The following letter was delivered to Mr. David Shipley, Op-Ed Page Editor of the New York Times, in regards to the essay by Dr. Paul Offit In today's paper:
Dear Mr. Shipley,
There are many inaccuracies in the Op-Ed today by Dr. Paul Offit.
For example, this statement: "The answer is wrapped up in the nature of the unusual court where the Poling case was heard."
This case was never heard in any court at all. The Poling case was conceded by US Department of Health and Human Services medical personnel, well before it could become a publicly accessible and publicly heard "test" case. It was a medical concession, not a legal decision. Dr. Offit and the New York Times know this.
Next is this statement: "An expert who testified in court on the Polings' behalf claimed that the five vaccines had stressed Hannah's already weakened cells, worsening her disorder. Without holding a hearing on the matter, the court conceded that the claim was biologically plausible.
Again, no one "testified in court" in this case, as confusingly stated by Dr. Offit, who also writes that, "Without holding a hearing... the court conceded."
And again, the court did not concede anything. The concession was made by doctors at HHS, represented by attorneys at the Department of Justice.
This statement, too, is misleading: "Even five vaccines at once would not place an unusually high burden on a child's immune system."
To begin with, Hannah received five shots, but nine vaccines - two of the injections were three vaccines in one. She was vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertusis, polio, HiB, and chicken pox.
More importantly, Dr. Offit's statement contradicts the second HHS concession (for epilepsy) in the Poling case, to wit:
The cause for autistic encephalopathy in Hannah "was underlying mitochondrial dysfunction, exacerbated by vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves."
In addition, Dr. Offit's contention that vaccines cannot cause autism is inconsistent with what Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, said this weekend on CNN:
SANJAY GUPTA: Are we ready to say right now as things stand that childhood vaccines do not cause autism?
DR. GERBERDING: What we can say absolutely for sure is that we don't really understand the causes of autism. We've got a long way to go before we get to the bottom of this
It surprises me, and saddens me, that the OpEd page could allow so many false and misleading statements to appear in its ranks.
Finally, I think you should ask Dr. Offit if this quote of his is attributable to all children, including those with known mitochondrial dysfunction, such as Hannah Poling and the many other kids just like her:
"Our analysis shows that infants have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at once." (Please see press release below).
We will soon learn that there are probably thousands of children just like Hannah Poling out there. Chances are, you know one of them personally.
Many thanks for your attention to this matter. I would appreciate a reply, if at all possible.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 7, 2002
Contact: Rebecca Baumgold
INFANT IMMUNE SYSTEM IS STRONGER THAN MANY PARENTS THINK
New Report by National Vaccine Experts shows that multiple vaccines don't weaken or overwhelm the immune system
Philadelphia, Pa. -- From the moment of birth, infants are capable of responding to numerous challenges to the immune system, including multiple vaccines, according to a new report published in the January issue of Pediatrics. The report, authored by Paul A. Offit, M.D., chief of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues, reviews current research on the effects of vaccines on the immune system and the capacity of the infant immune system to respond safely to multiple simultaneous immunizations.
"The number of recommended childhood vaccines has increased substantially over the past several decades. Twenty years ago, children received 7 vaccines routinely and up to 5 shots by 2 years of age. Today, children receive 11 vaccines routinely and as many as 20 shots by age two," explains Dr. Offit. As a possible consequence of these trends, recent national surveys have found that an increasing number of parents are concerned that infants receive too many vaccines. Implicit in this concern is the idea that an infant's immune system is inadequately developed to handle vaccines safely or that multiple vaccines may weaken, overwhelm or deplete the immune system.
"The infant immune system has an enormous capacity to respond safely and effectively to immune system challenges from vaccines," says Dr. Offit. "Our report offers reassurance to parents that far from weakening an infant's immune system, vaccines actually strengthen an infant's defenses against serious and potentially fatal infections."
The report, entitled "Addressing Parents' Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant Immune System?" highlights the following important findings:
Newborns commonly encounter a host of challenges to their immune system at the same time. Newborns are capable of generating protective immune responses to bacteria and viruses, as well as vaccines, from the moment of birth. This capability is necessary for them to meet the tremendous number of environmental challenges they will encounter in the first few hours and days of life.
"Babies emerge from the relatively sterile environment of the womb into a world teeming with bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, and their immune systems are designed to stand up to these challenges from the start," explains Dr. Offit. "Newborns have billions of immunologic cells that are capable of responding to millions of different microorganisms. By quickly making an immune response to bacteria that live on the surface of their intestines, for example, babies are able to keep those bacteria from invading their bloodstream and causing serious disease."
Current research shows that young infants are fully capable of generating protective immune responses to multiple vaccines given simultaneously. "Our analysis shows that infants have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at once. Currently, the most vaccines that children receive at one time is five," says Dr. Offit. "Using this estimate, we could predict that even if all 11 of the routinely recommended vaccinations were given to infants at one time, only about .01 percent of the immune system would be used."