smoke that should be checked out thoroughly. The British government on this is like Lord Nelson putting his telescope up to his blind eye and saying 'I see no signals.' That's because they don't want to."

He said studies in his country have shown autism "is four times as common in vaccinated children as in unvaccinated children, yet the government still says there is no relation."

Shattuck called upon both British and United States governments to "make sure the child is completely healthy and well before vaccination -- it is stupid and extreme to give a child shots when the immune system is compromised."

Dr. Mary Megson, a Richmond pediatrician who specializes in treating developmentally delayed children, told the 500 parents, academics, scientists and physicians attending the conference that genetic predisposition may play a big part in autism. She added that parents with a history of diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease, night blindness, or HIV infection may find their children at increased risk of autism.

"I find those patterns again and again," she said, adding that such immune system afflictions "are absolute contraindications for the measles vaccines."

Megson said she has had some success treating autistic children with natural vitamin A like that found in cod liver oil, as opposed to powdered synthetic vitamin A and that such doses have often led to restoration of eye contact -- something frequently missing once the child is afflicted.

Vaccine safety is more and more the subject of serious medical discussion. Despite lobbying efforts by the federal government and pharmaceutical industry to pooh-pooh any link to serious adverse reactions, advocacy group complaints have flooded the public arena and drawn congressional scrutiny.

In 1999, the average American child received a whopping 39 doses of 12 different vaccines before age 6 and the National Institutes of Health reports more than 200 new vaccines in various stages of research.

The weekend conference is sponsored by the private sector National Vaccine Information Center, a leading safety group.

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