Why the belief that Autism and Vaccinations are linked will never go away

There is a great article today on Slate about why the pretty ridiculous idea that vaccinations containing trace amounts of mercury cause autism will never go away. Here's the first little part of the article:

At the recent 12-day hearing into theories that vaccines cause autism, the link between the disorder and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine came across as shaky at best. As for the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, which was used in other vaccines, witnesses showed that in all known cases of actual mercury poisoning (none of which caused autism), the dose was hundreds or thousands of times higher than what kids got during the 1990s. Powerful population studies showed no link to either MMR or thimerosal-containing shots.

None of that moves Mary Wildman, 47, whose son's case is before the court and who drove from her home near Pittsburgh to watch the hearing, which ended this week. "I know what happened to my son after he got his MMR shot," she told me. "I have no doubt. There's no way they'll convince me that all these kids were not damaged by vaccines."

It is difficult to challenge a mother's knowledge of her own child. And also to fight off the staying power of the vaccines-cause-autism theory and other such notions that verge on the irrational.
Click Here!

People who study irrational beliefs have a variety of ways of explaining why we cling to them. In rational choice theory, what appear to be crazy choices are actually rational, in that they maximize an individual's benefit--or at least make him or her feel good.

Continue reading at Slate. Make sure you check out the parody Mad Magazine cover by an autistic blogger named Bev Harp.

More like this

Seems like you ignored my comment the first time...

Before 1990s Hepatitis B was not a required vaccine for babies like it is now. The number of babies or kids having Hepatitis B was non-existing. So how would a mercury filled Hepatitis B vaccine giving to babies whose blood brain barrier is not even developed yet at the day of their birth protect them from anything?

Here is another statistic; instances of ADHD/Autism went from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 150. Are you going to tell us that we simply able to detect autism better, or so called stupid or poor uneducated parents would not notice a child at age six who does not speak or develop normally? Where are those kids now?

In your article you are challenging the study done by the generation rescue. What about all the studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical giants, CDC or IOM? Surprisingly none of those studies prove a link between mercury in vaccines and autism. Those are the same organizations that tell the public to get rid of all mercury thermometers and not to eat tuna. Yet, they allow 300000 ppb of mercury to be shot into an unprotected brain of a baby per visit.

1 shot is 0.01% of ethyl mercury per 5mg of dose v/w equates to 50000ppb times six vaccines combined together equal to 300000ppb. EPA allowable limit before area becomes a toxic waste is 2ppb of mercury. Also, most of the childhood vaccines not just flu shot contains mercury in it. The removal only began in 2001; there are still plenty of stockpiles left in pediatricians offices.

This information is all about the MMR vaccine not HepB first of all.

Second an increase in ADHD (or global warming for pete's sake) correlated with increased vaccinations is not proof of anything.

Third drug companies getting rid of mercury does not prove conspiracy. And indeed there is evidence of much misleading evidence coming from the anti-mercury camp for the purpose of making money.

Fourth show me a so transparently poorly done drug company/CDC sponsored study and I will rip it a new one.

Fifth actually read the article that I linked to before you comment.

Peter, I'm much to lazy to research all of your claims, so do you think you could provide some references to back up your claims? (Particularly, the number of instances of autism and the amount of mercury in these vaccines.)

Don't worry I can certify Peter is full of shit.

Before 1990s Hepatitis B was not a required vaccine for babies like it is now. The number of babies or kids having Hepatitis B was non-existing. So how would a mercury filled Hepatitis B vaccine giving to babies whose blood brain barrier is not even developed yet at the day of their birth protect them from anything?

Who says the blood brain barrier is not developed? This is idiotic. Show a reference for such an absurd claim. Even if it weren't developed, what does that have to do with thimerosal - lipid soluble it could give a shit about the BBB. The Hep B vaccine no longer has thimerosal so it isn't "mercury filled" as if it ever was, same with all vaccines but the flu shot - but which has a thimerosal free version approved for kids under 4 - since 2001. And before you claim that the leftovers are sitting around in pediatricians offices, a stupid lie, forget about it. There has been no meaningful exposure to thimerosal since about 2002 with no concurrent decrease in autism rates. If anything there is an increase - maybe we should put the thimerosal back?

Here is another statistic; instances of ADHD/Autism went from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 150. Are you going to tell us that we simply able to detect autism better, or so called stupid or poor uneducated parents would not notice a child at age six who does not speak or develop normally? Where are those kids now?

That is exactly what we're going to say. You are following a change in diagnostic criteria, there is no evidence that the actual prevalence has changed, just the rate of diagnosis. When money opened up for autism as a learning disability in the 90s, the diagnosis of autism increased, while other learning disabilities decreased - the kids got shuffled. I covered it here

In your article you are challenging the study done by the generation rescue. What about all the studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical giants, CDC or IOM?

Ha! Now this is some choice idiocy. A phone interview - which doesn't even say what you think it does unless you fudge it, it superior to the systematic reviews performed by the most distinguished medical body in the country and by panels of experts. Covered here

Surprisingly none of those studies prove a link between mercury in vaccines and autism. Those are the same organizations that tell the public to get rid of all mercury thermometers and not to eat tuna.

They don't say not to eat tuna, just not to eat a whole lot of it, and mercury thermometers represent risk of poisoning from a different mechanism - but that won't stop an anti-vax crank from trying to conflate the two.

Yet, they allow 300000 ppb of mercury to be shot into an unprotected brain of a baby per visit.

Into the brain? Oh, you're not hysterical at all. Freak.

1 shot is 0.01% of ethyl mercury per 5mg of dose v/w equates to 50000ppb times six vaccines combined together equal to 300000ppb. EPA allowable limit before area becomes a toxic waste is 2ppb of mercury. Also, most of the childhood vaccines not just flu shot contains mercury in it. The removal only began in 2001; there are still plenty of stockpiles left in pediatricians offices.

Oh wait, here's the lie. Where is your proof that pediatricians have stockpiled thimerosal-containing vaccines? Is this the lie that needs to be spread to frantically hold onto the thimerosal hypothesis despite the removal of it from vaccines? And where is the dose-response relationship? The amount of thimerosal dose has gone from 200ug to about 0.3-3ug, where is the concurrent decrease in diagnoses? Oh yeah, I forgot, those evil pediatricians have been stockpiling vaccines (that expire yearly). Yeah, that's it.

The reason they don't respond to you peter is because your a crank and a liar.

Where are those kids now?

Many of "them" are high enough functioning that they're out and about in the community still undiagnosed, or labeled as "retarded". To my knowledge I have never been diagnosed as autistic, but I do have vague memories of early interventions. The unlucky ones will have ended up in asylums.

By Andrew Wade (not verified) on 04 Jul 2007 #permalink

I'd like to see a study comparing the rate of ADHD kids with the divorce rate and the number of single parents, broken down by gender. And with the behaviour-modifying drug prescription rate, especially for Ritalin.

My own mother used to say that there are not so many ADHD kids as there are tired mothers. I'm not saying no diagnosis is valid, but surely there have to be some mistakes. As well as the odd diagnosis to help someone get support:

"In my private practice, I'll call a kid a zebra if it will get him the educational services I think he needs."
--Judy Rapoport, NIH, quoted in Slate

I'd also like to see the US figures compared with nations where there is universal health care. Perhaps US cases are under-reported?

Or perhaps we might expect countries where the government offers funding to help and to educate such children to show higher diagnosis rates and over-reporting?

None of that moves Mary Wildman, 47, whose son's case is before the court and who drove from her home near Pittsburgh to watch the hearing, which ended this week. "I know what happened to my son after he got his MMR shot," she told me. "I have no doubt. There's no way they'll convince me that all these kids were not damaged by vaccines."

This seems like an example of when dialog is pointless and impossible. Regardless of the of the topic, there's always a segment of the population that refuses to admit or consider new information if it threatens their beliefs.

Beliefs provide certainty, and new information threatens that certainty. Accepting new information, then, means having level of comfort with uncertainty. That's too much for some people. Especially when it comes to understanding what's happened to their children.

Steve,

Either the article is about the MMR vaccine or Hepatitis B vaccines; main subject is the vaccine-autism link. Ignoring the correlation between increase of vaccine schedule (11 before 1990s and 37 after 1990s) would demonstrate blunt ignorance to the environmental trigger that everyone talks about. You have mentioned global warning; kids that reside on public dumps in Manila have a serious of health problems, but not Autism. As a matter of fact autism is a phenomenon that only exists in countries with mandatory immunization schedule, association that can not be ignored.

The conspiracy regarding drug companies is related to their claim that all mercury was removed from vaccines in 2001, which is simply not true. The removal only began in 2001; they are still plenty of childhood vaccines with mercury in it.

Every study that was either sponsored by big pharma, CDC or IOM was skewed in favor of disproving the vaccine-autism link. Original results have been summoned under the freedom of information act and show overwhelming evidence that support vaccine-autism link.

The article you talked about is written by Dr. Arthur Allen staunch supporter of vaccines manufacturers. His articles are extremely bias and show no scientific value whatsoever.

Ryan,

The statistics for number of ADHD/Autism increase are available on CDC website. Amount of mercury in vaccines is available in PDR, I hope you could follow my calculation sample as well.

Andrew,

The number of kids you are refereeing to; mild retardation or those who only require minor intervention has not changed. If you look at the current CDC data or data from 20-30 years ago, the number of kids with those conditions described above is remaining the same. Now if you look at the kids who are now having symptoms typical with Autism, that number went up from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 150.

Terrace

The argument is not pointless. I will never convince someone like Steve and Dr. Arthur Allen that mercury in vaccines cause autism. I want to believe that they are both very intelligent people and understand the facts can not be ignored. The argument is for the sake of those who is about to make a decision on how to immunize their own kids. If at least one parent will listen, think, asks and does the right thing one more autism case could be prevented. The best way to prevent autism is not to get your kids vaccinated with mercury vaccines.

Everyone,

People like us are not anti-vaccine. We simply want safe vaccines and only those that are necessary. Polio vaccine is a good example.

Now if you look at the kids who are now having symptoms typical with Autism, that number went up from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 150.

How do you know the prevalence of kids who had "symptoms typical with Autism" was 1 in 100,000? As far as I can tell there is no diagnostic category for "having symptoms typical with Autism", the closest thing being "Pervasive developmental disorders" introduced as a category in 1987. Where can I find the 1 in 100,000 figure on the CDC website?

By Andrew Wade (not verified) on 04 Jul 2007 #permalink

Andrew,

This is based on the description of the condition.

Autism (my theory)

The MMR vaccine causes an immunity to (kills) an important naturally occurring enzyme in the GI tract. Neurotoxic bacteria then flourish in the intestine with the lack of competition. If so, probiotics would be therapeutic, by replacing the beneficial enzyme. Suppressing the immune system (prednisone) so antibodies stop killing the beneficial enzyme should show an improvement as well. Antibiotics targeting neurotoxic bacteria could be beneficial. Autism may be the combination of babies born genetically susceptible to these toxins and the lack of beneficial enzymes destroyed by antibodies due to the vaccine. Measles was probably harvested from an infected intestinal tissue and good enzymes may have been accidentally harvested as well creating a dirty vaccine.

There is a connection between antigens in vaccinations and autism. It has been known since the 1970s that autism is connected to a family history of autoimmune disorders, to older fathers who also have more diabetic and schizophrenic kids, to a mother who had an older father at her conception. The reason that many parents of autistic children insist that vaccinations are related to the offspring's disorders is that they see the connection before their eyes. The following is one of many studies on the connection between autoimmune disorders and autism, PDD, and childhood schizophrenia. Vaccinations are not well tolerated by people with autoimmune disorders. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/112/5/e420

Pediatrics. 2003 Nov;112(5):e420. Links
Increased prevalence of familial autoimmunity in probands with pervasive developmental disorders.Sweeten TL, Bowyer SL, Posey DJ, Halberstadt GM, McDougle CJ.
Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, and James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children Indianapolis 46202-4800, USA.

OBJECTIVES: Increased prevalence of familial autoimmune disease is a common finding among probands with various autoimmune disorders. Autistic disorder (autism) is a highly genetic disorder with known immune and immunogenetic abnormalities. Previous research has found an increased frequency of autoimmune disorders in families with autistic probands. We further investigated this association by determining the frequency of autoimmune disorders in families that have probands with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), including autism, compared with 2 control groups. METHODS: Three well-defined study groups, including 1) families that have a child with a PDD, 2) families that have a child with an autoimmune disorder, and 3) families with a healthy control child, constituted the sample. A questionnaire inquiring about which first- and second-degree family members had received a diagnosis of having specific autoimmune disorders was completed by 101 families in each group. RESULTS: The frequency of autoimmune disorders was significantly higher in families of the PDD probands compared with families of both the autoimmune and healthy control probands. Autoimmunity was highest among the parents of PDD probands compared with parents of the healthy control subjects. Hypothyroidism/Hashimoto's thyroiditis and rheumatic fever were significantly more common in families with PDD probands than in the healthy control families. CONCLUSIONS: Autoimmunity was increased significantly in families with PDD compared with those of healthy and autoimmune control subjects. These preliminary findings warrant additional investigation into immune and autoimmune mechanisms in autism.

PMID: 14595086 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

1 ppb mercury = Damages body's ability to excrete Hg (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005).

2 ppb mercury = US EPA limit for drinkable water.

20 ppb mercury = Developing snail neurons damaged & killed by inorganic mercury (Leong et al. NeuroReport. 2001); and both human skin & notocord tissues damaged (Morton et al., JAMA 1948)

20 ppb mercury = Dendritic cells damaged, calcium channels interrupted (UC-Davis MIND Institute, 2006).

200 ppb mercury = Mercury level in liquid EPA labels "hazardous waste."

600 ppb mercury = Some "trace" level infant vaccines.

1,000 ppb mercury = Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth.

4,000 ppb mercury = 0.25-mL injections of Thimerosal-containing vaccines (FDA CBER's definition of "trace").

50,000 ppb mercury = "Preservative" level mercury in flu, meningococcal and Tetanus vaccines to kids 7 and older.

UC Davis Study with Mice Links Thimerosal with Immune System Dysfunction
http://www.ehponline.org/press/042506a.html

Autism: It's Not Just In The Head
http://discovermagazine.com/2007/apr/autism-it2019s-not-just-in-the-hea…

Our Preferred Poison
http://discovermagazine.com/2005/mar/our-preferred-poison/article_view?…

Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2005/7712/abstract.html

Just a "drop in the bucket" here...

By nhokkanen (not verified) on 05 Jul 2007 #permalink

"Arthur Allen insults parents"
http://vyer.typepad.com/hereticsalmanac/2007/07/slate-has-some-.html

"Don't believe everything you read"
by Arthur Allen
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-allen/dont-believe-everything-_b_4…
"Once, after interviewing some senior Mexico City police officers, I reported that they had captured Carlos the Jackal. They were lying, of course (this was in 1981). But the story still ran, until the correction went out about 10 hours later. I wasn't fired."

By nhokkanen (not verified) on 05 Jul 2007 #permalink

1 ppb mercury = Damages body's ability to excrete Hg (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005).

2 ppb mercury = US EPA limit for drinkable water.

20 ppb mercury = Developing snail neurons damaged & killed by inorganic mercury (Leong et al. NeuroReport. 2001); and both human skin & notocord tissues damaged (Morton et al., JAMA 1948)

20 ppb mercury = Dendritic cells damaged, calcium channels interrupted (UC-Davis MIND Institute, 2006).

200 ppb mercury = Mercury level in liquid EPA labels "hazardous waste."

600 ppb mercury = Some "trace" level infant vaccines.

1,000 ppb mercury = Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth.

4,000 ppb mercury = 0.25-mL injections of Thimerosal-containing vaccines (FDA CBER's definition of "trace").

50,000 ppb mercury = "Preservative" level mercury in flu, meningococcal and Tetanus vaccines to kids 7 and older.

UC Davis Study with Mice Links Thimerosal with Immune System Dysfunction
http://www.ehponline.org/press/042506a.html

Autism: It's Not Just In The Head
http://discovermagazine.com/2007/apr/autism-it2019s-not-just-in-the-hea…

Our Preferred Poison
http://discovermagazine.com/2005/mar/our-preferred-poison/article_view?…

Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2005/7712/abstract.html

Just a "drop in the bucket" here...

By nhokkanen (not verified) on 05 Jul 2007 #permalink

Steve -

On: "Second an increase in ADHD (or global warming for pete's sake) correlated with increased vaccinations is not proof of anything.":

The recent Generation Rescue survey, commissioned from the country's largest market research poller and modeled on the CDC's own autism assessment telephone survey practices, indicated that only 2.3% of unvaccinated boys have ADHD, but if they got fully vaccinated, 7.4% of the boys got ADHD.
See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/index.php?feed=Science&article=UPI-1-20…

(Also according to the study: a 50-100% greater autism rate if you were vaccinated. For the data, see: http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/survey.pdf)

Admittedly, there are issues with the survey, but the difference is very large and the sample size over 15,000. Moreover, that a similar effect wasn't observed in girls indicates that it is not a result of study biases. (This also makes sense, as girls are significantly less prone to autism spectrum too.) All or almost all autistics would also qualify for ADHD - it is just further down the "spectrum."

This ADHD is likely due to mercury.
In Chuek, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Blood Mercury Level: A Case-Control Study of Chinese Children, Neuropediatrics, 37:234, 2006, children with blood mercury levels above the U.S. reference dose and no family history of ADHD had a 2,280% greater chance of ADHD than those with lower mercury.
Please read this study before offering opinions on ADHD or the "psychology" of those who believe that trace mercury can have significant neurological development effects: http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/china.pdf
(And there are many more where that came from.)

Les,

That study appears to be making a link between a family history of autoimmune disorders and conditions like autism, but I'm not sure I understand how it provides evidence of a vaccine link? Could you clarify?

I went through the autistic transition in 1956. I have memories of it, but it took many years for me to put them into a coherent context. My father has never spoken to me about it, but in 1982 or thereabouts, after my sister shared some things our mother told her about my transition, I began asking about it. From what my mother described, it was almost textbook. Here's the kicker: I wasn't formally diagnosed (with Asperger's) until 2002.

My experience leads me to conclude that it is very likely that Autistic Spectrum Disorders have been much more common for a lot longer than is commonly believed. In retrospect, I can see that in my grade school (Marvista Elementary in Normandy Park) of less than 300 students, there were at least 3 of us with ASD during the years from 1959 to 1965.

Now, my mother insists that I did not have any vaccinations before age 6. If that's true, and I'm not sure it is, then what could have caused my ASD? Genetics is the answer a lot of people want. It seems obvious to me that genetics is a contributing but not primary factor.

Assuming there is a causal connection between Hg toxicity and ASD, where was the Hg that caused my ASD?

Mom had Mercury Amalgam fillings. It has been very well established for more than 100 years that Mercury Amalgam fillings are toxic. A recent article in Life Extension documented that as Amalgam fillings deteriorate, they release mercury vapor, which is absorbed into the blood. Bad news in any case, but particularly when it happens to an expectant mother.

Another extremely common source of Hg for decades has been Merthiolate. In 1929 Merthiolate was the registered trade name for Thiomersal. Here's what it says on Wikipedia about it:

"Eli Lilly and Company registered the compound under the trade name Merthiolate in 1929. It was used to kill bacteria and prevent contamination in antiseptic ointments, creams, jellies, and sprays used by consumers and in hospitals. Thiomersal was used in e.g. nasal sprays, eye drops, contact lens solutions, immunoglobulins, and vaccines.

"Thiomersal was first put in vaccines in 1931 by Eli Lilly Corporation and used as a preservative (bactericide) so multi-dose vials of vaccines could be used instead of single dose vials, which were more expensive."

My mother used Merthiolate a lot while she was pregnant with me. And throughout my infancy and childhood they used Merthiolate on me, daubing it directly on open wounds.

Thiomersal in vaccines may be a causative factor, but Mercury Amalgam fillings aside, the use of Thiomersal as a household antiseptic called Merthiolate was pervasive for several decades. This is why I disagree with the lawsuit as I've read it described. It doesn't go far enough.

By limiting the hearing to Thiomersal in vaccines, it ignores the most common and abundant source of Thiomersal: Merthiolate.

Personally, I would prefer to find out that ASD is entirely genetic in origin. Such a finding would suggest an evolutionary change. And given that ASD can confer certain advantages, for it to be evolutionary would make the high cost endured from the disadvantages worthwhile.

But if it can be demonstrated that the quantity of Thiomersal absorbed through multiple sources does cause ASD, to say that millions of people would be extremely upset with Eli Lilly would be an extreme understatement.

The executives of Eli Lilly, and others with an interest, know this. So it's obvious which side of the controversy they take.