"How do you go from bouncing baby boy to all of these problems within three hours?" That's what one mother from San Diego asked when I shot an hour-long program three years ago about the developmental disorder called autism, and the possibility that vaccinations might be a cause.
Her son Eric had been "perfect," she said, until he had his childhood vaccinations. Which were followed by a slide backward. Into autism.
Of course, if it were just that one mom, you could dismiss her question as an anxious inference. But I interviewed about a dozen families with autistic kids, and they all told the same story: My child was developing normally — motor skills, communication skills, social skills — until the vaccinations. Then, a violent reaction, and everything changed. The mother of one little girl I met in Tennessee who is now totally dysfunctional told me, "She screamed like a wild animal," and said, "I pray to God I never hear it again."
Sure, you can scoff at a small sample of 12. But how about a bigger one? More than 5,000 families have filed claims with the federal government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Are they all wackos? The ones I interviewed certainly aren't. They include a county probation officer, a law professor at New York University, the wife of a lieutenant colonel in the Marines, even the daughter of a former chairman of NBC. Not exactly a fringe group.
Yet anyone who believes that for all their preventive possibilities, some vaccinations might also be dangerous are vilified. A Wall Street Journal editorial called their fears the "vaccine follies." A New York Times columnist referred to "a chilling disregard for science."
I'm sorry, but there still is too little science, from either side, about all this. In fact, the National Institutes of Health wrote on its own website, "The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism."
Autism is not a "disease" that can be detected by testing a child's blood, or by mapping the genome; it is a disorder of the brain that leads to a set of abnormal, anti-social behaviors. You wouldn't even find it in an autopsy. So if the exact causes remain unknown, how can anyone say with caustic certainty that vaccinations aren't one of them?