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Part 1: Vaccines and Autism - What Do Epidemiological Studies Really Tell Us?

Researcher Asks: Are 36 Doses of Vaccine by 2 Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?

Bears2 Managing Editor's note: This is fromThe Baltimore Sun, We don't know enough about childhood vaccines Researcher asks: Are 36 doses of vaccine by age 2 too much, too little, or just right? Feel free to click into the article and then share on FB and Twitter.

July 11, 2011|By Margaret Dunkle

The topics of vaccines and vaccine safety spark emotional outbursts at scientific meetings and family dinner tables alike. But many of these debates are remarkably fact-free. Surprisingly few people — not just concerned parents but also doctors, policymakers and even immunization experts — can answer this seemingly simple question: How many immunizations does the federal government recommend for every child during the first two years of life?

The answer is important because most states, including Maryland, faithfully follow the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, codifying CDC guidelines into requirements for children to enroll in school, kindergarten, preschool and child care.

A new Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health study reports that the higher the proportion of infants and toddlers receiving recommended vaccines, the higher the state's rate of children diagnosed with autism or speech-language problems just a few years later. This analysis is sure to rekindle the debate about vaccine safety.

For that conversation to produce useful results, we must start by defining terms. A "dose of vaccine" refers to each vaccine or antigen given to increase immunity against one specific disease. For chicken pox, a child receives one dose of vaccine through one shot.

By contrast, an "immunization event" refers to each separate administration of a vaccine or bundle of vaccines — through a shot, orally, or nasally. The MMR shot for mumps, measles and rubella involves three doses of vaccine but is one immunization event.

The critical number is how many doses of vaccine a child receives. Why? If a vaccine is strong enough to confer immunity against a disease, it is important enough to count separately.

Clear definitions, analysis of CDC's "General Recommendations on Immunization," and confirmation by Dr. Andrew Kroger, lead author of the definitive report on these recommendations, produce the answer to the not-so-simple-after-all question posed above.

In all, the federal government recommends 36 doses of vaccine, addressing 14 different diseases, for every U.S. child under age 2. An on-schedule child will receive a dose of vaccine for hepatitis B at birth, eight doses of various vaccines at 2 months, seven additional doses at 4 months, and four to seven more doses at 6 months.

Infants and toddlers receive these vaccine doses through 26 separate immunization events — mostly shots. If a child misses vaccinations because of illness or scheduling problems, following CDC's catch-up schedule usually results in extra doses at a later date.

The federally recommended doses of vaccine for every child during the first two years of life are: three doses each for hepatitis B, polio, flu, and HIB (12 doses in all); two doses each for hepatitis A and rotavirus; four doses for pneumococcal infections; one dose for chicken pox; three doses through the combination MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella; and 12 doses through four separate administrations of the combination DTaP vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).

Some infants and toddlers receive still more doses of vaccine — if they switch to pediatricians who use different "combined" vaccines, if they are at high risk for certain diseases, if lost or incomplete records lead to duplicate immunizations, and depending on the time of year they were born (for flu shots) or the brand of vaccine used.

While testing is routine for individual vaccines as they are licensed, research on the both short- and long-term effects of multiple doses of vaccine administered to very young children during the critical birth-to-2 developmental window is sparse to nonexistent.

In addition to the number of doses, vaccine ingredients can be problematic, especially for susceptible subgroups. First are adjuvants, substances added to boost effectiveness and allow smaller doses of vaccine antigen to be used. The most common adjuvant is aluminum, which is found in vaccines for hepatitis and diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus.

Second are preservatives — such as thimerosal, which is 49.6 percent mercury. Thimerosal is still contained in many flu shots, although it was, except for trace amounts, removed from other child vaccines a decade ago. Many child vaccines (including those for diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, HIB, and hepatitis) contain formaldehyde, which was just added to the government's list of known human carcinogens.

Third are ingredients to which some people have severe allergies: stabilizers such as gelatin, and eggs or other proteins that are used to prepare vaccines for flu, MMR, and other immunizations.

The ongoing debate about vaccines and their safety needs to incorporate these basic facts as our country seeks to answer the critical Goldilocks question: Too many? Too few? Or just right?

Margaret Dunkle is senior research scientist at the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University and director of the Early Identification and Intervention Collaborative for Los Angeles County. She also has a family member who is vaccine-injured. Her email is mdunkle@gwu.edu.


david burd

Mark Olson, Abundant guidance and advice you ask about are provided by several organizations and references they further cite.

First, google "NVIC" (National Vaccine Information Center). Guide yourself around their web pages and you will find many answers.

Also, you can also google "VRAN" (Vaccine Risk Awareness Network). Very informative info.

Continue with your heart and common sense, the opposite of the draconian vaccine system now present.

regards, David Burd

Mark L. Olson

Very informative, but where is the article that explains what parents can do, or should do, and what their rights are, and how to fight the schools, states and courts? I've already re-posted the link to this article on my Facebook page, but if a new or expectant mother asks me what she is supposed to do with this information, what can I tell her?

I don't think we are saying to mothers not to administer ANY vaccines to our kids. We certainly may think that 36-43 is too many, or question the quality or safety of each one, or the simultaneous administration of groups of them.

Now what's a mother to do?

Cherry Sperlin Misra

Lets take a look at California as an example- Their law banning Thimerosal in children's vaccines took effect only from 2006. And we now know that plenty of mercury-laden vaccines were still available in that year, because vaccines have a long shelf life. So , if we want to take a look at whether autism rates fell after removal of Thimerosal, we should not be looking at kids born in 2000, but rather at kids born in 2006 and after. Now if my math is correct, we should be looking at the kids entering Kindergarten in Sept of this year and the years to follow. Can anyone here suggest how we can get this data? Of course, as we all know there will be a special spike of new cases of autism in the years in which California made an exemption for flu vaccines- allowing mercury-laden flu vaccines because supposedly enough mercury-free doses were not available.
I really cant say how much we need to blame the doctors, friends- When we got hoaxed into believing that the mercury was "out" of the vaccines, they got hoaxed too. At least I know one doctor who was.


"I have one correction about the past: Thimerasol was definitely phased out more recently than a decade ago. I am only pointing this out because the exact time it was phased out and off the shelves is very important to people with children of a certain age such as my own son. An article in Consumer Reports said in March 2001 (the month he was born) that we should ask for thim-free shots. I still remember the smug smiley assurance at the clinic not to worry about that, it was all taken care of, all of that was 'gone' . WHen this was a blatant lie."

One of our city's large pediatric practices was still using thimerosal-preserved Dtaps (and who knows what else) in 2005! This after they assured me that the mercury was out of all of their shots as of 2002.

The only available Td shots available now (the closest to "tetanus only" contain 24.5 or 25 mcgs. of mercury.

david burd

Perhaps the Baltimore Sun piece will incrementally change a few minds. However, CONTAMINATION with any of a host of known and totally unknown contaminants can be in virtually every vaccine dose.

And, there is indeed "spoilage" (undetected bacterial or fungus growth) that is unknown that ends up with a "hot batch" when it is indeed acknowledged, but I doubt honest acknowledgement happens very often.

My Post here on AoA last Fall was about the flu vaccine disaster of 14 months ago involving Australian children, a clear example of something that could not be overlooked - certainly there are countless smaller episodes that don't rise to the level of national emergency as in Australia.

With so many doses by 2 years (actually it can be 43 depending on an accelerated schedule and 2 flu shots at 6 and 7 months), it is a virtual "sure bet" that almost every child so vaccinated has damage to some degree, if not chronic or serious damage.


Of course the quick answer to this is that 36 doses by 2 is way too f'g many, especially the hep b's, chicken pox and flu shots and Offit's rota virus (even if it's oral).

Anne McElroy Dachel

Steven Salzberg has an article http://blogs.forbes.com/stevensalzberg/2011/07/17/the-baltimore-sun-sinks-deep-into-anti-vaccination-quicksand/ in Forbes slamming the Baltimore Sun for publishing Dunkle's piece. It seems that we don’t dare speculate that there might be safety concerns involved with the vaccine schedule. We don’t dare ask questions.

Anne Dachel

David Taylor

Carolyn: Don't forget that the *request* to manufacturers to remove thimerosal came at the same time that new recommendations for giving the mercury-laden flu vaccine, (including to pregnant women) was made and heavily marketed--and still is today. One exposure was replaced by another. Since part of the new exposure is pre-natal, it is potentially even more harmful.

Carolyn Kylesmom

Followup to previou post:

When Thimerasol was removed from vaccines . .(as recently as 2007 for one vax)


Remember: It is still on the shelves even after a new formulation is approved

Carolyn Kylesmom

What a well-written, forward-worthy treasure trove of facts about what is true today. Very simple, direct, and to the point.

I have one correction about the past: Thimerasol was definitely phased out more recently than a decade ago. I am only pointing this out because the exact time it was phased out and off the shelves is very important to people with children of a certain age such as my own son. An article in Consumer Reports said in March 2001 (the month he was born) that we should ask for thim-free shots. I still remember the smug smiley assurance at the clinic not to worry about that, it was all taken care of, all of that was 'gone' . WHen this was a blatant lie. Then by the end of that year there were revived fights and assurances that injecting infants with neurotoxic mercury and synergistic aluminum was FINE, just FINE you silly, selfish, neurotic mommies, I believe it was still in vaccines as recently as 2006 because there were still battles in Hawaii and other states about whether to ban it. In addition, it's still in tetanus shots as of 2009, because i got an insert when a dr recommended I get a tetatnus shot (in the insert by the way, it said clearly ('effect of multiple vaccinations at the same time has not been tested' , so it may well still be in DPT as well. As you pointed out it is still in flu shots. As late as 2001 it was in RhoGham given to the mother.

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