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Fitzpatrick believes that a variety of factors contributed to the emergence of the scare in Britain, including a paper by Dr.


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Andrew Wakefield and colleagues, published in the Lancet , which claimed to have found a link between MMR and autism. The editors of the Lancet later withdrew their support for the article due to its questionable assumptions and unsubstantiated findings, but Wakefield stuck to his claims. MMR immunisation leads to chronic measles infection Wakefield nor anyone else has ever been able to substantiate the claims that any of these links exists in even one child, and numerous studies conducted in Britain and the U.

Recalling such important scares and scandals as BSE mad cow disease and thalidomide, Dr. Fitzpatrick theorizes that the anti-MMR campaign garnered huge support largely because of the public's general distrust of the medical establishment and the government. Most of the supporters of the scare are parents, with little or no background in the medical facts related to vaccines and autism, who conflated their anger over their children's disorder with that over perceived industry irresponsibility.

In an age when people are likely to have little faith in companies, it's no wonder that many have been quick to blame the pharmaceutical industry for a disorder whose cause is elusive. As Fitzpatrick points out, the ramifications of this blaming have been devastating: far fewer children are being immunized, thus putting them at risk for developing these preventable and potentially fatal diseases.

When enough children are immunized, even those whose medical risk factors preclude them from being vaccinated are at little risk of contracting the diseases. In response to the scare, MMR uptake levels dropped low enough to cause concern. The book is dense -- full of political history, medical discussions, and thorough analysis of media. But it's worth reading, particularly for parents who may not know how to evaluate the competing claims they hear about vaccines. Fitzpatrick makes many valuable points applicable to other scares that hamper the ability of public health and medical professionals to protect the public.

Reading this book may help parents and other concerned parties understand not only the issues regarding MMR and autism, but also how to avoid being drawn into an ill-supported campaign against an effective medical practice.


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  • Also see ACSH publications on the subject of vaccines and autism. Similarly, according to the American Medical Association , "autism is strongly genetically determined". But some people, Wakefield included, insist that the cause of autism is largely environmental. Other videos recommend that parents of autistic children cook food using stainless-steel or ceramic pots so metals don't "leach into the food and give more toxic overload to your kid". The report noted, Fitzpatrick wrote, that there were "no known advantages to special elimination diets for children with autism, and expressed concern that they may cause the child to get inadequate nutrition…".

    Tommey, who recently moved to Austin from the UK with her husband, Jonathan, and their three children, first appeared on the autism radar in when she and Jonathan were guests on Tonight With Trevor McDonald. That evening they announced that they had given their autistic son, Billy, an infusion of the hormone secretin, extracted from pig intestines, which stimulates digestive fluids in the pancreas, produces pepsin in the stomach and bile in the liver and, they said, resulted in "excellent progress".

    In his book on autism, Fitzpatrick writes that secretin was "enthusiastically endorsed by some prominent figures in the world of alternative autism" but, by December , "the secretin bubble burst" when a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 60 autistic children concluded it was not an effective treatment. Four later trials echoed the conclusion, according to Fitzpatrick.

    One story suggested, "We, as parents and physicians, need to implement strategies to reduce our children's chemical and heavy metal toxicity levels", and advocated the highly controversial procedure known as chelation therapy , whereby heavy metals are removed from the body using "chelating" agents — the presumption being that autism is caused by mercury in vaccines or that people with autism spectrum disorders find it harder to filter "environmental toxins".

    Chelation is the introduction of chemicals and there are several, including dimercaprol , which was used during the second world war as an antidote to the chemical warfare agent Lewisite , either orally or intravenously, which then bind to poisonous metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead so they can be excreted.

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    Talking about Vaccines: MMR Vaccine

    Although it has approval for treating people with heavy metal poisoning, it can be dangerous and is not approved for use in treating autism. In , a British boy, Abubakar Tariq Nadama, died of a heart attack while undergoing chelation in America. Last spring, a doctor in Hertfordshire was given an official warning by a Fitness to Practise Panel after she used chelation on an autistic child without measuring his blood lead concentration or referring him to a toxicology specialist. What's more, an analysis in the US of five chelation studies showed that none provided any certainty that any benefits shown in the children were due to chelation itself, "and not another treatment or just kids getting older".

    According to Mike Stanton, British author of Learning To Live With High Functioning Autism and the father of a son with Asperger's syndrome, the Tommeys are now "linked to these people in America who think diseases are better than vaccines — that diseases will give you immunity and vaccines will kill you. That's why they've gone over there.

    Wakefield's wife, Carmel, sits on the board of directors; Imogen, the Wakefields' daughter, is listed as a member of the "junior advisory board". It proved polarising thanks to Tommey's support for Wakefield and her call for residential centres for people with autism when other charities believed care should be brought into the wider community.

    Its aim was to demonstrate that people with autism could contribute to society. The aims of Give Autism A Chance were noble, but proceeds would, Bella said at the time, be given to her mother's charity, the Autism Trust. Later the same year, Bella took the campaign to Texas with the help of Wakefield's daughter, Imogen, and they launched it at a cafe in Austin. Meanwhile, Jonathan, Tommey's husband, who has a sports science degree and a foundation degree in nutritional therapy, set up the Autism Clinic in Berkshire to offer "specialist autism treatment", including "diagnostic tests" and an array of supplements and vitamins that he prescribes and makes available from his online shop.

    In the same film he discusses chelation therapy. They are prescriptive medications," he says, adding, "They are available on the web. My suggestion is you've got to be very careful doing this without professional guidance, and unfortunately in this country there are not many practitioners that do chelation. The Autism Science Foundation, which helps fund autism research, warns against what it regards as non-evidence-based treatments that haven't undergone rigorous, well-designed scientific studies. Gluten-free, casein-free GFCF diets, it says, are promoted by those who "claim that children with autism have 'leaky guts' [a theory Wakefield espouses] that allow opioids to escape into the bloodstream and then travel to the brain and cause autistic behaviours".

    But, according to the foundation, there is no evidence for the claim, "and studies have found that compared to typically developing children, children with autism have no more opioids in their blood. Furthermore, children on the GFCF diet have been found to have lower bone density than controls, which could lead to osteoporosis. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that vitamin supplements can cure autism [and] some supplements such as vitamin A can be toxic when taken in high doses for sustained periods. Looking relaxed in a pink shirt and sitting in front of a bookcase, he is asked questions such as: "What exactly were your findings with regards to the MMR vaccine and autism?

    And that, for eight of the 12 children, was that after a period of normal or near-normal development, their child had a vaccine and shortly after that, regressed into autism. There is a considerable body of opposition to the approaches advocated in many of the films on Wakefield and Tommey's Autism Media Channel.

    MMR for older children

    He calls the images of autistic children undergoing violent outbursts at the start of the trailer a "horrifying freak show [which] demeans people on the spectrum of all ages". Martine O'Callaghan, who runs the Autismum blog from her home in Wales, is the mother of an autistic son, Cledwyn, who is four and a half. It deeply offends me. Kassiane Sibley agrees.

    She is autistic and describes herself as an activist and advocate for autistic people.

    Is There a Connection Between Vaccines and Autism?

    Sibley profoundly disagrees with Wakefield's approach. She feels the Autism Team are "completely divorced from scientific reality". In her view, they are using the media to push what she regards as a "completely false view", and she worries that's "going to hurt a lot of people… There have been many studies showing that these biomedical treatments don't help.

    As a child, Sibley says, she was given vitamin B6 in an attempt to cure her autism. If you read anything about alternative medicine, you'll know much of it works on the placebo effect. Ari Ne'eman , who in became the first person with an autistic spectrum disorder to sit on the US National Council on Disability he was appointed by Barack Obama , calls the autism trailer "unquestionably offensive". Ne'eman says Wakefield and Tommey's message doesn't address the practical services or support that he insists the autistic community — in both the UK and US — needs.

    As for accusations that people such as Ne'eman don't want to focus on research into the actual causes of autism or "cures", he laughs. What have we got for that? We've not seen anything that's appreciably impacted the quality of life of autistic people, regardless of their place on the spectrum. And that's not what the average person wakes up in the morning aspiring to.

    They think: am I going to be able to find a job, to communicate, to live independently, either on my own or with support? Those are the real priorities. Speaking to the Age Of Autism blog , Tommey said, "The TV networks in the US need numbers, and we have to prove that autism is an issue that people are interested in so they'll be willing to broadcast this series.

    Neither the Tommeys nor Wakefield would speak to me for this story. Instead, I sent a list of questions to them via email, and Polly Tommey and Wakefield responded through their US lawyers. In a page letter, their attorney insisted that the scientific research conducted by Wakefield was not fraudulent.