Jewish World Review April 11, 2003 / 97 Nisan, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports

Are childhood vaccines shots in the dark? | Few issues agitate your Medicine Men, patients and parents, or fill our e-mail inboxes faster, than vaccination of children. We've often held that compulsory vaccination has complications that the public health community and the general public too often ignore. Sometimes we're derided as cranky, or worse.

But perhaps not this time.

A new study [] in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons by Mark Geier, M.D., Ph.D., president of The Genetic Centers of America, and David Geier, B.A., provides alarming evidence of an association between mercury found in vaccines and neurodevelopmental problems such as speech disorders and autism, as well as heart attacks.

We usually find claims of new poisons in the environment, food and medicines to be blown way out of proportion to their real significance. But, as sometimes happens, new evidence on some particular concerns tips the balance from respectful skepticism to "Sound the Alarms and Save the Children."


A chemical containing mercury, thimerosal, is a preservative first used in the 1930s to prevent germs from growing in vaccines packaged in containers holding more than one dose of vaccine. Most vaccine doses are quite small, one 50th of a teaspoon, or 0.1 cc., for example, so at that time it made sense to supply one small glass bottle containing 30 cc. (one ounce) rather than 300 tiny glass vials.

In the body, this chemical is changed into ethylmercury and thiosalicylate. The ethylmercury is what we're worried about because a related mercury compound, methylmercury, is poisonous. In the 1950s, methylmercury poisoned hundreds in Japan when they ate fish contaminated with mercury.


In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) issued a joint statement which said "The large risks of not vaccinating children far outweigh the unknown and probably much smaller risk, if any, of cumulative exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines over the first six months of life."

But "because any potential risk is of concern, the Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agree that thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible."

The relationship between various vaccines and multiple possible associated complications has been strongly controversial. Just four months ago, on Dec. 5, a Wall Street Journal editorial proclaimed "no scientific study has ever found a link between vaccines and autism."

That's no longer the case.

The Geiers note an 800 percent increase in the incidence of autism since the mid-1980s, when officials approved and then mandated many new vaccines for children.


In the Geier study, the authors looked at the B[total] amount of thimerosal given to children rather than just the amount from any single vaccine. Other vaccine studies usually looked at only B[one] specific vaccine or only one specific medical condition.

As always, the dosage determines the effect.

Dr. Jane Orient writes in the January 2003 issue of the Civil Defense Perspectives newsletter []: "Using data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System maintained by the CDC and from the 2001 U.S. Department of Education report," Dr. Geier found "a strong correlation ... between dosage of thimerosal from childhood vaccines and the incidence of autism, speech disorders, and cardiac arrest, but not with common vaccine reactions such as fever, pain, and vomiting, or with other common childhood disabilities."


Most vaccines don't contain thimerosal; some other vaccines are available in thimerosal-free versions. We hope the current study will motivate manufacturers to package more vaccines free of thimerosal, such as in sterile, preservative-free single-dose vials. We also hope that scientists and drug companies will do more research into totally new kinds of disease prevention.

Most immediately, our hope and that of the Geiers is that "complete removal of thimerosal from all childhood vaccines will help to stem the tragic, apparently iatrogenic [medically caused] epidemic of autism and speech disorders."

And the heartbreak that goes with it.


As a parent if the vaccine isn't mercury free; don't agree.

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.


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