Deirdre Imus organized and moderated an amazing vaccine forum last week at Hackensack University Hospital. To my recollection it was the first time staunch defenders and architects of our infant and toddler vaccination schedule have spoken to the public and taken uncensored questions from parents of vaccine injured children. It was exactly the kind of event, promoting open discussion between doctors and parents that Autism Speaks should be facilitating. We all know that Deidre and Don Imus have been huge advocates for kids with cancer and chronic illnesses, like autism, for decades. What many people do not know is that the Imuses have helped create one of the most child friendly, progressive and greenest hospitals in the nation at Hackensack.
New Jersey recently made the flu shot mandatory for every school age child and baby in daycare over the age of six months. Given that an astonishing 1 in 64 boys in NJ is autistic it is both reckless and insane for New Jersey to mandate yet another vaccine for infants and toddlers.
The flu is not a horrible, often life long, severely disabling epidemic in New Jersey, autism is. Dr. Larry Rosen combed through New Jersey’s influenza records and found that one New Jersey child died from the flu last year. That is indeed a horrible tragedy but not a state wide crisis.
Dr. Margaret Fisher was a speaker at the forum. She is a pediatrics professor an AAP representative. Dr. Fisher rejected any and all parental concerns about over-vaccinating infants and toddlers out of hand. Dr. Fisher forcefully stated that all parents are wrong to be concerned about “so many shots so soon.” She expressed excited anticipation about adding even more vaccines at younger and younger ages to our infant vaccination schedule. It only went downhill from there… I looked around the room and it was like two parallel universes. All the Moms seemed to be thinking, “Is she serious? Is she out of her mind?” Dr. Fisher continued to deliver an angry tirade against those who dared to question the sanctity of vaccination safety policies. Fisher described VAERS as the data base ensuring safety against adverse reactions, but admitted it is a “passive” mechanism. I would say VAERS is so passive it is comatose. Did anyone’s pediatrician actually make a VAERS report after their child’s adverse vaccination reaction? Mine did not, and at the time, I had no idea VAERS existed. The only adverse reaction that pediatricians seem to reliably report to VAERS is death.
.Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp was also on the panel. He is Chairman of Pediatrics at Hackensack and an active member of the NJ AAP. Dr. Boscamp showed an audience of autism Moms and Dads horrific slides of African babies suffering from whooping cough, meningitis and measles. For good measure he also threw in some old chestnuts from the American polio epidemic. We were treated to photos of kids in the iron lung and long lines of families taking their children to receive the polio vaccine. Dr. Boscamp referred to vaccines as a “gift.” I kept thinking to myself, if only I could return his gift and have my son healthy and well again! How many times have parents who want safer vaccines been labeled “extremists”? Well Dr. B is giving us all a run for our money! Dr. Boscamp spoke about how great it was to vaccinate his teenage daughter with Gardisil on the “Today” show and how that vaccine should be mandated as well. Clearly, he is committed to stopping disease, as long as that disease is not autism.
In his tour de force of vaccines= always good, questioning vaccines= monstrous, there were no pictures of kids like mine. I would have loved to insert a few photos of my own into Boscamp’s slideshow of horrors. Christian age 2, eczema all over his face, head and limbs, eyes shiny and infected. Christian age 2 and a half hospitalized with staph. Christian age 2 and half with pneumonia, strep, croup and cellutis. I would also include a few candid shots of our home: a bedroom wall smeared with feces, Christian’s head covered with electrodes for three 48hour EEGs and maybe some audio of the piercing cries that went on for hours, everyday, for years.
An amazing autism Mom, Louise Kuo Habakus spoke for every parent of a vaccine injured child when described Boscamp’s African slideshow as “insulting.” Indeed, no American parent who wants safe vaccines and a sane schedule can be accused attempting to sabotage African health care. What those pictures have to do with the health and well being of children in New Jersey eludes me. In turn Dr. Boscamp said he was the one who was “insulted” saying that he works in a hospital with sick children! And he wanted… a medal, applause; I am still unclear what that point was about. Yes, Boscamp agreed that autism must be partially environmental but it could not be the vaccines, case closed! David Kirby then asked Fisher and Boscamp what they think the environmental trigger might be. Clearly neither doctor had given this much thought. Boscamp hypothesized that it was cleaning products and unsafe homes. Kirby agreed that cleaning products are often toxic but in such a diverse nation are we all really using the same cleaning products and living in the same type of home? It seems unlikely.
At this point David Kirby jumped in asking Dr. Fisher why they still “have no idea what is causing autism” and why that is OK. Kirby pointed out that the medical community figured out in less than 5 years that HIV was causing AIDS and no stone was left unturned in fighting the that disease. Here we are 20 years into this epidemic and “I don’t know” is still an acceptable answer. Also if they do not know, how do they “know”- it is definitely not vaccines?? For once Drs. Fisher and Boscamp had no response.
I want to pay special attention to Dr. Montana. Dr. Montana was sitting in for Dr. Heather Howard, of the NJ Health Department, who had somewhere more important to be. Meanwhile, New Jersey probably has the highest rate of autism in the world and most parents point to over-vaccination as a trigger. Dr. Montana looked as if she were attending the forum under pain of death. Whenever a parent spoke she rolled her eyes, looked at her watch, clearly bored and inpatient. Dr. Montana never uttered a word until Deirdre Imus directly addressed her silence on the recent NJ flu shot mandate for babies 6 months and older. Dr. Montana stated that when schools have outbreaks the Dept. Of Health gets angry phone calls from parents who are irate that a classmate of their child has measles or another disease. “It is very difficult getting these phone calls! And we get many phone calls!” Therefore, mandates are the only solution… I guess to her being left alone, unmolested by pesky parents? The fact that vaccinated children often get these diseases is irrelevant. When the panel wrapped up, Montana tore out of the room like it was on fire. As much as I disagreed with Dr. Fisher and Dr. Boscamp they deserve a lot of credit for taking this forum seriously and not behaving as if they had somewhere else more important to be.
The subject of mandates electrified an already tense room. A question from a Mom with a 6 year old ASD child and a 6 month old baby in daycare was submitted. The Mom did not want her baby to receive the flu shot but the baby would be barred from daycare as a result, how is this justifiable that the State of NJ make these decisions rather than the parents of this baby? Dr. Montana just smiled wanly and shook her head. David Kirby pointed out that European nations do not have any of the type of strict vaccine mandates American states employ and certainly not for the flu shot.
Next came a bizarre discussion of AAP doctors as crusaders against indifferent and ineffective inner city parents. Louise, Barbara Majeski another NJ autism Mom, stated that the AAP and the Dept. of Health have no right mandating so many vaccines so early in a baby’s life when the risks of combination vaccines are so clearly unknown. When a family already has a child who experienced terrible adverse reactions who is better informed to make the right decision about vaccination, the parents or Dr. Montana? Not a tough choice. Dr. Fisher than said that inner city parents do not get their children to the pediatrician and the mandates are in place to insure they do. I guess the implication is that inner city parents cannot be trusted to care appropriately for their kid? More likely parents who do not have or cannot afford health care, but of course that did not come up. Dr. Boscamp echoed Dr. Fisher saying that “they have tried and tried” and these kids do not get to a pediatrician’s office without mandates but it did not work. So, of course the answer is to give up and blame families?
To summarize the AAP doctors points:
1) Vaccines are a gift.
2) Mandates exist because inner city parents cannot be trusted to care appropriately for their kids.
3) The state of New Jersey, no matter how indifferent and uninformed they are about autism, know better than parents of autistic kids about the benefits and risks of vaccinating siblings
4) The real health crises are in Africa, not New Jersey. We still have no idea what is causing autism but it is definitely NOT vaccines.
5) Parents need to trust their doctors and the AAP.
Summary of Parent points
1) 1 child died of the flu in New Jersey last year.
2) VAERS is a ridiculous safety database.
3) While the AAP has demonstrated admirable dedication in fighting diseases affecting children in the Third World their concern about autism is minimal and their treatment of parents abysmal.
4) Foolish and punitive mandates for the flu shot only promote more distrust of the AAP, the CDC and local health officials. Mandates do not work, reasoned debate and open discussion does. This is how health care policies are made and enacted in Europe, with parents and other stake-holders involved in every aspect of the health care policy-making.
5) Sick autistic children are suffering tremendously, adverse vaccine reactions to untested combination vaccines are rampant and these issues must be immediately addressed before any new vaccines are added to our already over-crowded schedule
Katie Wright has two young boys. Her oldest son, Christian, is severely affected by autism. He developed normally; smiling, talking, walking; only to lose every skill and every word by the age of 2 and a half. Upon the advice of medical professionals Katie and her husband were advised to pursue only high quality behavioral therapy, speech and OT for Christian. It had no meaningful impact on Christian until his parents sought help from DAN! doctors who treated the underlying causes of Christian's descent into autism. Christian has improved but still has far to go. He has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the measles virus in his gut and an immune system akin to a late stage AIDS patient. Christian does not have a psychiatric disorder. Before autism, Katie Wright was the Clinical Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Stamford Connecticut. Katie is proud to serve on the Boards of NAA and SafeMinds.