Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vaccines -- A Very Important Post

Last night, PBS' Frontline aired what was touted as an unbiased look at "The Vaccine Wars" and which I refused to watch because the debate makes me physically ill. About one week before Sophie began seizing as a baby, she received her first five infant vaccines. In 1995, the DPT shot still contained the live pertussis virus, and Sophie had a fever and high-pitched screaming soon after. She was diagnosed with infantile spasms, a particularly devastating seizure disorder and so began our odyssey. While we never made a "case" for it, we have always suspected that those vaccines were, if not the cause, then a catalyst for Sophie's seizure disorder and since then have learned that a genetic predisposition to negative reactions from vaccines is a possibility (I, too, had negative reactions to vaccines in 1963, something I only discovered a few years ago when I took a look at my vaccine records that were all marked up in red). In any case, enough is unclear that we chose NOT to vaccinate the boys and while this was a difficult decision to make, it is not something that we regret.

The vaccine debate rages on and on and the voices are always loud and biased. When I've entered the fray, I have done so at my own personal peril, because like I said, it makes me almost physically ill. I maintain that the issue is complex and that the media and parents often boil it down to a ridiculous simplicity, vilifying the other side with regularity.  I am pasting an email that I received today from our long-time pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, who has responded to the Frontline special with great integrity:

From Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
Shame on PBS Frontline Show "The Vaccine War"                                                           
                                                        April 28, 2010 

Last night, PBS aired a show called "The Vaccine War." I was interviewed at great length and in great depth about vaccines and my point of view and expressed my ambivalence about the polarization of this issue and the need for more calm reasoned discussion about the number one question that new parents have. I told Kate McMahon, the co-producer of the show, that there was a large group of doctors and others who cannot be dismissed with the facile label "anti-vaccine" because we still give vaccines and see a place for them in the practice of medicine, but we do not agree with the current vaccine schedule nor the number of vaccines children receive all at one time.
A few days ago, Ms.McMahon emailed me to tell me that the decision had been made to omit my interview from the show. There would not be one word from me. She didn't tell me that she had also omitted 100% of Dr. Robert Sears' interview. And that any other comments from physicians supporting the parents on the show in their ambivalence about vaccines or their decision to refuse all vaccines would also be omitted.
She left this as a show with many doctors commenting very negatively, very frighteningly and often disdainfully and dismissively about vaccine "hesitation" as they called it.
Below is my email response to Kate McMahon.

Dear Kate,
The "Frontline" show was disgraceful. You didn't even have the courtesy to put my interview or any part of the two hours we spent taping on your web site.
You created a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: "Irresponsible moms against science" was an easy takeaway from the show.
Did you happen to notice that Vanessa, the child critically ill with pertussis, was not intubated nor on a respirator in the ER? She had nasal "prongs" delivering oxygen. I'm sorry for her parents' anxiety and very happy that she was cured of pertussis. But to use anecdotal reports like this as science is irresponsible and merely served the needs of the doctor you wanted to feature.
No one pursued Dr. Offit's response about becoming rich from the vaccine he invented. He was allowed to slide right by that question without any follow up. Dr. Paul Offit did not go into vaccine research to get rich. He is a scientist motivated by his desire to help children. But his profiting tens of millions of dollars from the creation of this vaccine and the pursuit of sales of this and other vaccines is definitely not what he says it is. His many millions "don't matter" he says. And you let it go.
Jenny McCarthy resumed being a "former Playboy" person and was not acknowledged as a successful author, actress and mother exploring every possible avenue to treating her own son and the children of tens of thousands of other families.
I trusted you by giving you two or three hours of my time for an interview and multiple background discussions. I expressed my heartfelt reservations about both vaccines and the polarizing of this issue into "pro-vaccine" and "anti-vaccine" camps. I told you that there was at least a third "camp." There are many doctors and even more parents who would like a more judicious approach to immunization. Give vaccines later, slower and with an individualized approach as we do in every other area of medicine.
What did you create instead?
"The Vaccine War."
A war. Not a discussion or a disagreement over facts and opinions, but a war. This show was unintelligent, dangerous and completely lacking in the balance that you promised me--and your viewers--when you produced and advertised this piece of biased unscientific journalism. "Tabloid journalism" I believe is the epithet often used. Even a good tabloid journalist could see through the screed you've presented.
You interviewed me, you spent hours with Dr. Robert Sears of the deservedly-illustrious Sears family and you spoke to other doctors who support parents in their desire to find out what went wrong and why it's going wrong and what we might do to prevent this true epidemic.
Not a measles epidemic, not whooping cough. Autism. An epidemic caused by environmental triggers acting on genetic predisposition. The science is there and the evidence of harm is there. Proof will come over the next decade. TheNational Children's Study will, perhaps by accident, become a prospective look at many children with and without vaccines. But we don't have time to wait for the results of this twenty-one year research study: We know that certain pesticides cause cancer and we know that flame retardants in children's pajamas are dangerous. We are cleaning up our air and water slowly and parents know which paint to buy and which to leave on the shelves when they paint their babies' bedrooms.
The information parents and doctors don't have is contained in the huge question mark about the number of vaccines, the way we vaccinate and the dramatic increase in autism, ADD/ADHD, childhood depression and more. We pretend to have proof of harm or proof of no harm when what we really have is a large series of very important unanswered questions.
In case you were wondering, as I practice pediatrics every day of my career, I base nothingI do on Dr. Wakefield's research or on Jenny McCarthy's opinions. I respect what they both have done and respectfully disagree with them at times. I don't think that Dr. Wakefield's study proved anything except that we need to look harder at his hypothesis. I don't think that Jenny McCarthy has all the answers to treating or preventing autism, but there are tens of thousands of parents who have long needed her strong high-profile voice to draw attention to their families' needs: Most families with autism get inadequate reimbursement for their huge annual expenses and very little respect from the insurance industry, the government or the medical community. Jenny has demanded that a brighter light be shone on their circumstances, their frustration and their needs.
I base everything I do on my reading of CDC and World Health Organization statistics about disease incidence in the United States and elsewhere. I base everything I do on having spent the past thirty years in pediatric practice watching tens of thousands of children get vaccines, not get vaccines and the differences I see.
Vaccines change children.
Most experts would argue that the changes are unequivocally good. My experience and three decades of observation and study tell me otherwise. Vaccines are neither all good--as this biased, miserable PBS treacle would have you believe--nor all bad as the strident anti-vaccine camp argues.
You say the decisions to edit 100% of my interview from your show (and omit my comments from your website) "were purely based on what's best for the show, not personal or political, and the others who didn't make it came from both sides of the vaccine debate." You are not telling the truth. You had a point to prove and removed material from your show which made the narrative balanced. "Distraught, confused moms against important, well-spoken calm doctors" was your narrative with a deep sure voice to, literally, narrate the entire artifice.
You should be ashamed of yourself, Kate. You knew what you put on the air was slanted and you cheated the viewers out of an opportunity for education and information. You cheated me out of hours of time, betrayed my trust and then you wasted an hour of PBS airtime. Shame on you.
The way vaccines are manufactured and administered right now in 2010 makes vaccines and their ingredients part of the group of toxins which have led to a huge increase in childhood diseases including autism. Your show made parents' decisions harder and did nothing except regurgitate old news.
Parents and children deserve far better from PBS.

Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP


  1. My daughter, now labeled MR by the school district, was never diagnosed with infantile spasms, but I spent months document at what time and how long each convulsion (I really don't know what to call it) lasted.

    To this day I don't know what was going on with her or how, if at all, that relates to her developmental issues.

  2. Vaccines were a given when my boys were infants. They had the vaccines and, thank goodness, came through just fine. Faced with that same decision today, I would be reluctant to take the same course of scheduled vaccinations. I read, with great interest, your pediatrician's discourse and am appalled. My neighbor's infant grand daughter died several days after a course of vaccinations. Her pediatrician discontinued her medical practice because of this baby's death. There were no lawsuits involved. She simply felt the vaccinations were the cause and was devastated. That was fifteen years ago. I'm saving your blog to pass on to my children. Someday, they will probably be faced with the same decisions. Thanks for sharing this.


  3. You know how I feel about this, I don't need to go into it here. The worst is for someone who profits from the vaccine to say that millions do not matter. If they don't, he should honestly and ethically create a fund to support the effort of those parents who are shouldering the cost and don't mean just economically for this tragedy.

    He doesn't have to admit any guilt in the matter, he just has to give those millions that aren't important to him to a worthwhile cause.

  4. Thanks for putting this up Elizabeth.

  5. First of all, your new header is spectacular. That's a 'manati', an animal we still have in Cuba.

    Vaccinations, that's a hot topic as you rightly said. We didn't have our children vaccinated and I still stand by our decision. There's too much at stake and little accountability. I know exactly where you're coming from as a parent, but also as a human being. And thanks a lot for all that information. It helped me understand the dilemma better.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Your pediatrician sounds like a man of deep integrity, courage and honor. Wonderful qualities!

    It makes me sad to think that even PBS is getting corrupted with biased reporting. I would have expected a higher standard from them.

    Thank you for posting a "fair and balanced" perspective. Thank you for having the guts to name your personal bias, and for explaining that it's based on experience. This is the way to invite an intelligent dialogue.

  7. Elizabeth,
    This makes me absolutely sick. It absolutely reeks of propaganda. "We can't have mothers going around not vaccinating their children, so let's not give them credit for considering the data and making an informed decision; let's just tell them what we want them to hear." Bravo to Dr. Gordon for his intelligent and brave e-mail to the show's producer. I hope that this will give people pause before taking so-called documentary evidence as gospel.

  8. This is the EXACT reason why all my news comes from E! At least it's a bunch of garbage parading itself as a bunch of garbage instead of as the bearer of all knowledge.

  9. I read this and felt think that the vaccines that were given to my kids could possible have done something to them freaks me out! I know I just did as the good Dr. told me and I never gave it a naive of me. Thank you for posting this.

  10. I have vaccinated both my kids, but not without worrying about it, before, during or after. As you say, it isn't as simple as any of the camps want to make it seem.

  11. Almost 23 years ago,our oldest daughter received her first set of infant shots ... later that day she screamed a high pitch scream for 5 hours.5 hours.The on call Ped assured me"his daughter did the same thing" and told me not to worry about.2 months later,when we returned for the next set,our regular Ped inquired about adverse reaction from the last, to which I told him,to which he said ... no way for the pertussis part.No way.I remain indebted.

    Fast forward to Miss Zoey.Granted, bringing into this world her own set of pre-exciting complexities but one week after a major dosage of shots we saw her first head drop and from there,hell came knocking.Infantile spasms and well,no need for further explanation.Although Zoey had suffered a stroke and that remains to be her focal spot,I cannot help but wonder if that grouping of shots started the ball rolling.I will never know,but I will always wonder.And I will always tread lightly,carefully and cautiously as we introduce any further vaccines.

    A very important post indeed and thank you for it.

  12. I did a partial- VERY partial- vac set with Lola, and that's it. I think it was two. It's a complex issue that I read a lot about- a book the size of the Bible called "Just a Little Prick' documents pretty much every horrific fact you could imagine that is true about the history of vaccines in our country.

  13. Thank you for posting this. My kids are older (9 and 12), and like some of the others mentioned, when they were little, I just did what the good doctor said. My friend has told me what your doctor said; we need to re-think the vaccination scheduling. It's SO nice to read something that's not one side or the other, and I don't normally comment on vaccination posts because I have no strong feelings either way, but I do so here to encourage a REASONED dialogue.

  14. When in our lives has any issue been black or white, either/ or, clear and dry? Not in my life time. There is always, always room to learn more.

    Heck they can't even decide if eggs are good or bad. How can they possible think they know unequivocally that vaccines are good or bad? How can they be so grandiose as to believe they have all the answers one way or the other? How can they possibly believe there is no room for more research?

    In today's world the one thing science has proven over and over again is we still have a great deal to learn.

  15. This is a brilliant and absolutely necessary post. Thanks for putting it up on FB for many to see. I am sorry for the pain this discussion causes you. I know quite a few kids (including one of my own) who were likely harmed in some way by vaccines.

  16. My son had a bad reaction to his DPT shot as a baby, screaming and crying for hours. When I talked to my doctor about it, he recommended my son not have anymore pertussis vaccines. My doctor at the time had a twelve year old daughter, severely handicapped from a reaction to a pertussis vaccine.

    That being said, I vaccinated both my daughter with DPT and any other vaccine needed. Katie's disability is from birth, or more accurately, from shortly after conception and the vaccines have not caused any problems.

    I think we all need to do what we think is best for our children, as you have done Elizabeth.

  17. I just found your blog off another persons blog, saw your post, had to dive in! I have two children with autism, both on the severe end of the spectrum. My son became "autistic" after he was vaccinated! He did everything typically and then changed! I have it on video of him interacting with everybody, extremely affectionate, started talking early even started being able to name every type of transportation we have(trucks, cars, trains, planes, boats, ships, etc) walked on time, was even singing his ABCs, counting up to 20, matching up shapes and colors all before 18months, I thought I had a little genius on the way!!! Right after those stupid vaccines, he did a whole 360 turn, and lost his words, started walking funny, became unresponsive, had horrible tantrums, fecal smeared, wouldn't even respond to his name etc. Soon after he was diagnosed with severe autism!

    I went into a freaking tizzy, my daughter suffers from a very severe form of autism, she had all the signs even as an infant, you know (no waving, no pointing, no babbling, no words, no eye contact, rarely smiling, unresponsive to anybody or anything around her unless you gently touched her then it was world war 3, late walking nothing!) She has autism, classic case of autism. My son, no he never and still do this day does not have autism, he is and now will always be vaccine injured which happened to put him into an "autistic" state! It literally ruined me to watch my child just disappear, literally, like somebody came and replaced my child with a whole different child, it was insane!

    So when people say vaccines aren't harmless, yea come meet my son! If he wasn't vaccinated or if his vaccines were spread out more, he'd probably be outside skateboarding, playing sports with his brother, hanging with his friends, getting into all kinds of trouble being a boy you know? no instead he flaps around the house at times screaming at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason.

    I'm lucky I did the biomedical route with him, because now he has parrot language(echolalia) which to me is more then I can ask for and is finally potty trained! All because of a stupid vaccine!

  18. Thank you Elizabeth, and thank you Dr. Gordon. It is just sick. I definitely would have expected more from PBS.

  19. Elizabeth, thank you for posting this. It's upsetting that PBS would edit such a biased final product. In terms of the vaccine issue, I struggle with my feelings about it--I know there are many people with legitimate concerns about vaccines and at the same time, having studied early modern literature, I know what the diseases the kids are vaccinated against can do. There's a subtle irony or paradox with the current concerns about vaccines: the first parents to give their children vaccines were afraid to do so, afraid of injuring their children, but they were more afraid of the full-blown disease itself. What motivated them was the death and disability caused by disease. Now we worry about the death and disability connected to vaccination. I like your post very much because one of the questions it asks is, what is the proper balance?

    Anyway, it's funny, but one of the things that bothers me most is when people sometimes ask me whether Robert's problems were caused by vaccination, or urge me to consider it. The problems weren't caused by vaccination--and, given how uncertain the foundation of my life is, I guess I don't like it when people try to make that foundation even more uncertain, if that makes sense. As evidence builds that vaccines are responsible for certain childhood disabilities, I will incorporate that into my understanding of such, but I want a sense of balance with the inquiry.

    And I certainly hope that my remarks are taken in the objective spirit in which they were offered--I do not intend to offend anyone.

  20. So very disappointing. I thought of Frontline as the gold standard. This is brutal and I am glad your doctor called the producer on it in no uncertain terms. Also glad this man is your doctor. The craziest part (dovetailing with your recent post) is that the National Enquirer actually did the BEST and only real reporting on the Edwards affair, that now turns out was an open secret in "mainstream media." And now all the networks wonder how this went on? They all had the story, just didn't go with it because they didn't want to be alienated from access to the candidate. It is shameful (to use your doctor's word). And disheartening that there are so few news outlets to trust. And "tabloid journalisim" might be the best of the bunch.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...