First, do no harm
by Bernard Rimland
If the multibillion-dollar vaccine industry had heeded Hippocrates'
ancient dictum and concentrated on making vaccines safe, the 300 per cent to 500 per cent increase in autism probably would not have occurred. Concern for vaccine safety might have prevented the simultaneous sharp rise in other chronic and debilitating diseases such as asthma, allergies, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, arthritis and Crohn's disease.
The cause of the skyrocketing rates of these disorders, like the rise in
autism, has mystified the experts. Many thoughtful and informed people
believe that medical over-exuberance has resulted in an unintended
trade-off: Vaccination against acute diseases such as measles and rubella
has increased susceptibility to chronic disorders such as autism, asthma,
arthritis and ADHD.
Am I overstating the case? I don't think so. We learned in the latter half of the 20th century that one must be careful in tinkering with Mother
Nature. Those marvelous pesticides, herbicides, gasoline additives and other miracles of modern chemistry have a downside. While we now know that toxic pollution of the environment is bad news, we are just
beginning to learn that pumping toxins--viruses, bacteria, mercury,
aluminum and formaldehyde, for example--into the body in the form of
vaccinations for immediate gain may prove to be costly in the long term.
Those who share my view do not oppose vaccines. What we oppose is
over-vaccination and unsafe vaccines.
Most people are shocked to learn that in recent years, the number of
vaccine doses a child receives before entering school in the United
States has risen to 33. There are more than 200 other vaccines--expensive and profitable--under development.
In 1965, parents began telling me that their children became autistic
upon getting the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) shot--a triple
vaccine. When another triple vaccine, MMR, (measles, mumps, rubella) was introduced in the 1980s, the alarming reports from parents and the
prevalence figures for autism rose sharply. Corroborating evidence is
Paul Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of
Philadelphia, who acknowledged that he also is paid by the Merck Co. to educate doctors about vaccines, has attacked the "notion" that giving
three vaccines at once is unsafe:
"The newborn has billions of immunologic cells that are capable of
responding to millions of different micro-organisms," he has testified.
"By quickly making an immune response . . . babies keep those bacteria
from . . . causing serious disease. Therefore, the combination of the
three vaccines contained in the MMR or even the 10 vaccines given in the first two years of life, is literally a raindrop in the ocean of what infants successfully encounter in their environment every day."
That is an absurd argument. If every child has such a marvelously
effective immune system, why should we vaccinate them at all? Especially, why should we use vaccines containing levels of mercury that vastly exceed the upper limit of safety? Even minute amounts of mercury are highly toxic to nerve and immune system tissue.
Don't just tell us vaccines are safe. Where are the scientific data? There are none. It is no secret that the U.S. government's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is not enforced and that doctors report only one per cent to 10 per cent of the adverse reactions they learn about.
California congressman Henry Waxman, in his defense of vaccines, cites
the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as asserting that vaccines are safe. These organizations have much credibility to lose by
acknowledging weak data on vaccine safety.
The U.S. government made a major mistake in enacting the National
Vaccine Injury Compensation Act in the 1980s. It transferred liability for unsafe vaccines from the manufacturer to families through a surcharge on each vaccination. Why would the drug companies pay for vaccine safety testing if the public will pick up the tab for the damage their vaccines cause? Would Ford or General Motors do research on product safety such as faulty gas tanks if they were automatically indemnified by consumers? We cannot afford to deny, dismiss or sidestep the issue of vaccine safety. Research on this critical problem must be undertaken as the highest priority.
Bernard Rimland is director of the Autism Research Institute, based in
San Diego. This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times. May 1, 2000
Thanks to Gary L. Krasner of Coalition for Informed Choice