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Autism, Vaccines and the CDC: The Wrong Side of History

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Even as the evidence connecting America's autism epidemic to vaccines mounts, dead-enders at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) -- many of whom promoted the current vaccine schedule and others with strong ties to the vaccine industry -- are trying to delay the day of reckoning by creating questionable studies designed to discredit any potential vaccine-autism link and by derailing authentic studies.

On January 12, a cadre of mid-level health bureaucrats left over from the Bush administration ignored Federal requirements for advance notice in order to vote to quietly strip vaccine research studies from funding allocated by Congress in the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006. Members of Congress had said that this money should be used to study the vaccine-autism connection.

These rogue bureaucrats -- members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee -- held an unannounced vote to remove previously approved vaccine studies from funding under the CAA. Nearly all of the "Federal" members of the panel voted to remove the two studies, whose estimated cost was $16 million - or 1.6% of the billion dollars authorized by Congress for autism. The panel's civilian members, in contrast, voted nearly unanimously to retain the funding.

IACC's action to halt vaccine-autism research flies in the face of congressional intent. The bill's authors clearly stated that vaccine research should be funded. Even the esteemed Institute of Medicine has condemned CDC's methods. In 2005, an IOM panel condemned CDC for its "lack of transparency" in vaccine-autism research.

The bureaucrats responsible for this scandal are on the wrong side of history and it's hard to not attribute an obstructionist motive to their act since vaccine-autism research has already entered the realm of mainstream science. Serious scientists (except those tied to the vaccine industry) no longer debate whether vaccine-autism research should be done, but rather how it should be done, and by whom.

And Congress concurs: "I want to be clear that ... no research avenue should be eliminated, including biomedical research examining potential links between vaccines, vaccine components, and autism,pronounced Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chairman of the H.E.L.P. Committee at the bill's passage. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said the bill should fund "environmental research examining potential links between vaccines, vaccine components and autism. And last week, Dodd called the potentially illegal maneuver to shut down vaccine research, "contrary to the spirit of the bill."

These days, being opposed to vaccine-autism research puts one outside of the "mainstream" (and let's be clear, supporting such research in no way makes one "anti-vaccine" -- that charge is a tired, diversionary charade -- an ugly lie perpetrated by vaccine industry allies and their blind supporters.)

Recognizing this fact, the vaccine industry and its CDC allies have continued to fund a series of deceptive and badly flawed studies designed to dispute the connection between vaccines and the epidemic of pediatric neurological disorders. The latest of these is the controversial Italian study released this week intended to allow Thimerosal's defenders to argue that the preservative is safe. The study comparing two groups of Italian children, who received a moderate level of Thimerosal vs. a moderately higher level, is so poorly designed it could only find one child in 1400 who tested with autism. The researchers did not include in the study the records of children who received no Thimerosal. For years, a cadre of vaccine officials at CDC has vigorously opposed funding for epidemiological studies that include both vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts that might give us useful information about causation.

The evidence of a potential link between vaccines and autism is now so compelling that every national autism organization firmly supports research into vaccination as a possible trigger for the disorder, including Autism Speaks, the world's largest, most well funded, well connected mainstream group.

Autism Speaks was co-founded by Bob Wright, former CEO of NBC-Universal, former Vice Chairman of General Electric. Autism Speaks, a staunchly pro-vaccine group, supports vaccine research. Its statement on the issue is right down the middle.

Why has vaccine-autism research gone mainstream? The reasons are many:

The Hannah Poling Case
- A year ago, medical personnel at HHS determined that this girl's autism was caused by, "vaccine induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves." Hannah had low cellular energy related to her underlying and mild mitochondrial dysfunction. Many children with autism claims in Vaccine Court have almost identical mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondrial disorders are not rare in autism -- Research suggests that dysfunction may affect 10-to-30% of all kids with autism -- perhaps more among "regressive" cases.

Mitochondrial disorders are probably not rare in the general population -- Such disorders were thought to affect 1-in-5,000 people. But new research suggests that genetic mutations that might confer mitochondrial dysfunction might be found in 1-in-400 to 1-in-50. A study by the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) found mitochondrial DNA mutations that might cause disease in up to 1-in-200 people.

Children with mitochondrial disorders are at greater risk of autistic regression -- A new study by researchers at Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere found that a trigger for autistic regression in kids with mito disorders could possibly come from a vaccine reaction. "There might be no difference between the inflammatory or catabolic stress of vaccinations and that of common childhood diseases," they wrote.

Children with mitochondrial disorders are at greater risk of vaccine injury -- This according to Dr. Douglas Wallace, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine in Genetics at UC Irvine. A member of the UMDF's scientific board, he stated, "We advocate spreading vaccines out as much as possible -- each time you vaccinate, you're creating a challenge for the system, and if a child has an impaired system that could in fact trigger further clinical problems."

The National CADDRE Study -- This 5-year project of the CDC's Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) Network will "help identify what might put children at risk for autism," the CDC says. Among those risk factors: "specific mercury exposures, including any vaccine use by the mother during pregnancy and the child's vaccine exposures after birth."

The Kennedy Krieger Institute -- The nation's premiere autism research outfit is sponsor of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN). Its new questionnaire deals with autism and vaccines. Thousands of families are describing their experiences with autistic regression following vaccination. Top scientists will then use this information, "to conduct additional vaccine-focused studies."

The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network -- CISA is a CDC-sponsored group that brings together leading autism research institutions and America's health insurance companies. Last April, the CDC proposed this research question: "Is immunization associated with increased risk for neurological deterioration in children with mitochondrial dysfunction?" To find out, "CISA has formed a working group to study methods related to mitochondrial disorders and immunization," the CDC said.

Autism Speaks -- Autism Speaks recently authorized three studies on thimerosal, vaccines and autism, and the foundation is considering funding a lot more highly significant research into the possible links between vaccines and autism.

The National Children's Study -- This is not a vaccine-autism study. But the HHS-EPA joint effort will investigate "the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States," including autism. As part of their work researchers will track medical records, which include vaccinations.

CDC's Immunization Safety Office -- As part of its draft research agenda for vaccine safety, this agency last April proposed looking at several clinical outcomes from childhood vaccinations, including "Autoimmune diseases; central nervous system demyelinating disorders; encephalitis/ encephalopathy; and neurodevelopmental disorders including autism."

Former CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding -- who told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta: "If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and if you're predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage (and) symptoms that have characteristics of autism. We have to have an open mind."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- who told US News, "If we can show that individuals of a certain genetic profile have a greater propensity for developing adverse events, we may want to screen everyone prior to vaccination (for) undetectable diseases like a subclinical mitochrondrial disorder."

Drs. Richard I. Kelley, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Margaret L. Bauman, Massachusetts General Hospital, Marvin R. Natowicz, Cleveland Clinic, etc -- "Large, population-based studies will be needed to identify a possible relationship of vaccination with autistic regression in persons with mitochondrial cytopathies."

California Department of Health Services/ Kaiser Permanente -- This CDC- funded, NIH-published study showed that kids born in the most polluted tracts of the SF Bay Area (mercury was a significant factor) were more likely to develop autism: "Our results suggest a potential association between autism and estimated metal concentrations."

Many scientists are exploring other environmental factors, including heavy metals:

UC Davis MIND Institute -- Authors of this new study say that genetics alone cannot explain the rise in autism in California. "We're looking at the possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents on neurodevelopment," said Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a co-author and professor at UC Davis.

The University of Texas -- Two studies led Ray Palmer, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center show increased risks for autism among kids living closest to mercury-emitting sources, such as coal-fired power plants.

Scientists at UC San Diego -- They wrote in the journal Autism that children given Tylenol after the MMR shot were several times more likely to develop autism. Tylenol can reduce levels of glutathione - a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier. "Tylenol and MMR was significantly associated with autistic disorder," the authors wrote. "More research needs to be completed to confirm the results of this preliminary study."

The new administration of President Barack Obama also seems to recognize the need for independent studies. HHS Secretary Nominee Tom Daschle said in 2002 that, "Mercury-based vaccine preservatives actually have caused autism in children." And President Obama said on the campaign trail last year, that: "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it."

We could not agree more. The government must study the genetic and environmental factors that cause autistic symptoms such as neuro-inflammation and rapid brain growth, immune dysregulation, oxidative stress, glutathione depletion and microglial activation.

Hard science is increasingly pointing to vaccines and heavy metals -- among other environmental triggers -- as suspects in the epidemic.

After eight years of secrecy and subterfuge by the Bush Administration, it is time to shed light on the government's abuse and mismanagement of autism research in this country - especially when it comes to investigating evidence of a link to vaccines.