October 7

Canadian Lawsuit:Autism-Vaccine – Maclean’s

    <p> Canadian Lawsuit:Autism-Vaccine - Maclean's </p>        <p> Mon, 11 Nov 2002 </p>        <p> Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet: "It's garbage to say there's a reason to have           residual neurotoxicity in an injectable for a child. It's not a necessary           risk." </p>        <p> While scientists are unsure whether the mercury based vaccine preservative,           thimerosal, causes autism and other neurological disorders, there is           a possibility that it might. Thimerosal is used to prevent fungal and           bacterial growth in multi-dose vials of vaccine. The Canadian publication,           MacLeans, reports that alternative preservatives exist but are not universally           used. </p>        <p> Furthermore, single-dose vials would eliminate the need for thimerosal,           but would increase the cost of vaccines. So the issue is one of cost-benefit           economics in conflict with the ethical imperative to protect children           from unnecessary risks of harm. </p>        <p> Dr. Paul Varughese, head of vaccine-preventable disease surveillance           for Health Canada would shift the responsibility to parents: "Would           a parent prefer a child to have a disease," he asks, "as opposed to           a minute amount of mercury?" But Dr. Bradstreet, an autism specialist           who recently testified before a U.S. congressional committee, bristles           at the suggestion. "It's a pretty ugly choice for a parent. Why should           we put them in that position?" </p>        <p> Parents of children affected have filed class-action lawsuits in the           US and Canada. The vaccine issue demonstrates that litigation is the           necessary means for achieving needed protections. </p>        <p> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ </p>        <p> <a href="http://www.macleans.ca">http://www.macleans.ca</a> </p>        <p> MACLEAN'S ARCHIVE </p>        <p> Health October 7, 2002 </p>        <p> TO VACCINATE OR NOT </p>        <p> Has a mercury-based preservative caused autism? </p>        <p> DANYLO HAWALESHKA </p>        <p> EVERYTHING SEEMED FINE when tiny Robyn White came bouncing into the           world on Dec. 12, 1994. As parents do, Scott and Jasmin White of Oakville,           Ont., began taking young Robyn for her routine vaccinations. But at           the age of just eight months, shortly after her first hepatitis-B shot,           Robyn's eyes became crossed, she started flapping her hands and staring           into space, and her hearing became hypersensitive. She never developed           language skills. Last spring, her family filed a class-action lawsuit,           alleging their seven-year-old's inoculation caused her autism. The suit,           believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, claims that a mercury-based           preservative in the vaccine called thimerosal is responsible for Robyn's           neurological damage. The Whites now take their daughter to Dr. Jeffrey           Bradstreet, a Palm Bay, Fla.-based autism specialist who recently testified           on mercury in vaccines before a U.S. congressional committee. "It's           garbage to say there's a reason to have residual neurotoxicity in an           injectable for a child," says Bradstreet. "It's not a necessary risk."         </p>        <p> Did thimerosal cause Robyn's autism? Maybe, says Bradstreet, but he           doesn't know for sure. The case will take years to unravel. The Whites,           however, are an example of how public trust in vaccines is on the wane.           In the U.S., a raft of lawsuits claim thimerosal causes autism, attention           deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and speech or language delay.           The challenge is to separate medical fact from voodoo science. </p>        <p> Where should parents turn? Anti-vaccination Web sites tell horror           stories, but a study of 22 of them published in the Journal of the American           Medical Association in July found their content is largely unsupported           by peer-reviewed scientific literature. Thimerosal's critics, however,           are relentless in associating the agent with an apparent rise in autism           rates. There could be various explanations for higher numbers of autistic           children, including other environmental factors or simply an improvement           in doctors' ability to diagnose the condition. Still, some respected           health authorities are questioning the wisdom of injecting a heavy metal           like mercury into an infant with a developing nervous system. </p>        <p> Thimerosal is used to prevent fungal and bacterial growth in multi-dose           vials of vaccine. It guards against contamination when pediatricians           jab the same vial repeatedly to vaccinate one child after another. Single-dose           vials would eliminate the need for thimerosal, but they would cost more.           In Canada, thimerosal-free vaccines now exist for all routine infant           inoculations. But that is no reassurance for parents of children vaccinated           before the use of alternative preservatives. A hepatitis-B vaccine without           thimerosal became available last year, but a similar vaccine for high-risk           infants born to hep-B-infected mothers still contains the compound.           The diphtheria-pertussis (whooping cough)-tetanus vaccine had it until           the mid-1990s. It's still in vaccines for flu, in some for meningococcal           disease and in a number of special formulations for pertussis only,           for diphtheria and tetanus, and for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular           pertussis. </p>        <p> In the United States, thimerosal-free versions of routine inoculations           are also available, but untraceable quantities of several common vaccines           containing the substance are still in circulation. In developing countries,           there is no choice: even routine inoculations contain it. David Klein,           the Vancouver lawyer seeking class-action status for Robyn White's case,           suggests drug manufacturers switch to the available alternatives, "particularly           when children are getting an ever-increasing number of vaccines." </p>        <p> Unquestionably, vaccines are one of the great medical breakthroughs           of the past century. Until 1920, Canada had 12,000 cases of diphtheria           annually, with 1,000 deaths. Now there are fewer than five cases a year,           and no deaths. Dr. Joanne Embree, chairwoman of the Canadian Paediatric           Society's infectious diseases and immunization committee, assures vaccine-wary           parents that extremely small doses of thimerosal are not dangerous.           "If you're worried about something that is roughly the equivalent of           Elvis showing up at your doorstep, as opposed to the real risk of disease,"           says Embree, "then I get upset." In fact, no study has conclusively           linked thimerosal-containing vaccines to neurodegeneration. Equally           true, however, is that no one has studied the long-term effects of exposing           children to low doses of a mercury compound that has been in use for           almost 70 years. </p>        <p> This much is known: the human body breaks down thimerosal to form           ethylmercury, a chemical cousin of methylmercury, about which more is           known. In some studies, prenatal exposure to low doses of methylmercury           has been associated with subtle neurodevelopmental abnormalities. In           1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that under the           recommended childhood immunization schedule, some infants risked exposure           to cumulative doses of ethylmercury that exceeded some federal safety           guidelines governing exposure to methylmercury. Furthermore, high doses           of mercury compounds, including thimerosal, ethylmercury and methylmercury,           are known to be kidney and nerve toxins. In July 1999, the American           Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service recommended           removal of thimerosal from vaccines as soon as possible. </p>        <p> As public confidence eroded, the Institute of Medicine, which advises           the U.S. government on public health, created an independent committee           to review immunization safety. Its conclusion last October: don't give           vaccines containing the preservative to infants, children or pregnant           women, and do more research. "The evidence," it reported, "is inadequate           to accept or reject a causal relationship between exposure to thimerosal           from vaccines and the neurodevelopmental disorders of autism, ADHD and           speech or language delay." Still, because such a connection was "biologically           plausible," and because thimerosal has been administered in millions           of doses, it should be used cautiously while research continues. </p>        <p> In May, Health Canada posted a report on its Web site noting that           routine exposure to thimerosal in Canada has been eliminated. "As thimerosal-free           vaccines come to market," said the report, "it is prudent for Canada           to incorporate these products into immunization programs, to minimize           to the extent possible the total burden of organic mercury exposure           to children." In situations where a thimerosal-free alternative does           not yet exist, the report recommended vaccination given the higher risk           associated with disease. </p>        <p> Robyn White's lawsuit is at its earliest stage. Her father, Scott           White, declined to be interviewed. Co-defendant Merck Frosst Canada           & Co. had nothing to say, but a GlaxoSmithKline spokesman says the company           "firmly believes there is an absence of reliable scientific evidence           supporting the claim that harm is caused by pediatric vaccines containing           thimerosal." A similar but separate suit against Aventis Pasteur Ltd.,           also filed by Klein in Vancouver, claims the firm's diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus           vaccine caused autism in children inoculated in the '80s and '90s. </p>        <p> Ultimately, parents have to make a choice, says Dr. Paul Varughese,           head of vaccine-preventable disease surveillance for Health Canada.           "Would a parent prefer a child to have a disease," he asks, "as opposed           to a minute amount of mercury?" Robyn's doctor bristles at the suggestion.           "It's a pretty ugly choice for a parent," says Bradstreet. "Why should           we put them in that position?" </p>        <p> FAIR USE NOTICE: This may contain copyrighted (© ) material the use           of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright           owner. Such material is made available to advance understanding of ecological,           political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical,           and social justice issues, etc. It is believed that this constitutes           a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section           107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section           107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed           a prior general interest in receiving similar information for research           and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml           If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes of your own that           go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright           owner. </p>        

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