By Twyla Ramos
Seven years ago, my youngest daughter had a febrile seizure, at the age of 15 months. She had come down with a bit of a cough, and then suddenly her fever rose, and then she began convulsing. Nobody in our extended family had ever had a seizure. She had never had such a high fever before, and our first two children had never had such high fevers. It was quite scary. We took her to the emergency room. She was groggy and out of it for quite a while, and still feverish. For a couple of weeks her fever kept rising, and she had a deep cough which was diagnosed as “croup”. We were told that croup is caused by a viral infection that irritates the lungs.
She had just had a “well baby” visit with our pediatrician a few days before the seizure. When we went back for a follow up appointment after the seizure, I asked our pediatrician jokingly, “What did you do to our baby, anyway?” Concern flashed across his face, but he smiled when he saw that I was just kidding.
Our two daughters are neurotypical – great conversationalists and excellent students, with lots of friends and wonderful involvement in many activities. But, our son is autistic. Because of his autism, I have read a lot in recent years about children’s adverse reactions to vaccines. Although for the most part our son did not seem to react to vaccines, I often wondered whether the preservative thimerosal (which is 49.6% mercury) caused or at least contributed to his autism.
Other vaccines have never contained thimerosal but do contain live viruses. I have read stories about children regressing into autism after receiving the MMR vaccine -- often with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and/or seizure disorders. I read Dan Olmsted’s articles about adverse vaccine reactions among some of the children who participated in recent trials of a vaccine incorporating both the MMR and the vaccine for chickenpox – a quadruple whammy with four live viruses.
But it was not until a few days ago that a light went on in my head and I suddenly wondered, what vaccines did my daughter receive at that well baby visit before her seizure seven years ago? I have a copy of her vaccine record, and I contacted our insurance company to find out the date of her admission to the emergency room. Four days before the seizure occurred, she received both the MMR and the vaccine for chicken pox at the same doctor’s appointment.
Back then I had total confidence in those who develop vaccines and decide on the recommended vaccine schedule. I was so nonchalant, that I completely forgot that she had received the MMR and chicken pox vaccines at the same time. Until now, it never even occurred to me that her seizure could have been related to her vaccines. All these years, we wondered why a simple cold virus caused a febrile seizure.
Curious, I went to the CDC web site. I clicked on “Vaccine Concerns” and then on “Febrile Seizures after MMR and DTP Vaccinations”. I fully expected to hear the usual, “There’s no proof of a connection and don’t confuse coincidence with causation” baloney. To my surprise, the CDC acknowledged that there is a risk of febrile seizures after both the DPT and the MMR. They cited a study from the August 30, 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine entitled "The Risk of Seizures after Receipt of Whole-Cell Pertussis or Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine" by William E. Barlow and colleagues, and said:
“The study confirmed what was already known: DTP and MMR vaccinations can temporarily increase the risk for fever-related, or what are called ‘febrile,’ seizures… In this study, the number of fever-related seizures following DTP vaccination was six to nine per 100,000 vaccinated children. The number after MMR vaccine was 25 to 34 per 100,000 vaccinated children.”
I don’t know where those numbers came from, but I am sure that many vaccine reactions, such as my daughter’s, are not reported.
The CDC reassured parents that febrile seizures are nothing to worry about:
“Parents concerned about the link between childhood vaccinations and seizures need not worry, according to the results of this study. The study found that children who suffered rare fever-related seizures after getting DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, and whole-cell pertussis) and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccinations did not have an increased risk for subsequent seizures or neurodevelopmental (e.g., learning) disabilities…
“Fever-related seizures are the most common type of seizure that occurs during childhood. Fever-related seizures may happen with any condition that causes a high fever. Children who have fever-related seizures uniformly have an excellent prognosis. This study found that febrile seizures following vaccination had no long-term effects.”
I imagine that the reason why “Children who have fever-related seizures uniformly have an excellent prognosis” is because if they do encounter a problem, such as autism, their seizure is moved from the “febrile seizure” category to some other category, such as the “autism which is genetic and not caused by vaccines” category.
I went to another page on the CDC site called “Frequently Asked Questions about Multiple Vaccines and the Immune System”, where they said:
“Giving a child several vaccinations during the same visit offers two practical advantages. First, we want to immunize children as quickly as possible to give them protection during the vulnerable early months of their lives. Second, giving several vaccinations at the same time means fewer office visits, which saves parents both time and money and may be less traumatic for the child… Research is underway to find methods to combine more antigens in a single vaccine injection (for example, MMR and chickenpox). This will provide all the advantages of the individual vaccines, but will require fewer shots.”
So, the CDC acknowledges that the MMR alone can cause febrile seizures, but they say that febrile seizures are nothing to worry about, so they are planning to add the chicken pox virus to the MMR anyway.
On this page the CDC also state:
“No evidence suggests that the recommended childhood vaccines can ‘overload’ the immune system. In contrast, from the moment babies are born, they are exposed to numerous bacteria and viruses on a daily basis. Eating food introduces new bacteria into the body; numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose; and an infant places his or her hands or other objects in his or her mouth hundreds of times every hour, exposing the immune system to still more antigens. An upper respiratory viral infection exposes a child to 4 to 10 antigens, and a case of ‘strep throat’ to 25 to 50.
“Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines, a 1994 report from the Institute of Medicine, states: ‘In the face of these normal events, it seems unlikely that the number of separate antigens contained in childhood vaccines ... would represent an appreciable added burden on the immune system that would be immunosuppressive.’”
Well, you know what? This combination of four viruses did “overload” my strong, healthy toddler’s immune system.
It’s natural to be exposed to a variety of microbes on a daily basis, but it is not natural to have those microbes injected directly into the bloodstream. This totally bypasses the defense mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and respiratory system. Moreover, have you ever heard of a case where someone came down with measles, mumps, chicken pox, and German measles simultaneously? Surely that must be confusing and overwhelming to the immune system.
I went to the page on “Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Measles Vaccine”. In this section I read,
“Measles, mumps, or rubella (MMR) virus infection is not known to cause IBD. The virus that causes measles disease infects the respiratory system and then spreads to lymphatic tissue (an important part of our immune system).”
This supports my belief that my daughter’s “croup” was caused by the vaccine virus. (I will not even try to address the statement regarding IBD, except to say that there is considerable evidence to the contrary.)
We are so fortunate that she did not suffer worse effects from having these four live viruses injected together at such a young age. As far as we know, so far the only lasting effects of her exposure to multiple vaccines, containing various ingredients from mercury to aluminum to live viruses, were a tendency to get high fevers, prolonged coughs, and mild allergies, such as eczema when the weather is cold and dry. All of this has lessened somewhat over time.
Parents often wonder about the disruptive effects of mercury and aluminum on the immune system and whether this contributes to high rates of asthma. Now I wonder whether the injected MMR also contributes to over-sensitizing the lungs.
I am not anti-vaccine. But I am in favor of making vaccines as safe as possible. I am in favor of weighing the risks and benefits carefully. As a child, my friends and siblings and neighbors and I all came down with measles, mumps, chicken pox, German measles, and whooping cough, and none of us suffered any lasting effects. I know that rare complications are possible, but these illnesses are not like polio and smallpox. How could the powers-that-be think that the risks of measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox justify cavalier disregard of the risk of febrile seizures, and of even worse consequences reported by many parents?
How can the CDC acknowledge the risk of febrile seizures but deny the reports of parents who describe febrile seizures followed by descent into autism? Isn’t this just a matter of degree, and level of individual vulnerability? Why are they considering adding another virus to the mix, instead of breaking the MMR up into three separate vaccines?
If I said, “My car’s brakes are making funny noises. I better have them checked out before I drive anywhere,” would that mean that I am anti-cars? If I said, “I’m flying across the country tomorrow, and I sure hope the airline has done a good job of maintenance and safety checks,” would that mean I am anti-airplanes? Cars and airplanes are important for transportation, but we must make them as safe as possible.
My autistic son was injected with a Hepatitis B vaccine containing mercury on the day he was born, although he was not even at risk for Hepatitis B. What kind of warped weighing of risks and benefits was involved in the decision to put that vaccine on the schedule for all newborns? My son turned blue a while after receiving this vaccine, and was resuscitated by the hospital staff. Was this a vaccine reaction? We will never know. But I do know that it was crazy for him to receive this shot a few hours after birth, when his liver and kidneys were not even fully functioning, and when he was not even at risk for this disease.
It would make more sense to advise mothers to be tested for exposure to Hepatitis B, so that they would know whether their babies might be at risk. Then they could decide whether the potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks of injecting a newborn. If some mothers make poor choices and don’t get tested, that is their decision. But my baby should not be forced to get an unnecessary and risky shot just because some mothers who are positive for Hepatitis B will make what the CDC considers to be poor decisions.
Some say thimerosal has been removed from vaccines, except for flu shots and exports. But I emailed the CDC to confirm something I had heard, and they emailed me back confirming it, saying:
“Thimerosal still may be used in the early stages of making certain vaccines. However, it is removed through a purification process. When this process is complete, only trace, or insignificant, amounts of thimerosal are left (less than 0.3 mcg) and these amounts have no biological effect.”
I emailed them back, asking, “Does any government agency monitor and test to ensure that this purification process is effective, and that the final product contains only ‘less than 0.3 mcg’? Or do the pharmaceutical companies have sole responsibility for the testing and monitoring of this?” So far, I have not received an answer.