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Statement from Thoughtful House Center for Children on Dateline NBC Autism Vaccine Program

Thoughtful house 2 A Statement from Thoughtful House Center for Children

NBC aired a special Dateline, “A Dose of Controversy,” on Sunday, August 30, 2009. All of us at Thoughtful House would like to thank NBC, Matt Lauer, Ami Schmitz, and the staff at Dateline for their hard work in relating a complicated story.

Autism is a challenging disorder that has been ignored and misunderstood for too long. Issues of causation and treatment are rarely discussed in depth for fear people won’t understand or pay attention long enough to learn something. This broadcast was the first time a network has taken the time to address some of these difficult questions, and attempted to deal with complex answers; answers that can be impossible to put into sound bites or easy black-and-white comments.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health and current member of the Institute of Medicine, provided an informed perspective by calling for more research to answer these questions. NBC features more of her interview, with great advice for parents, on their website (a link is provided on the Thoughtful House website).

We are aware of the time limitations in a news broadcast of this nature; inevitably, crucial questions go unanswered and important facts are omitted. Quick answers and segues leave questions open, and can even lead to misunderstanding.

Among the most crucial incorrect statements were that “(experts) have taken this study and blown it to bits…that despite studies showing otherwise…Dr. Wakefield insists autism and bowel disease are linked…” This is in fact not the case, and NBC was given the correct information in great detail. Five separate studies in five countries have confirmed the presence of a novel bowel disease in children with autism.  Additional publications confirming these findings are in process.  This hypothesis was the crux of the 1998 Lancet paper, as well as several subsequent publications by Dr. Wakefield.

Additionally, the Danish and Finnish studies that were referred to, with NBC stating that “much larger studies showed absolutely no link [to MMR]” were presented as if they had not garnered their own share of criticism and debate. In fact, these studies have been reviewed by other scientists in depth and found to be lacking. And as Dr. Healy points out, the number of children involved in these studies might not have been substantial enough to answer the question of a possible link.

Dr. Paul Offit (a frequent media spokesperson for the current vaccine schedule and champion of stopping research into vaccine safety and autism) was asked a relevant question about his conflict of interests. While finally acknowledging he has made millions and millions from the development of vaccinations, what Dr. Offit failed to disclose in his answer is that he has been a consultant for the pharmaceutical giant Merck, a manufacturer of the MMR vaccine. While serving as a consultant is not unusual or wrong, his failure to disclose this when answering a question about potential conflicts of interest is misleading in the extreme. He is actually guilty of the very thing that Dr. Wakefield has been accused of.  (Note that Dr. Wakefield provided NBC with numerous documents proving he was innocent of this charge, and that he had declared any possible conflict of interest in a timely manner throughout the course of his career.) We certainly do not condone any threats or attacks against anyone, including Dr. Offit (we have been on the receiving end of these threats and accusations ourselves); however, we urge Dr. Offit to be prompt and thorough in disclosing his motives and conflicts.

As for Brian Deer, much has been written and said about his crusade against Dr. Wakefield. His lies, conflation of facts, and distortions of truth are documented and will continue to be revealed as more facts emerge. The biggest omission in the broadcast concerning Mr. Deer is the clear evidence that the entire General Medical Council investigation is based on a complaint he filed himself. A reporter creating the news is a story in itself, and one that will continue to be discussed as the GMC and the Press Complaints Commission in the UK review the facts at hand.

While we sympathize with pediatricians who must answer more questions from better-informed parents, we disagree with Mr. Lauer’s assessment that it is the pediatricians who “are dealing with the collateral damage.” We see mountains of collateral damage every day in our waiting rooms, our community, and our homes. Thoughtful House will not stop until we have the answers needed to help those who are already affected and are armed with the science to stop even one more child from facing the difficulties and pain that autism can present.

As Dr. Wakefield said in his NBC interview, the work of the many who work with Thoughtful House, through clinical practices and research, will continue. As the health and lives of children continue to improve and the research into causation and best courses of treatment moves forward, we remain committed to follow our mission of fighting for the recovery of children with autism and developmental disorders.

We hope this broadcast will open a productive dialogue on the challenges of autism and the treatment that will help them reach their fullest potential. The issue of vaccine safety must become a priority for those who have been tasked with protecting our children. We hope that science will prevail over profit and policy and that this research will be supported in order to answer these questions once and for all. All children deserve nothing less.

Anissa Ryland
Director of Operations
Thoughtful House Center for Children

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Its not difficult to believe that vaccines could have damaging side effects; because they contain weakened pathogens of the diseases they are supposed to protect against. But then, if there were no vaccines, and for the same reason, it is not difficult to believe that the resulting increase in disease rate would include side effects including autism (not to mentioned death and other purely physical disabilities), possibly at a higher rate than that incurred by vaccines.

This balance between the "not widely accepted" risk of vaccines and the "well known" risk of not having vaccines suggests other courses of action:
*Better testing of vaccine batches to check for consistency.
*Before administering a full vaccine, administer a very light vaccine and allow time to watch for adverse symptoms. Some people are obviosuly going to be far more sensitive than others, and may even have allergic reactions.

Schoolteacher,
Are you talking about the Madsen study?

Here is what Madsen looked at:

Vaccinated with MMR, then developed autism.

Not vaccinated with MMR, then developed autism

Vaccinated with MMR but may have been autistic prior to the receipt of MMR

Vaccinated with MMR, no autism

Unvaccinated with MMR, no autism.

No where in any of those categories is there any child who is unvaccinated completely, which was the claim that was made by the scientific "journalists" who were reporting on this study.

Now, all of this was from the Danish Registry for Autism, and it is only assumed that the data was correct (nothing has been added subsequently that showed that this data was verified).

So, the prevalance is only split into two categories: vaccinated and unvaccinated with MMR. The children who did receive the MMR and may have been autistic prior to the vaccine were said to be unvaccinated. This significantly skewed the numbers to where they didn't show much of a difference. Lastly, the prevalence of Autism shown in the study was only about 1 in 738.

One of the tenants of science is that it is repeatable. Since Madsen hasn't released his raw data, this study cannot be repeated.


'An investigation of the association of MMR vaccination and autism in Denmark', JAPandS, Vol 9 No 3 p.70-75 2004

I do hope this answers your questions.

I am the mother of 4, one of which is an autistic daughter with PDD-NOS, and severe chronic gastrointestinal problems. For the past 12 years, I have known about the link between vaccines, autism, and especially Gastrointestinal problems. I experienced it first-hand as I watched my daughter descend into a lonely world of agony and pain, and ignorance, after she received a hepatitis vaccine when she was 12 years old. The pediatrician would not listen to me about the effect. She denied that the vaccine made my daughter so ill. It affected our entire lives; at home, at school, and at work. Our medical bills piled high, and continue to pile high as we seek for relief and a cure. My realization that the problem was real, and was not being addressed by the medical society, became apparent to me a few years after my daughter became ill. It was at the time for my younger son to attend school. I refused to let him have vaccines that they told me were mandatory. It became a battle as they threatened not to let my son into school without the vaccines. I steadfastly refused to let him have them and I began doing some research. I needed some kind of support- some kind of proof. Not surprisingly, I began to find loads upon loads of reports from parents who had experienced the same things with their children who were victims of vaccine injuries. The abundance of information in my research was just what I needed to get some support on the issue. I even joined the NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center), who was very helpful in providing necessary information to me. I took it to the mayor who suggested I write a letter of religious exemption. So my son has been able to attend school without the vaccines. I am disheartened knowing that the medical community would not take responsibility for it, but I am so appreciative of documentaries like "A Dose of Controversy". Someone must step up to the plate and begin taking responsibility to end the horrible abuse of children that are victims of vaccine injuries!
Dr. Wakefield is a hero in the eyes of far too many to be ignored. It is time for the world to see the truth! You Go Dr. Wakefield!! We are right behind you!!

Schoolteacher, my understanding is that the Denmark study did not enroll children who were statistically more likely to develop autism (those with ASD in the family, those with developmental delays, those born after difficult pregnancies, etc.). I also read somewhere that those conducting the study may have taken children exhibiting developmental delays out of the study after it started.

www.fourteenstudies.org is probably the best place to get the most accurate information on the Danish study and all the other flawed studies that purport to show no link between vaccines and autism.

@Schoolteacher in NYC,
Thoughtful House has a great website with a Research area that is very thorough.
http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org

Hopefully you can find what you are looking for there.

In response to the request for the studies replicating the original findings:

Gonzalez, L. et al., “Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms“. Arch Venez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.

Balzola, F., et al., “Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsule enteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome?” American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. 100(4): p. 979- 981.

S. Walker, K. Hepner, J. Segal, A. Krigsman “Persistent Ileal Measles Virus in a Large Cohort of Regressive Autistic Children with Ileocolitis and Lymphonodular Hyperplasia: Revisitation of an Earlier Study” [IMFAR May 2007]


Balzola F et al . “Autistic enterocolitis: confirmation of a new inflammatory bowel disease in an Italian cohort of patients.” Gastroenterology 2005;128(Suppl. 2);A-303.


This is the Madsen study, along with comment:

Madsen KM et al. A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination
and Autism (2002). N Engl J Med 347 (19): 1477–82

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/347/19/1477?query=prevarrow

Response by Stott, Blaxill, Wakefield:

http://www.jpands.org/vol9no3/stott.pdf

Response by Goldman, Yazbak:

http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/pdf/goldman.pdf

Response by Branell:

http://whale.to/a/branell.html

Note that even before the above flaws are taken into account, the Madsen study was insufficiently powerful to find the minority of children who have regressed into autism after apparently normal development, as in their results as presented the RR was 1.24 at the upper end of the 95% confidence interval.
Since you have logged in as a schoolteacher, any of the mathematics department should be able to discuss that with you.

Does Thoughtful House by any chance have a page up with links to the various referenced papers? For example:

1)What are the five studies confirming a novel bowel disease?

2) Who has reviewed the Denmark study and found it wanting? It was a huge study that showed no variance in autism population between those who had and didn't have the MMR triple. I would like to read any critiques of it available.

I am not trolling here, but we're planning not to get the shots so I want to read as much as possible.

I watched "A Dose of Controversy" on Sunday night and was totally impressed with Dr. Wakefield's calm demeanor, and his grace and poise when questioned by Matt Lauer. He is my hero. He has such courage and determination to help our children...and I am convinced the angels are on his side. I am sad that all of the facts were not put forth, but to be honest, it was a more balanced interview than I had expected. Dr. Healy came across as a voice of reason and someone who is willing to look ANYWHERE for the cause of autism no matter where it leads. If I had to choose which doctors I would want to deal with - Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Healy would win "hands down". They came across as caring and compassionate people with the children's interests at heart...and willing to research ANYTHING that may be the cause of autism. Deer and Offit seemed to be mostly concerned with defending their positions. Their true colors are showing - and I believe people will come to recognize this. As a parent of a child with autism, I am very in tune with the persona of any health care practitioner I take my son to...because, guess what, my child is extremely intuitive...he can sense whether someone really cares about him or not...and I guarantee you he would be most comfortable with Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Healy. That says a lot. Even though all the facts were not brought out, I do believe that this was an important step for our children ...perhaps not a giant step, but a solid step which will gain momentum. I applaud Dr. Wakefield's courage...he is beyond amazing and a true hero in every sense of the word.

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