Live from the National Autism Association Conference
Vioxx and vaccines

Why We Believe

Iwo_jima By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

In 1942 Academy Award-winning film director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Philadelphia Story) began a series of seven documentary films entitled, “Why We Fight” to explain the reason the United States was involved in the Second World War.

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day 2007, I thought I’d honor a similar “good fight”; the one being waged against autism by reviewing the reasons and the research so many parents believe autism and other neurological disorders are caused by a medical system run amuck.

1)  That there is an autism epidemic - Because the numbers from the United States Department of Education show a staggering increase!  In the 1992-1993 school year the Department of Education listed 12, 222 children with autism between the ages of 6-21 years old.  In 2007 that number had skyrocketed to 224, 415, an eighteen-fold increase!

When the MIND Institute at UC Davis looked at the California numbers in their October 2002 report to the California Legislature they found, “There is no evidence that a loosening in the diagnostic criteria has contributed to increased number of autism clients . . . we conclude that some, if not all, of the observed increase represents a true increase in cases of autism in California . . . a purely genetic basis for autism does not fully explain the increasing autism prevalence.”

A similar conclusion was reached by Dr. Craig J. Newschaffer, Ph.D. from John Hopkins University regarding the national prevalence of autism trends and reported in the March 2005 issue of Pediatrics.  Curiously, he found that the greatest increase took place between 1987 and 1992, which coincides with the timing of the near-tripling of vaccines given to U.S. children and the near-tripling of mercury contained in those vaccines.

2)  That mercury from the environment and vaccines is linked to this epidemic – A study released by the University of Texas Health Science Center and published in 2006 found, “On average, for each 1,000 lb of environmentally released mercury, there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and a 61% increase in the rate of autism. The association between environmentally released mercury and special education rates was fully mediated by increased autism rates. This ecological study suggests the need for further research regarding the association between environmentally released mercury and developmental disorders such as autism."

One of the most provocative pieces of research has come from Columbia University where Dr. Mady Horning gave time and dose equivalent amounts of thimerosal to mice with differing genetic profiles.  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Hornig’s testimony before Congress in September of 2004:

“The premise of our research is that if mercury in vaccines creates risk for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, genetic differences are likely to contribute to that risk.  Earlier studies, however, did not use the form of mercury present in vaccines, known in thimerosal, and did not consider whether intramuscular, repetitive administration during early postnatal development when the brain an immune system are still maturing, might intensify toxicity.  Our predictions were confirmed.  Using thimerosal dosages and timing that approximated the childhood immunization schedule, our model of postnatal thimerosal neurotoxicity demonstrated that the genes in mice that predict mercury-related immunotoxicity also predicted neurodevelopmental damage.  Features reminiscent of those observed in autism occurred in the mice of the genetically sensitive strain.”

A recent study from Dr. Elizabeth Sadjel-Sulkowsa of Harvard Medical School entitled, “Oxidative Stress in Autism: Elevated Cerebellar 3-nitrotyrosine Levels” and published in the American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology in which the brains of autistic children who had died were examined for signs of heavy metal toxicity supports the assertion that mercury may be associated with the development of autism. 

Significantly, the researchers found, “Based on the cumulative evidence of aforementioned data and the findings derived from our study, we propose a tentative oxidative-stress-mediated model of autistic pathology (Fig. 3). This model incorporates possible environmental impacts and is also consistent with recent genetic analysis that identified several genes linked to autism. Interestingly enough, some of these genes code for factors involved in the antioxidant defense mechanism such as glutathione-Stransferase (GST M1) an allele involved in the metabolism of glutathione, which is an intrinsic antioxidant, as well as differences in allele frequency for genes encoding reduced folate carrier[12]. Polymorphism for metal-responsive transcription factor (MTF-1) in autism, potentially alters expression of metallothionein and tissue levels of heavy metals such as mercury.”

3)  That other vaccine ingredients may also be causing neurological harm Dr. Christopher Shaw, Ph.D. of the University of British Columbia tested the toxicity of the aluminum adjuvant used in commercial vaccines as he was studying Gulf War Syndrome, which some have claimed is due to the large number of vaccines our troops received before deploying to the Persian Gulf.

In his article entitled “Aluminum Adjuvant Linked to Gulf War Illness Induces Motor Neuron Death in Mice” and published in the journal Neuromolecular Medicine in 2007 he reports, “testing showed motor deficits in the aluminum treatment group that expressed as a progressive decrease in strength measured . . . Significant cognitive deficits in water-maze learning were observed in the combined aluminum and squalene group . . . Apoptotic neurons were identified in aluminum-injected animals that showed significantly increased activated capsase-3 labeling in lumbar spinal cord (255%) and primary motor cortex (192%) compared with the controls.  Aluminum-treated groups also showed significant motor neuron loss (35%) and increased numbers of astrocytes (350%) in the lumbar spinal cord.”

In a newspaper article commenting on his research Dr. Shaw said, "No one in my lab wants to get vaccinated. This totally creeped us out. We weren't out there to poke holes in vaccines. But all of a sudden, oh my God-we've got neuron death!"

4)  That high officials in medicine and government are preventing the release of evidence which would support contention that mercury from vaccines is involved in the development of neurological problems – It is difficult to read accounts of what has become known as the “Simpsonwood Conference”, the private meeting which was convened in June of 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review a disturbing internal study by CDC epidemiologist Tom Verstraeten which raised disturbing questions about the safety of common childhood vaccines, and believe that our public officials are truly concerned about public safety.

In his analysis of the agency’s massive database of the medical records of more than 100,000 children Verstraetan told the assembled group of 52 attendees (which included high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva, and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth, and Aventis Pasteur) that “I was actually stunned by what I saw.”  He then cited the staggering number of earlier studies which indicated a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyper-activity, and autism.

In response to what Verstraeten presented Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics told the group, “You can play with this all you want.”  In his opinion the results were “statatistically significant.”

Perhaps the most human comment of all from the record (which was released only in response to a Freedom of Information request) was from Dr. Richard Johnston, a pediatrician and immunologist from the University of Colorado.  On the morning of the meeting’s first day his grandson had been born and he was worried about the child’s future health.  “Forgive this personal comment,” said the new grandfather, “I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on.”

In light of the autism epidemic and the claimed link to vaccinations, one would think the government would be in a hurry to allow independent researchers to comb through the more than medical records of more than 100,000 children collected by the CDC to refute such a claim. 

However, that public database has been turned over to a private agency, America’s Health Insurance Plans, placing it off-limits for additional research.  Even though the data has been developed through the use of taxpayer funds, we the taxpaying public, are not allowed to see it.|

5)  Because of our own experiences with our children – We do not live our lives under scientific observation.  Instead, we rely on what we know to be true because we were there and lived through it.  We are the experts on our own lives.

No scientist will be able to ever prove that at 7:12 p.m. on December 28, 1992, at Barney’s Gourmet Burgers on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA that I fell in love with my wife Linda, before she had even spoken a word.  However, nearly fifteen years later, after working in three different occupations, living in four different places, and having had two children, I still know it is true.

As parents we have been the most careful observers of our children’s lives.  We were there the moment they were born, and all of the moments in between.  If we saw them developing normally, then saw that change after a vaccination, you should believe us.  If we claim they got better, maybe even recovered after a change in diet, or the addition of certain supplements, or after a period of chelation, you should listen to us.

These are some of the reasons we believe our children have been affected by vaccinations.  We hope you understand we value science and rely on it.  We also hope you understand we have been with our children more than any other person.  We have been the witnesses of their decline, and in some cases, the amazing recovery.

And it is why we fight.



Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just beautiful and exactly the reasons that I am still fighting.

Carolyn Whalen


That was a beautifully written piece.

Thank you for writing, so eloquently, how many of us feel.

I applaude you.

Cathy Jameson


Nothing more to say except AMEN!!!!

Cathy Jameson

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