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Henry Waxman's Letter to Colleagues about Autism and Vaccines

Congressman Henry Waxman: Father of the Autism Epidemic

Waxman_2By J.B. Handley

Almost 22 years ago, on October 20, 1986, the Los Angeles Times ran a story regarding a controversial bill making its way through Congress, the headline shouted:


The story went on to explain the highly divisive nature of the bill, intended to shield vaccine makers from liability, and the Reagan administration was speaking out to express their opposition:

In a strongly worded letter to House Speaker Tip O'Neil, the then secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Otis R. Bowen said, "The bill is likely to do little to assure the vaccine supply or to improve our childhood immunization efforts."

Assistant Attorney General John R. Bolton, writing to the Head of the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Department of Justice, said the White House opposed the legislation because it was creating, "a major new entitlement program for which no legitimate need has been demonstrated."

Ronald Reagan himself was troubled by the vaccine compensation bill and was quoted as saying, "Although the goal of compensating those persons is a worthy one, the program has…serious deficiencies."

The Reagan administration seemed to be particularly concerned with two issues: who was going to pay for the compensation required for vaccine injury, and the precedent of the federal government indemnifying private companies from liability.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was actually part of a larger bill, the Omnibus Health Bill (S. 1744), that was introduced in the waning days of the 99th Congress in late 1986. Leading a four-year effort to pass the controversial legislation on vaccine liability was a Congressman from the 30th District of California, Henry Waxman. Waxman's bill was supported by vaccine manufacturers, who were lobbying very hard on its behalf, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To be fair, like many pieces of legislation, the bill had some reasonable intentions. The old DPT shot's rate of damage to children was skyrocketing, lawsuits were mounting, and vaccine makers were headed for the exits. And, the bill proposed the establishment of VAERS -- today's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System -- which beat the hell out of the non-existent system in place at the time.

In the waning days of the 99th Congress, the bill's passage was up in the air, with the White House declaring plans to veto the entire Omnibus package, due almost exclusively to the provisions in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. Congressman Waxman, the bill's author, was unyielding, and worked the press to his advantage in the final days declaring:

"This bill is the first step to taking care of children hurt in the process of protecting society from epidemics and to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines. If the President vetoes it, he will leave these children to fend for themselves and leave the country with risks or shortages or skyrocketing prices. If he vetoes it, I hope he has some emergency plans to start making vaccines himself because the manufacturers tell us they may very well stop."

And, with the final threat of losing the entire manufacturing base of vaccine makers coming from Henry Waxman and the AAP, Ronald Reagan made the bill law on November 15, 1986 "with mixed feelings."


I really don't believe Henry Waxman had any idea what a monster he had actually unleashed with the passage of this 1986 bill. Reading the newspaper articles discussing the bill before it passed, I was struck by the complete absence of one idea from any of the people or organizations advocating for its passing: the need to create a supportive environment for producing NEW vaccines.

Not once, in any of the dozens of articles I read on the bill, did anyone even hint that our kids were in trouble unless many more vaccines were introduced. Waxman and others were focused solely on keeping the handful of vaccines we did have from disappearing -- the bill’s purpose was to save the existing vaccine program, not create a foundation for tripling the number of shots given to our kids.

I found a 1986 article from a Texas newspaper, the Mainland Extra, to be particularly revealing. In reminding its readers why vaccines were important, the Mainland explained that children in Texas needed to have three shots: DPT, MMR, and Polio, between the ages of 5 and 12. Shots before Age 5? Not even part of the agenda – just make sure your kids have them before kindergarten. (Who knew that only six years later, the CDC would be pushing to give Hep B on Day 1 of life!)

So, let's pause and think about this again:

The 1986 law was really enacted to save the existing vaccine program from collapsing.

At the time, the CDC's official schedule included 10 total vaccines that children were recommended to receive by the age of 5.

But, as the Texas article revealed (and the shot records of most kids born in the early 80s would corroborate) children were vaccinated with less regularity, when they were much older, and with even fewer vaccines than the recommended schedule.

Not one proponent of the bill advocated a need to motivate manufacturers to create NEW vaccines or ever cited anywhere that we were experiencing an epidemic of diseases for which we did not yet have vaccines – this notion had nothing to do with why the bill was passed.

And yet, as we all know, the passing of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 was a watershed moment for the vaccine industry, unleashing two decades of escalating vaccine mandates, culminating in the bloated, 36 shot schedule we have today for kids under 5. The act sheltered vaccine companies, and they turned their R&D budgets back on, figured out how to ensure they bought the bureaucrats who decided which vaccines are added to the schedule through the ACIP, turned vaccine development into a profit growth engine, and the rest is history.


I believe that we won’t end the autism epidemic until we reform the vaccine schedule. While our enemies try to label us as “antivaccine,” the truth is that most of us are looking for moderation and a higher standard of caution in how and when vaccines are administered.

When you mention to a public health official the idea of reducing today’s vaccine schedule to a shorter list, like the one we used to give in the 1980s, they immediately kick into their pre-recorded lecture about the return of deadly disease, etc., etc. And yet, a close look at history, the history before vaccine manufacturers were indemnified, shows a very different truth.

In the early 1980s, with only 10 vaccines on our schedule, deadly diseases had been dealt with. There were no frightening childhood disease epidemics scaring parents and wreaking havoc on our kids. And, during the very time when the fate of the entire vaccine program potentially hung in the balance because of the liability produced from DPT, NO ONE WAS ADVOCATING THE NEED FOR MORE VACCINES.

Oh, and the autism rate was 1 in 10,000, rather than the soon to be 1 in 100 we are seeing today.

One other thing that didn’t appear in any of the articles discussing the vaccine program in 1986? The word “autism”. No one had any clue what is was back then.

Let’s go back to the vaccine schedule before 1986, and watch the autism rate plummet. You can prevent deadly disease while preventing autism, will a politician ever have the guts to try?

J.B. Handley is co-founder of Generation Rescue and a contributor to Age of Autism.


George Stevens

Has the scope of new vaccines introduced after the bill was made law ever been challenged in court? Like why is Hep B covered when it wasn’t made when this law was introduced.

Gary Krasner

Handley wrote:

"I really don't believe Henry Waxman had any idea what a monster he had actually unleashed with the passage of this 1986 bill. "

REALLY? Is that why Waxman today----with all the available hindesight----is leading a crusade to rescind this collossal "monster" of a law?!

To the contrary! As ranking member of Gov reform committee, Waxman even demanded that Burton stop his autism hearings because it was making parents stop vaccinations for their kids.

Today, after all that is known, Waxman wants more vaccinations and with less criticism of them. Yet Handley thinks Waxman would have had second thoughts had he known what was going to occur?! Where's the evidence for that claim?

Hilary Butler

The relevant posts are:




Terri Lewis

Everyone here who has a vaccine-injured child might be interested to take a peek at what the AAP was saying this past spring (May, 2008, to be precise) at www.beyondconformity.org.nz, as posted by Hilary Butler, "Hilary's Desk," July 28, 2008.

The official position of the AAP is absolutely scary, and shows only a desire to hold onto the status quo, never mind how many kids are hurt.

Why isn't anyone listening when we ask, "Green our vaccines" and "Reduce the schedule"?

On the one hand, we all want to move in the same direction--away from overvaccination, and especially overvaccination in infants.

On the other hand, it is important to move to the truth as quickly as possible. Sometimes you can't get there in baby steps. If it seems that we're trying to knock down a brick wall with a toothbrush, maybe it's because we're trying to knock down a brick wall with a toothbrush.

Maybe the vaccine manufacturers are always threatening to stop manufacturing vaccines if we ever hold them accountable because the true cost of damage (in lives and in $$$) outweighs the overall benefits (in lives and in $$$).

I take no joy in thinking this.

Most of here are attempting to work *with* government agencies and *with* the mainstream medical establishment.

But these attempts, as noted here, go back a long, long way, and we aren't headed in the direction we want to be.

We need to study history more closely, and the more I see, the less use I have for most vaccines.


Hilary Butler

I would refer readers here to the following:

1) Volume 3, No.1, Spring 1987 DPT News. (forerunner of what is now NVIC.)

Issue devoted to detailing the huge effort and struggle by Jeff Schwartz and Barbara Loe Fisher, and how they successfully countered the opposition of President Reagan, many in the senate, and indeed most of the pharmaceutical companies who were opposed to the legislation.

Anyone who wants a copy, I will scan it. Email me via the site.

2) I refer you to the detailed proceedings found in the Hearing before the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Ninety Ninth congress, S. 827, July 18, 1985. In the bottom left corner are the number 52-313O. You can request this item from the Library of Congress.

In it, is detailed the FACTS that Jeff Schwartz, Barbara Loe Fisher were not only party to the legislation, but supported it with ardent fervour in the face of opposition by every other questioning individual in the country. Those individuals included (amongst others) Marge Grant, of Wisconsin www.dptshot.com and Dr J Anthony Morris.

Many others, including myself from afar, not only opposed the Bill, but wrote to Barbara Loe Fisher, Jeff Schwartz, and others at the time pointing out the folly of such a move.

Such was the rancour created by the unwillingness of Barbara Loe Fisher and Jeff Swartz to listen to anyone, that Dr Robert Mendelsohn wrote in a letter dated June 30, 1983 to Marge Grant the following:

"...nothing can make me more dissatisfied with the leadership of "Dissatisfied Parents Together" than attempts on their part to cozy up to our common opposition."

I can supply scans of all documents and more, on request.

It will be interesting to see whether or not, in the interests of the whole truth, Age of Autism publishes this response.

It is useful to remember that sometimes, in unjustly pointing only one finger, three are pointed in an opposite direction.

Hilary Butler.

A stitch in time saves none

This is the scary thing - back in the early 1980s, with only 10 vaccines on the schedule, the DTP was a big offender. The point is, even if we do go back to the 1980s schedule, it will remain an offender. Kids will continue to be injured by it because having multiple vaccine strains in a single shot is injurious to your health.

How come nobody at that time made an effort to study the kids who were damaged by that vaccine program? Shouldn't the government have made an effort THEN to find and identify the susceptible? How many millions of kids since then have been injured by the vaccines? Who should pay for these injuries?

Mary Webster

On July 17, 2007, Congressman Waxman stated, in part, the following in opposition to Congressman Dave Weldon's amendment to a 2008 appropriations bill restricting the use of government funds to purchase thimerosal-containing vaccines administered to children under the age of three.


Madam Chairman, I write today in opposition to the Weldon amendment to the Labor/HHS appropriations bill. This amendment would prohibit appropriated funds from being used to administer thimerosal-containing flu vaccine in the 2008-2009 flu season to children under 3.

This legislation is strongly opposed by a number of public health groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to public health officials, this language would pose real risks to public health, particularly to the youngest children who are most susceptible to the serious complications from flu, including death.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their letter opposing this amendment, assures us that there is scientific evidence that "the thimerosal in influenza vaccine is not a danger to health." The Institute of Medicine examined all of the available evidence on the association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. In 2004 the I0M issued a report that concluded that the evidence was sufficient to say that thimerosal-containing vaccines do not cause autism.

Since that time there has been no new compelling evidence that would change the I0M's conclusion. In fact, because thimerosal has been removed from all other pediatric vaccines, children in the last 5 years have received much less thimerosal than they had in the 1990s, and yet autism rates continue to go up, not down.


I urge Members to consider that this language could harm those very children the authors are trying to help. By restricting their access to flu vaccine, they will not prevent a single child from getting autism, but they may expose children to the very serious risks posed by influenza.


To read Congressman Waxman's complete statement and additional remarks on the amendment (including Congressman Weldon's) see:

By the way, the bill passed the House (with Congressman Waxman voting in favor) and the Senate, but was later vetoed by President Bush.

House votes here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h2007-686


Joe-- Waxman has a really safe district, uber-liberal West Los Angeles/Bel Air, and a ton of seniority (i.e. lots of favors he's owed and ability to rake in contributions.) Near as I can tell, we stand a better chance of making a concerted effort to change his opinion than we do of unseating him.

The good news is that his mind can be changed; I seem to recall a while back that he was involved with a mass transit issue here in L.A. that he ultimately changed his mind on. Maybe it's a matter of getting past the staffers who get basketball tickets and fancy dinners from Pharma reps.

Becky Estepp


Glorious review of history, thank you for putting this together for the community. It's amazing to look back on history. When this bill was passed, I was just trying to get through geometry, who knew what a profound effect it would have on my future child and all of our children. The road leading to justice for our children is most likely a long one. I am not stopping until this wrong is righted. Thank you for all of you hard work.

Media Scholar

My how the chickens come home to roost. It seems Waxman's entire political career has been not much more than enabling public health disaster.

Back in 1975 Waxman was chairman of the California Assembly’s Select Committee on Medical Malpractice. The California Legislature passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA).

So not only is Waxman the father of all Autism, Waxman is also the major reason doctors are the number three killer in America.


Found this quote on the wikipedia-vaccine schedule page.

According to Dr. Thomas Saari, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, "We project over the next ten years that we'll add one to two new vaccines a year."

All in the name of public health. Yeah, right.

Robin Nemeth

It’s so good to hear somebody explaining something of the history of how we got to this point. It seems to me that relatively too much has been said about what’s happened, (even though still not nearly enough), and too little about the system that was created that allowed it to happen.

JB writes…"This bill is the first step to taking care of children hurt in the process of protecting society from epidemics…

What did this legislation do to protect Madyson Williams? The answer is it did nothing. It provided the environment, instead, in which her life was taken and then found to be worth next to nothing. I’ve read that the cap on awards via the special vaccine court is the quarter of a million that her family received. What a slap in the face.

JB writes…I believe that we won’t end the autism epidemic until we reform the vaccine schedule…

I believe that we won’t see an end to this autism epidemic—not to mention all of the other disorders that have been on the increase due to the vaccines—until the law is changed so that vaccine makers are once again held accountable. Accountable like anyone else in the US, for the harm that the products they’ve profitted from has caused.

Harry Hofherr

Thanks for the background, J.B.

I've wondered about Waxman ever since I saw him give a brief pro-vaccine comment at one of Rep. Burton's hearings and then walk out. I just figured he was raking in millions from Pharma. This puts him in the much more dangerous position of defending his very own legislation, like a parent defending his baby. He's a huge part of the problem.


Waxman needs to go. Period.

He was a partisan block to Burton's efforts. Whether what was originally done was incidental or not Waxman continues to be the vaccine makers friend.

Maybe an effort to unseat him needs to be looked at?


Excellent post. Waxman is baffling. I'm trying to figure out what he's now doing regarding lead in supplements. First he made the FDA test women and children's supps for lead, now he's protesting that the FDA is declaring 15mcg a day (in one prenatal) of lead for pregnant women as "safe".

It seems he understands that lead is toxic to the developing child. But not mercury-- despite its being 100 or more times more toxic than lead. Curious.

This post made me realize that the vaccine compensation bill was a preemptive bail-out for the pharmaceutical industry. As usual, socialism when it benefits industry and free market for the rest of us. Oh, and autism for the rest of us too.

The first step to fixing this is what Hillary Clinton (of all people) proposed: demanding that vaccine makers give a year (or more) notice before ceasing production of a vaccine. This is not for environmental injury parents but for all the rest for whom industry blackmail-- that the vaccine industry will back up their toys and leave--is potent enough to twist arms into sustaining industry's current virtual immunity. Then, once the target is immobilized, unleash all the regulatory measures, leaving time for competitive interests to start filling the bill for safer products. For those that want them. As for us, we're done, thanks.

John Stone


Very interesting article. In the UK we have never had mandated vaccines, only high levels of social/political/institutional pressure. However, we recently had a political move to make MMR compulsory, and it remains the case that choice is also restricted by only making multi-vaccines available, so you either have all or nothing. From this point of view things have changed dramatically even in the UK in the last decade. No wonder they were so worried aboy Andy Wakefield recommending single vaccies.

Whatever the politicians thought in 1988 it would be surprising if the pharma were not already plotting their captive market:



Indeed, it looks as if their very survival - if not ours - now depends on it.

1988 was also the year that MMR arrived in the UK.

Anne Dachel

Imagine the incentive for the vaccine makers! Produce a product, mandate said product on the consumer, and exempt the producer from any liability.

What a sweetheart deal!

In ten years, we'll easily see 100 scheduled vaccines.

Anne Dachel
Media editor

Tim Kasemodel

Along with the lecture of how deadly diseases will return, I was recently reminded of another.

Went in to the children's clinic for for a atheletic physical for my NT 8th grade son. Out doc knows our story and is very polite and understanding but still insists we recieve our fair share of "information".

He was not only telling us that over 20% of kids who get meniingitis (conveniently leaving out the rate of kids who actully get it) and other dangerous diseases like chicken pox and other dangerous diseases like chicken pox, he mentioned that "some people can not get vaccinated and you would be protecting them".

I wonder if those fools on the ACIP committee are concerned more for their own continued mortality than what happens to our kids. What if in the back of their heads they are believing (or brainwashed to believe) that their own lives or quality of life will last longer with more shots given to kids?

Fear of death, so strongly forced on wearisome parents, may in fact be a motivating factor in the reckless decision making of the aged folks in the beaurocracies controlling the national health agenda.

Crazy idea? Or possibility?

Tanners Dad

Great Article. Thank you for the foundational history. It just gives us so much more creditability when we are on the streets. That made me think about how little resistance you get when you visit with people face to face. The toxic arguements seem to be when some one is not being genuine and is able to hide behind a computer. Thanks again.

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