May 13th, 2008
10:48 AM ET

Vaccines and autism

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Last week, I sat down with Dr. Bernadine Healy at CNN's Women's Health Summit in New York City. She is a remarkable person who has been the "first" at many things, including the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health. We talked about many things, including the persistent brain fog patients and their doctors have when it comes to heart disease and women. Everyone should know that heart disease is the biggest killer of women; in fact heart disease kills ten times as many women as breast cancer.

What I wanted to blog about today, though, is her response to a question I asked about autism. She had written a column about the topic in U.S. News and World Report and told me she believes the link between vaccines and autism is "biologically plausible." Of course, that spurred several more questions from me (click here to watch). Healy went on to say that many in the scientific world have been quick to dismiss the concerns of parents and have not conducted the necessary studies of causation to definitively rule out a vaccine/autism link.  Healy's comments have become a lightning rod in the medical community – with an infectious disease expert with the American Academy of Pediatrics calling CNN twice yesterday to express concern parents will misconstrue Healy's comments and stop get their kids vaccinated – and that vaccines save lives.

Wow. We had to take a moment at the summit, where I reminded the doctor that her comments seemed to fly in the face of most of her former colleagues at the NIH, and the CDC, FDA, and AAP for that matter. She is sticking to her guns, as is the neurologist father of Hannah Poling, who believes when the vaccine court awarded his daughter Hannah compensation, it was a milestone in this debate. Neither are anti-vaccine, and both are arguably legitimate scientists.

I have said over and over again that I was going to keep digging into this issue. What is happening here? For the record, I have had both my girls vaccinated on schedule, but I am curious – what do comments like Healy's say to parents and scientists?

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soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Michael Melgar

    Dr. Healy needs to do her homework before making such inflammatory remarks. If she needs some help reviewing the research that she claims the medical community has not done, maybe these references will help.

    Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism
    Spitzer W. O., Mullins M. E., Wakefield A. J., Noble K. K., Miyasaka K., Madsen K. M., Campion E. W.
    N Engl J Med 2003; 348:951-954, Mar 6, 2003.

    No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
    Volume 46 Issue 6 Page 572-579, June 2005

    Continuing increases in autism reported to California’s developmental services system: mercury in retrograde.
    Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;65(1):15-6.

    Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: lack of consistent evidence for an association.
    Am J Prev Med. 2004 Jan;26(1):91; reply 91-2.

    Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data.
    Pediatrics. 2003 Sep;112(3 Pt 1):604-6

    Pervasive developmental disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: prevalence and links with immunizations.
    Pediatrics. 2006 Jul;118(1):e139-50

    MMR vaccination and pervasive developmental disorders: a case-control study.
    Lancet. 2004 Sep 11-17;364(9438):963-9

    Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study.
    BMJ. 2002 Feb 16;324(7334):393-6

    Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California.
    JAMA. 2001 Mar 7;285(9):1183-5

    MMR vaccine and autism: an update of the scientific evidence.
    Expert Rev Vaccines. 2004 Feb;3(1):19-22

    Michael Melgar, MD

    May 14, 2008 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. alan pickert

    Please stress the difference between vaccines and autism as opposed to vaccines and other vaccine injuries. Since 1986, the Vaccine Court has ruled that certain children have been injured by vaccines causing children to suffer encephalopathy, anaphylaxis, etc. Just last year, the Vaccine Court ruled that my 19 month old client was seriously harmed by a DTaP vaccine and awarded her significant amount of money for damages. Please don't let your so called experts to say that there has never been a documented case where a child has been vaccine injured because it isn't true.

    May 14, 2008 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lilady

      Alan Pickert: Why are you posting information about damages awarded to children under the NVIC (Vaccine Court)...when the subject of Dr. Gupta's blog is the now thoroughly debunked theories that vaccines are implicated in the onset of autism?

      How about comparing and contrasting actual severe adverse events (on the order of 1:1,000,000 per dose) versus the consequences of not protecting children from serious, sometimes deadly, vaccine preventable diseases?


      July 31, 2013 at 23:10 | Report abuse |
  3. Renee

    I see folks going on and on about this issue and I have to say this...does anyone think this Dr. and her associates may be trying to profit financially from all of these added therapies etc?

    We have an autism "private school" near me and parents come from all over the world to pay thousands of dollars for all of these therapies. I wonder how many of these food allergies, special needs, autism, ADHD children have parents who suffer from munchausen's by proxy.

    My children got their shots. Does that mean because my son is dislexic and my daughter runs 16 hours a day that I should medicate them over and over?

    I see "helicopter moms" who think medicating their children is the best solution. Parenting, patience, love and exercise are the best solutions.

    I recently read Scholastic magazine and I SHOCKED by the blatent advertising directed to mothers of small children. It was very, very disturbing. We are medicating too many of America's children.

    May 14, 2008 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LJ

    Ryan, there is no "antifreeze" in vaccines. Feel free to share a reference for this claim if you'd like (i.e. package insert). You are correct that vaccines are not 100% effective. For example, the MMR has been shown to be about 95% effective after one dose. Therefore, if coverage is high enough, that 5% for which the vaccine was ineffective are unlikely to be exposed to the disease. This is the concept of herd immunity. Would you prefer outbreaks of deadly but preventable diseases? I believe the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks for both the individual and society.

    And a note to those of you subjecting your children to chelation therapy: this can and has been deadly. Good luck.

    May 14, 2008 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. kelly

    I am scared to death of the immuzations and austism. Everyday I read something new , I have a 6month old and a 2year old and I have now
    ordered my kids mmr to be given indivially not all at the same time.
    These are our children and we dont get a 2nd chance.

    May 14, 2008 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lilady

      Kelly: The measles-mumps-rubella vaccines are not given separately. Please avail yourself of the reliable information available on the internet about the MMR vaccine and the individual diseases they prevent:


      July 31, 2013 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
  6. Autismville

    Dr. Healy's comments really got my attention as has the Poling case. Hopefully they will help lead us to answers very soon.

    May 14, 2008 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lizzie

    For those discusssing the ethyl vs. methyl mercury, I see the words "The effects of ethylmercury have not been proven". Well that's re-assuring. Let's inject it into small children and see what the "unproven effects" are. Also, using it in mascara and contact lens solution (products not typically used on developing children) is quite different than INJECTING it into babies. I may not be a scientist, but I guess common sense just tells me this is not a good idea.

    I don't see the real danger in denying the HepB, given at birth. I don't have it and my children will not be having sex at birth or sharing needles...so why do they need this shot they day they are born? Any maybe this is the trigger for those parents who believe their children were "born this way". How can you know it wasn't this vaccine given on the 1st day of life?

    Someone needs to study at the schedule, the ingredients and the sub-sets of at-risk children. Until this is done, you'll never convince me vaccines are not involved in someway in dramatic increase in ASD diagnosis. And stop already with the better diagnosis argument. No one who can do math believes that the doctors 15 years ago were so incompatent that they missed 1 out of every 150 kids who couldn't talk, weren't potty trained, spinned their toys, banged their heads, didn't make eye contact, stared at flashing lights, didn't play wiht toys etc. If anything the doctors back then spent more time with the kids and would have been more likely to notice developmental delays...now its 5 minutes and out the door, lucky if the ped knows your kids by name.

    May 14, 2008 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. The A-Team

    Vaccines do not cause, nor have they ever cause autism. We already know this for a fact. I expect more from CNN than this hysterical nonsense.

    May 14, 2008 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Susan

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but why don't all vaccinated kids have autism?

    May 14, 2008 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Donna

    I think there should be more consideration and examination on possible links between fertility drugs and autism. More and more I learn about cases in which fertility drugs were used to conceive the child with autism.

    May 14, 2008 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. mmmeccano

    >I think we can safely say that vaccines can cause autism.<
    No, we can't and hence the need for further studies. The research has not shown that "mercury" builds up I children. What we do know is that ethyl mercury from the vaccine preservative thimerosal leaves the blood 10 times faster than methyl mercury, on which current risk assessments are based. The fact is that every major study has shown there is no link between the trace amounts of ethyl mercury found in thimerosal and autism. People who have convinced themselves otherwise don't want to hear that, but those are the "facts" as we know them to be with the current body of research. The definitive statements to the contrary are both reckless and scientifically unsupported. Should studying the link between the two stop? Of course not, but by studying only this link we run the risk of studying others areas that may be responsible. The truth is, that most people study autism have suggested that there will never be a signal smoking gun.

    May 14, 2008 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Alexandra

    Dr. Gupta,

    If the parents get their way, they will benefit from a huge payout from the government. I think that's all you need to know.

    May 14, 2008 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. skandi16

    Dr. G, I feel that people should be aware of the existence of such a problem. I see why there is some concern about this; however, without the awareness of such plausible problems, there can not be enough research done to avoid these from recurring.
    Also, the message should be spread with greater effectiveness that no drug/ vaccine/ foreign agent that makes its way into one's body is risk-free. This would encourage people to think for themselves and take calculated risks (which should essentially be the case with vaccines since the risk involved is much lower and this is where the statistics would play an important role).

    May 14, 2008 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Lujene G. Clark

    Dr. Gupta,

    I am pleased to see you are willing to keep digging into this issue but hope that you will continue to do so with an open mind. My late husband, Alan D. Clark, M.D., was a triple board certified physician. I spent many years as a nurse working in Family Practice and OB/Gyn offices. It was only after our son, developed severe neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral symptoms after his flu vaccine at 7 1/2 years of age that we began to question a causal relationship between mercury in vaccines and "autism." But we did not come to that conclusion lightly; it was only after extensive research and investigation. I should also mention that I have been active in politics and served as an elected official so I had a unique perspective in understanding the world of bureaucratic decision-making. I also have a strong background in forensic accounting...i.e. if you want to know if a crime has been committed; follow the money. My husband was very a conservative, logical man who practiced "mainstream" medicine; active in the local, state and national medical societies, etc. What we found as a result of our investigation was horrifying to us. Shifting that paradigm from "vaccines are safe" to "vaccines need further safety studies that are done without financial conflict or professional bias" was not easy one for either of us, but when the evidence was studied, it was a conclusion we could no longer deny or escape. There is a problem and continued denial by the medical community will not solve it! You need to dig MUCH deeper and do so with an open mind. A small fraction of the information we uncovered can be found at http://www.nomercury.org/science.htm. But perhaps my husband's own words, rather than mine, will have more impact with you. A letter to his medical colleagues can be found at http://www.nomercury.org/medical_professionals.htm or his words before the IOM in February 2004, which can be found at http://www.nomercury.org/science/documents/Clark_IOM_2-9-04.pdf

    Regarding your observation that many of Dr. Healy's colleagues continue to deny a link between "autism and vaccines" then you should remember one thing..."it is difficult to get a man to understand that which his paycheck depends upon him NOT understanding!" There are none so blind as those who will not see. The question now Dr. Gupta, will the medical community finally be part of the solution or continue to be a large part of the problem. It is basically a moral and philosophical issue...government health officials, the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry believe it is more important to protect a "government program" ( The National Immunization Program) while parents believe it is more important to protect the best interests and health of children?

    Your position as a physician in the media has great impact, and with that comes great responsibility. I hope you use it wisely and with moral conscience.

    Lujene G. Clark

    Chair, Board of Trustees
    Alan D. Clark, M.D. Memorial Research Foundation

    **NoMercury is a philanthropic based venture whose mission is to educate policy makers, physicians and the public regarding the dangers of mercury in vaccines.
    NoMercury does not solicit funds nor do we accept donations.
    NoMercury does not endorse or sell any products or services.
    We are not “anti-vaccine” rather we advocate for safer vaccines.

    May 14, 2008 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lilady

      Haven't you heard Lujene G. Clark, that Thimerosal has been proven to not cause autism? The "studies" conducted by disgraced and discredited former medical doctor Mark Geier and his son David Geier (who is not a medical doctor), who chelated and chemically castrated autistic kids, have all been debunked

      Ms. Clark, you are a nurse, and you don't know the difference between the organomercury compound Thimerosal which is a preservative in multi-dose vials of vaccine...and Elemental HG/inorganic mercury which are products of heavy industry and coal mining which pollute our waterways and get into our food chain. Why aren't you educated in organic and inorganic mercury?

      July 31, 2013 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
  15. Teresa

    Dr. Gupta,

    Thank you for taking a serious look at the issue of vaccines and autism. Like antibiotic use, there can be negtive consequences to a great and life-saving idea. My 15 yo daughter is one of the susceptible children who regressed prior to age 2. Please continue to report on this as there are still children who are at risk and if we can figure out "who" and "what" is triggered, we may also be able to help those already injured.

    May 14, 2008 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Ivan

    I believe the biggest mistake is that vaccines as well as drugs are created based on the mentality "one fits all". But, as we learn more and more about genetics and what our bodies are more at risk of, companies should develop vaccines that tailor speficic genetic codes. The body of a baby is not well developed to receive that many chemicals into the liver and the blood cells.

    If your stomach doesn take fish very well or soda, it doesn't mean there shouldnt be fish. Rather, there are other types of food you can eat. Maybe it is a bad analogy, there my point is that the evidence is too big to ignore and the solution must be to do more research and tailor vaccines based on genetic analysis. Or do dna analyis to see if the body of a baby is at risk.

    May 14, 2008 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Donna

    I have a ten year old son with Aspergers, and yes this is the hardest most exhausting "journey" I have ever dealt with. I never had what some other parents describe as a change in their childs behavior, therefore I believe that the damage was done , or started with the first Hepatitis shot given to my baby at just 24 hours old. I can't believe that I allowed this little precious baby that I just gave birth to and protected for nine months to get that dam shot that he did not need. Now are lives are so different than others that some days I can hardly bear it. Why did I trust our government and yes just like others have said when will the madness end. Doesn't anyone care about all the human suffering that is going on with the diagnoses. One in 94 is on the spectrum in NJ. My God what will we do when all these children grow up and can't function on their own. God help us.

    May 14, 2008 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Deborah

    Dr. Gupta,
    I'm glad that you are continuing the dialogue on Autism. My son is almost 18 and was diagnosed when he was 6 with Asperger's Syndrome, so we've been dealing with his autism and associated chronic illness for a long time. I've heard a lot of theories, read a lot of articles, tried a lot of therapies. I've cried a lot and have foregone any retirement (single mom with no child support and little coverage from insurance to assist) to financially fund the best possible outcome for my child.

    In time I believe that Autism will be found to be a multisystem response to environmental and medical toxicity with the degree of affect dependent upon genetic predisposition. It all plays a role – toxins in the home, our food, clothing and medicine, none of which are required to undergo rigorous long term testing before mass production and consumption.

    Recent findings published by Dr. Raymond Palmer, Stephen Blanchard and Dr. Robert Wood in their article, "Proximity to Point Sources of Environmental Mercury Release as a Predictor of Autism
    Prevalence" support a causal link between the presence of mercury in the environment and the incidence of Autism in the community. It's difficult to understand what financial gain would justify the injury caused or even potentially could be caused by the presence of this toxic substance in any medicine.

    I also believe that in time this will look very similar to what happened in the tobacco industry who once claimed that smoking didn't cause cancer AND it wasn't addictive! We certainly know better about that now.

    In the meantime, I will continue to find some solution that will keep my son healthy enough to complete high school, go to college and sustain gainful employment as well as figure out how in the world I'll also be able to figure out how to put away any amount of money for my own retirement. God help us.

    May 15, 2008 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ginger

    All you pro vaccine people out there go right ahead and vaccinate your kids. I just pray you don’t have to eat your words like I did. My friend told me not to vaccinate and I called her a hippy and assured her that our medical community would not do something to harm our children. Now my child has to live with the side effects, and I had a niece who died from the polo vaccine. And yes the pharmaceutical companies gave the parents a settlement. No proof, the Polling Family proved it. Like my bothers family and many more have too.

    It is so amazing how easily people are pro vaccine. I myself did not want to believe it could have anything to do with my child’s autism. Google a few things it don’t take much to figure it out. Mercury poisoning’s side affects are the same as Autism symptoms. Look up the testing done before approval of vaccines. We live in the information age, just scratch the surface and it will blow your mind. Go to
    http://www.nvic.org there is astonishing information out there if you want the truth.

    May 15, 2008 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lindy Smith

    Dr. Gupta,
    My son is 8 years old and has autism. This is what I know, he was developing fine then at 1.5 years old he was behind on his vaccinations and the ped. said we will get him caught up today. He told me that he needed 4 compiled vaccinations to get back on schedule. My husband and I protested that telling the ped. that we will spread it out. We believed that would be far too much for him to have to endure. When the nurse came in with the shots, she stuck him with all 4 shots before we could stop her. We were angry. We did not know about autism then but we sure do now. My son has never been the same since then, he had a high fever for days after. He stopped doing all of the things he did before. We had no idea what this was about, why he was behaving so strangely. His ped. told us not to worry, that this was probably just a phase and it will pass. It took until he was 3 years old to find out for sure that he had autism. This was our "seeing is believing" proof that what happened in the clinic was what caused our son to develop autism. This did not happen over time, it was a night and day situation.
    I am so glad to hear Dr. Healy tell the world that this should be addressed. This is long overdue. Thank you for your report on this matter.
    I, like thousands of other parents, want to know what happened to my son, why did this happen? I want to know so we can do something to help our kids join us in our world and leave the autism world behind. These kids deserve to have normal lives, they deserve a cure.
    Thanks much, Lindy Smith

    May 15, 2008 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ima

    Autism is a serious disease; however, the diseases that are prevented by vaccines are much more so. If one must weigh autism versus those other diseases, then the obvious choice is to have the vaccinations. Parents should look back at the times before vaccinations and then realize how many lives could have been saved or improved.

    May 15, 2008 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Katrina

    “but I am curious – what do comments like Healy’s say to parents and scientists?”

    Here's what those comments say to parents and scientists;

    1. We (doctor's) are NOT God. We have no explanation for the dramatic increase in Autism diagnosis (1 in 150) that has taken us by storm. We are in NO position to state 'Vaccinations are Harmless' to the many concerned parents we see.

    2. We (scientists) have not succesfully proved that vacinations do NOT cause Autism. We must finally do the necessary research to absolutely confirm or deny the assertations.

    3. We (parents) who have intentionally delayed or refused vacinations for our children have valid concerns. Those of us who have questioned, researched and followed our 'gut' would LOVE to be proven wrong. Perhaps now the effort will be made by the medical community to do so.

    I have 4 typically-developing children aged 6 – 16. Not one child of mine received a vacination prior to the age of 5 when I believe their bodies and immune systems were strong enough to deal with the vacinations without harm. I have fought both the schools and the doctor's for the best interest of my children. None of my children have Autism.

    As anecdotal evidence, my closest friend who lives in the same neighborhood, goes to the same schools and even works at the same company has 3 children – 2 of whom are severly autistic. The 3rd child is not Autistic – the only child of hers that she did not vacinate until the child was 5.

    I'm very thankful that the 'converstation' is occuring as it may lead to a cause and a prevention. It's about time the medical community 'caught up' with the rest of us.

    May 15, 2008 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Robert Indech

    Autism, expressed in varying degrees, is a genetic disorder primarily characterized by a “leaky” epithelial layer. Specifically, spaces between cells admit significantly more molecules across their barrier than is normal. Driven by concentration gradients in passive diffusion, the active transport mechanisms in the gut are overwhelmed, leading to malabsorbtion of key vitamins, and hyperabsorbtion of toxic heavy metals. Autism is characterized by “leaky gut syndrome”. Further, high environmental levels of heavy metals, which in nonautistic people would be excreted with no real effect, here are transported across a “leaky” epithelial blood-brain barrier, to selectively bind with certain neurons and sheaths. The heavy metals, primarily mercury in the form of thimerosol accompanying multi-use vaccines, kill selective neural pathways in the developing infant, leading to expressed autistic symptoms later in life. Although chelation removes the metals, for the most part the neural structural damage appears to be irreversible. Similar to PKU, it is highly suggested that all newborns undergo an epithelial permeability test at birth. Abnormal values detected would trigger a highly restrictive diet for any source of metal contamination, as well as a hypervitamin regimen. Other therapy would include an increased awareness for necessity of antifungals.

    May 15, 2008 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Meee

    Wow! Thank you my mother is a teacher who works with autism kids and I never knew that their could be a vaccine but I hponestly believe that our society today needs to look into things like this becasuse it seems more and more children are getting autism

    May 15, 2008 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Baa Baa

    Jeff, you are a sheep. Do you believe everything the doctor tells you? Do you believe everything anyone tells you that has a piece of paper indicating they spent a couple of years in some med school. The real work is done not by doctors, but by scientists. Unfortunately, most research is done by the drug companies. Think about the larger picture. Who spoon feeds the stuff to the CDC, who profits off of vaccines, who has our country's children on more meds than the average adult.

    May 15, 2008 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. LS

    I'm glad there is so much dialog on this subject. It's incredibly important and it is extremely encouraging to see someone so active in the medical community as Dr. Healy at least acknowledge that there could be a link between vaccines and autism, because that's more than we've seen, to date.

    To add to Ryan's post about how some of the vaccines are cultured, if anyone would do more research, they would find that there is a concern that vaccines cultured on monkey kidneys may be associated with the development of various leukemias.

    I did loads of research when I was pregnant and had debated about vaccinating our child. We decided to do a delayed schedule, but our daughter had a "moderate" reaction to her 2nd Pediarix (DTaP, Polio, Hep B) vaccination. She developed a 105 degree fever, and was taken to the emergency room (it's horrible to watch a 4 mo. old infant have an IV put in, and have a catheter put in for a urine test). The dr.'s there concluded, much to the disblief of her ped.'s office, that it was definitely a reaction to the vaccine. I have not proceeded with any further vaccinations (we passed on Rotavirus, and she did not receive HepB at birth), until she sees her ped for a wellness visit in June. We are very seriously considering not continuing with any vaccinations.

    My husband and I are well educated people who possess a lot of common sense. Common sense is telling me that vaccines represent tremendous revenue to pharma companies. The more investigating one does, the more connections one sees between many prominent doctors who are vaccine proponents and pharma companies. Some of these doctors stand to profit from the patents that exist on some of these vaccines, and they are the ones who are most outspoken about mandating that every child be vaccinated, and suggesting that parents be penalized for choosing not to vaccinate. Pharma companies are financing the "research" that's being done on vaccine safety and efficacy. There is far too much money at stake for any real objectivity here. Merck was cited recently, by the FDA, for not having hygienic conditions at their manufacturing plant in Philly, where several of the vaccines for children are produced. Why aren't we seeing more visible reporting of things like this by our media?

    I think it is a horrible, ignorant mistake to place blind trust in the government organizations (CDC, FDA) and the medical community. Every one of us must be our own health advocate, and an even heavier responsibility is placed on those of us who are parents, and are entrusted with the welfare of our child(ren).

    I disagree that the autism rate is due to better identification and diagnosis......I was born in the mid-70's and I do not ever recall encountering a single person in my age group who was autistic. I can think of maybe two kids who I knew, offhand, who may have had ADHD. What our society is now dealing with is an epidemic of children who are suffering with autism, development disorders, chronic diseases and unprecedented allergic conditions. It is shortsighted to not look at some causal relationship between children receiving double the number of vaccinations that they received 30 years ago, and all of these health crises.

    No matter whether we decide to continue vaccinating our daughter, or we stop, my husband and I will struggle daily with our decision, wondering if we made the right choice, wondering if we did the best as parents, with the wonderful gift God has given us. A previous poster is right....this is heartbreaking. Our government has an obligation to ensure that the most innocent, helpless members of our society are not being harmed in the interest of pharma companies lining their pockets.

    Parents, do your research. Do your best to make an educated decision, for the well-being of your children.

    May 15, 2008 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tom G

    I think that research should be conducted to help improve vaccines and possibly determine who might be susceptible to any adverse reactions. The bottom line is that vaccines have dramatically improved the overall health of everyone in the world. I have talked to a number of relatives who survived outbreaks of the diseases that vaccines prevent, and parents would indeed be up in arms if their children were lost to preventable diseases.

    The problem with the whole vaccine argument is that the internet is both a source of information and disinformation. While some parents are making informed decisions, others are not taking needed measures to protect their children. Toss in a fair amount of conspiracy theory, and you really create problems. It would be unfortunate that a pandemic results from misinformation.

    Finally, everyone points to increases in various childhood conditions like Autism and other disorders like ADHD and attribute them to vaccines. People generally are quick to identify patterns, so parents of children who receive vaccines and then get sick quickly latch on to this as a cause. However, the pervasiveness of chemicals in our environment including mercury, lead, and even medications which cannot be filter out of our water supply is something that children get from day one (or even before they are born). It is equally likely that we will find that some chemical in the environment affects certain brain developments that can eventually lead to autism. Focusing on vaccines which do more good than harm isn't the right approach. We should focus on eliminating all the environmental pollutants that have been building up and affecting all of our lives.

    May 15, 2008 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Denise E., Mountainside, NJ

    As the parent of 3 children & a former research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, I know that these companies have and continue to test vaccines extensively before market introduction. And this includes for several years now, looking at possible neurological effects and not just antibodies to the organism being targeted.
    There may be links to children with undiagnosed conditions, which predispose to the development of autism. However, as to the comment that no child is born autistic, I do not agree. I myself have seen premature infants display characteristic traits shortly after birth (i.e. not turning head toward mother, lack of interest in human face) that cannot be blamed on vaccines as these children are incubated for weeks and the schedule does not start until much later.
    I have a son, 7, diagnosed with ADHD. He has received all of his vaccinations. Since 2000 my pediatrician has used mercury free innoculations (except for the flu which he has only received 2 out of his 7 years) as have many in the area I live, but the autism rate is still increasing. In fact it is increasing in all developed countries, even the UK where vaccination rate has declined considerably. So there are places where this so called correlation is not occurring.

    Another note: in years past you did not see autistic children because they were institutionalized during their school years. This goes for children who were Down or otherwise mentally or physically challenged. Believe me, those children existed but were kept out of sight and public schools.

    I am currently more concerned about the estrogen like compounds in plastic my son very likely ingested from his (probably China made) bottles for 13 months and sippy cup and various toys he chewed on for another 2 years. I think we will find that high level exposure of plastic derivatives may have lasting neurological effects. I would prefer more research into causes other than vaccines alone as those studies, although small, do exist in the US and even more outside the US.

    May 15, 2008 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Ryan

    Common sense says that you just should not expect to inject a human with all sorts of known poisons and toxins without any side effects. Notice how those strongly in favor of vaccines use such scare tactics, like death. This is a common practice in the medical field.

    For a look into the truly criminal and nasty history of vaccines, one simply has to do a little research. A good place to start is a book by Dr. Tim O'Shea titled "The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination Is Not Immunization." Dr. O'Shea is not funded by any government or pharma agency, so you will be getting honest and straightforward facts. His claims are fully referenced as well. He is easily found with a Google search.

    To those that believe that vaccines have saved the world and are the greatest thing since sliced bread, continue to vaccinate. But please do not try to force me or my kids to be vaccinated. That is my freedom of choice. Vaccine proponents should not be so concerned about others getting vaccinated. After all, as long as they get their vaccinations religiously, then there is no need for them to worry about contracting all these deadly diseases. Right?

    May 15, 2008 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Stephanie Sullivan

    why is it so unreasonable to link the timing and number of these shots (as opposed to the ingredients necessarily) as an assault on a developing immune system? Could it be that in giving so many shots at one time the body launches an immune response which causes the body to react in a negative fashion ? On a personal level, I support immunizations, however, I also made the decison to limit my child's shots to no more than two at a time. Yes, it was inconvenient for the staff as I had to come back for additoanl appointments, yes it cost more money for dose administartion fees, and yes, I do beleive it decreased the potential for an over-response of my child's immune system. Why do so many people seem to have a vested interest in avoiding the obvious- more research, more listening to parents who have suffered this tragedy, and less adherence to the idea that somehow "doctors know best".

    May 15, 2008 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Ronald Kallen, M.D.

    May 16, 2008

    As the parent of a young man with autism, it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon of skeptics about the several studies that have failed to show a connection between vaccines and autism. But, as a physician, I also have a deep respect for science. One very convincing study from Denmark showed that the incidence of autism remains unchanged despite the elimination of thimerosal from vaccines. Moreover, as Dr. Offit writes in this weeks New England Jounral of Medicine, children with a global developmental impairment, are very likely to have impaired social and communication skills which may be conflated with autism. And there is nothing more global than a mitochondrial disorder affecting brain cells. Epidemiologic and genetic studies have reached a consensus that the heritability of the susceptibility to an autism spectrum disorder is very high. The exact cause of autistic regression is not known but the paradigm is seen in several other disorders with behavioral regression in early childhood. The developmental sequence, including the acquisition of social skills, is genetically programmed and mutations are known to affect critical genes. One example in the autistic spectrum is Rett syndrome. This is not the time to abandon a respect for good science,

    May 16, 2008 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rick mayrer, m.d.

    Keep up the good work Dr. Gupta! I'm both a doctor and a parent of an autistic child. I'm uterly impressed that most of the stuff printed in our medical literature that we use to confront our daily patient challenges is far from evidenced based despite the new formats all of our colleges have adapted. None of it captures the true schism of what we parents see, feel, and in a very experiential sense know to be true: that we have lost once normal children after vaccinations, whatever all the cofactors may be. I'm all for "disease prevention and vaccination", but the CDC and AAP, in my opinion, need to get out of the denial mode and participate in sorting out how to cnfer reasonable immunity without "First causing harm".... the trust is already lost and I think saying the same thing only renders them more ineffective

    May 16, 2008 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Lauren R., USA

    What I don't get is why a pediatrician would trust a parent's instincts when it comes to watching out for things like allergic reations to antibiotics, etc., then, just blow off their observations that their child acted very specifically different following the administration of a vaccine. I'm not a parent, but most of my friends are, and as one of 7 kids, with 12 nieces and nephews, all I can say is, there's too many parents out there saying the same exact thing for too many years for the scientific community (not to mention the scientific method) to discount this particular observation!

    May 16, 2008 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dr Jayadev

    The logic is simple. If more smokers get Cancer of the lung, more alcoholics get cirrhosis of the liver and more vaccinated children regress to autism spectrum disorders compared to general population then the medical fraternity ought to show an open mind and acknowledge – Vaccines do cause troubles. Increasingly vaccines are becoming a prevention dangerous than the disease which it is supposed to prevent.
    Death from most of the viral infections of childhood are due to secondary infections like bacterial pneumonia. Modern medicine has no clear answer to viral diseases and hence use unnecessary antibiotics in such viral diseases which force secondary infections upon a weakened individual and hence the high death rate. Decrease in infectious diseases is not entirely due to vaccines. First and foremost it is due to the understanding that these infections are caused by microorganisms, which made it possible to identify the ways of spread of the disease. Secondly increased sanitation – good drinking water – better nutrition. But vaccines robbed all the credit. If we had enough funds to provide – Safe drinking water – sanitation and good nutrition then we can surely reduce the number of vaccines and number of autistics. It is the policy that has to change

    May 16, 2008 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. rtkman

    I so glad Doctors might actually have to consider the link between the vaccines and Autism AND other disorders. My 13 y.o. son has Tourettes Syndrome which started the WEEK of his vaccines. We know another couple with the same age daughter and she developed Tourettes also. Way too coincidental!!!

    May 16, 2008 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. roose

    Dr.Gupta,you should read this book :
    The Protective Shell in Children and Adults.
    by Frances Tustin Ed.Karnac Books – London 1990

    May 17, 2008 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Elaine

    Thank Goodness, this Dr. finially spoke out, the media, has never really took this problem on, even when the parents had a march in Washington it was like a split second on TV. These are our children and a whole generation is having a problem and around the world because we send them our drugs. The reseach has not been done,
    I believe the news should just report facts and saying there is no
    scientific eveidence to back up the mercury (thimsersol) claim, is completely incorrect and also who on the FDA also has tries to the pharmacial, someone has to take responsiblilty. Please do more on
    Austism so the young mother's can be aware, and always go on the
    side of caution.
    Thank you

    May 17, 2008 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Mary Skarzenski

    Dear Sanjay,
    I watch your program almost every week and would like to comment on the Autism story. I am in my early 60's and when my children were small, I had never heard of Autism. I believe that there could be a connection between the growing number of children with Autism and the large number of young adults who use or have used illegal drugs. My children had all of their immunizations and I didn't know of anyone who had a child with Autism.
    Has anyone looked into that possible connection?


    Mary Skarzenski

    May 17, 2008 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    The way I read Dr. Healy's comments and responses is that the reason the CDC, NIH, IOM, AAP and others have not pursued the vaccine/autism connection better is that they're very much afraid of the answers. If parents were presented with an honest set of facts about vaccines and their proven side effects–let alone their speculative side effects–many would still choose to immunize but NONE would choose to adhere to the current, absurd schedule of vaccination.


    Jay Gordon

    May 18, 2008 at 02:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lilady

      You should be the last person to comment on the vaccine-autism link, Dr. Gordon. You, have refused to abide by the Standards of Practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding immunizations. Why did you remove your "links" to the the Childhood Immunizations Schedule? Are you ashamed that your "links" did not link to the CDC Vaccine Information Statements that provide reliable information about vaccines and the serious, sometimes deadly, consequences of not having children fully immunized? Are you ashamed that your "links" referred parents to crank anti-vaccine and anti-science websites...such as whale.to?

      Are you ashamed that you pander to credulous parents and your belief in "mommy intuition" with regard to vaccines and the totally and absolutely discredited "theories" of vaccines being implicated in the onset of autism?

      Have you, in fact, read the studies published in the AAP journal "Pediatrics" (updated April, 2013), which provides a list of studies about the safety of vaccines and the lack of association between vaccines, the ingredients contained in vaccines, the timing of vaccines, the spacing of vaccines...and the onset of autism?

      Shame on you Dr. Jay, for your pandering to anti-vaccine, anti-science organizations and your self-promotion as the "pediatrician to the stars".

      July 31, 2013 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
  40. joelle

    An autistic child is a child that stops to communicate and there is always a reason why a child refuses to communicate.
    I have LIVED autism thru my nefew's story and I 've helped him A LOT(we've been VERY CLOSE)

    May 18, 2008 at 04:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. aaron

    My boss is the father of two autistic children. He is also the genius behind the lawyer refferal hotline in Florida 1-800-ask-gary...because of Garys success he now sits on the bored of directors for NASA and sits on a new task force made by Gov Charlie Crist passing laws to benefit families with autism. He, Dan mareno, the head of autism speaks among others recently saw a bill passed so insurance companies will pay for autism treatments.It is a start in the right direction. I know God gave Gary these children for a purpose, and raised him up financially to be able to be a front runner in promoting autism research and helping these needy families. 1 in 150 children have autism. Shocking statistics that are increasing. The divorce rate among these families is 90 percent. Now perhaps there is more hope for these families. Autism is a lifetime debilitating disease. The cost are enormous. The research is minimal. People like Dr.Gary bring us one step closer to helping these children.

    May 18, 2008 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. chirag

    Ryan, you probably never had a heart attack. When,God forbid,you have one and you go to the ER, doctors will inject you with a drug called r-TPA or another thromolytic (unless you get a primary angioplasty, in which case you will recieve equally dangerous blood thinners. All of this meds have the potential to cause a brain hemorrage and bleeding from possibly all the orifices in the body.
    And they are effective in dissolving the clot that caused your heart attack. However, there is also a chance that your own body, without any drugs, would dissolve the clot by a process called spontaneous thrombolysis.
    Similarly, chances that a pateint with pnuemonia will recover without antibiotics or a patient with AIDS will survive 10 years without antiretrovirals are also there. And why do we even bother to give dangerous chemotherapy to cancer patientswhen almost all of them would develop life threatening fall in blood counts or kidney failure or heart failure because of the chemotherapy?? Bear in mind that often times the sole purpose of the chemotherapy is only to prolong life by 6-8 months(and it may even fail at that).
    The gold standard study design in epidemiology is most probably a case-control prospective study. Even after you have done all your lab research on multiple generations of multiple species of animals, unless you have the data from such a study, you cannot derive any definitive conclusions. Now is it ethically possible to do such a study for vaccines??You would have to create a control group of thousands(or atleast hundreds) of children. This control group would not get any vaccines and their outcomes would be compared with children of the
    case group(who recieved the vaccines). By doing this, you are exposing the children of the control group to deadly or debilitating "Vaccine preventable diseases". Would this be ethical or advisable?? Here is what the results may look like: Of the control group 2 children died from severe HiB, 3 developed permanent learning disability from the meningitis, 1 was left paralysed by polio,
    2 had to be kept on respirator because of diptheria induced acute airway obstruction(one of whom developed permanent hypoxic brain injury). 5 suffered from Tetanus and 3 of those recovered completely as a result of antitoxin and Immunoglobulin therapy( I hope the irony is not lost because ultimately what would save an unimmunized child with tetanus is something very close to a vaccine..if the tetanus vaccine is killed tetanus bacilli, the antitoxin is the product of the same bacilli).
    I hope you would agree that creating such a "control" group is almost impossible. So how do we get such a group??? We already have this group..in developing countries a vast majority of children are unimmunized and I hope CNN will depict the outcomes in this unfortunate "control" group.
    Please dont accuse doctors of "blindly "trusting pharma companies, the goverment or other agencies. My trust is reinforced whenever I see a patient's clot getting dissolved in "real-time" by blood thinners and when I see a patient's brain fluid cleared of bacteria by antibiotics(in real-time, even though under a microscope). Thus, my trust is also reinforced when I see and hear that there were only a 100 cases of measles last year in the U.S, while some countries in the world had 160,00,000. And that trust will only get stronger with time as the incidence of cervical cancer drops dramatically in the coming decades. Will my faith waver if I or somebody else develops a serious adverse effect.? No, because nobody gave me a 100% guarantee. Words like very effective with some risks are enough for me to make my decision in favor of vaccines.
    And how can we conclude that the goverment or FDA or CDC is doing nothing?? Remember the time when these very agencies recalled the rota-virus vaccine, even though it caused only 15 cases of intusseception among 15 million shots that were given(0.001%)
    Some people above are also concerned that diseases as such are on a rise. Well this is not supported if you take mortality as the most important criterion. 22 of 1000 children born in 1960 died from various causes. In 2000, the number was 5.
    Some people have also concluded that Thimerosal is the cause of all vaccine related complications. Wasnt thimerosal removed from all vaccines in 2001, except Flu?? How come the annual incidence of autism didnt fall?? infact it continued to climb, didnt it?? So where are the people who shouted at the top of their voice in 1999 that thimerosal was the devil. Infact, thimerosal was used I believe in Denmark during the 60s and 70s and the incidence of autism there rose in the 90s(after thimerosal was removed)

    May 19, 2008 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Gail

    I would like to see some coverage of the new studies from L. Hewitson at the University of CT. She studied the effect of the full vaccine schedule on primates which apparently shocking results. As a parent of a child on the spectrum who does a lot of research, I have come to believe that the number of vaccines and the schedule alone were harmful to my child.

    Women should also be wary of the flu shot which is part given to pregnant women. My OBGYN basically told me that I was a bad mom-to-be if I opted out of that shot. At that time, I did whatever my doctor said – I regret that decision every day.

    May 19, 2008 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tony T.

    Dr. Gupta:

    I have been following you blogs for sometime now (and love your insight) and was wondering your thoughts on the new study that discusses a link between Thimerosal Vaccines And Autism published in Journal of Neurological Sciences –

    Keep up the great work.

    May 19, 2008 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. mommy

    okay if it did cause that every child i would no would have it and they dont why are we so sure that is what it is it cant be and you know it..its sad but there is nothing any where they says nothing is going to happen to my child no matter what i do..and how do you know its not something like autoimmune one day you are fine and the next you are not...and some one comment once you got a child like that you blame and go after so you do that what happens when you kid get cancer who can we blame for that its sad but lets stop and look its getting worse now maybe its something else...

    May 20, 2008 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Annonymous

    This is post is really a disservice to parents. As the Institute of Medicine reported in 2004, there is yet to be any credible evidence for a causative link between autism and childhood vaccinations, specifically the MMR vaccine and those containing Thimerosal. Vaccines save lives and save billions of dollars in healthcare-related losses and expenses. It is certainly a tragedy when a child develops ASD and we all want desperately to find a "cause" so that we might find a cure but the science says that we need to look somewhere other than to routine vaccinations.

    May 21, 2008 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Charles E. Johnson

    My daughter was born in Dec. 1980 and was a vibrant and active and outgoing child who had all of her baby shots. Then there were more shots we had to get for her before she started Kindergarden. She started Kindergarden at 4 1/2 years old. We and the teachers started to notice that she was “catatonic in school” and they asked us if there was anything wrong or abusive going on at home. Then they recommended therapy for her. We took her for therapy to this place called New Hope. They couldn’t do anything for her and found no trouble within our household and they didn’t know what it was. She went all through school like this eventually graduating with an IEP diploma. She had two jobs, each of them lasting only two weeks, because she couldn't respond to her employers and they were critical of her and she was fired from both jobs. While she was in her 20’s she unfortunately was walking the dog one night and became a RAPE VICTIM. They still have not found the slime till this day. She is now 27 and has a boyfriend. The weird thing with her is that she does not mix well in an environment with many people. While she is aware of her surroundings and what is going on and she is able to carry on normal conversation, there is that part of her that is still very much like a 4 year old child..After she was raped the DA therapist interviewed her and told us that she is socially retarted. She has gone through a lot all of these years since she had those shots so long ago, and so have we. Life for her and us changed almost immediately after those damn shots. She is going to be 28 years old the end of this year and is still trying to put her life together. While she is independent and functions in many academic ways — her mind is like that of a child in the outside world. Eventually and as a result of the rape trauma she was able to get SSI. Unfortunately they fail to recognize that she has had social retardation disability all of her life. I hope one day that this beautiful flower will blossom and that she will get all the professinal attention and the good things in live that she is really deserving of. And I hope all of the other children out there are getting the help that they need now. Years ago, doors were shut and my daughter was just thought to be weird or abused. How sinful is that and what a shame we have a system that we have. She has definitely fell through the cracks. Do what you can for your children and don’t take no for an answer — because if enough people start to bang on doors then maybe our government will listen. As for me, my wife and our daughter — we thank God every day that she is alive, safe, healthy and functioning the best that she can. And we also pray everyday that they catch the slime that took advantage of our beautiful flower. He will get his day for sure. God doesn’t like ugly. At the end of the day I would say it was all related to the baby vaccines. I never wrote about this nor do I address it on a daily basis, but I am very mindful that this is a serious problem that our government and all health professionals need to address. Every day that goes by with another child getting a shot — is another day that the lights can quickly go out for them and their family. May God Bless all of the parents out there living with a child like ours and may he always bless these children and keep them in his care.

    May 21, 2008 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. June Zeger

    I don't think that 'belief' is a good way to study whether or not the autism/vaccine link is real... We need to look at the scientific data... and history. It is apparent that the number of children on this spectrum has increased stratospherically within the last decade or two... as have the required immunizations. Further, it is a known fact that mercury causes neurological damage. Thimerasol, containing MERCURY, was used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines. These correlations are too obvious to dismiss. While I believe that immunization for very dangerous diseases should be an absolute, many of my generation survived the measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox... They are inconveniences for the majority of children and their parents... A child's mental health should not be put at risk in order to avoid contracting so many of these old diseases, that were basically not life-threatening.

    May 21, 2008 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Laura from Illinois

    It is a sad but true fact that the medical community is often the LAST to acknowledge medical realities. For proof, one need only look at how long they anaesthetized women in labor, and advocated for formula over breast milk. How many years did women's advocacy groups have to be treated like hippie nutcases before the "establishment" acknowledged that anaesthesia was harmful to mothers and babies and breast milk was better?

    I agree with the posters who say that there are far too many claims of "my child was fine until (s)he) received X or Y vaccination." Where there's smoke, there's fire. After my first child was diagnosed with speech delay, I slowed down my second child's receipt of vaccinations. No more than two at any given time, MMR alone, and only after she reached two years old (without anything else it is already THREE vaccines), and NOTHING WITH THIMEROSAL. Period. I think there is something wrong with introducing 25+ toxins into a baby's system over a period of just 22 months. It's unsurprising that some children simply cannot handle that much. Furthermore, why would we ever introduce mercury – IN ANY FORM – into a baby's body? We don't need preservatives in this country; there is no reason why vaccinations cannot be shipped and stored in single doses.

    I have read extensively on how thimerosal can cross the blood-brain barrier, particularly in children with "leaky gut syndrome" – or who have had gastrointestinal issues – chronic constipation and/or diarrhea. These often persist after the vaccinations – particularly MMR. A British researcher published in the Lancet some years ago his findings that a disproportionate number of children on the autism spectrum had lesions in their intestines, with measles titres concentrated there as well. These findings were explosive at the time.

    I would strongly encourage anyone whose child has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum to read "Children With Starving Brains" for help with diets that can heal the gut, and literally everything written by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. A combination of nutritional and behavioral therapies has helped countless parents of children in the spectrum. DON'T GIVE UP!

    May 21, 2008 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. max's mom

    my son had terrible fevers (103.5 and up) after both of his first two vaccines. i had delayed a bit because he was 5 weeks premature–against the a advice of the doctor who thought prematurity was irrelevant to starting the schedule. after his second and more severe reaction, we've stopped vaccinations. after he turns two, we'll reassess. take charge of your children's health, and responsibility for your choices. above all, trust what you see and know to be true in your particular situation.

    May 22, 2008 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.