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Waiting for vaccinations doesn't help

Concern about mercury in vaccinations, the worry that they might cause autism, and a host of other what-ifs have many, many parents in Portland delaying vaccinations for their children -- or, in some cases, foregoing them altogether. Tales of chicken pox parties are common, and among the reviews of any local pediatrician is her attitude toward vaccinations. Results of a study that had originally been designed to study whether thimerosal produced an autism risk (this connection has been discredited) now say that children who undergo a delayed vaccination schedule, or who don't get all the recommended vaccinations, don't have any neurodevelopmental benefit -- in fact, they may do worse.

The study was conducted on children born between 1993 and 1997, and new vaccination schedules contain more vaccines that are formulated with less antigens; so the researchers believe the effect should be about the same now. It also doesn't necessarily suggest that vaccinations improve a child's brain development, as there is a correlation between parents' income and education levels, and keeping a vaccination schedule (at least in this study group -- I imagine in some neighborhoods in Portland, New York, Berkeley, and San Francisco today, the correlation is opposite, that is, parents with more education are more likely to delay vaccinations).

As a mama who generally kept her kids on schedule for their vaccinations, and has definitely suffered much in the way of neurodevelopmental delay, I'm happy to see this -- I generally don't place any of the blame for my children's brain function on the hearth of the CDC's suggested vaccination schedule. I worry more about persistent environmental chemicals, especially those to which the kids were exposed in utero or in their licensed-character jammies, than those dosed via wicked needle several times during my kids' infancy and young childhood.

The licensed-character flame retardant-packed jammies are in a trash bag, the vaccinations are up to date, and I think this news gives me some small comfort with my choices. I think it would be revealing, though, to do the study again in some neighborhoods like the ones in which many of us live, with children born in the past decade, the age of heightened autism fears. I'd bet the neurodevelopmental benefit from sticking to the vaccine schedule would be erased -- but it wouldn't mean much.


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Timely- the UK doctor famous (infamous?) for suggesting the link just lost his license: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7134893.ece

And then there was this recent Frontline episode on the controversy:

Thank you, Sarah.

I came across this recently exploring maternal age and increased risk of autism, which I think has to be thrown into the equation. Does anyone know the statistics on delayed vaccination and maternal age? I suspect older parents may delay more, which would have to be factored in to any of this.


you're welcome, kim -- i didn't mean to create a wide world of speculation, only a narrow one with respect to the neurodevelopmental benefit and our changing attitudes toward vaccinations.

and mom22, I've been reading a lot about the links between autism and various factors. I know one piece (maybe linked to that study on maternal age) mentioned that, among other things, autism rates were higher in caucasian households, higher-income households, suburban households, and (I think) those nearer hospitals with departments specializing in pediatric neurology; but these things are speculated to simply be a factor of the higher rate of diagnosis in these households due to their access to health care.

Cute baby!! Hope the baby can have vaccinations ASAP..

Thanks for the post.

I certainly applaud this string!

This is a great website that talks about the risks associated with vaccines.


As a culture, I really believe we need to take the issue of neurodevelopmental problems away from the vaccine argument and look in so many other places. I just don't find good scientific information that makes that connection strong enough for me to take public health risks. There's enough research out there to point in other directions (prenatal drug/alcohol exposure, environmental toxins, older parents, etc) that I tend to believe those are much more helpful to be talking about.

Talking about etiology can be a mixed blessing anyway. Etiology can drive intervention if we pay attention to it, meaning, the interventions you would use to help an autistic child are different than interventions you would use for a fetal alcohol effected child. And, on the other hand, talking about etiology doesn't always help us just concentrate on what's in front of us and how best to help our child. It can make us feel better; it can direct our anger and disappointment; but at the end of the day it doesn't come to school with us and help our child navigate their day.

I decided with this baby to just string out the vaccinations. It still creeps me out to pump little tender developing baby system with toxins. From the Dr. Sears Vaccination Book I got the controversial ingredients to me are the thimerosol and aluminum. Another one that is potentially dangerous is the animal derived ones, but I'm counting on that to be rare enough of an issue that I"m not going to worry about it. I'm most worried about aluminum because so little is known about the effects on babies. I'm skipping Hep B until she's older. She is not at risk. I heard that WHO recommends Hep B at birth because if the mother has HepB, the vaccine can prevent it from developing in the baby.

I would guess the correlation between delayed or skipping vaccinations and socioeconomics is all over the place.

As far as autism, it is a tough one. There are so many factors to consider. The most likely thing that I see is that there are 3 groups: 1 group will never develop it, 1 group will develop it with triggers, and 1 group will develop it no matter what. Also, maybe another group, that anyone will develop with the right trigger: I'm thinking that from the article in the NY Times during autism awareness week in which an autistic man developed severe autism from a bad birthing experience. So then it's looking for the triggers which could be different. Here is a study I read on a possible trigger: http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/profiles/Waldman/AUTISM-WALDMAN-NICHOLSON-ADILOV.pdf, that makes sense to me after reading some books on neurological development in babies.

One thing I wonder about is the chemicals such as fire retardents, which may have more exposure in higher socioeconomic groups. I feel like that about fertility rates, too, how can so many bad substance abusers get pregnant accidentally while non-substance abuser's fertility rates are declining (not age related) and are struggling with conception and miscarriages?

Let's not forget, though, that not everyone who delays or opts out of vaccination does so because of the fear of autism. Studies like these are not going to be meaningful to those folks.

Ditto on zinemama's comment. I think the decision on vaccines is often multi-faceted, I know it was for us.

I've watched so many of my friends (and my sister's) kids develop Autism after their MMR shot that it's hard for me not to believe that there is a link. After a TON of my own research when I was pregnant with my son (Autism is much more likely in boys), I've concluded (for myself) that Autism is genetic but that it's triggered somehow by environmental exposure. The genetic piece is unrefutable because in twin studies if 1 twin has it the other is 90% likely to have it. The rest is up to conjecture and correlational studies. The reality is that unvaccinated populations around the world have far lower (if none at all) incidences of auto immune disorders (lupus, diabetes, asthma, etc.). Of course, these are also populations that are not exposed to all kinds of other environmental toxins. It seems to me that the recipe for Autism is probably very complicated but in my humble opinion, the MMR vaccine is the straw that breaks the camels back (so to speak). I also think there is an immune system response involved as kids with Autism tend to have much more fragile immune systems (Asthma, food allergies, etc.). So, I'm following the Dr. Sears recommended schedule for our son and he's had the vaccines for the diseases that can kill you. But remember, Measles, Mumps and Rubella rarely kill. My father actually had all 3 diseases and remembers them. He said 'they weren't a big deal, I had a rash and a slight fever with Measles and Rubella and I had a slight lump with Mumps. Now, I know, that some people have much worse reactions but you can look that data up and see they kill at about the same rate as anything else our kids regularly get (like Chickenpox before the vaccine). I doubt in our lifetime they will figure out all the causes of Autism but I pray to god they do because it is now impacting 1 in 90 children (again, higher in boys). I have faith they will find the gene in our lifetime but who knows if they will find the trigger.

My son has autism and he's never had the MMR. There goes that theory.

BTW, they've found the autism gene. What causes it? Who knows but not all kids with autism have allergies, gut problems, or any of the other stereotypes. Heck, most kids with autism aren't even alike. My kids is pretty typical most of the time, until he's not.

That said, we've staggered vaccines for our second child, mainly because giving so many at one time just seems over done. Two at a time is where we're at.

As I said, I think it's a combination of things but in a lot of kids with Autism, parents report that symptoms start after the MMR. It sucks that your kiddo has it and I hope you are getting awesome early intervention support. As for the gene, it has yet to be identified as of March 10, 2010 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35872281/ns/health-mental_health/#storyContinued . If there is newer information on this, please send us the link.

You're talking about a prenatal test I assume? That's a really touchy topic. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/articles/2009/04/28/what-the-autism-gene-finding-means-for-parents.html
There are a lot of people on the spectrum who have enriched our world and without them we'd be worse off (think Bill Gates as an example). Autism is not the end of the world. There are many pros to it. My son is not getting early intervention because he's 8 years old--we're way past that. He's mostly fine, is smart and will greatly contribute to society. The majority of the kids on the spectrum are not the non verbal, "locked in their own world" cry yourself to sleep kids we see exploited on TV or that Autism Speaks has us crying over. The whole MMR thing is also exploited by the media. Of all the people I'm friends with who have a child with autism none of them saw a problem after the MMR--they saw things way before.

For most cases autism is genetic. Is there an environmental link? Quite possibly. My son was autistic from birth. When I look back I can't believe I missed it and most people will tell you the same.

The hardest thing about autism is how other people perceive it and treat you. Autism itself for most kids is not the problem, it's people's response to autism. Get me on a bad day and I'll tell you how much I hate autism, but most days it's just a difference.

"Finally, our analyses were limited to publicly available data from the original study. Future VSD studies without this restriction would be able to assess a wider range of outcomes. These include putative vaccine adverse effects such as neurodevelopmental delay, autism, and autoimmune disorders."

The above is excerpted from the study abstract. It would seem that they excluded partially or fully vaccinated (unvaccinated children are not included) children with neurological or autoimmune disorders from their selection of study subjects.

Dr. Smith and Charles R. Woods, MD, MS, are or have been unfunded subinvestigators for cross-coverage purposes on vaccine clinical trials for which their colleagues receive funding from Wyeth, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK, MedImmune, and Novartis. Dr Woods has received honoraria for speaking engagements from Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, Pfizer, and MedImmune and has received research funding from Wyeth and Sanofi Pasteur.

Oops. 9 of the 1047 children studied did not receive any vaccinations. "We did not attempt to control statistically for potential differences between completely unvaccinated children and those with later receipt."

Yes, I'm with Laurie. This study has been proven to be very flawed. Even though people like to claim that the vaccine theory has been debunked, there has yet to be a valid study to prove anything. From thenhf.com:

- Not one study compares vaccinated children to unvaccinated children -- every study only looks at children who have received vaccines. This is like comparing smokers who smoke one pack a day to those who smoke two packs a day, seeing no difference in cancer rates, and saying cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

This is a great website that has information about the studies: http://www.14studies.org/

It states:

- The studies are rife with conflicts including authors who have been paid by vaccine companies and federal agencies and foreign governments charged with administering vaccines.

YET, the California-Oregon survey of unvaccinated children found that:

- Vaccinated boys were 155% more likely to have a neurological disorder (RR 2.55)

- Vaccinated boys were 224% more likely to have ADHD (RR 3.24)

- Vaccinated boys were 61% more likely to have autism (RR 1.61) Older vaccinated boys, ages 11-17 (about half the boys surveyed), compared to older unvaccinated boys:

Interesting stuff indeed. I find this Urbanmamas posting to be way off the mark here, which is quite surprising (and disappointing).

My kids have all their shots but I did space them out on a slow schedule and did my best to get some of the combo ones to come separately. I'm married to someone who really believes in modern medicine. This was as close to a compromise as we got.

I’m not sure about this really but I do have an open mind.

that's really a fantastic post ! added to my favourite blogs list.. I have been reading your blog last couple of weeks and enjoy every bit. Thanks.

I am posting late, never the less feel it is important to comment.

The NHF is an organization which describes its mission as protecting individuals right to dietary supplements and alternative therapies. I suggest researching The NHF, the political activites it is involved with, and the complaints against it.

It does not show a balanced view point regarding vaccinations.

I just had a discussion with a friend who returned from a conference on Autisim for psychologists. There were two main points, summarized below:

-there is proof that vaccination is not related to Autisim.
-Children who are Autistic, are Autistic from birth.

I do not believe there is a correlation between vaccines and Autisim. I do believe the needless arguements over a correlation has taken away from professionals and parents to learn how to encourge those with Autism to thrive in society.

Throughout history of psychological dissorders there is usually a diagnosis of "the times". Meaning a certain diagnosis will get extreme amounts of attention for a period of time. In the recent past it was ADD/ADHD, for a while it was Autism. And now Autism is slowing down. We must look at it holisticly, because it too will pass.

I am glad Autism has gotten more attention, I think it is unfortunate that children are not getting vaccinated becuase of it.

Hi Mamas,

I just wanted to let you all know that Dr. Bob Sears, who wrote The Vaccine Book, will be speaking in Portland on October 15th. Come join the discussion! A limited number of tickets are available. This is sponsored by our local Moms Group and is a baby-friendly event!


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