Before I begin this week’s blog I need to explain the topic. My plan for this blog was to concentrate on products and services that are sold on the back of fantastic claims. Many of these sales tactics are nothing short of lies. The public needs to be educated on such lies, and that is my plan. I will always take a neutral approach to my subjects. Most of these claims I would be absolutely elated to prove right. This week, though, I feel the need to write about a different subject. One that is very important to all of us with children and any of us that plan to procreate at some point in their lives. This weeks subject will be the supposed connection between vaccines and autism. This vaccine “controversy” was all but snuffed out thanks to the hard work and dedication of many great scientists, bloggers, and podcasters. All this work has now been placed in jeopardy by a recent news story. The story of the unfortunate girl who is the subject of this weeks blog has sent a wave of new life directly into the vaccine opponents. The danger these people cause is, in my opinion, impossible to put into words. As with many opponents to modern science they prey on the ignorance of the public, and spread false claims of pseudoscientific evidences. This recent resurgence has compelled me to change my criteria for this week so that I might help even just one person learn the truth behind the claims being thrown about.
In July of 2000 Hannah Poling was taken to her doctor to catch up on her vaccines. The 18 month old little girl had been ill with ear infections and fell behind on her vaccine schedule. Hannah’s doctor gave her 5 separate injections inoculating her from 9 nasty illnesses. Hannah showed no immediate signs of distress, and she continued to do the little girl things that little girls do. For a while anyway. The following year or so saw her losing the small vocabulary she had built up. She began exhibiting other odd behaviors that are similar to those seen in children afflicted with autism. Let me say that again. She began showing behaviors similar to those seen in autism afflicted children. Hannah’s parents, Dr. Jon Poling a private practice neurologist and Terry Poling an attorney and nurse, recognized her symptoms and had her thoroughly tested to find the source of Hanna’s symptoms.
Hannah, it turned out, has a mitchondrial disorder that very well could have been aggravated by the large number of vaccines she received at once. Mitochondria are the power generators of our cells. They supply the energy that cells require to do cell stuff. It is believed that Hannah’s condition mixed with the large vaccine dosage may have starved her brain cells of vital energy; causing debilitating and irreversible brain damage. This condition can be tested for pre-vaccine, but since it only effects about .0057% of the population testing for this disorder is rare at best. What exactly was in the vaccines that caused this reaction is still a little fuzzy. Most have pointed at the ethyl-mercury based preservative thimerosal.
Thimerosal has been used in a massive number of products from contact lens solution to nasal sprays. The antiseptic concoction was introduced into nearly all vaccines after a tragic accident in 1928 where 12 of 21 children inoculated against diphtheria died of staph. infections. The concentration of thimerosal in vaccines ranges between .001% to .01% or about 25 micrograms per .5ml dose. Since very little thimerosal was needed to be effective it became the go to antiseptic. Ethyl-mercury is the base of the antiseptic. Ethyl-mercury, unlike methyl-mercury, does not readily build up in the body, and is usually passed without problem through normal bodily means. In short, we pee it out without a problem. Since we are exposed to such a small amount of ethyl-mercury in which product you may be using the flush comes with ease for the your body. It is ethyl-mercury’s evil twin that we are so afraid of.
Methyl-mercury is the same type that we find just about anywhere we look. The most common way for it to enter our body is through eating fish. Just as methyl-mercury builds up in our bodies; it also builds up in the bodies of fish. Some store it in bones or skin so fancy filet techniques can be employed to avoid the mercury noid. Most, unfortunately, store mercury in their muscle tissue. The stuff we eat. As should be expected, different species of fish usually carry greatly varied amounts of mercury. Location also plays a major role since fish absorb mercury both through food and from the water they frolic in. The FDA website has a chart showing the most common concentrations of mercury in specific species. Oddly enough it turns out that canned tuna is one of the worst offenders (shark is the worst). The FDA also monitors these numbers in the fish heading for markets. Their standard for maximum mercury concentrations is about 425 micrograms per pound of meat. Substantially more than the amount of ethyl-mercury we would be exposed to in a single vaccine dose. Also, it is important to note that rumors stating cooking fish properly removes most of the mercury are false. Once the mercury is in the fish it is there until the little guy hits your digestion freeway.
With all that in mind it is difficult to see the claimed connections between thimerosal and the recent rise in autism diagnoses. Many independent organizations have done thorough testing to find any such connection. Both the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) have found no correlation between the two, and they still maintain the safety of thimerosal use in vaccines. Even with these findings the U.S. has decided it is better to be safe than sorry, and had thimerosal phased out of use in vaccines for U.S. use. It is still used by other international groups and other countries. W.H.O. still uses the antiseptic for their vaccines since it allows for multiple vaccines to be stored together for long term. This drastically lowers the cost of each individual vaccination; giving W.H.O. the ability to inoculate far more children against life threatening diseases around the world.
Though the U.S. has stopped using thimerosal in vaccines the anti-vaccine troops have kept pointing their misguided fingers at these life savers. Searching for their new culprit compound contained in current vaccines left me without answers. Basically the best answer I found was that the vaccine, the whole mixture, is the cause. Since being proven wrong about thimerosal they seem ready to blame everything. We won’t get one by them this time!
It is important to remember that side effects are a part of any medicine. We are all a little different, so different reactions will happen. Negative reactions beyond sore arms or fever are exceedingly rare, but they do occur. The act that is awarding the Poling family was set up for just this reason. It is no secret that adverse reactions can be caused by vaccines, but the other choice is certainly not better. The last few generations are lucky to have not seen the veracity of the diseases we have all but beaten with current vaccines. Just a quick thought of the millions killed by the spanish flu pandemic of the early twentieth century is enough to justify the rare negative reactions we see today. Polio has been wiped off our continent, and I couldn’t even tell you what the hell Rubella is. These achievements can be ruined if we stop the current regiments. Even if just a few out of a hundred decide to forgo inoculation the herd immunity we take for granted can be squashed. We already see this in the United Kingdom with the resurgence of illnesses once thought eradicated. Even the parents of Hannah Poling agree with this point. A Time Magazine article quoted them as saying, “Vaccines are one of the most important advances in the history of medicine, but people need to know there is a risk to every medicine. There may be a small percentage of people who are susceptible to injury.”
Educating the public, as usual, is the best solution here. We need to get the truth into the minds of the people before the anti-vaccine folks feed them with exaggerated statistics, and incorrect information on vaccine contents and side effects. Good information is a powerful tool, and we must wield it without reserve against all pseudo-science claims. The simple misconception that Hannah has been diagnosed with autism is enough to fan the flames of this torrent of untruths. It has been repeated time and again and I will say it once more. She has autism like symptoms not autism. A correlation between vaccines and autism has never been found. And finally, the recent rise in autism diagnoses is due solely to the improved techniques used to diagnose child mental disorders. Misinformation can cause serious problems; this case is just one of many examples. So if you run into so called facts spend some time to check them out. Always remember the words of Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
If you would like any of my references or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.