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Best of AoA: JB Handley on Henry Waxman "Father of the Autism Epidemic"

Waxman_2Managing Editor's Note: We ran this post in October of 2008. We're running it today as background about the 1986 law that is being challenged in the Supreme Court (see HERE.)
By 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.


Real Estate

It really is a sad state of affairs to have companies responsible for providing medical supplies to be held less liable for their products and actions. The over thirty vaccine regimen for children under five seems excessive for their young age and the many laws regarding school attendance and vaccine schedules seem to only be getting more stringent.

real estate sequim

Chilling! Waxman was not a compassionate listener and did not appear interested in truth. Thanks J.B. for the stroll down memory lane 1985.


Wow!!! Nobody was dropping over from deadly diseases I know back in the 70's & 80's. My boys were healthy happy kids. Wish I could say the same for my daughter born in 1994. When is this insanity going to stop.. God bless you all


An expecting father approached me for advice about vaccinating his soon-to-be-born child. I suggested several websites and books, and told him to research and make his own decision. He decided to adopt the vaccine schedule that he had as a child. Smart move..he was a child of the late seventies or early eighties, before the autism explosion that trapped our children!

Autism Grandma

Re: Post by Robin Nemeth: "I don't believe that we'd have this epidemic if Congress hadn't passed a law granting indemnity from liability for vaccine makers. And I don't believe we'll end it until the law is repealed, and those most egregiously responsible are held accountable. I believe that it can be shown that there were people who knew that these vaccines were destroying children. They should be in prison."

Yes they should all be investigated, exposed and imprisoned where they can no longer get away with murder. The vaccine industry had a plan to increase their income by increasing vaccines with NO LIABILITY. Damn these people are smart, aren't they? They knew the potential for damages from future vaccines due to deaths and injuries caused by the limited vaccines they already had, so they got congress to go along with their scheme on the pretext of compensation for victims of vaccines. When in fact victims of vaccines are rarely compensated, especially autism victims.

As Ray Gallup said, people like this are "vile and despicable".


please send a copy of this to Big Noise Films. Noise@bignoisefilms.org

michael framson

If my memory serves me correctly, after the vaccine act, that HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan went gallivanting around the country, explaining to physicians that they now were shielded from liability and they were free, free at last, to vaccinate with reckless* abandon, with absolutely no liability.

*Reckless- : marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences, irresponsible


No more vaccines for my children until the benefit CLEARLY and CONVINCINGLY outweighs the risk, and the vaccine is subject to the same product liability laws as every other consumer product in this country.

Product liability is one of the main (if not THE) reasons that we have safer products in the US. Anyone remember the gas tanks on the Ford Pinto?

Would Ford have any incentive to move those gas tanks if they never incurred any meaningful liability? Let's face it - we NEED cars in this country. How can we threaten the car industry with lawsuits?


Makes me miss Ronald Reagan too.

Raymond Gallup

Congressman Waxman was and is in the pocket of the drug companies as you can see with this online piece per............

An example of why Congressman Henry Waxman supports vaccines.

After the autism/vaccine hearings held by Congressman Dan Burton I wrote this letter to Congressman Waxman:


During the Congressional hearings, Waxman also suggested that Congressman Burton, because of his membership on the Honorary Board of the Autism Autoimmunity Project, a nonprofit organization, had engaged in a conflict of interest. Project President Ray Gallup responded to Waxman as follows:

April 14, 2000

Congressman Henry Waxman
2204 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Waxman:

I'm writing you in reference to your mentioning our organization, the Autism Autoimmunity Project and Congressman Dan Burton, Dr. Vijendra Singh and Dr. Andrew Wakefield during the Congressional Autism hearings on April 6th that my wife, my autistic son, my daughter and I attended. I understand this was initiated after Congressman Burton asked Dr. Paul Offit what his connection to Merck was. I wanted to enlighten you that Merck makes hundreds of millions a year on selling products like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B vaccines. They are in the business of making a profit. Also, Merck has not done any independent, long-term safety studies on their vaccines.

Our organization, the Autism Autoimmunity Project is a non-profit organization involved in research for autism and my wife, Helen, two other parents, Denise and Doug Totter and I are trustees. All members-at-large are non-salaried and are parents/grandparents of children with acquired autism, including Congressman Dan Burton. We are interested in autoimmune research that will help our children and feel strongly that Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Singh will provide important answers.

We started this charity in October 1998 when we saw that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would not fund Dr. Singh's research and that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) criticized Dr. Wakefield's important findings. As Dr. Singh mentioned, he applied three times to the NIH for funding and did not receive one dime. This is a perfect example of the NIH not caring about our children and not caring about doing something constructive to stem the epidemic of autism. The funding we provided for Dr. Wakefield, I'm sorry to say was a paltry $9,000.00 and I understand that the total support for Dr. Wakefield was $560,000.00.

So you see our support for Dr. Wakefield was not nearly enough nor was the support for Dr. Singh, that accounted for another $28,000.00. I wonder what proportion of Dr. Offit's research and educational turnover was Merck derived? Only then can the likely substance of bias or undue influence can be determined. To date, the work that Dr. Singh and Dr. Wakefield has done has not been funded by our organization but the funding we have provided will go to future research by them.

Your comparison of our organization to Merck is way out of line and unwarranted. I would hope that you will correct your viewpoint about our organization, our members and the research we are funding. If you don't feel that your viewpoint should be corrected, then you show that you don't care enough about our children and the autism community at large. I hope that you will support NIH funding for the type of work Dr. Singh and Dr. Wakefield are doing and motivate our government health officials to become more supportive rather than adversarial. The epidemic of autism in the U.S. and overseas is directly the result of an immune insult. We need to cut the ties between the NIH, CDC, and FDA and the pharmaceutical companies. They should represent the people of our country and not the pharmaceutical lobbyists.

I hope you will not play politics as usual and instead support Congressman Burton in his efforts on behalf of our children.


Raymond Gallup, President
Autism Autoimmunity Project

cc: Congressman Dan Burton Congressman John Tierney
Congressman Stephen Horn Congressman Chris Smith
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen Congressman Lee Terry
Congresswoman Constance A. Morella Congresswoman Judy Biggert
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Congressman Doug Ose
Congressman John M. McHugh Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Hage
Congressman Steven LaTourette Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich
Congressman Jim Turner

Congressman Waxman never cared about children/adults with autism and their families. He still doesn't because he is a vile and despicable person. He no longer is a member of the human race and left the membership decades ago.

Another vile and despicable person besides Congressman Waxman is Brian Deer.
Brian Deer has confidential names of all patients in the study/studies.
How is that possible and why isn't he being investigated and prosecuted by law enforcement people?????



Also why isn't Poul Thorsen being investigated and prosecuted too ?? per...........

Poul Thorsen has been charged with fraud by Aarhus University.




Here is the listing of Thorsen's Atlanta House

2657 Briarlake Rd Atlanta

The realtor knows his address for sure


Teresa Conrick

The look back is chilling and so important. I remember Waxman well during Burton's Hearings. He was not a compassionate listener and does not impress me as willing to look at the truth. Thanks J.B. as this reinforces the need for the vaccine time machine back to1985.


David that is the problem --- the government got involved (federal government hired very ambitious - go getter lawyers) and they the government ended up fettering the whole thing.

It was suppose to make it eaiser. A damaged child, just show the medical records of the circumstances and then the government being compassionate and fair did not make you go through the horrible legal circus hoops. Well that did not happen. It made things even worse.


I'm all for supporting legislation that would require vaccine manufacturers to be held accountable (and for going back to the 1985 schedule)! How they are allowed to get away with murder (literally!) is beyond me. It's sickening.

David Taylor

Great piece. And yet another example of how unfettered capitalism is dangerous to human society.


JB, I love the titles you give your pieces...just calls 'em what they are.

Robin Nemeth

I don't believe that we'd have this epidemic if Congress hadn't passed a law granting indemnity from liability for vaccine makers. And I don't believe we'll end it until the law is repealed, and those most egregiously responsible are held accountable. I believe that it can be shown that there were people who knew that these vaccines were destroying children. They should be in prison.

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