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Entering the New Year as Public Enemy #1

Public_enemies_movie_image_johnny_depp By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

As a science teacher I’m a regular consumer of science magazines and Discover has long been among my favorites.  Despite having published some good articles on the dangers of mercury they’ve been contemptuous of the vaccine/autism theory.

I usually just breeze by those ill-informed articles to read some well-informed ones about stem cells, a recently discovered dinosaur species, or the latest findings from the human genome project.

In late December Discover publishes an edition devoted to the top 100 science stories of the year.  The #1 story of the year for the 2009 edition is entitled “Vaccine Phobia Becomes a Public-Health Threat.”  I guess that makes all of us who are trying to help our vaccine-injured children and warn others of the danger "Public Enemy #1".  Welcome to your new status.  Maybe our pictures will start showing up at the local post office.  For those of you keeping track the swine flu outbreak was story #6.

From my previous career as a lawyer I’ve found it’s often best to let people speak in their own voice.  So, here’s how Discover writer Andrew Grant opens his article.  “The question will not go away: Do vaccines cause autism?  Some 1 million to 1.5 million adults and children in the United States have received autism diagnoses, and there is no clear insight into its causes.”

There are a few things I can quibble with in the opening statement.  For example, the vast majority of individuals with autism were born sometime after 1990.  It’s a little disingenuous to lump adults and children together, but at least we both agree this problem affects somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people in the United States.

A little further on in the article is this assertion.  “In October Michael D. Kogan of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and colleagues announced that about 1 out of 91 has a disorder on the autism spectrum.”  (Author's note - These numbers are for children born in 1998, which means they're now 11 to 12 years old.  A later study put the number at about 1 in 110, but either way there’s been a substantial increase from the previous numbers given by HHS of 1 in 150 for the 1994 birth cohort.)  A boy born during that period had a 1 in 70 chance of becoming autistic while a girl had a 1 in 315 chance.  This represents an increase of 60% for boys and a 41% increase for girls according to the CDC's own website.

The public health threat we represent is characterized as follows, “Meanwhile, the reluctance of some parents to immunize their children can lead to the return of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles . . . Across the United States, reported measles cases shot up from 43 in 2007 to 140 in 2008, and more than 90 percent of those reported in 2008 were among children who were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status.”  (But then, how can we tell if measles cases have really gone up?  Maybe doctors are just getting better at diagnosing it!)

Let’s take the numbers apart, shall we?  Up to 1.5 million people have autism, a lifelong disability (especially if you don't try bio-medical therapies), and they’re talking about the 140 reported cases of measles, from which the vast majority have no lasting effects.  Even the last assertion about those who got the measles is open to question.  According to the article 90 percent were “unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status.”  So what percentage was unvaccinated? It's a little like saying 90 percent of people have either robbed a bank or thought of robbing one.  I can't help but think somebody does know these numbers, but they're just not telling us.

If our questions present such a public health threat than why does one of the leading government investigators, Dr. Andrew Paiva, chairman of the vaccine-safety working group at HHS, seem to have the same concerns?  “Paiva nevertheless believes it would be worth further investigating a link between vaccines and autism once specific biological pathways are identified.  To that end, his committee recommends researching whether some children, including those who may be genetically predisposed to autism, are at higher risk following certain vaccinations but in numbers too small to have shown up previously.”

I don’t get it. 

Our questions pose the #1 public health threat but the researchers have the same questions.  Meanwhile, don’t worry that your child may become one of the up to 1.5 million with autism, but do worry that your child may be one of the 140 who get the measles in a really bad year.

After the recent article in the Chicago Tribune attacking so many of us who are trying to help our children I was very discouraged.  I’d sent that reporter 31 articles regarding the autism increase (meaning it can't be solely a genetic problem), leading research from UC Davis, Columbia University, and Harvard.  None of that information was in her article.  Maybe I overloaded her.

If there are any legitimate reporters left working in the American media here are 5 issues we’d like you to address.  Now, since we’re supposed to be Public Enemy #1 you might not listen to us, but we all know how attractive the bad boys can be.  So we’ll accept your sobriquet as Public Enemy #1 in the faint hope that you'll try to answer our questions.  I’ll even give you all the links so you can check them out for yourself.

1.    Dr. Bernadine Healy, former director of the National Institute of Health, in an interview with CBS News on how the medical community is not researching the vaccine/autism question.  “Healy goes on to say public health officials have intentionally avoided researching whether subsets of children are “susceptible” to vaccine side-effects – afraid the answer will scare the public.”  (HERE)

2.    A study from UC Davis and published in the January 2009 issue of Epidemiology showing that the seven-to eight-fold increase in the number of children born in California with autism cannot be explained by changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted.  Lead researcher Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto commenting on the study said, “It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California.”  (HERE)

3.    A study from Columbia University, later confirmed by investigators in Peru, that the effects of thimerosal are dependent on the genetic make-up of the organism.  In the first investigation of its kind, Dr. Mady Hornig gave amounts of thimerosal mimicking the previous U.S. vaccination schedule to groups of mice with differing genetic profiles.  Those mice with a genetic profile for auto-immune disorders developed symptoms similar to autism.  (HERE)

4.    A study from the University of British Columbia showing that the aluminum adjuvant commonly used in vaccines is associated with motor neuron death in mice.  (HERE)

5.    A review of autism studies by Dr. Martha Herbert of Harvard University suggesting that findings of neuroinflammation in the brains of children with autism are consistent with either a heavy metal exposure or some sort of viral or bacterial infection.  (HERE)   Or you could read her chapter entitled "An Expanding Spectrum of Autism Models - From Fixed Developmental Defects to Reversible Functional Impairments" in the book, Autism - Current Theories and Evidence - edited by Dr. Andrew Zimmerman of Johns Hopkins University.

Until you answer our questions I guess we’ll just have to continue being Public Enemy #1.

Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor of Age of Autism


Ross Coe

Its refreshing to read comments from intelligent, and knowledgeble people. Some times I wish I could smack these morons who are critical of of the vaccine /autism connection.

Linda D. Montalbano

If parents of children with disabilitis started to ask for due process hearing to fight for ABA programs in school maybe someone in the goverment would ask why so many children need ABA and why are there so many children with autism.


When they roll out the next 10 vaccines for the mandatory vaccine schedule and the autism rate goes to 1 in 20,my bet is they will somehow find a way to blame us for it.


Kent, thanks for the article including some of the recent studies. I don't get it either. The fact that we are supposed to worrry more about measles than the increase in autism (and probably also learning disaabilities, ADHD etc.) seems bizarre.


OK Forget the autism link we propose- What about the fact that these vaccines have NEVER been tested when taken together? How any parent can still feel comfortable vaccinating after knowing that is beyond me.

Heidi R

"If there are any legitimate reporters left working in the American media here are 5 issues we’d like you to address"-this level of sarcasm gives you honorary NJ-ite status! Thanks for all you do Kent!


#1 Worst "science" magazine of the year? Discover.

There are plenty of places to find good writing about real science written by people who are capable of thoughtful consideration of facts and alternative viewpoints--Discover has proved that it isn't one of them and has no desire to be, either! Why bother reading anything they publish--it's very likely that most articles they print anymore are similarly unbalanced and written by equally uninformed "journalists."

As a longtime reader of science fiction, I got a good laugh out of this review of one of their recent articles on that topic--
I think that just about sums up the quality of all their recent science reporting and the quality of the current editorial staff over there. Google the current ownership of the magazine and his history--that puts the magazine's slant into further perspective.

Meanwhile, while perusing books at the bookstore last night, I paged through a new book, "Ecological Intelligence," by Daniel Goleman. Hmmm. Discussion of Dr. Martha Hebert and the toxic tipping point hypothesis.

People are waking up, in spite of all the sandbagging attempts by the "skeptics" and their ilk. While Discover's headlines may reverberate for a bit, the truth resonates. As they say, you can fool some of the people...

Jeff C.

"Across the United States, reported measles cases shot up from 43 in 2007 to 140 in 2008, and more than 90 percent of those reported in 2008 were among children who were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status."

Good Lord, is that supposed to be frightening? I clearly remember a month in the early 1960's when my mother somehow managed to care for four sick kids all with the measles. This woman, with no medical training, simultaneously treated 3 per-cent of the 2008 US measles case load. Just about every other mom on the block was also demonstrating similar medical prowess.

Amazing thing is that everyone turned out just fine. Are people's memories really that short?

Mayer Eisenstein MD, JD,MPH

I am proud to be part of public enemy #1. All Vaccines Cause Neurological Damage.

My late mentor Dr. Robert Mendelsohn would have been proud of all of us.

Luke Tunyich

codysdad wrote:
“love the "vaccine preventable illness" line -how about "vaccine induced illness" instead”
Vaccination is the toxic way to strength the immune system. Every kind of vaccine works in such a way that induces supposedly mild illness that will not override the existing strength of the immune system.

On the other hand it seems that vaccination, particularly in USA is gone out of science/sanity and out of control.


love the "vaccine preventable illness" line -how about "vaccine induced illness" instead


The media does not do true investigative reporting anymore. They are publicity arms of the government. Why else would so many of the swine flu articles this year have been unquestioning regurgitations of CDC press releases. The bloggers break the stories on Autism now, the media remains a joke on this issue.


Well, my grandson, now 4 years old, started talking and walking early. But had signs of hydrocylphia that increased head size, but fortunately drained out on its own leaving enlarged ventricles. After the measles shot at 18 months old, he stopped talking. He had a DNA test, there was no genetic abnormality, no sign of autism. But he shows all out ward signs of autism. At four years old, he doesn't talk, he put in two terms of preschool, he does well in normal preschool. There is no further sign of any hydrocyphlia. He responds in all typical autistic behavior and is treated for that. I believe he started out normal but something had happened to him to cause the two above diagnoses. You can also see the differences in the pictures of him smiling/laughing, with bright eyes as a baby-before 18 months and pictures of him today.


I asked last Christmas from my husband a subscription for Scientific American. Because a special edition from July 2008(I think) was in our neurologist's office. Head line was about researchers looking vor markers of blood test in autistic kids. the article said that blood test showed higher than normal immune markers. So I liked it and decided to get it.
I even went to the University library to find the article and get it printed out.

I had hoped that they would have more such articles to come but there was nothing more!?

I was less than pleased with it last year althought they did have the arictle on celiac disease - recent new discoveries because the scientist working on a vaccine actually gave it to human guinea pigs, which was pretty good.

Lots of old stuff liket eating meat is not a green thing to do. That is right poisoning children and we are worrying about breathing out CO2.


How is 140 cases of measles a problem? It's just more marketing trying to create a perceived need.
Even assuming the people who got the measles were unvaccinated, so what? That family would have obviously weighed the options to vaccinate or not and decided against it, preferring to deal with the sickness itself. If this is the case, they made a decision and live with it, and they probably are not complaining to anyone about it. On top of that, if the issue was that serious, wouldn't there be "mortality from measles" statistics that would have been quoted? Or wait, is the percentage of death and lifelong disability from those 140 measles cases so low or non-existant that it doesn't make the minimum criteria for sensationalism?


Ah, the measles...why didn't the article mention that measles was back down to about 50 cases in 2009. I thought this story was about our threat to public health in 2009. Did we suddenly get quiet? What a load of crap that 141 cases of measles example is.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

To Keith, Thanks for the great quotation about scientific truth. We need that reminder.
I have a sense that now we have turned the corner and rather than trying to get the CDC et all to look at the science, we can begin to just get the truth out to the populace by any means possible.
People listen to us now because so many have been affected by vaccines in some way
This year in my small nursery school of about 60 families per year, there is a mother who walks with a severe limp from the polio she got after polio drops as a child. Last year a father told me of an elderly person of his family who got polio after an infant was immunized.The year before that we had a boy who lost nearly all hearing after 2 DPT vaccines. Im not even talking about autism here- just the other effects.
Now I would like to say that I love the idea of being public enemy number one. Still better put me on the Most Wanted List. Ill send in a photo of myself with a distinctly mean expression and you can caption it with something like " Nursery School Principal ran amuck- threatened parents with "Stop the vaccines and stop the fish!"


What will it take to finally jerk the mainstream media out of its formulaic vaccine meme? Apparently not enough teenage girls were crippled by Gardasil.

Here's a lesson from Marketing 101. The manufacturer of Slimfast has recalled all its canned shakes due to bacterial contamination in some. This is a business that takes its consumer product safety reports seriously.

Contrast that with our family, friends and neighbors working for CDC, who ignore or deny vaccine injury reports and thus perpetuate more health damage.

Bullying vaccine consumers can only backfire. As a compliance strategy it's not only wrongheaded but utterly unscientific.


It's a new decade and a new generation is coming.

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it" ... Max Planck

"Teach, your children well..." Graham Nash

Teresa Conrick

"we all know how attractive the bad boys can be"

Love that. No more Refrigerator mothers - we are warrior moms and "bad boys" and they are shaking in their boots at our power.

I am from the Chicago gang ;)

Great analysis, Kent!

Kathy Blanco

I think we threatened the livelihood of these creeps, and I love that we did. I love that we have questioned the science, and framed it just right. And I love that I was just mentioned on ORAC as an antivaccine nut...I am flattered...if they pontificate so highly the science, I would love for them to take the vaccine challenge...or come back through time with me, and replace my son's injury for theirs, and watch a child convulse, febrile scream and have ADEM afterward....would they pontificate so much then?


Kent, can you give us a update on the ferrari v. american home products or the Bruesewitz v. wyeth case? Also what happens now with reguard to Cedillo v. HHS in the federal curcuit? With so many cases pending, and the theory 2 O.A.P. decisions due soon maybe 2010 will be the year the s**t hit the fan!!!


"...But then, how can we tell if measles cases have really gone up? Maybe doctors are just getting better at diagnosing it!"

Oh yes, that and the widening of diagnostic criteria LOL

Once-common childhood diseases that you got over with as a child and developed lifelong immunity to (in circumstances of good nutritional and socioeconomic status and availability of basic health care - i.e. living in a developed country), have now been added to the category of serious life-threatening infections such as small pox. Cue geniuses like Andrew Grant mentioning ebola and rubella in the same breath…

Even the mildest of infectious diseases carries a certain risk, as does the mildest of medicines (let alone a vaccine). So what is the risk factor of developing serious complications and/or dying from xyz virus if living in a developed country, as opposed to the risk factor of developing serious complications and/or dying from xyz-virus vaccine? This is the main question that never gets openly addressed, let alone answered. If we had an honest debate, and at least an attempt of an honest answer to this question, parents would not panic and forgo vaccines altogether.

On a slightly different note, it is high time to add Autism to the list of severe childhood diseases contributing to mortality in massive numbers. Having autism greatly lowers individual’s chances of reaching adulthood. AUTISM is not just about devastating countless lives, it is about SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASING THE RISK OF PREMATURE DEATH (ref :Mortality and causes of death in autism spectrum disorders: An update; Svend Mouridsen E et al; Autism 2008; 12; 403; Mortality in Autism: A Prospective Longitudinal Community-Based Study. Gillberg C et al, J Autism Dev Disord. 2009 Oct 17.)


I certainly HOPE that if we are to be ignored as we have been, it is much better to now be viewed as a threat to national security, the number one threat. No more endless talk on the cable news networks about the TARP program, about Iraq, Afghanistan, no more suicide bombers or white supremacists, or jeez even cigarette smokers, just us, just moms and dads calling for justice and accountability, sending emails, holding up signs at rallies, speaking our minds, voicing our concerns, expressing our Constitutional Rights. Last I checked no one blew up a clinic, walked into a lobby of a pharmaceutical company with a bomb strapped to their chest, picked off vaccine sales reps from a clock tower or tossed a molotov cocktail into the summer house of the CEO of Merck. No one has kidnapped, held hostage or injured any of the players or any of the players family members. All we do is speak up.

Vaccine sales are down, industry is spending billions in advertising and marketing, the Federal Government has awarded billions of dollars in contracts to a handful of companies to manipulate public opinion regarding vaccines.

We are public enemy number one and never fired a shot, never blew up a building, never raised a hand to strike out in violent retaliation. Not yet anyway...


I guess that Discover article that features biomedical success with Dr. Amy Yasko's protocol for children with Autism didn't make the top 10 when it was published a few years back?


"(But then, how can we tell if measles cases have really gone up? Maybe doctors are just getting better at diagnosing it!)"

Did anyone else hear the rim-shot after that one?

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