Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Safe Vaccine Movement

Someone brilliant decided that by labeling parents who assert that vaccines damaged their children “Anti-Vaccine” he could divert the argument away from the issue of vaccine safety to the question of whether vaccines are beneficial. He did this because that’s an easier argument to win. The US government, pharmaceutical companies and doctors concede that all drugs, including vaccines, have side effects and that there is a threshold of damage beyond which a drug cannot be approved for use. But often side effects are not identified in small trial studies and within a short time frame.

Part of the debate over vaccine safety involves public relations and we have allowed ourselves to be labeled “anti-vaccine” rather than defining what we are actually advocating for. It’s inaccurate and polarizing to accept the label of “Anti-Vaccine.”

Is it anti-vaccine to call for safer vaccines?

Is it anti-vaccine to say that your child has been injured by one?

Is it anti-vaccine to ask the government to further test products, they mandate children receive, if questions about safety are raised?

Is it anti-vaccine to analyze the risks verses the benefits when deciding to vaccinate?

Is it anti-vaccine to point out America is a first-world country and thus risk factors are different here than they are in third-world countries?

If a vaccine causes severe life-long damage in a previously healthy, normal child, is it anti-vaccine to be angry and consider the “cure” more damaging than the disease you tried to prevent?

Is it anti-vaccine to point out that no one has studied the safety of giving multiple vaccines (polio, DTaP, Hep B, MMR) at the same time?

Is it anti-vaccine to notice that medical professionals rarely link adverse events to vaccines even if they occur within minutes or hours of the shot?

Is it anti-vaccine to notice that vaccines sometimes cause side effects? Or, is it just anti-vaccine to talk about them?

Inherent in the argument it is “anti-vaccine” to mention vaccines have side effects, or that some diseases are more dangerous than others or that risk factors differ between people is the premise that people are too stupid, ill-informed or irrational to make their own decisions and need to be told what to do. I disagree. I think people are smart enough to see value in vaccines. We deserve to be told the truth, especially the risks because ultimately, we as parents bear the responsibility of taking care of the child damaged by a vaccine.

I’ve noticed that parents who demand access to VAERS data, who question accepted “knowledge”, and parents or doctors who mention dangerous additives or bring up common reactions, become the enemy. The medical professions’ reaction is to metaphorically circle the wagons. They mention that the numbers of pharmaceutical companies are dwindling, implying that the shrinkage is due to the lack of profit in the manufacture of vaccines rather than to buyouts and mergers. They assert that making vaccines are unprofitable; well, yes, if one considers a product that is used only a few times in a lifetime to be less profitable than a drug that is used daily. The reality is vaccines are profitable for both pharmaceutical companies and doctors. The proponents of vaccinating at any cost combine first world disease statistics with third world statistics even though the risk factors are dramatically different. In the US, if a child contracted a disease such as measles their risk of serious injury or death is much less than a child who contracts measles in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus the cost-benefit analysis is different. That’s reality. It’s intellectually dishonest, irrational, or ill-informed to imply differently!

The CDC seems to fear that a change in the vaccination schedule, a recall of a vaccine or an admission that further studies are warranted will lead to wide spread rejection of vaccinations. I don’t believe it will. Quite frankly, most people do not pay a lot of attention to vaccines. Many parents trust their child’s pediatrician. And people understand that drugs have side-effects.

The Safe Vaccine Movement believes that it is reasonable to consider risk factors when vaccinating and that size-one-fits-all strategies can be dangerous to individuals. When the medical profession chooses the “herd” over an individual child, parents have an obligation to their child to put their child’s individual needs first. We believe that when questions of additional risks or potential problems are raised the government and medical profession have an obligation to objectively study the safety of the products they recommend and require to be used.

Vaccines are not such a weak product that a problem with a few or the potential to trigger autism in a susceptible population will lead to the abandonment of vaccines as preventative medicine. Parents want to protect their children. We’d rather they receive a vaccine and have immunity from a disease then have them suffer from the disease, but not at any cost.

Penicillin has saved many lives since it was discovered but some people are allergic to it. It is still widely used despite its adverse effects on some people. Vaccines, like the antibiotic penicillin, would continue to be used even if the government and pharmaceutical companies concede that vaccines can trigger autism in a susceptible group.

The common reactions of denying there is a problem, covering up potential problems with faulty data and refusing to fund studies into environmental triggers have only led to acrimony and distrust. We have become increasingly effective at convincing our friends and family that vaccines are one of the environmental triggers for autism and, sadly, more families join our ranks daily. We raise our voices in alarm because the number of children developing autism has risen dramatically. We feel an obligation to warn others and protect children. And that is why you can’t shut us up.

And you can’t label us any longer either; well, at least not “anti-vaccine.” The time is past for us to choose our own label. A label that is coherent with what we are advocating for – and make no mistake, we are advocating for safer vaccines!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On My Toes

Sometimes it almost seems deliberate, almost as if Will is trying to confuse me. My husband scrambled up four eggs to put in Pad Thai a couple of days ago. Will ate half of them before dinner was ready. I was so excited because I’ve tried to get Will to eat scrambled eggs for a couple of years. I use a first/then approach. First he eats a small bit of scrambled egg then he eats a preferred food. Occasionally, he throws up when I force him to eat too much of a non-preferred food. So, naturally I was thrilled and thought, “Hurray, I have something else to make him for breakfast!”

Well, I made him an egg this morning -- he didn’t want it. I made him eat it anyway because that’s the kind of mother I am. And fortunately, it didn’t take a lot of his peanut butter cereal to encourage him to eat it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today's Soundtrack

I'm having a great day! I taught some adorable 2 to 3 year-olds at the Y. There is something adorable about that age and I wish I could fold them up and put them in my pocket to pull out when I need to see something wonderful! I have people coming tomorrow for thanksgiving. And to top it off on the way home from the store this song came on the radio. And I love this song!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I just got a flu vaccine and haven’t become autistic yet!

I read versions of this comment on a couple “pro-vaccine” blogs in both comments and the body of the post. My first reaction was to mention that my grandma had Alzheimer's. My grandpa died from cancer. I’m allergic to bees and that my nephew died from a brain aneurysm a week after his thirteenth birthday; just in case they needed something else to mock.

I just got the flu vaccine and still not autistic.

The casual viciousness of it took my breath away and brought back memories of William’s regression. When Jacob regressed I didn’t understand what was happening. I just thought he wasn’t talking anymore and was channeling Mr. Hyde. I didn’t know he was autistic until more than a year later.

I just got the flu vaccine and still not autistic.

But William … William was normal, I didn’t have to worry about him; I was reassured less than two months before his regression. Then in the beginning of November 2000, he lost his eye contact. I knew what that meant but was helpless to stop it. I started working on improving his eye contact as if that would stop his regression. I forced him to sit on my lap and play peek-a-boo with me until he had better eye contact than my normal five year old. But I was helpless to stop the loss of babbling, language, sociability, and the cognitive loss of eight months of development. For the first time in my life I understood that heartache could actually be felt. I actually felt my heart breaking.

I just got the flu vaccine and still not autistic.

No one who has ever watched a child regress into autism would ever make a joke of it. Imagine watching your child being hurt and unable to stop it. Watching William become autistic was far more heartbreaking than Jacob being diagnosed. I watched him lose skill after skill helplessly. By the end of November, William had disappeared and I was left with a shell that was too impaired to even request a drink of water. The child that had sat on my lap and would listen to book after book a month sooner fought to leave after two pages. The child that a month sooner had to be in the middle of any activity left the room when other people were there. And my potentially brightest child regressed to the cognitive level of a nine month-old.

I just got the flu vaccine and still not autistic.

The deliberate cruelty of the statement floored me. Perhaps that’s what passes as humor for people who look forward to their child’s first date, prom, college, eventual marriage and future grandchildren. I look forward anxiously to a group home and hopefully a community center. They can hope that their children will become doctors. I worry that I won’t find a doctor that will accept adults with autism. And I worry that my son will be left to the mercy of their children.

I just got the flu vaccine and still not autistic.

Anyone who writes that or allows that comment on their blog without note has never watched someone they love disappear into the abyss of autism and the best part of me hopes they never do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Dark Side of the Internet

Recently I’ve looked at a few different blogs from the opposite side of the safe vaccine debate. Some post thoughtful and thought provoking insights. Some post vitriolic self congratulatory diatribes. Some post fluff tied up with a bow and presented as if it actually contained something more than lint. Some blogs reminded me, to some extent, of rabid partisan political websites I’ve read that were filled with twisted and massaged facts if not outward lies. I remember reading something horrible that was going around the internet about Sarah Palin’s son Trig. I don’t understand the mentality that would justify attacking a child because you don’t like his mother. And the comments, oh the comments were filled with objectionable things written about her son by people I could only assume were adults.

The dark side of the internet is the anonymity that gives people the freedom to spew ugliness because they don’t have to stand behind what they say up with their name. I understand people have reasons to blog anonymously; after all I do it myself. But I never say anything I haven’t said before and wouldn’t be willing to say to my friends and family. And I have a built in censor – my family. They read my blog.

What is it about the internet that brings out incivility? Is it that we are communicating with people we don’t know and thus have nothing personally to lose? It seems that with anything controversial people from both sides of the aisle seem to feel free to say anything they want, in any tone that they want as if with the assumption that vulgarity will overcome their enemy with “shock and awe” rather than winning over someone with rationality, thoughtfulness and logic.

I understand that someone from the opposite side of the vaccine debate could quote my first five sentences back to me with equal honestly. Ultimately, there are many issues that one side will not win over the other with logic, rationality or thoughtfulness. Politics and religion top that list. But surely in everything, even religion, politics and vaccine safety we can find common ground or at least agree to disagree with respect.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mouse Soup

I forced Will to sit with me on the couch. I wanted to read him a book. I opened the cover and saw my name carefully printed inside in green marker. I started reading. Will wasn’t really excited and tried talking over me. I had him read a couple of pages but he said, “No more reading.” He began wondering if the book was ever going to end. “So, the end,” he said hopefully. I kept reading. “So, the end,” he repeated. He was happy when I finished. And I saw my name again on the back cover. I guess to remind anyone reading the book that it was mine.

Friday, November 20, 2009


After I commented on an article in Wired I was listed as a proponent of “safe vaccines” on a blog. It seemed to be dedicated to collecting links to bloggers who hate people like me and like to write objectionable things about anyone who dares question the safety of vaccines.

The whole wretched tale begins at I just called out Dr. Parikh! The comments led me on a road of personal discovery -- Embarking on a New Career and finally to Comments About My Email.

During this process I thought a lot about the irony of the “defenders of the herd’s” objections to name calling when directed towards the wrong side (do I even need to state that it appears to be applauded when directed towards the safe vaccine side). So, I wrote Unfortunately, the “Pro-Vaccine” Movement Regards Shrillness as More Effective than a Rational and Civil Discussion. Then I thought about branding. Why have we allowed ourselves to be labeled “anti-vaccine?” It doesn’t accurately reflect our position and the label allows our position to be marginalized.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh, the Potential

In a lot of ways I’m really lucky! William, though severely autistic, is pretty easy to take care of. I don’t mean easy in a normal sense, of course. Rather easy in the autistic sense. He’s ten now and still not toilet trained; but he doesn’t wet the bed every night and he doesn’t have what my husband calls “crapisodes” frequently. The nights that I’d wake up with fear in my heart at 3:30 in the morning because his light was on and I’d spend the next several hours cleaning up are, thankfully for the most part, years in the past.

He started talking when he was seven. I remember the excitement I felt when he said one, then ten, TEN words in one day! Now he says hundreds, maybe thousands a day. Of course, most of them are verbal scripting and I can quote episodes of Blue’s Clues along with him; but he can talk! And he told me his head hurt in May.

He’s never been self-injurious. In fact, I remember him at his most impaired three year-old self standing at the top of the stairs, holding a boogie board, weighing the risks of sliding down. His older sister and brother had sent him down the day before into a pile of blankets and pillows. He’d liked it so much that he’d tried alone and had plowed head first into the wall at the bottom of the stairs leaving a dent. I watched him standing at the top of the stairs, deciding what to do. He eventually wandered away.

Many of our battles with the school district are behind us. Will is in a good school and has improved enough to share his teacher with another student. Now, I hope for the possibility of success in a three-to-one.

Will teaches me a lot about people. Most he scares off immediately. Others look at me with pity and tell me, “You’re such a great mother!” Which use to piss me off because they didn’t know me. They didn’t know what kind of mother I was! And I knew they were just mentally down on their knees thanking God that they weren’t me. Now it doesn’t bother me. I understand that they want to be supportive, but don’t know what to say. And frankly I wish it wasn’t me either.

He brings out the best in people or the worst. We were at a park in July he walked through an extended family’s picnic, swiped someone’s partially eaten ice cream cone and started walking away. I grabbed the cone, threw an apology over my shoulder and walked him away. I heard a man say, “He can have one.” I ignored him and kept walking. The man followed me to the playground to offer again.

Three days later, at a different park he walked up to someone and grabbed a handful of fries and shoved them in his mouth; she was much nicer about it than the owner of blow up fins when he picked them up and put them around his neck. Neither had any warning but had very different reactions.

He brings out the best and the worst in me as well. I’m still working on making it be the best.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I am blessed with a thirty something year-old who lives in my thirteen year-old’s body. She acts less like a typical teenager than my seven year-old; however, occasionally a teenager surfaces. Today when I picked her up from school she was annoyed that she didn’t get to ride the bus home.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I deserve a Greek Chorus

My life, or at least my ego, cries out for a Greek chorus. Events would finally get the emphasis that they deserve. When Jake comes into my room in the early hours of the morning to inform me that William has wreaked havoc or created a mess that will take me hours to clean up. My response of shaking my fists in the air and crying out “Why?” would become even more dramatic! And even the simple things – things like running out of milk or William eating gluten would appropriately be responded too.

However, I’m concerned about logistics. Would I have to drive my Greek chorus around with me or would they come with their own cars? Would I be responsible for room and board? Frankly, trying to clean up after my own kids is exhausting (I don’t have a cleaner). I really don’t have the room for extra people to live here and if I had to pay for extra plane tickets on vacations I think we’d all be forced to hitchhike across the country. Would the chorus baby-sit? And how much would it cost? I don't think my husband would feel that it was the best use of our money as opposed to, well, spending it on anything else.

So, I figure that unless the chorus is free, and appears and disappears on demand; I’m pretty much out of luck. Dang it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

N1H1 Statistics Update Week 43 US and Worldwide

2009-2010 Influenza Season Week 43 ending October 31, 2009


During week 43 (October 25-31, 2009), influenza activity remained elevated in the U.S.

  • 5,258 (37.2%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division were positive for influenza.
  • Over 99% of all subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.
  • The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold.
  • Eighteen influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Fifteen of these deaths were associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection and three were associated with an influenza A virus for which the subtype was undetermined.
  • The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was above the national baseline. All 10 regions reported ILI above region-specific baseline levels.
  • Forty-eight states reported geographically widespread influenza activity, two states reported regional influenza activity, the District of Columbia reported local influenza activity; Puerto Rico and Guam reported sporadic influenza activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands did not report.

The vaccine for the 2009-2010 seasonal influenza contains:

  • an A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus
  • an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

U.S. Virologic Surveillance:

WHO and NREVSS collaborating laboratories located in all 50 states and Washington D.C., report to CDC the number of respiratory specimens tested for influenza and the number positive by influenza type and subtype. The results of tests performed during the current week are summarized in the table below.

Week 43

No. of specimens tested


No. of positive specimens (%)

5,258 (37.2%)

Positive specimens by type/subtype

Influenza A

5,244 (99.7%)

A (2009 H1N1)

3,889 (74.2%)

A (subtyping not performed)

1,310 (25.0%)

A (unable to subtype)

41 (0.8%)

A (H3)

2 (0.0%)

A (H1)

2 (0.0%)

Influenza B

14 (0.3%)

During week 43, seasonal influenza A (H1), A (H3), and B viruses co-circulated at low levels with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses. Over 99% of all subtyped influenza A viruses reported to CDC this week were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.

View WHO-NREVSS Regional Bar Charts| View Chart Data | View Full Screen

I don’t think the CDC should include the Influenza A (subtype not preformed) with the H1N1 confirmed cases (view full screen). It makes the numbers inaccurate. Week 43 deaths are roughly 100.

Pneumonia and Influenza Hospitalization and Death Tracking:

This new system was implemented on August 30, 2009, and replaces the weekly report of laboratory confirmed 2009 H1N1-related hospitalizations and deaths that began in April 2009. Jurisdictions can now report to CDC either laboratory confirmed or pneumonia and influenza syndromic-based counts of hospitalizations and deaths resulting from all types or subtypes of influenza, not just those from 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. To allow jurisdictions to implement the new case definition, counts were reset to zero on August 30, 2009. From August 30 – October 10, 2009, 4,958 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated hospitalizations, 292 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated deaths, 15,696 pneumonia and influenza syndrome-based hospitalizations, and 2,029 pneumonia and influenza syndrome-based deaths, were reported to CDC. CDC will continue to use its traditional surveillance systems to track the progress of the 2009-10 influenza season.

*I’m very concerned that changing the tracking system and all the cases not tested will lead to faulty numbers. CBS already reported the CDC’s numbers were off. This will probably make it worse.

Canada’s H1N1 numbers can be found at FluWatch.

WHO: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 - update 73

Weekly update

As of 1 November 2009, worldwide more than 199 countries and overseas territories/communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including over 6000 deaths.

Basic Statistics:

* U S population over 304,059,724 (July 2008)

* World Population
6,706,993,152 (estimated July 2008)

*US Census Bureau: The total number of children under age 5 was 21 million in 2008, or 6.9 percent of the total population, compared with 19.2 million and 6.8 percent in 2000.

*Consider pediatric deaths from H1N1 in the US out of a population of 21,000,000.

*Over 6,000 reported deaths worldwide out a population of over 6,700,000,000.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where Men Win Glory

I just read Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer tells the story of Pat Tillman who gave up a lucrative career as a football player in the NFL to join the army. Krakauer examines who Pat Tillman was, what he cared about and how he thought. Tillman filled notebook with his thoughts. He destroyed my stereotype of a football player. He was thoughtful and patriotic, though by no means perfect.

Pat Tillman and his family were betrayed by the US government, the army and by Tillman’s superiors who conspired together to cover-up the reality that Tillman’s death was due to friendly fire. Pat Tillman had not allowed the Bush Administration to use his service to promote the war when he was alive. Once he was dead, they did under the direction of Jim Wilkinson. Wilkinson had also created the myth of Jessica Lynch.

Only because his family, particularly his mother, was determined to find out the truth did it emerge. Tillman was needlessly killed by members of his own platoon as they engaged themselves after superiors in the army ordered them to split into two groups. The greatest betrayal was of his brother Kevin. His sergeant had been ordered to not tell Kevin the truth about who had killed Pat. So, Kevin continued to serve, eat and live with the soldiers who had shot his brother. He had another year on his army contract. Many soldiers knew the truth and were angry they were ordered to lie. When Kevin was finally told the truth he felt betrayed. “He’d just spent the morning working alongside the soldiers responsible for his brother’s death, and they had all acted like everything was fine.” (p. 306)

The actions of the army and Bush administration were disgraceful! This book is well crafted, interesting and compelling. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unfortunately, the “Pro-Vaccine” Movement Regards Shrillness as More Effective than a Rational and Civil Discussion.

Anti-vaccine, anti-vaxx, anti-science, anti-vaxx denialism, fear mongering, unreasonable, irrational, panicked, crusaders who tell long debunked lies, they kill children. You don’t have to search long on the internet or in the newspaper to find these labels among other unprintable ones.

At this point, I’m surprised that they still call us “anti-vaccine.” We seem only one small step away from the label – “pro-baby killers.”

People on both sides of this debate are guilty of calling people on the other side names, but only one side seems surprised by it. My question to the “pro-science” side is really? After you throw mud at someone you are surprised and complain that a “panicked parent” picked it up and threw it back?

I understand that name calling can be effective and secretly satisfying, if admittedly childish. So, if you do it – own it! Many “anti-anti-vaccine” proponents like to wrap themselves in the false security of the label “science and rationality” while flinging insults. But is an argument ever that simple? Do you win over anyone by calling them stupid?

I was surprised to find myself in the periphery of the recent Amy Wallace fray. I’d commented on Dr. Parikh’s article, The Ugliness of the Anti-Vaccine Movement. The next thing I knew I was listed as an anti-vaccine writer on the I Speak of Dreams blog. I decided to take a look at other bloggers’ writing.

What I found on the “pro-science” blogs didn’t surprise me.

Isis the Scientist’s wisdom includes calling J.B. Handley a “Colossal cockweaseldouchemonkey, genuine asshat, and founder of the ultimate denialist's association,” and accuses him of illegal and immoral acts [sic]. (Warning: her post is disturbing, nasty and inappropriate for viewing at work!)

Pal MD says, in his post The anti-vaccination movement is morally bankrupt, that “Fear and intimidation is the enemy of science. But the anti-vax crowd doesn't care about dialog; since they have no science to support their delusions, all they are left with vitriolic spittle. The anti-vaxxers are fundamentally immoral. They, like many fundamentalists, want us all to suffer for their faith, and heretics and apostates must burn.”

The Tethered Swimming blog article titled How To Kill Children Legally (Even Your Own) claims “not vaccinating your kids is like patrolling your neighborhood for panel vans while Cousin Steve, the thrice convicted child molester, stays home to babysit. Except it’s actually worse than that because every child that isn’t vaccinated raises the risk that other kids will become sick. So Cousin Steve isn’t just watching your kid, the whole play group is under his tender care.”

So, if I understand the arguments of some of the “pro-science” proponents: it’s really bad to call people names, I’m an immoral fundamentalist who is delusional and has a spitting problem, and I’m the equivalent of a procurer of victims for child molesters.

The pedestal upon which the “pro-science” movement is standing doesn’t seem very elevated, does it? But it’s very loud. It’s full of uninformed and ill-informed people who think vaccines are all that’s standing between us and death. They accept the government’s propaganda without critical thought or research. I understand this person all too well because I used to be one of them. I drank the Kool-Aid.

The “pro-vaccine” proponents are engaged in a purposeful and selective distortion of the “anti-vaccine” proponents’ argument.

Common tactics examined:

Label someone into irrelevance: Words have power. Labels matter. Witness the differences between the labels: pro-life, pro-choice and anti-choice extremists. This tactic also has the benefit of sometimes sidetracking the whole discussion to a label.

One of the anti-anti-vaxxers’ most effective arguments is that if someone questions the safety or necessity of any vaccine they are anti-vaccine. Many of us believe that vaccines are among the environmental triggers of autism. We question the safety of additives and preservatives in vaccines and propose spreading out the vaccine schedule. We believe some children are genetically predisposed to developing autism and we want the link between autism and vaccines studied. Somehow what they hear seems to be “vaccines are evil.” I don’t understand why the “pro-science” movement seems willing to believe half of what we say (when we question the safety) yet unwilling to believe the other half (we want them studied, so we can safely give them to our children). Anyone who claims vaccines triggered autism in their child obviously saw enough value in vaccines to vaccinate in the first place!

Another effective argument from the “zealots of one size fits all medicine” is: the anti-vaxx movement is anti-science.” They claim that science has closed the door on any link between vaccines and autism. “Asked and answered!” They say, sandwiched between sentences calling us stupid and immoral. But science doesn’t actually work like that. Just ask any pure scientist. (They wax on poetically while you regret asking them anything.) The history of science is littered with accepted “facts” that actually were later proven false by other scientists. Our knowledge of the physical world builds upon itself. As more information is gathered and tested, established “facts” are discarded and new facts emerge.

Dr. Bernadine Healy the former head of the National Institutes of Health has publicly stated that she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association between vaccines and autism. And she said in a interview with CBS that a memo went around the NIH in 2004 saying, “Do not pursue susceptibility groups. Don’t look for those patients, those children, who may be vulnerable.” If our public health organizations are actively avoiding doing this research, it is not our side that is anti-science!

The “anti-safe vaccine” movement seems to believe that since vaccines are good and save lives, it is inexcusable to say anything bad about them. This leads to convoluted arguments such as a mercury containing compound can be safely injected in babies. How do I even respond to that? If someone claims mercury isn’t harmful they’ve chosen irrational, selective ignorance over science.

Autism is 100% genetic. Then why are the numbers increasing and why don’t both of all identical twins have it? The hidden horde doesn’t exist. “Desperate mothers” do believe that autism has a strong genetic component – that’s why many of us don’t have more children. But it is not possible to have a genetic epidemic – period.

We’re the experts! The “anti-vaxx” movement is full of hysterical parents who don’t know anything. This is colloquially known as “shut up and sit down.” This approach is used when “anti-safe vaccine” proponents claim that we don’t understand: herd immunity, correlation does not imply causation, diseases kill people, and so on. The experts also told us that refrigerator mothers caused their children to develop autism and that the only cure for autism was psychotherapy. Then they told us that autism was lifelong and to institutionalize our children. It was a parent that debunked that idea. All good science is based on observation. Parents, untrained as they are, spend countless hours observing their children from necessity. To dismiss this observational data set is arrogant and anti-science.

The medical profession castigates us for trying alternative medicine. Using that as proof that we are ignorant of science and irrational dupes who unknowingly harm our children. Well, conventional medicine has failed our children. They seem to only offer our children drugs. Then more drugs to combat the side effects caused by the first drug. They say that we’re desperate, willing to try anything regardless of harm. There is no doubt that many of us are willing to try wild sounding treatments. I learned to be more open-minded after putting my son on the gluten and casein free diet. The behavior improvement caused by a dietary change shut me up and opened my mind to other alternative treatments. A gluten and casein free diet is far less risky than powerful anti-psychotic drugs!

The “weak must perish to protect the herd” movement likes to play with statistics. At first they claimed that the number of children diagnosed with autism wasn’t increasing, it was due to a change in diagnostic criteria or to misdiagnosis. They admit a few people are injured by vaccines, but won’t release VAERS data for independent replication of the analysis. Figures don't lie, but liars figure. - Samuel Clemens

“Jab them all Darwinian warriors" state that side-effects are unfortunate and wholly unpredictable. Medical professionals know that some people shouldn’t be vaccinated including those with: immune deficiencies, seizure disorders, neurological problems, certain food allergies and drug sensitivities. We argue that our children have genetic predispositions to developing autism and that vaccines are one environmental trigger. Thus it is predictable that vaccines trigger autism in a susceptible population.

The “anti-parental choice” movement links the “anti-vaccine movement” to pseudo-sciences such as “reincarnation, channeling, and extraterrestrials.” Brilliant redirection! Thus mentioning that vaccines have side effects becomes equated with alien abduction.

And my favorite “Darwinian Fundamentalist” argument: Jenny McCarthy posed for playboy! Alright, I concede! She did. The “pro-vaxx” movement felt compelled to get their modesty impaired “spokesmodel” to compete -- Amanda Peet. Who looks better naked has no bearing on the issue!

“Champions of the herd,” when you’ve run out of arguments you can always ask the children who’ve been injured by vaccines to speak up for themselves.

Note: The labels are used to make a satirical point, not to widen the divide or offend anyone.

Lifeasthemotherof4 unknowingly embarked on a new career as an “anti-vaccine writer.” In my spare time I search for UFOs and spit on science. I can be sarcastic but usually try to be respectful of others. I'm calling for a civil and label-free discussion.

Monday, November 9, 2009


When I look up numbers in my cell phone I skip past my grandma’s phone number. I even thought about calling it the other day. But I doubt that anyone would answer and what would I say if they did? After all I don’t want to talk to them. I like having her number in my phone more than I would like deleting it. So, for now it stays.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I want a driver!

My friend’s son slept over last night so I planned to drop off and pick up Lizzy and him from school. But Friday morning, Bri reminded me I needed to drop her off early for Jazz band. I asked my husband to get Will on the bus while I took Bri. No problem.

When I returned home the kids still had a couple minutes to play before we needed to leave. Then I asked her friend to put on his shoes. We couldn’t find them. I looked some more. Still couldn’t find them -- but Will’s shoes were right by the front door. I went upstairs and asked my husband, “What shoes did you put on Will this morning?”

“His shoes,” was the response, “the ones with Velcro.”

Will doesn’t have shoes with Velcro.

It took Lizzy’s friend a couple of minutes to understand that no, his shoes were actually missing and that yes, he needed to wear Lizzy’s. I know he was thinking, “This never happened at Auntie Susie’s house!”

Sweetie, I’m sure it didn’t.

I called Will’s school on the way to school. “How are his feet?” I asked.

“He keeps taking off his shoes,” was the answer. I wasn’t surprised. They were at least two sizes too small. I’m actually impressed that my husband managed to get them on Will’s feet! I dropped off Will’s shoes after dropping off the kids. But I stressed that those shoes needed to come home in Will’s backpack because they didn’t belong to us.

I went back to Lizzy’s school to be the mystery reader for library. Then I took Lizzy and her friend back home. I checked Will’s backpack immediately. The shoes weren’t there. I called the school and told them I’d be right over to pick them up. I picked up the shoes then Will and I drove to Jake’s school to pick him up from play practice.

I went to all four kids' schools today -- William’s twice; even though they all have buses. But what could I say to Tiffanie? "Really, you want his shoes?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

N1H1 Statistics Update Week 42 US and Worldwide

2009-2010 Influenza Season Week 42 ending October 24, 2009


During week 42 (October 18-24, 2009), influenza activity increased in the U.S.

  • 8,268 (42.1%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division were positive for influenza.
  • All subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.
  • The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold.
  • Twenty-two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Nineteen of these deaths were associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection and three were associated with an influenza A virus for which the subtype was undetermined.
  • The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was above the national baseline. All 10 regions reported ILI above region-specific baseline levels.
  • Forty-eight states reported geographically widespread influenza activity, Guam and two states reported regional influenza activity, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico reported local influenza activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands did not report.

World Health Organization Situation updates - Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

WHO Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 - update 72

“As of 25 October 2009, worldwide there have been more than 440,000 laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009 and over 5700 deaths reported to WHO.

As many countries have stopped counting individual cases, particularly of milder illness, the case count is likely to be significantly lower than the actual number of cases that have occurred.”

Because the southern hemisphere has its’ winter in July and August their flu season is winding up. Check out the map.

Here is a map of confirmed deaths

You can find the cumulative total for regions at the bottom of Update 72

Overview of the current Pandemic H1N1 2009 situation

This pandemic is currently referred to as of “moderate” severity, with the overwhelming majority of patients recovering, even without medical treatment, within a week of the onset of symptoms. However, the virus has also caused severe illness and deaths.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Comments About My Email

I’ve been engaged in a back and forth in my comments on I Called Out Dr. P. It was getting kind of long so I brought it over here. I wasn’t thrilled to have to back up some of my assertions but I have to thank him for keeping me honest and compelling me to try to put my money where my mouth was.


I’d never heard of any relationship between carrots and HIV so I googled it and I can assure you that there is more evidence supporting a link between vaccines and autism than there is between carrots and HIV.

But taking your point seriously, the onus is on drug companies to prove that their products are safe. In the US, vaccines and other drugs have to be approved by the FDA. And unfortunately, that doesn’t always weed out unsafe products. The rotavirus vaccine approved in 1998 was withdrawn from the market about a year later because of serious reactions. I’m sure you’ve heard of the recalls of Vioxx and Meridia. Pharmaceutical companies, too, concede that their products cause harm. They try to downplay risks but list side effects on their packaging materials.

“The VICP was established to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, stabilize vaccine costs, and establish and maintain an accessible and efficient forum for individuals found to be injured by certain vaccines. The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims that provides compensation to people found to be injured by certain vaccines.”

Consumers pay a little extra for every shot, that money is collected. If you’re interested in finding out more here is a link.

Thus pharmaceutical companies and the American government both agree that vaccines can cause harm. I think the real question is how much disability/deaths are acceptable based on value provided/lives saved.

I’m grateful that when someone is sick often there is an antibiotic or medicine that can potentially save their life. One of my friends would have died last Sunday without antibiotics and first world medicine. But the opposite sometimes happens, the drug or vaccine, given with good intentions, causes damage or death.

I don’t see vaccines as an either/or issue. Vaccines are not good OR bad. I see more value in some vaccines than others. I live in Massachusetts. Malaria vaccines aren’t needed here but they are desperately needed in other parts of the world. On certain islands 93% of the population has or has had hepatitis B. The risk factors for children developing hepatitis B are very high. In the US, it is spread primarily though sexual activity and drug use. Risk factors are different. Is it logical to treat children in both places identically?

This is the part of the discussion that I think gets drown out. We know that certain members of society have genetic predispositions to developing Tay Saks, Wilsons Disease or other genetic disorders. I think there is very strong evidence that autism has a genetic component.

Based on genetic differences in individuals it is logical to assume that people will react differently to drugs, toxins, foods, vaccines, etc. I argue that a small subset of the population because of genetic factors and other environmental influences react differently to vaccines than typical children. Parents began suspecting vaccines when children began regressing into autism shortly after receiving them. (I understand coincidence and that correlation doesn’t equal causation.) But I’ll also say that for both my sons to become autistic two weeks after the same series of shots is one hell of a coincidence! It’s also interesting that their cousins reacted to vaccines (developed ASD) and both the doctor and parents agreed they shouldn’t get that vaccine again.

As for Bernadine Healy former head of the NIH stating that she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association between vaccines and autism. In listening to her again I think she may be referring to the mice study out of Columbia University and Burbacher’s primate study.

Neurotoxic effects of postnatal thimerosal are mouse strain dependent.

“Autoimmune disease-sensitive SJL/J mice showed growth delay; reduced locomotion; exaggerated response to novelty; and densely packed, hyperchromic hippocampal neurons with altered glutamate receptors and transporters. Strains resistant to autoimmunity, C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ, were not susceptible. These findings implicate genetic influences and provide a model for investigating thimerosal-related neurotoxicity.”

Here’s the link.

Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal

“There was a much higher proportion of inorganic Hg in the brain of thimerosal monkeys than in the brains of MeHg monkeys (up to 71% vs. 10%). Absolute inorganic Hg concentrations in the brains of the thimerosal-exposed monkeys were approximately twice that of the MeHg monkeys. Interestingly, the inorganic fraction in the kidneys of the same cohort of monkeys was also significantly higher after im thimerosal than after oral MeHg exposure (0.71 ± 0.04 vs. 0.40 ± 0.03). This suggests that the dealkylation of ethylmercury is much more extensive than that of MeHg.”

Update: To Further explain the study:

This study shows that yes, as expected, ethyl mercury leaves the blood stream sooner. But where does it go? It’s not all excreted. The interesting part of the study is what happens to the mercury within the body. Within the body thimerosal is broken up and turns into inorganic mercury in the brain! The proportion of inorganic mercury in the brain is up to 71% in the monkeys who received thimerosal vs. 10% in the monkeys that received methyl mercury. This means that thimerosal left the bloodstream sooner and more of it changed into inorganic mercury in the brain. The study also mentions the inorganic fraction in the kidneys of the same cohort of monkeys was also significantly higher after im thimerosal than after oral MeHg exposure (0.71 ± 0.04 vs. 0.40 ± 0.03). This suggests that the dealkylation of ethylmercury is much more extensive than that of MeHg.” (Dealkylation refers to the process of removing the ethyl or methyl chain thus transforming it to its inorganic form.) The monkeys are excreting more of the methyl mercury than the ethyl mercury. More of the mercury from the thimerosal is deposited in the brain and kidneys.

“Although the initial distribution volume of total Hg is similar for the two groups, a biphasic exponential decline in total blood Hg is observed only after im injections of thimerosal. This suggests continual distribution into and localization in tissue sites over time. It is relevant to note that the kidney-to-blood concentration gradient of total Hg is much higher in the thimerosal monkeys than in the MeHg monkeys (mean ± SE, 95.1 ± 10 vs. 5.8 ± 0.6). The second slower phase of washout could also represent the gradual biotransformation of ethylmercury (the presumed principal organic form of Hg after thimerosal administration) to Hg-containing metabolites that have a different tissue distribution or are more slowly eliminated.”

Once the thimerosal has changed into inorganic mercury it is deposited in tissues. Where it remains to causes damage. Once in the inorganic form it cannot cross the blood brain barrier.

This is very important because humans cannot excrete inorganic mercury once it is deposited in the brain tissue. We can only excrete organic. Thus because ethylmercury (thimerosal) leaves the bloodstream more quickly than methlmercury less of it can be excreted before attaching as inorganic mercury to the brain, nervous system, wherever. Most studies on mercury have been done on methlmercury rather than ethylmercury.


An explanations of inorganic and organic mercury:

The distinction is the type of chemical bonding. Inorganic mercury refers to mercury that is in the metallic state or is a charged ion (a ‘salt,’ such as mercury chloride). Organic mercury is mercury that is chemically bonded to a carbon chain molecule – methylmercury and ethylmercury being the simplest organic mercury compounds (which also include thimerosal). Inorganic mercury forms (metal, vapors, mercury salts) are less toxic than organic mercury because it doesn’t absorb easily into the body – if ingested most passes through the digestive tract. Organic mercury is readily absorbed by tissues and transported around the body.

I don’t know that these were the studies Dr. Healy was referring too, but I suspect they might be among them. Did you notice that Dr. Healy said in the interview that a memo went around the NIM in 2004 saying, “Do not pursue susceptibility groups. Don’t look for those patents, those children, who may be vulnerable.”? She takes issue with that, as do I. She said that the NIH believed that parents would be scared away from vaccination if they were found to cause autism in a group. I guess I don’t sound like as much of a crackpot for saying studies looking into the connection between autism and vaccines really haven’t been done if the former head of the National Institutes of Health agrees!

And for your question of if I intended to use the paper as evidence that there are safety concerns with vaccines. No, I think you proved your point. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t the one I was looking for but I got lazy.

And I will check out the website you recommend.

If you are honestly interested in finding out more read David Kirby's Evidence of Harm.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Embarking on a New Career

After I read Dr. Parikh's article The Ugliness of the Anti-Vaccine Movement I was struck by his hypocrisy. To call a group out for name calling and "smearing" while engaging in it yourself is at best illogical and at worst dishonest. And I sent him a personal email asking him to reflect on his article. All I hoped for was a moment of personal reflection.

Earlier this year, I read another article written by him and sent him an email about that article as well. He wrote me back – twice. The difference in tone between the two articles is, for me, a little sad. The Dr. Parikh I briefly corresponded with was respectful. (Perhaps I like him because he called me “smart and civil.”) But he seems to have moved in a different direction.

And apparently, I have as well. I noticed that on I Speak of Dreams Blog I am listed as an anti-vaccine writer. I giggled at first, and then I wondered if I should send an email thanking the author for including me. But it also caused to reflect on whether I truly am anti-vaccine; because, after all, if I call on others to reflect on their position I should do the same.

I started motherhood firmly in a pro-vaccine, anti “anti-vacciner” position. I actually had the gall (to my embarrassment) to call people out for not vaccinating their children. But after a long painful period of questioning and study, I realized that something I had done had permanently damaged my children.

I believe that vaccines have and do benefit mankind. I never had to have the smallpox shot because it was eradicated before I was old enough to get it. I’m grateful my children aren’t at risk from polio. But I believe that the benefits of vaccines tend to be overstated. Rates of disease drop dramatically once people have consistent access to clean water, soap and good sanitation! As for the “herd immunity” argument – I address that here. I live in a first world. Therefore, my risk factors are different than they would be in a third world country. It convinces no one to use fear based reasoning when they have an understanding of actual risks.

Vaccines are size-one-fits-all medicine. There is no allowance for genetic factors, immune problems, etc. Cancer treatment is based on a patient’s symptoms and needs. Why are vaccines so different from how medicine is generally practiced? Answer: money, both because of the cost of testing individual children and the profits made by the pharmaceutical industry and the profits the doctors themselves make from vaccinations. Pharmaceutical companies are for profit. It’s dangerous and foolish to assign more morality to this industry than you would the banking industry.

So, am I anti-vaccine? Well, my youngest child received a vaccine in October. Thus, I cannot be opposed. Calling someone who questions the safety of vaccines anti-vaccine is a "straw man" argument.

I’m careful about which vaccines my children get. I no longer let anyone bully me about vaccines. I tend to know more about vaccines than your average person and probably even more than your average doctor. Doctors rely on the CDC and NIH to tell them if vaccines are safe. Pediatricians are generalists. That’s their job. We need them to know enough about a lot of things to know if there is a problem. The weakness with a generalist is that there are holes in knowledge. If they are getting questionable information from government agencies and pharmaceutical companies they probably won’t know it.

For someone not in my position it’s hard to understand the enormity of the betrayal of governmental entities charged to protect us. The CDC investigated thimerosal in 2000. The CDC published a study in late 2003, repudiating any possible link between thimerosal and autism. However, though the Freedom of Information Act the American public found out that they had “massaged” the data. Their original data “showed a 2.48% increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children who had received the mercury laced vaccines.” But after adding younger children and eliminating children born prematurely, the CDC was able to release a lower percentage.

One of the doctors, Dr. Johnson actually said (pg 198), “My gut feeling? It worries me enough. Forgive this personal comment, but I got called out at eight o'clock for an emergency call and my daughter-in-law delivered a son by C-section. Our first male in the line of the next generation, and I do not want that grandson to get a Thimerosal containing vaccine until we know better what is going on. It will probably take a long time. In the meantime, and I know there are probably implications for this internationally, but in the meantime I think I want that grandson to only be given Thimerosal-free vaccines."

Dr. Johnson didn’t want his grandson to receive a vaccine with thimerosal but my son received a thimerosal containing vaccine the day after he was born. He didn’t get the same chance Dr. Johnson’s grandson did. He didn’t warn me.

There’s not enough space to go through the flaws in the studies commonly cited to prove vaccines don’t cause autism or to read the studies supporting vaccines triggering autism. Check here, here, here and here (if you're interested in more Martha Herbert here is her website). Start reading the Schafer Autism Report, a collection of articles, studies, etc. dealing with autism. It is an unbelievable collection of information that goes back years!

Frankly, I don’t think anyone could write any article that would prove to anyone else that vaccines trigger autism. It requires a lot of time and energy to even delve into the subject. I'm still waiting for a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study. The closest we have now is a phone survey from California.

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