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Lylah Alphonse in Boston Globe Blog on Frontline Vaccine War

Lylah_headshot__1269357581_5609 Interesting blog entry by Lylah Alphonse in the Boston Globe's, Blogs in the Parenthood on Frontline's The Vaccine War. Frontline is produced by Boston's WGBH. (The link is wonky, sorry.)

While the search continues for a cause -- and for a cure -- autism in general has become part of the mainstream. But while children's programs like PBS's Arthur are encouraging acceptance and understanding about autism spectrum disorders, controversey is what's making headlines in the news.

Last night, PBS broadcast its Frontline piece on "The Vaccine Wars," touching on the MMR vaccine-autism debate and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked. The show pitted anecdotal evidence from parents against research and advice from medical professionals, creating, as Dr. Jay Gordon put it in an open letter to one of Frontline's co-producers, "a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: 'Irresponsible moms against science' was an easy takeaway from the show..."

Click into Blogs in the Parenthood to read the full post. Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

Comments

Cherry Sperlin Misra

Here's an example of the very small risks they speak of: My daughter informs me that she was taught in her public health class that one out of every 10,000 doses of oral polio vaccine will cause a case of real polio.I run a nursery school in New Delhi, India, where oral polio vaccine is still used.
Now I might discuss this fact with about 20 to 30 parents each year and this is the result, so far: In year 36 a parent told me that when a baby in the family was given OPV, an elderly person in the home contracted polio. In year 37 of my school, a mother with a very severe limp informed me that she got polio immediately after she was given the vaccine as a child. In year 38 of my school one mother told me the same story, except that the only residual effect is that one knee is slightly smaller than the other. Friends, does this sound like one out of 10,000 to you? In the words of one my my former students, "If you believe that, youre gullible"

bjgosborn

There are 287,087 VAERS reports from 1991 through 2010. I tend to go with the number of people instead of the number of scientists. (a handful? funded by pharma giants?)

Mike

Can't Dr. Paul just go ahead and get his 100,000 shots in a day so we can conclude this war once and for all? Come on Paulie, do it for the kiddies.

Adriana

My comment:

We didn't watch the show. I personally couldn't take another round of Paul Offit's "greatest hits". I know his song and dance by now and the public seems to be catching on as well.

As the parent of two young vaccine injured children, I'm not a fan of the current schedule or the number of unnecessarily toxic ingredients in the shots. But I've run into so many people lately-- of every age and walk of life-- who are so turned off by the media's current rhetoric on vaccines and autism that many have backlashed in the extreme, declaring vaccine tech to be null and void, declaring that "Vaccines are just poison".

This has not been the message of the autism/vaccine-injury recovery community, who-- despite being repeatedly painted as "antivaccine" in what is now verging on the legalistic definition of defamatory propaganda campaign-- almost unilaterally call for further *independent* investigations and research to identify vaccine-susceptible children. The movement has also asked for a return to the 1980's schedule of 10 shots, which is akin to the schedules of countries with the lowest rates of autism (1/4000 in one country that gives only 12 shots) and best child mortality (Norway, Finland, etc; US child mortality is now 34, below Brunei and Cuba). That's not "no shots", that's less.

So, ironically, I find myself in the position of arguing for safer vaccines and a curbed schedule these days, not "no vaccines ever". That's a huge change from only a few years ago when the merest doubt cast on vaccines' "perfect safety" would be greeted with the "getaway" face by most people.

Obviously both the concept of herd immunity as well as outright herd mentality are starting to falter a bit. The Vioxx and Zyprexa scandals helped, but just the tone of the present all-vaccines-all-the-time defenses are getting thin. In the end, those defending the perfect safety of vaccines out of hand-- and unreasonably in the face of the open-to-the-public Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) logs of injured children-- are going to be standing more and more alone on the rhetoric platform. The public wants (and needs) frank information at this point and they're not getting it from the industry sponsored message. Eventually it will be impossible not to notice that those making the loudest defenses of an ever-burgeoning vaccine schedule are being paid to do so because there's less and less public support to hide behind.

As industry loses public support and attention, hopefully some of it will be channeled into the question of what on earth we're going to do to prevent new cases and what to do with the millions of children with autism-- those who cannot be recovered (some will be; some have been: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJIXEyXE4Vk )-- who will eventually come of age and hit tax-supported programs.

Vietnam created the program of the "Peace Village" for victims of agent orange-- villages which receive support to take in a certain number of victims who will be cared for and nurtured by these townships for the rest of their lives. I think it's clearly the demystification of the injuries and terrible birth defects-- the knowledge that the victims were, in essence, wounded veterans of war-- that appears to promote greater compassion in this instance than humanity has usually shown the disabled.

By the same token, I think official recognition of the cause of autism is going to be absolutely essential in garnering any similar support in the US of the growing autism population because the public is going to be called upon to pay the way.

And so far, most of the independent research evidence (there's quite a bit actually: http://www.fourteenstudies.com ) is pointing at vaccines as at least playing a role in the epidemic. There may be other facilitators, pollutants and chemicals which break down mitochondrial health and increase the risk of autism, but epidemics are ultimately simple and the jury is nearly in for this one: we know it's environmental.

The cause cannot be genetic in any case because there's no such thing as a "genetic epidemic": there are now more children with autism in the US per capita than there were per capita disabled mentally ill (of any diagnosis or age) circa 1955.

But until that environmental cause is officially recognized, don't expect any "Peace Villages". Expect tight purse strings and tempered compassion; more stories of abusive restraint and seclusion in schools and institutions-- and more deaths from same. Expect more wandering deaths; more autism related seizure deaths; more murder-suicides performed by end-of-their-rope parents of effected children who've aged out of the system; and more autistic children routinely dying of the major tranquilizers (first, second, whatever generation of neuroleptic) which are currently the only medical "remedy" in the mainstream medical arsenal.

Tim Kasemodel

I just added this comment to her site:

Lylah,

You are now witness to the attacking braintrust we parents have endured for years - simply by entertaining a fair and balance viewpoint you put yourself up to attack - you are now ANTIVACCINE.

Personal attacks on ones charachter and sexism are also fair game.

"It is clearly hipper and more fascionable to be antivaccine. but y'know mavericks are usually wrong even if they are sexy."
(arthur allen)

{NOTE: even if Allen was referring to Jenny, it sure reads like he was referring to Lylah - tk}

"However, Jenny McCarthy *is* a brainless bimbo who bases her opinions on pure crap. I'm more than happy to have her discredited publicly and often." (akmom)

And don'f forget meaningless sarcastic dribble:

"Controversy. And what you mean is manufactroversy."
(google scholar)

If you read the comments from most parents here, you will find we are trying to continue a dialogue, educate or at least explaining our point of view.

Jake Crosby

I contacted her when she blogged about the Lancet retraction.

Josh Day

Guys, click the link at the top. The bottom link has a broken "While" at the end of the hyperlink.

http://www.boston.com/community/moms/blogs/in_the_parenthood/2010/04/autism_awareness_causes_and_controversey.html

Dan's mom (Dan06)

Autism Awareness: Causes and controversey
E-MAIL | LINK | ADD A COMMENT (11)Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 28, 2010 12:36 PM
While the search continues for a cause -- and for a cure -- autism in general has become part of the mainstream. But while children's programs like PBS's Arthur are encouraging acceptance and understanding about autism spectrum disorders, controversey is what's making headlines in the news.

Last night, PBS broadcast its Frontline piece on "The Vaccine Wars," touching on the MMR vaccine-autism debate and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked. The show pitted anecdotal evidence from parents against research and advice from medical professionals, creating, as Dr. Jay Gordon put it in an open letter to one of Frontline's co-producers, "a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: 'Irresponsible moms against science' was an easy takeaway from the show."

An assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA Medical School who has reservations about vaccinations, Dr. Gordon's multi-hourlong interview with Frontline ended up on the cutting room floor, he says, as did an interview with Dr. Robert W. Sears, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, who advocates an alternative vaccination schedule. Evidence in favor of vaccination was provided by researchers including Dr. Paul Offit, who has earned millions of dollars as the co-creator of the RotaTeq vaccine, is a paid spokesman for Merck, and has said that he thinks infants' immune systems could theoretically handle as many as 10,000 vaccinations at one time, or perhaps "closer to 100,000."

The Vaccine War wasn't all about autism. (Missed the show? You can watch it here.) It also delved into the way not vaccinating kids leads to a dangerous breach in herd immunity (Moms against science AND society!), but didn't touch on vaccine failure. (It does happen: An outbreak of the mumps in New York and New Jersey last year was not caused by a lack of immunization; in fact, most of the more-than 1,500 patients had been properly vaccinated against it.)

I'm fascinated by the discussion going on at the PBS.org forums right now. There are many parents posting with anecdotal evidence about the dangers of vaccination, and some of their stories are gut-wrenching. And there are plenty of medical practitioners posting well-worded, researched responses. It's a far cry from the moms-against-science tone of the program itself -- and, frankly, much more interesting.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat. April is Autism Awareness Month; you can read her posts about autism here.

anon

The link worked for me, and along with the author, I agree that the forums at PBS are FAR more indicative of what is really happening here. Science against Parents? Have a read over there people... Science is losing.

Dan's mom (Dan06)

"http://www.boston.com/community/moms/blogs/in_the_parenthood/2010/04/autism_awareness_causes_and_controversey.html" this is the correct link. Copy and paste the text between quotes

Benedetta

Bob I had it in writing that a reaction to a DPT shot was 1 out of 11,000. It was not true.
But as a teacher I kept running into kids like mine??????? Percentage wise that could not happen.

So even if he told us what a very, very, very small percentage - they could not be believed.

Parent

Great comment Bob. The link didn't work for me either.

sorsha

looks like the page was taken down. they did say on Frontline that the internet was dangerous, causing the autism epidemic and parents shouldn't have too much information.

Bob Moffitt

I tried the link provided "Blogs in the Parenthood" and got:

"Sorry, the page you have requested does not exist at this address.

If you are trying to reach a Boston.com page from a bookmark, the address may have changed, or the page may have been eliminated...."

Too bad, I was anxious to learn if anyone had responded to my "comment" yesterday:

Here are just two questions I would like to ask those who put this farce (FRONTLINE) together.

#1-Opening segment contained comments of mom who related story of a nurse bustling into her hospital room proudly announcing it was time for her new born baby to receive the HEP B vaccine. Mom asked the nurse why she was giving her newborn baby a vaccine meant to prevent a sexually transmitted disease and the nurse got angry at her for asking.

The urgency of giving a HEP B vaccine to newborns was questioned at least twice during the program .. and .. the question was never answered.

#2-One would have hoped Dr. Anthony Faucci, Director of the NIH would have a better explanation of the "risks" associated with vaccines than saying that "A very, very, very small percentage of people will get an allergic reaction...possibly there is a component of the vaccine they didn't realize they were allergic to. And, then, there's a subset of a very, very, very, very small percentage of those who actually get a serious reaction, but, if you look at that, the risk of that is so minuscule as to be completely outweighed by the risks."

Don't you think it is about time someone of the stature of Dr. Faucci gave us the real "percentage number at risk" rather then having parents try to calculate what he means by "very, very, very, very small"?

As I think of it, a "very, very, very, very small percentage" of the five million children born in this country every year could actually mean thousands.

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