A Note about Recent Vaccine News Items
Autism Society of Pittsburgh staff had the following editorial published In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 20, 2009:
Autism Advocates are not anti-vaccine
We take issue with this quote in the Post Gazette article “Autism, vaccine debate not over for some,” published on Saturday, February 14th, 2009: “It would be nice if autism advocacy organizations actually advocated for children with autism,” Dr. Offit said. “Instead, they are anti-vaccine organizations….”
The Autism Society of Pittsburgh strongly advocates for all living with autism – families, professionals, and adults on the spectrum, and has done so since 1967. Money raised in Pittsburgh stays here to support advocacy, newsletter, parent and professional supports, and training activities.
This past week we held two informational meetings plus one parent/professional training mini-conference. In July we’ll educate over 90 children with autism spectrum disorders in the S.P.E.A.K. summer school program. We are there for our people.
We have never been anti-vaccine and never will be. We are however anti-mass vaccinations and against inclusion of substances in vaccines that are empirically suspect in triggering onset of autism symptoms. We will continue to battle the Offit’s and the pharmaceutical lobby and press for genuinely independent, peer-reviewed research to determine the extent to which vaccine content and practice do or do not cause autism.
Regardless of “disability politics,” treatment fads or other factors, we will continue to be there for our autism “family.” If you would like to be on our mailing and email lists, or have any question about an autism issue in your life, please contact us at 412.856.7223 or email info@autismsocietypgh.
Daniel Torisky, President
Note to parents old enough to remember…
Our chapter’s current position on vaccines is consistent with the original, research policy of the Autism Society of America, held since its founding in 1965, namely to determine truths about autism. The prevailing “truth” at the time, perhaps the most damaging theory held about any disability or disorder in history, was that frigid, dysfunctional mothers caused autism. The pressure of thousands of intuitive parents, led by ASA founder Dr. Bernard Rimland, resulted in independent research that completely debunked the absurd notion of blaming the mother, and opened the door to ongoing studies and approaches, unfettered by bias, addressing the realities of this complex neurological disorder.
Has This Ever Happened to You?
Certainly you are reading this because you have an interest in autism. Most likely you are a family member struggling with the disorder. Perhaps you yourself have an infant or a relative does. You naturally are concerned about the big V – vaccines – and their potential influence on the development of autism.
A parent has called our office several times to discuss “what to do about vaccines regarding their infant son whose uncle has autism. The parents wish to break up vaccines, spacing them out and delaying the hepatitis B until at least age 3. Mom took her baby to the pediatrician last week, and was facing 4 jabs (DTaP, Hep B, HIB and chicken pox). She requested just one, the DTaP, already a combination of 3 vaccines, be administered that day. She received instead a lecture from the nurse (“Do you want your son to get hepatitis B as a baby?”) and a denial of ANY vaccines that day. Hepatitis B is spread mainly through blood-blood transmission, occurring mainly with the following behaviors including: sexual activity with infected person, shared use of needles, getting tattoos with contaminated Instruments, and sharing toothbrushes or razors of infected persons. He was denied the more critical pertussis and tetanus vaccine as a … punishment?
Those who have hepatitis B in their households – although this is not always evident – should have access to early vaccines. Any parent with concerns should have the choice to vaccinate or not. It is our stance that all parents should have options, period. Yet we as an advocacy organization are without a physician referral list we can publish.
No Healthcare for You!
Following this argumentative and aversive visit to the doctor’s office, witnessed by her 5-year-old daughter, mom got a letter from the office manager. She was told that her family is no longer welcome In the practice. Since then she and her husband have been on the hunt for a doctor who will appreciate the higher risk her children face and one who will vaccinate according to good judgment – as opposed to – a generic CDC schedule that ignores increasing data from solid research suggesting we need to be more cautious in our vaccine approach. Some children with underlying conditions experience adverse effects from multiple vaccines given together. Families need options.
America struggles to provide health care coverage for all, yet In many cases where the family has adequate insurance, they can STILL be denied this basic civil right based on a “policy” developed in a medical practice by doctors who are not health policy experts. Their chief concern? Eliminating the chance of having an “under”-vaccinated child in their waiting room near other patients. In this case, preventing a very young child at low risk of contracting the hard-to-get hepatitis B, playing near children who have been vaccinated. So they just eliminated the patient. Wash hands. Done deal.
These Parents are Not Crazy
Recently, Carolyn Gallagher and Melody Goodman of the Graduate Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University Medical Center, NY, wrote in the Annals of Epidemiology that “Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD compared to later- or unvaccinated boys.” This conclusion was reached by the authors who used U.S. probability samples from National Health lnterview Survey (NHIS) 1997-2002 datasets. They conclude: “Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys.”
With an existing autism diagnosis in the family, parents are naturally cautious, and right to be scrupulous, about what they put into their children’s bodies. Reasonable parents desiring delayed vaccines (not demanding to be vaccine free!) are acting in their children’s best interests. Yet they are often treated like uneducated hysterics who should just follow current (and often under-supported) trends dictating additional new vaccines in increasing numbers every couple of years.
How Many Vaccinations is Too Many?
Currently babies under the age of 2 receive 32 vaccinations, up from 6-8 in 1990. What is the threshold for even the healthiest, low-risk baby, if there Is such a child? 33? 46? 99? The truth is, and you can ask your own pediatrician, “Nobody knows.”
What is a family to do?
If you have difficulty finding a flexible pediatrician, ask other families living with autism who their doctors are.
Go on chat boards, resource listings. and call advocacy organizations, like ours, and find out by word of mouth. While our community can be at times diverse in opinions about treatments, life plans, interventions, diets and the like, it is also getting stronger, more knowledgeable and more outspoken about getting each person with autism what they deserve – the best quality in services and interventions. We can help each other, and that help could be just a phone call away.