Vaccine-Induced Autism

 

A 2011 study found that the higher the proportion of children receiving recommend vaccinations, the higher the prevalence of autism or speech/language impairment.  Individually and collectively, the 2nd through 7th vaccine series in the first year of life have not been studied for rates of autism in children who received versus who didn’t receive the vaccine.  For the 1st vaccine series, the Hepatitis B, a recently published study found that it was associated with a 3x increased risk of autism in boys during the study period.[1]  Scientifically, whether vaccines cause autism is still an open question. For more details, see Why is the vaccine-autism question far from answered?

The pursuit of the science to answer that question is hindered by many misconceptions. There is a common misconception that autism is just a normal form of social awkwardness that shouldn’t be considered an adverse health condition.  In reality, individuals with autism are physically sick. Recent clinical investigations have identified numerous co-morbid disease states in children with autism.  These include abnormal gastrointestinal function and inflammatory bowel disease, evidence of increased oxidative stress, severely altered serum chemistries, methylation disturbances, increased heavy metal burdens and microglial activation in the brain.  These disease states are amenable to medical and nutritional interventions as reported by clinicians treating autism.

Another common misconception that autism is genetic. In reality, the momentum in science is towards an understanding of autism as an environmentally-triggered condition for which there might be a genetic susceptibility, but that most cases of autism are not caused by genetics (see Study debunks autism as a primarily genetic disorder).  A significant number of top scientists and medical doctors are calling for research into environmental causes of autism including vaccines (See Top Scientists Calling for Environmental Research into Autism).  Large genetics studies continue to find that inherited genes don’t cause autism (see Inherited Genes Don’t Cause Autism).  A 2010 EPA study found that the cause of autism is environmental, and that the environmental cause occurred beginning with children born around 1988.  An EPA study that autism has an environmental cause which began to occur with children born in 1988 (see EPA Study: Autism Boom Began in 1988, Environmental Factors Are Assumed).

There are several misconceptions regarding the epidemic increase in autism rates since the late 1980’s.  Given that the vaccination schedule dramatically increased at about the same time as the epidemic increase in autism, these misconceptions are sometimes propagated by persons seeking to protect the vaccine program.  Misconceptions on the increase in autism include:

  • The misconception that there is no autism epidemic, there’s just been better diagnosis. This misconception states that children today are getting diagnosed with autism that in previous generations received mental retardation diagnoses.  This “diagnostic replacement” was based on a 2002 study but after fundamental flaws were pointed out, the authors withdrew their conclusion and stated that diagnostic substitution did not appear to occur.  Two other studies also reached the conclusion that diagnostic substitution did not occur, and the theory has been discarded but some Pro-vax adherents still propagate this misconception (see page 1 of Response to Dr. Ari Brown and the Immunization Action Coalition, which also includes a detailed scientific rebuttal of many of the talking points currently put forth by pro-vax adherents regarding autism).
  • The misconception that the increase in autism rates is due to broadening of the definition of autism. In reality, an important study by the University of California-Davis found that autism increases cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and suggested that there must be an environmental cause to the real increase in autism.  (see New Study: Autism Linked to Environment).
  • The misconception that there has been no actual increase, that autism has always been with us but was undiagnosed in past generations. In reality, autism rates amongst adults are dramatically lower than in children less than 22 years of age (see EPA Study: Autism Boom Began in 1988, Environmental Factors Are Assumed).  A recent UK study claimed that undiagnosed adult autism rates similar to diagnosed rates in children, but on further inspection the study was defining adult autism in an unusually broad manner (effectively, anyone with social awkwardness).  The vast weight of scientific studies indicates that autism rates had a real increase in the late 1980’s, and that current autism rates in adults (undiagnosed + diagnosed) are significantly lower than rates amongst children.

Summary: the cause or causes of autism are not yet scientifically proven, so one cannot say with certainty that vaccines cause autism.  However given that most vaccines have not been fully studied for autism and that one vaccine study has indicated a 3x increased risk of autism, the possibility of vaccine-induced autism is scientifically plausible.

 

More Details on Vaccine-Induced Asthma

  • “Asthma ranks among the most common chronic conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 14.9 million persons in 1995 and causing over 1.5 million emergency department visits, about 500,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,500 deaths.”
  • The CDC’s 2006 National Health Interview Survey estimated a lifetime asthma prevalence of 13.5% among children <= 18 years. (HERE)
  • Several studies have shown a connection between vaccination and a higher risk of developing asthma, and the childhood asthma rate more than doubled during the same time period that several new vaccines were added to the childhood schedule (from 1985-1995).
  • In fact, Hib vaccination started in 1985 and universal Hepatitis B vaccination of all newborns started around 1990, and this study “From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” found “In our main analysis we found that Hib and hepatitis B vaccines were associated with 18 and 20% increases in asthma risk, respectively.”
  • Hepatitis B is spread by unsafe sex and intravenous drug use, and therefore most infants are not a high risk of catching this disease. So based on the CDC’s study above, the benefits do not outweigh the risks of the Hepatitis B vaccine for newborns, and this vaccine should be offered to older groups instead. The exception is infants whose mothers are Hepatitis B positive at the time of delivery as these infants are at risk of catching this serious illness.
  • The Hib vaccine, on the other hand, protects against the potentially serious disease haemophilus influenzae which babies are at risk of catching.
  • However, the risk of vaccine-induced asthma appears to be significantly reduced by just delaying immunizations until the child is over 4 months old. See Earlier Vaccination Causes Asthma.
  • Conclusion: The risk of vaccine-induced asthma could be decreased dramatically by no longer administering a routine hepatitis B vaccine for all newborns, only giving the more necessary vaccines, such as Hib and DTaP, in the first year, and by also delaying the first vaccine until after 4 months old.

 

Further details are discussed below:

Several studies have shown a connection between vaccination and a higher risk of developing asthma.  Several vaccines were added to the childhood immunization schedule between 1980 and 1996, and “During 1980–1996, asthma prevalence increased” (HERE)

In fact, “National survey data indicate that the number of children with asthma in the United States has more than doubled in the past 15 years. In 1980, 2.3 million American children had asthma. In 1995, the most recent year for which data are available, the number of affected children had risen to 5.5 million. Based on these trends, it is estimated that in 1998 more than 6 million children in the United States have asthma. Prevalence rates of asthma are highest in boys and are increasing in both boys and girls, and in all race and ethnic groups. The prevalence of asthma in children under age 18 is 7.3%. The most rapid increase has occurred in children under 5 years old, with rates increasing over 160% over the past 15 years. [from 1980 to 1995] “. (HERE)  Several vaccines were added to the childhood schedule in 1985 through 1995, including Hib and Hepatitis B vaccines. A CDC study found that the Hib and Hepatitis B vaccines increased the risk of developing asthma by 18 and 20 percent respectively.  Hib vaccination of children under 5 began in 1985 and universal Hepatitis B vaccination of all newborns began in 1991.

If vaccines are causing asthma, that would certainly alter their risk/benefit assessment. According to this page published by DHHS and NIH in 1999:

“Asthma ranks among the most common chronic conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 14.9 million persons in 1995 and causing over 1.5 million emergency department visits, about 500,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,500 deaths. The estimated direct and indirect monetary costs for this disease totaled $11.3 billion in 1998. Asthma disproportionately affects children and blacks. Within the general population, asthma affects females more than males; however, among children, it affects males more. The burden of asthma has been increasing over the past 20 years, especially among children.” (HERE)

Moreover, “There is evidence that severe asthma can cause long-lasting damage and possibly permanent scarring in some patients. The risk for such injury is highest, however, when asthma strikes children in the first 3 – 5 years.  There does not appear to be any significant risk for long-term lung damage for children who develop mild-to-moderate persistent asthma between ages 5 – 12.” (HERE)

In addition to the increases in asthma rates correlating to increases in the vaccine schedule, there are also several studies discussed below that point to certain vaccines and earlier vaccination as a causal factor:

1. This Study found the Highest Correlation between vaccination and Asthma:

“Epidemiology 1997 Nov;8(6):678-80
Is infant immunization a risk factor for childhood asthma or allergy?
Kemp T, Pearce N, Fitzharris P, Crane J, Fergusson D, St George I, Wickens K, Beasley R.
Department of Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine, New Zealand.

The Christchurch Health and Development Study comprises 1,265 children born in 1977. The 23 children who received no diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) and polio immunizations had no recorded asthma episodes or consultations for asthma or other allergic illness before age 10 years; in the immunized children, 23.1% had asthma episodes, 22.5% asthma consultations, and 30.0% consultations for other allergic illness. Similar differences were observed at ages 5 and 16 years. These findings do not appear to be due to differential use of health services (although this possibility cannot be excluded) or con-founding by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parental atopy, or parental smoking.
PMID: 9345669 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

2. The CDC’s Asthma-Vax Study found that the Hib and Hepatitis B vaccines increase the risk of developing asthma by 18 and 20 percent respectively:

  • Cohort Study involving 167,240 children.
  • “In our main analysis we found that Hib and hepatitis B vaccines were associated with 18 and 20% increases in asthma risk, respectively.” Click here to see the CDC’s study
  • As mentioned previously, according to the CDC, “During 1980–1996, asthma prevalence increased” (HERE) and during that same time period, Hib vaccination began in 1985 and universal Hepatitis B vaccination of infants began in 1991.

The CDC’s study found that the Hepatitis B vaccine was associated with a 20% increased risk of asthma. Clearly, for most infants, the risk of Hepatitis B does not outweigh the risks of the Hepatitis B vaccine. The exception is children whose mothers are Hepatitis B positive at the time of delivery as these children are at risk of catching this serious illness.

The CDC’s study also found that the Hib vaccine was associated with an 18% increased risk for developing asthma. Unfortunately, haemophilus influenzae (the disease that Hib vaccination is intended to prevent) is very contagious and potentially serious for infants and children. However, the risk of Hib vaccine-induced asthma may be significantly reduced by delaying the first vaccine until after 4 months of age. (details are discussed in the next study.)

3. Delay in diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccination is associated with a reduced risk of childhood asthma McDonald ET AL (also referred to as the Manitoba study)

This was a “retrospective longitudinal study of a cohort of children who were born in Manitoba in 1995 and remained in Manitoba until at least age 7 years (13,980 children). The complete immunization and health care records of cohort children from birth until age 7 were available for analysis. Immunization data were obtained from the Manitoba Immunization Monitoring System (MIMS). “

  • “Children who were delayed by as long as 1 month in their first dose of DPT were significantly less likely to develop asthma compared with children who received their first dose of DPT by 62 days after birth (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.75-0.95).”
    • The authors of this study also mention that, in Japan, the first dose of DTaP is not given until at least 3 months (one month later than the US schedule), and Japan’s asthma prevalence rates are “well below those seen in North America”.
  • “The likelihood of asthma at age 7 years was halved in children who received their first dose of DPT at more than 4 months after birth (OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.25-0.97).”
  • “Delayed administration of the first dose of DPT of more than 2 months from the recommended 2-month period was associated with a reduced risk of childhood asthma by 50%.”
  • “among children with delays in all 3 doses, the likelihood of asthma was further reduced to 60%.”

According to the results of this study, the asthma rate for children vaccinated on or before 2 months was 13.8%. The rate for children vaccinated with their first dose more than 4 months after birth was 5.9%. That equals a relative risk of developing asthma if given the DTP on or before 2 months instead of later of 2.3.

While no studies have officially been conducted on the effect of delaying Hib vaccination, the Manitoba study was conducted on children who were born in 1995, and Hib vaccination in Canada began in 1988. (HERE)  Since DTP (now DTaP) and Hib are usually given at the same time (2,4, and 6 months), it is reasonable to assume that if a child’s DTP shot was delayed, his or her Hib vaccine was probably also delayed. So it may also be important to delay Hib vaccination until after 4 months.

The Manitoba study also includes the following information about Japan’s immunization schedule: “The childhood immunization schedule in Japan recommends that children be immunized with 3 doses of DaPT between 6 to 9 months after birth; first doses can be given no earlier than 3 months. It is interesting to note that between 1975 and 1988, Japan did not recommend immunizing children under 2 years of age. In 1982, Japan’s asthma prevalence rate in children was approximately 3.2%, and by 2002 it was 6.5%. Although these statistics represent a doubling of asthma over a period of 20 years, these prevalence rates are well below those seen in North America. However, the administration of pertussis vaccine in Japan to children after 2 years of age resulted in higher rates of pertussis than in children given the vaccine at an earlier time.”

This study also provides a possible explanation of why the delay could help prevent vaccine-induced asthma: “At birth, the newborn immune system has a limited ability to produce TH1 cytokines, but levels increase over the period of the next 6 months.40,41 Similar to the fever-asthma association reported byWilliams et al,22 a high fever response elicited by the cellular pertussis vaccine in later infancy potentially has a greater effect in stimulating the innate immune response than a fever response in early infancy. An alternate interpretation of our findings is that vaccine stimulation of IgE levels at a later time during infancy, when the TH1 immune system gains more prominence, may have little effect in promoting TH2 skewing.” This would be important to know since, “Th2 cytokines may play an important role in the pathophysiology of allergic diseases, including asthma.” (HERE)  So a 6 month old’s immune system might be better equipped for developing a proper immune response to vaccination instead of resulting in a TH1/TH2 imbalance skewed to a TH2 profile typically observed in people with asthma and allergies. Unfortunately, children are receiving too many vaccines and they are receiving them too early for their developing immune systems to handle properly. Children are currently receiving 20 shots by 6 months of age, and in the early 1980′s, before the rate of asthma had “more than doubled”, children received 5 shots by 6 months of age.
Conclusion: The risk of vaccine-induced asthma could be decreased dramatically by no longer administering a routine hepatitis B vaccine for all newborns, only giving the more necessary vaccines, such as Hib and DTaP, in the first year, and by also delaying the first vaccine until after 4 months old; when their immune systems are more mature.

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Earlier Vaccination Causes Asthma

July 09, 2008

By Mark F. Blaxill

Lost amidst all the furor over the role of vaccines in autism has been the role that vaccine administration plays in causing other chronic childhood diseases like asthma and juvenile diabetes. But the evidence that vaccine administration, especially early administration of DPT vaccine, increases the risk of developing asthma (for the purposes of simplicity, let’s shorten that phrase to causes asthma for what follows) is compelling. If you look at the totality of the published evidence the picture is admittedly somewhat mixed, but for anyone with an open mind and a critical eye, the argument for a strong role for vaccines as a cause of asthma is persuasive.

And for any parent trying to figure out whether or not to comply with the aggressive and crowded vaccine schedules, the message from this evidence is simple. Don’t comply. Go slower than they want you to. Take responsibility for your own child’s health. Because recent research shows not simply that vaccines cause asthma, but that the sooner you give your child some vaccines the higher the odds that your child will develop asthma. These are obviously critical and controversial points, so let’s take a some time to review some of this research.

In a study published earlier this year, a group of Canadian researchers from the University of Manitoba examined the connection between asthma and vaccines in one of the largest studies ever to address the question. What they found was clear and striking. The earlier children received their DPT shots, the higher their odds of developing asthma by their seventh year of age. To be more precise, among children born in Manitoba in 1995 who received their first shot on time (on or before two months of age), nearly 14% subsequently developed asthma. By comparison, among children who received their first shot late (six months or later), less than 6% developed asthma. That’s a “crude odds ratio” (before statistical adjustments for “confounders” that might bias the result) of 2.6, meaning that a child vaccinated on schedule is over two and half times more likely to develop asthma than a child vaccinated late.

I’ve displayed these results from Manitoba visually in the chart below. There are a number of nuances in this display that I want to point out, but the basic message is simple. The sooner families in Manitoba lined up to give their children their first DPT shot (age at administration of the first DPT vaccine is on the horizontal axis), the more they raised their child’s odds of developing asthma (the risk of developing asthma by age 7 is on the vertical axis), odds that by my estimate may rise as much as 3-4 times higher once the full range of vaccination timing is considered.

In other words, earlier vaccination causes asthma.

Now to the nuances (warning for the English majors, if you want to skim over the quantitative discussion, skip down three paragraphs). You can see the main reported findings in the Canadian study by following the trends shown in the black lines and scales. These black lines show the risk (as measured by the “crude odds ratio”) of earlier vaccine administration using the most delayed group as the reference point [Note: for display purposes, I’ve switched the reference group that the Canadian researchers used and assigned an odds ratio of 1.0 to the most delayed group rather than the on-schedule group. The underlying numbers are the same]. The difference in odds between the reference group and the on schedule group was 2.6 times. When the researchers made a variety of statistical adjustment, their reported “adjusted odds ratio” was a bit smaller (it fell to about 2.0 times) but in both their crude and adjusted numbers, the difference between the early and late groups was statistically significant.

One thing I found quite interesting, when reading the fine print in the paper was a more targeted analysis that the authors did for the on-schedule group. The authors broke this group up into three subsets for a special analysis, which I’ve shown here on the same display but, to set off if off from the main analysis, using red lines and scales. This special analysis compared the “adjusted odds ratio” for the ahead-of-schedule group and estimated that the asthma risk for this group was 60% higher than the right-on-schedule group (the results weren’t statistically significant due to the small size of the ahead-of-schedule sample). The authors didn’t report the crude odds ratio, but if one makes a few assumptions, one can align this adjusted odds ratio display (the red lines and scales) with the parallel display showing the crude odds ratio (the black lines and scales). Looking at the data this way suggests that the odds of getting asthma rise even higher when a child receives the DPT vaccine earlier: this earliest group appears to have had nearly 4 times higher odds of developing asthma than the group vaccinated the latest.

[Full disclosure note: I had a pleasant email exchange with the corresponding author, Anita Kozyrskyj. She declined to provide the data that would permit a more direct calculation of the crude odds ratio for the ahead-of-schedule sub-groups and, because of the small numbers involved, counseled against viewing the red line results as a continuation of the black line data. I think she’s being too careful, but because of her counsel I have taken pains here to dissociate the two lines and mark them each with their own separate scale. The choice to align the two scales in a way that suggests a more extended trend is my own.]

I realize I may have lost some of you along the way. But I think two things are critical when reviewing studies like these: 1) respecting the evidence and the underlying data, not forcing it to be something it’s not, which is why I’ve complicated the matter with the red and the black lines; and 2) cutting through the fog of political correctness and fear that surrounds the management of vaccine safety, which is why I’ve displayed the two trends together. The simplest interpretation of this data set, however, is clear and bears repeating: earlier DPT vaccination causes asthma. And the current vaccine schedule, which promotes more and more vaccines earlier and earlier, is demonstrably unsafe.

It’s also important to recognize that this Canadian study isn’t covering virgin territory. Although it’s the first to examine the specific question of vaccination timing so carefully (as opposed to a simpler vax/unvax study design), it’s not the first to address the question of vaccination and asthma. Far from it. Indeed there’s a long parade of studies, covering many different countries, many different vaccines and using many different study designs. At the highest level, these studies come in two flavors. The first are the less formal vax/unvax surveys, the kind conducted by outsiders to the medical establishment who are worried that the insiders are out of control and not paying attention to the epidemic of chronic disease. Without large resources, prestigious institutions and large research budgets behind them, these efforts pursue the simplest path with the least complexity: they go out and find two populations—one vaccinated and one not—and compare their health outcomes. Time after time, studies like these, whether from our own sponsor Generation Rescue, the Dutch Association for Conscientious Vaccination, or the Immunization Awareness Society in New Zealand, yield similar findings when it comes to asthma. Vaccinated children always have sharply higher risk of developing asthma than unvaccinated children, anywhere from two to six times higher.

There is, of course, another class of study, the kind that makes its way into an indexed medical journal. And although the evidence from this body of work is less consistent than the grass-roots efforts, the weight of evidence among this group of studies is remarkably similar as well. I’ve read through a large number of them myself (I have provided a list of the most relevant published studies below) and I will summarize them here only briefly. Suffice it to say, there are a number of recognizable patterns in these studies, most of which (like the Manitoba study) focus on the DPT shot. A few (most notably two German studies) actually have shown a protective effect of vaccination.. But the majority of them report some kind of elevated asthma risk with vaccination: anywhere from 20% higher to 14 times higher. These studies often draw on smaller samples than the Manitoba study(following hundreds rather than thousands of infants), which is why the Manitoba analysis, with a study population of over 11,000 was so informative..

In fact, every study with a sample population larger than 10,000 shows a significant link between vaccines and asthma: every study, that is, except one performed by the CDC under the guise of the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) program. The CDC has conducted a number of studies on vaccines and asthma. In every case, after deploying elaborate statistical gyrations not at all unlike the infamous Verstraeten study, the authors conclude that vaccines have nothing to do with asthma. The CDC never met a vaccine that made a child sick, so not surprisingly, these studies unfailingly deliver the party line: “do what we tell you to do”.

It’s important to recognize, however, that the VSD findings go against the weight of evidence. When reading the bulk of the literature, after you cut through the fog of public health propaganda (no one ever says “vaccines cause asthma” in a mainstream medical journal) one cannot help but be persuaded by the weight of evidence. Vaccines cause asthma. So, just like the autism epidemic, the expansion of the vaccine program is likely to have sparked another epidemic of childhood disease. This one, unlike autism, can cause fatal medical complications.

So as evidence mounts for the rising health consequences of the massive human experiment of intensive vaccination launched on this latest generation of children, it has become clear that the debate as it has evolved has become less about the evidence than about belief systems. In a very real way, the proponents of the intensive vaccination experiment want to avoid the usual constraints of health monitoring and safety management because they believe in the project of intensive vaccination as a kind of crusade.

We need to move beyond the religious wars and make it safe again to discuss evidence about vaccine safety, frankly and openly. And a study like the Manitoba effort, if halting in its conclusions, is unambiguous in its result. Vaccines cause asthma. It’s not a complicated problem, folks, it’s what the data are telling us

Mark Blaxill is Editor-at-Large for Age of Autism

References (studies with elevated odds ratios for asthma risk due to vaccine exposure are noted with an asterisk)
Canada
*McDonald KL, Huq SI, Lix LM, Becker AB, Kozyrskyj AL. Delay in diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccination is associated with a reduced  risk of childhood asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;121(3):626-31.

New Zealand
*Kemp T, Pearce N, Fitzharris P, Crane J, Fergusson D, St George I, Wickens K,  Beasley R. Is infant immunization a risk factor for childhood asthma or allergy? Epidemiology. 1997;8(6):678-80.

*Wickens K, Crane J, Kemp T, Lewis S, D’Souza W, Sawyer G, Stone L, Tohill S, Kennedy J, Slater T, Rains N, Pearce N. A case-control study of risk factors for asthma in New Zealand children. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2001;25(1):44-9.

United Kingdom
*Odent MR, Culpin EE, Kimmel T. Pertussis vaccination and asthma: is there a link? JAMA. 1994;272(8):592-3.

*Farooqi IS, Hopkin JM. Early childhood infection and atopic disorder. Thorax. 1998;53(11):927-32.

*McKeever TM, Lewis SA, Smith C, Hubbard R. Vaccination and allergic disease: a birth cohort study. Am J Public Health. 2004;94(6):985-9

Henderson J, North K, Griffiths M, Harvey I, Golding J. Pertussis vaccination and wheezing illnesses in young children: prospective cohort study. The Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood Team. BMJ. 1999;318(7192):1173-6.

*Maitra A, Sherriff A, Griffiths M, Henderson J; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Study Team. Pertussis vaccination in infancy and asthma or allergy in later childhood: birth cohort study. BMJ. 2004;328(7445):925-6.

Sweden
Nilsson L, Kjellman NI, Björkstén B. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of pertussis vaccines on atopic d isease.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(8):734-8.

Nilsson L, Kjellman NI, Bjorksten B. Allergic disease at the age of 7 years after pertussis vaccination in infancy:results from the follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of 3 vaccines. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(12):1184-9.

Netherlands
Bernsen RM, de Jongste JC, van der Wouden JC. Lower risk of atopic disorders in whole cell pertussis-vaccinated children. Eur Respir J. 2003;22(6):962-4.

*Bernsen RM, de Jongste JC, Koes BW, Aardoom HA, van der Wouden JC. Diphtheria tetanus pertussis poliomyelitis vaccination and reported atopic disorders in 8-12-year-old children. Vaccine. 2006 15;24(12):2035-42.

*Bernsen RM, Nagelkerke NJ, Thijs C, van der Wouden JC. Reported pertussis infection and risk of atopy in 8- to 12-yr-old vaccinated and non-vaccinated children. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2008;19(1):46-52.

Germany
Grüber C, Illi S, Lau S, Nickel R, Forster J, Kamin W, Bauer CP, Wahn V, Wahn U; MAS-90 Study Group. Transient suppression of atopy in early childhood is associated with high vaccination coverage. Pediatrics. 2003;111(3):e282-8.

Möhrenschlager M, Haberl VM, Krämer U, Behrendt H, Ring J. Early BCG and pertussis vaccination and atopic diseases in 5- to 7-year-old preschool children from Augsburg, Germany: results from the MIRIAM study. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2007;18(1):5-9.

United States
*Hurwitz EL, Morgenstern H. Effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on allergies and allergy-related respiratory symptoms among children and adolescents in the United States. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2000;23(2):81-90.

*DeStefano F, Gu D, Kramarz P, Truman BI, Iademarco MF, Mullooly JP, Jackson LA, Davis RL, Black SB, Shinefield HR, Marcy SM, Ward JI, Chen RT; Vaccine Safety Datalink Research Group. Childhood vaccinations and risk of asthma. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21(6):498-504.

Maher JE, Mullooly JP, Drew L, DeStefano F.  Infant vaccinations and childhood asthma among full-term infants. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2004;13(1):1-9.

Mullooly JP, Pearson J, Drew L, Schuler R, Maher J, Gargiullo P, DeStefano F,  Chen R; Vaccine Safety Datalink Working Group. Wheezing lower respiratory disease and vaccination of full-term infants. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2002 ;11(1):21-30.

Vaccine-Induced Asthma

Several studies have shown a connection between vaccinations and a higher risk of developing asthma, particularly vaccines administered in the first few months of life.  In a study in Manitoba published in 2008, researchers found that children who delayed the DPT vaccine by 2 months developed asthma by age 7 at a rate of 6 per 100, versus 14 per 100 for children who vaccinated with DPT per the schedule DPT is the vaccine diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (pertussis is also known as “whooping cough”).  In other words, about 8 of every 100 children could have vaccine-induced asthma.  See Earlier Vaccination Causes Asthma for a more detailed description.  Applied to the USA, this indicates that the DTaP vaccine in the USA carries a greater than 1 in 13 risk of vaccine-induced asthma:

Vaccine-induced asthma risk based on Manitoba study

To apply the Manitoba study’s numbers to vaccine-induced asthma risk in the USA, some factors need to be considered. The Manitoba study addressed children born in 1995 who received the DPT vaccine, which has since been replaced by the DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis) vaccine because of the higher risk of brain encephalopathy from the DPT vaccine.  Although the DTaP vaccine may be safer than the DPT vaccine regarding brain encephalopathy, the asthma rates in Canada and the USA have not materially changed since the transition from DPT to DTaP which indicates that the asthma risk is similar for both vaccines.  The vaccine-induced asthma risk, when extrapolated to the USA, resulted in the same risk as in Canada since the USA asthma prevalence of 13.8% in 2009 matches the 13.8% Canadian asthma prevalence.

More information:

Top Scientists Calling for Environmental Autism Research

 

Top scientists are indicating that the studies have yet to be done, and need to be done, to determine whether autism is caused by environmental factors including (but not limited to) vaccines.  The former head for scientific research in the U.S. government has gone as far as saying the research hasn’t been done because “They don’t want to pursue this hypothesis because it could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people”.

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal department for protecting the health of all Americans.  The HHS includes many agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  By far the largest of these agencies is the NIH, which is the steward of medical research for the USA.  Its mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend health life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.  To be appointed as NIH director, the head of all NIH agencies, one must be a highly well-respected scientist.  So when a former or current NIH director speaks about a research issue, it carries great weight.  That’s why it’s important for the reader to know what such people, and other important scientists, are saying about autism causality.

{May 2008} Dr. Bernadine Healy, former director of NIH, on vaccine-induced autism — “I think public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as ‘irrational,’ without sufficient studies of causation… without studying the population that got sick.  I have not seen major studies that focus on 300 kids who got autistic symptoms within a period of a few weeks of the vaccines.  We do have the opportunity to understand whether or not there are susceptible children — perhaps medically, perhaps they have a metabolic issue, mitochondrial disorder, medical issue — that makes them more susceptible to vaccines, plural, or to one particular vaccine, or to a component of vaccines, like mercury…  I love Institute of Medicine, but a report from 2004 basically said, ‘Do not pursue susceptibility groups. Don’t look for those children who may be vulnerable.’ I really take issue with that conclusion… Because they were afraid that, if they found them, however big or small they were, that would scare the public away.  They don’t want to pursue this hypothesis because it could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. I don’t believe the truth ever scares people.” (HERE and HERE) ;

{2011} CDC to Study Vaccines and Autism — “Meanwhile, the IACC (Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee) has signaled a shift in research priorities into the causes of autism, moving away from genetic studies in favor of investigating the interaction between genes and environmental factors, which it said could include toxins, biological agents and vaccines.”

{2006} Frances Collins, current NIH director (and famous geneticist) – ”Genes alone do not tell the whole story. Recent increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity or autism cannot be due to major shifts in the human gene pool as those changes take much more time to occur. They must be due to changes in the environment …” (HERE)

{Dec 2009} Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and Chair of the federal government’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) — “There is no question that there has got to be an environmental component here.” (HERE)

{Feb 2009} Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), an NIH agency – “One question (is) whether there is a subgroup in the population that, on a genetic basis, is more susceptible to some vaccine characteristic or component than most of the population, and may develop an ASD in response to something about vaccination. We know that genetic variations exist that cause adverse reactions to specific foods, medications, or anesthetic agents. It is legitimate to ask whether a similar situation may exist for vaccines.” (HERE)

{2009} Articles by David Kirby describing major research initiatives investigating vaccine-induced autism (HERE and HERE)

{Nov 2008} Article by David Kirby listing groups and individuals who in 2008 have advocated or considered exploring possible links between vaccines and autism:

1) Both Presidential Candidates
2) Director of the CDC
3) Former head of the NIH and American Red Cross
4) Chair of the U.S. House Science Subcommittee on Investigations
5) Dr. Jon Poling, Pediatric Neurologist
6) HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group
7) CDC Vaccine Safety Research Agenda
8) Medical personnel at HHS Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
9) Members of the Strategic Planning Workgroup of the IAC Committee
10) Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Network – CISA
11) Autism researchers at Johns Hopkins University Medical School
12) America’s health insurance companies
13) Autism Speaks
14) The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
15) Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer at the UK Department of Health

Vaccine Misconceptions

The smart use of vaccines for children’s health is a subject which warrants open discussion.  At a time when 54% of parents have concerns about vaccine-safety and 89% of parents rate vaccine-safety as a top research priority, the public needs to receive the unvarnished facts.  Unfortunately there are some people who are propaga ting vaccine misconceptions that are at odds with the science or, in other cases, making statements that are technically correct but are scientifically misleading.   It is important to recognize these misconceptions:

Misconception #1: Parent organizations who question the vaccine schedule are “Anti-vax”. In reality, these parent organizations are advocating for safer vaccines and have consistently stated that vaccines are important health tools.  As an analogy: If a person advocates for safer food, that does not make that person “anti-food”. The “anti-vax” label is used in an attempt to discredit these organizations; a more appropriate name for these organizations would be to call them “SmartVax advocates”.

Misconception #2: The whooping cough outbreak in California is due to unvaccinated children. In reality, there is no correlation between whooping cough outbreaks in California counties and the rate of unvaccinated in those counties (HERE).  Instead, the outbreak is likely due to the ineffectiveness of the vaccine and the increase in the related parapertussis bacteria which causes whooping cough but is not covered by the vaccine.

Misconception #3: A person can handle up to 10,000 vaccines at one time. This statement was written by Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine inventor who is a leading purveyor of the “Max-Vax” philosophy.  The statement ignores the scientific fact that 10,000 times the amount of mercury in one vaccine would be lethal if injected into a person.  Scientifically, it is highly probable that 10,000 times the amount of aluminum-salt in one vaccine would cause kidney failure or death if injected into a infant.  This misconception is based upon a calculation of the number of antigens (bacteria or virus) that could be theoretically handled by the B immune cells available in the body.  On the contrary, research indicates that even a small increase in antigens in a vaccine can increase vaccine-injury.  As example, a recent study found that adding one new antigen (varicella, a.k.a. ‘chicken pox’) to the three-antigen Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine increased the risk of seizures by 2x.

Misconception #4:  Studies that compare autism rates in vaccinated vs unvaccinated children have proven that vaccines don’t cause autism. In reality, it is a fact that autism rates have not been studied in fully vaccinated vs fully unvaccinated children, nor have there been studies of autism rates in children who were vaccinated vs not vaccinated for most vaccines administered in the first year of life:  Hib, PCV, DTaP, IPV, Rotavirus, and Influenza. There have been some studies on the Hepatitis B vaccine, administered at birth, with the most recent study finding a 3x increased risk of autism amongst children who received this vaccine in the 1990’s.  There have been studies on the MMR vaccine (administered after one year of age) and thimerosal (a mercury preservative that is a component in some vaccines) that have not found a correlation with autism prevalence, but these studies are fraught with design problems and potential bias (see Why is the vaccine-autism question far from answered? for more details).

Misconception #5:  Aluminum in vaccines must be safe, because a child gets more aluminum from infant formula than from vaccines. It is technically correct that a child gets more aluminum from infant formula over a several-month period than from vaccines in one day, but that is scientifically irrelevant fact that appears designed to mislead.  Scientists have understood for 70 years that a tiny amount of aluminum-salt, when injected as part of a vaccine, has very different properties from when eating aluminum.  Specifically, aluminum-salt in a vaccine is an ‘adjuvant’ that triggers an abnormally strong immune response to the ingredients in the vaccine.  In essence, the person builds the desired immune response to the antigen (bacteria or virus) in the vaccine because of the aluminum-salt.  The safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines have not been extensively tested in human populations, but a recent animal study found that aluminum-adjuvants in vaccines cause brain damage in mice.  A dramatic increase in administration of aluminum-adjuvants in the late 1980’s, and continuing to increase in the last decade, corresponds closely with the increase in autism rates in those same years.

Misconception #6:  Influenza kills 36,000 Americans each year. This number actually refers to 36,000 deaths from influenza-like illnesses each year, which is only a CDC estimate without data to support.  The actual influenza deaths per year, according to the CDC, is about 1/20th that number with only about 44 deaths per year in children under age of 5 (1 in 455,000 children).

Misconception #7:  Mercury in vaccines is safe, because mercury was removed from vaccines and autism rates still went up. There is a long list of scientific research including animal studies which indicate that thimerosal in vaccines is harmful (see Thimerosal Science Summary and the 2010 study which showed vaccinated infant monkeys developed symptoms similar to human autism).  This misconception is based upon a California study in which the authors concluded that mercury in vaccines is not linked to autism because autism rates did not decrease after mercury was removed from childhood vaccines.  However, the authors neglected to consider that during those years there was a significant increase in pregnant women receiving mercury-containing vaccines.  This oversight is typical of the bias towards exonerating vaccines that has been pervasive in the studies performed on mercury-containing vaccines (for more on design flaws and bias in these studies, see Why is the vaccine-autism question far from answered?).

Misconception #8:  “It’s Parents vs Scientists” (as in a NY Times article), implying that the debate is between parents on one side and scientists on the other.  In reality, a significant number of top scientists and medical doctors are calling for research into environmental causes of autism including vaccines (See Top Scientists Calling for Environmental Research into Autism).

Misconception #9: Autism is genetic. In reality, the momentum in science is towards an understanding of autism as an environmentally-triggered condition for which there might be a genetic susceptibility, but that most cases of autism are not caused by genetics (see Study debunks autism as a primarily genetic disorder).  Large genetics studies continue to find that inherited genes don’t cause autism (see Inherited Genes Don’t Cause Autism).  A 2010 EPA study found that the cause of autism is environmental, and that the environmental cause occurred beginning with children born around 1988.  An EPA study that autism has an environmental cause which began to occur with children born in 1988 (see EPA Study: Autism Boom Began in 1988, Environmental Factors Are Assumed).

Misconception #10: There is no autism epidemic, it’s just better diagnosis. This misconception states that children today are getting diagnosed with autism that in previous generations received mental retardation diagnoses.  This “diagnostic replacement” was based on a 2002 study but after fundamental flaws were pointed out, the authors withdrew their conclusion and stated that diagnostic substitution did not appear to occur.  Two other studies also reached the conclusion that diagnostic substitution did not occur, and the theory has been discarded but some Pro-vax adherents still propagate this misconception (see page 1 of Response to Dr. Ari Brown and the Immunization Action Coalition, which also includes a detailed scientific rebuttal of many of the talking points currently put forth by pro-vax adherents regarding autism).

Misconception #11: The increase in autism rates is due to broadening of the definition of autism – In reality, an important study by the University of California-Davis found that autism increases cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and suggested that there must be an environmental cause to the real increase in autism.  (see New Study: Autism Linked to Environment).

Misconception #12: Autism is the ‘New Normal’, implying that autism is just a normal form of social awkwardness that shouldn’t be considered an adverse health condition.  In reality, individuals with autism are physically sick. Recent clinical investigations have identified numerous co-morbid disease states in children with autism (see Presentation on Autism Treatment Network).  These include abnormal gastrointestinal function and inflammatory bowel disease, evidence of increased oxidative stress, severely altered serum chemistries, methylation disturbances, increased heavy metal burdens and microglial activation in the brain.  These disease states are amenable to medical and nutritional interventions as reported by clinicians treating autism.  A 2011 review in Journal of Immunotoxicology summarizes evidence of biomarkers that are indicative of common co-morbid conditions such as oxidative stress, immune glutamatergic dysfunction, and pineal gland malfunction.

Misconception #13:  There’s no increase, Autism has always been with us but was undiagnosed in past generations. In reality, autism rates amongst adults are dramatically lower than in children less than 22 years of age (see EPA Study: Autism Boom Began in 1988, Environmental Factors Are Assumed).  A recent UK study claimed that undiagnosed adult autism rates similar to diagnosed rates in children, but on further inspection the study was defining adult autism in an unusually broad manner (effectively, anyone with social awkwardness).  The vast weight of scientific studies indicates that autism rates had a real increase in the late 1980’s, and that current autism rates in adults (undiagnosed + diagnosed) are significantly lower than rates amongst children.

Misconception #14:  Now that the Wakefield MMR study has been retracted, the vaccine-autism theory is dead. In reality, it is a fact that autism rates have not been studied in fully vaccinated vs fully unvaccinated children, nor have there been studies of autism rates in children who were vaccinated vs not vaccinated for most vaccines administered in the first year of life:  Hib, PCV, DTaP, IPV, Rotavirus, and Influenza.  There have been some studies on the Hepatitis B vaccine, administered at birth, with the most recent study finding a 3x increased risk of autism amongst children who received this vaccine in the 1990’s.  So the vaccine-autism question is far from answered, and there are plausible hypotheses that haven’t even been studied — such as aluminum adjuvant in vaccines, which has been shown to be a neurotoxin when injected into mice and which has increased in the vaccination schedule in parallel with the increase in autism rates.  Side note: Wakefield and colleagues were the first to find that gastrointestinal abnormalities are common in autism, an important finding that has been replicated by research in five countries.  There is much more to the Wakefield story than has been shared widely in the press; for details, see Who is Dr. Andrew Wakefield? by Mary Holland, JD (an online chapter of the book “Vaccine Epidemic”) or read the book Callous Disregard by Dr. Wakefield.

Government suppression of Vaccine-Autism Research

 

The IACC (InterAgency Autism Coordinating Committee) is a committee under the auspices of NIH consisting of HHS (Department of Health & Human Services) federal employees and members of the public charged with developing the overall plan for spending research funds under the Combating Autism Act of 2006.  HHS is the overall federal department that contains several divisions including ones with the following duties:

  • CDC: Creating and promoting the expansion of vaccination schedule
  • FDA:  Approving the safety of vaccines
  • HRSA: Managing the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), including appointment of the “Special Masters” who serve as the judge and render the decision (there is no jury)
  • HRSA: Paying the compensation from the vaccine-injury fund when a child wins a vaccine-injury case
  • NIH: Funding basic scientific research, including into autism and vaccine-injury

On December 12, 2008, the IACC voted to recommend research into the study of the link between autism and vaccines {estimated budget: $6,000,000}.  But in a surprise move during the next IACC meeting on January 14, 2009, Tom Insel (chair of IACC and the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, a component of NIH) singled out this vaccine safety research provision from the overall strategic research plan and put it back up for a revote.   In a surprising moment of candor, Dr. Insel cited HHS conflicts of interests on vaccine-autism research due to the over 5,000 autism lawsuits pending against HHS.  In other words: if the NIH investigated a vaccine-autism link, it might place the HRSA at risk of losing cases in VICP which would indicate that the CDC’s aggressive expansion of the vaccination schedule has contributed to the autism epidemic.  HHS members, a majority of the committee, voted down this provision in the revote.

NIMH Director Dr. Thomas Insel at a January 2009 Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) meeting: “I’m concerned about the optics … of having HRSA vote on issues related to autism and vaccines when they have a large court case, the optics of having people who have, could be perceived to have, um, or to represent those with a financial investment in this issue. It takes it out of the realm of a scientific question, a research question, and it raises the possibility that some could see whatever comments we make as being biased by nonscientific issues, and I understand that’s a risk in lots of things that we do, this one really feels, since this is a court case that is soon going to become public, and I think it’s fairly close to a large omnibus effort, um, I think that this one really does represent some jeopardy for this process, for this committee, almost any way in which it comes out. If we say, yes we think it’s important to look at this, and to provide additional information, it implies that we believe that there is a relationship between autism and vaccines, and it suggests, um, that, um, in some way this runs opposite to what HHS may define through the HRSA process.” (from the minutes of the meeting)

More information:

Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

In 1986, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act law was passed which provided vaccine manufacturers with immunity from lawsuits. Afterwards, the number of vaccines on the vaccination schedule expanded rapidly. According to an EPA study (here), autism diagnoses began dramatically increasing in 1988 due to environmental factors.

The 1986 law created a Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), operated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), to provide compensation for vaccine injuries. This is sometimes mistakenly called “Vaccine Court”, but in reality it is not a judicial court but instead is an administrative program.  There is no jury for VICP, and petitioners do not have right to regular rules of evidence (e.g. disclosure) as in judicial courts. Instead HHS appoints judges (“Special Masters”) who have no medical background to serve a term ruling on vaccine-injury cases; if a ruling is in favor of the petitioner, vaccine-injury compensation is paid from a fund managed by HHS. Essentially VICP consists of HHS attorneys seeking to sway an HHS-appointed judge, using HHS-funded science as evidence, in order to avoid compensation payments by HHS for injuries from the vaccine program that was created and approved by HHS (the CDC and FDA are divisions with HHS).

The deck is stacked against the petitioners. In January 2009, the HHS suppressed needed vaccine-autism research because the research might be viewed as weakening the HHS position in cases before the VICP (see Government suppression of vaccine-injury research). The vaccine-injury petitioner must provide scientific research explaining specifically how the vaccine caused the injury, but the HHS avoids funding the necessary scientific research that could provide such answers. In addition, VICP has a short statute of limitations, an extremely adversarial atmosphere, no jury, inadequate procedural rules and extremely limited discovery.

Up to this date, VICP has ruled in favor of compensation for many children with autism who claimed a specific vaccine-injury other than autism. In May 2011, a study published in Pace Environmental Law Review found 83 cases of acknowledged vaccine-induced brain damage that include autism from a partial review of compensated cases.  Fox News reported on this ground-breaking news in a series of stories:

Probe to Reveal Link Between Vaccine Settlements and Autism:

Vaccine-Autism link: New Investigation

Vaccine-autism link: New investigation: MyFoxBOSTON.com

Increase in USA vaccine schedule vs other countries

After the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed that protected vaccine manufacturers against lawsuits, the number of vaccines for infants has been dramatically expanded:

 

increase-in-vaccine-schedule-diagram-v1-04-10-11In contrast, many of the vaccines on the USA schedule are not included on the vaccine schedules for other developed countries.  A 2009 Special Report “Autism and Vaccines Around the World: Vaccine Schedules, Autism Rates, and Under 5 Mortality” demonstrates that most developed countries do not include the varicella (chicken pox), rotavirus, pneumococcal, influenza, or hepatitis A vaccines on their schedules.  A slight majority of countries administer the hepatitis B vaccine to infants, but many of those countries (such as the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, and Japan [1] [2]) and several Canadian provinces routinely screen pregnant women for hepatitis B and only administer the hepatitis B vaccine to the infant if the mother tests positive for hepatitis B.  The report points out that the USA has a higher vaccination rate and a higher mortality rate for children under the age of 5, and raises this important question:

The United States has the highest number of mandated vaccines for children under 5 in the world (36, double the Western world average of 18), the highest autism rate in the world (1 in 150 children, 10 times or more the rate of some other Western countries), but only places 34th in the world for its children under 5 mortality rate. What’s going on?

 

References:

[1] WHO (2009). Progress towards global immunization goals. Geneva: WHO.

[2] Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Global progress toward universal childhood hepatitis B vaccination, 2003. MMWR 2003;52:868-70.

List of consumer advocacy organizations that advocate for a smarter vaccination policy

 

Vaccine safety and policy:

  • National Vaccine Information CenterThe National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is a charitable non-profit organization founded in 1982 advocating for the institution of vaccine safety and ‘free and informed consent’ protections in the mass vaccination system. NVIC does not offer medical advice, does not promote the use of vaccines and does not advise against the use of vaccines. NVIC supports the availability of all preventive health care options, including vaccines, and the right of consumers to make educated, voluntary health care choices

 

Vaccine-Induced Autism:

  • The Coalition for SafeMinds — SafeMinds was founded to raise awareness, support research, change policy and focus national attention on the growing evidence that environmental triggers contribute to neurological disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, language delay and learning difficulties. SafeMind’s mission is to restore health and protect future generations by eradicating the devastation of autism and associated health disorders that are induced by environmental triggers.  For more on why SafeMinds created the SmartVax website, see About SafeMinds.
  • National Autism Association — The mission of the National Autism Association is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential.
  • Generation Rescue — Generation Rescue is an international movement of scientists, parents, and physicians researching the causes and treatments for autism, ADHD, and chronic illness. Generation Rescue parent-volunteers are currently mentoring thousands of families going through the recovery process with their children.

 

Vaccine-Injuries from the HPV vaccine administered to prevent cervical cancer:

  • S.A.N.E. VaxTHE SANE VAX MISSION is to promote Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines and vaccination practices through education and information. SANE VAX advocates for science-based medicine. SANE VAX’s primary goal is to provide the information necessary for readers to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being.