Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Biomedical Autism Specialist Physician's Viewpoint about the Current Vaccine Courts Decision Regarding Autism and Vaccines

The recent ruling by a vaccine court involved in vaccine damage litigation regarding causation between vaccinations such the MMR, and the vaccine ingredient thimerosal (mercury) and autism as being without merit or not showing enough scientific evidence is both tragic and misleading. It is tragic because for years families have sought restitution for their families' emotional and financial suffering in caring for what they know is a vaccine damaged child. It is misleading because the traditional medical community will use this decision to put forth their mantra that vaccinations for ALL children at the current schedule (approximately 24 vaccines before the age of 2) – regardless of a child’s hereditary or genetic variances is completely safe, and any indication of toxicity or link to childhood neurological problems is unwarranted.

This commentary is not an attack against vaccines in general. The argument is always brought up that vaccines have saved thousands of lives – not only here in the United States, but across the world, and to go without vaccines would endanger thousands of other children. Both of these statements can be viewed as accurate. Most of us who speak out about the vaccine and autism connection have never advocated the elimination of childhood vaccines, or indicated that vaccines are the only cause of autism. We all know that vaccines in the history of medicine have contributed to preventing and reducing infectious disease. Enough said. Vaccines are not going away, nor should they.

The deeper issue is that certain vaccines are associated with a risk of adverse reactions that can impair certain individuals neurologically – seizures, motor dysfunction, paralysis, and even death. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) would not exist – and record data on adverse vaccine reactions on a yearly basis - if vaccines did not have the potential to cause problems. Someone can debate all they want about the risks, percentages, actual cases, etc., but the fact remains vaccines carry a risk for adverse side effects.

The vaccine court determined that there was not enough scientific evidence to indicate vaccines were a cause of three different children’s autism. No one disputes that vaccines can have side effects such as fever, shock, brain inflammation, and even death in some circumstances with the brain inflammation leading to temporary or permanent neurological deficits. Less than a year ago another vaccine court ruled that a young girl by the name of Hannah Poling became autistic after receiving a series of vaccines. However, the vaccine autism critics point out that this only occurred because Hannah was found to have an underlying metabolic abnormality that likely predisposed her to a vaccine adverse reaction. In this scenario the court acknowledged that the vaccines exacerbated an underlying medical problem. What is missing in the current decision is the language of “contributed to”, “exacerbated,” or “potentiated” a child’s regression into autism. The vaccines in these three cases may not have been the ‘single’ cause, but they certainly could have contributed to the child’s development of what is classified as autism characteristics.

I have been in medical practice for over 11 years. For the past decade I have helped evaluate the medical issues of children on the autism-spectrum, and provided biomedical treatment to support their health and well-being. In this time, I have had the opportunity to interview families from across the United States and abroad. I have seen kids of all shapes, sizes, colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. I have seen kids who appeared delayed from birth, and others who regressed into autism slowly starting around the age of 2 years, children who became autistic because of natural infections, and a few who even became autistic who never had been vaccinated.

Tragically, I have also seen children who became autistic within days of their 15 to 18 months vaccines – usually after a combination of the MMR and others. In one case, a parent described taking her child to the pediatrician for an early morning office visit for immunizations, and by the time the father got home that evening the girl was spinning in circles, hand-flapping, and not responding to her name. Essentially, she disappeared into the world of isolation and odd behavior – what we all in the medical community refer to as autism. In many cases, a typically developing child – social, engaged, happy, healthy and thriving – develops severe digestive problems almost immediately after their MMR vaccine. With this also comes regression of normal typical behavior to the autistic characteristics of isolation, loss of language, and others.

What is sad and frightening is so many of the stories that these parents tell are very similar. Their child was developing normally – many have video and pictures to prove it – and suddenly their child (within 3 weeks to 3 months) are completely changed – commonly associated with their 1-1/2 year vaccines. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that commonality of stories from families of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds over many, many years holds some validity in the realm of probability. In many of these cases, the main connecting mechanism was childhood vaccines.

Of course, there are variables in this population. I do not feel that vaccines are the sole contributor to all children’s autism. As I have mentioned before, I have seen children with varying medical backgrounds where the link to vaccines or other environmental causes is not clear cut. However, in a vast majority of kids who fit the regressive pattern of autism – where normal development both physically, verbally and cognitively are being met – and suddenly the child completely changes in a short period of time. The adverse reactions to vaccine(s) are to blame – at least this is my medical opinion.

The argument isn’t whether vaccines cause, contribute to, potentiate, etc. ALL cases of autism, but is it possible that for some children who may carry unique biochemical imbalances, along with genetic variances as was the case with Hannah Poling – are more susceptible to adverse vaccine reactions. Logic tends to dictate - Yes! It is plausible because nothing in medicine is 100% effective or 100% without risk – including vaccines.

The medical authorities, vaccine courts, or other naysayers regarding adverse vaccine reactions and autism can argue all they want about there being no link. The reality is these decisions are being determined in the courtroom, and we all know that a court ruling is not always indicative of absolute guilt or innocence – reference the case of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. I think we can all agree the legal decision didn’t match what we all suspected was the truth.

The fact is that thousands of parents who have lived through the fear and devastation know the truth of seeing their child disappear into autism – in some cases almost overnight – and are now living a nightmare of emotional, physical and financial stress to care for their child. They know what they saw, and they know what kind of child they had before that fateful day at the pediatrician’s office. For over a decade, I have heard these stories through their words and seen the pictures and videos of a once normal child.

The link of vaccines to autism is real. Not in all cases, but in a significant amount. My heart goes out to those families who have dealt with such trauma and frustration. Because of this current court ruling once again they are left to fend for themselves as their voices go unheard by the system that encouraged, persuaded, and even intimidated them to vaccinate in the first place.


kimberly said...

Thank you for this article. Very well put.


Julee said...

Yes, Thank you Dr. Woeller. It is nice to have something to pass on to people who ask my opinion on this subject.

I was thinking today who happy I was that we have such an involved DAN doctor that keeps up with all of this. :)

Kotesh Panguluri said...

Very well done Kurt!!!.

dwinkelmann said...

Amazing article Dr. Woeller, I am passing this on to all my clients. Thank you so much for being a beacon of light for all these families who seek the truth and who want to be heard! You are such an awesome DAN doctor!
-Dawn Winkelmann M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Feeding Therapist