The origins of Donald Trump’s autism/vaccine theory and how it was completely debunked eons ago

Donald Trump confidently strode on stage Wednesday night and explained to millions of Americans on live television his version of the heart-rending science of why so many children are being diagnosed with autism these days.

“You take this little beautiful baby and you pump … ” he said, referring to mandatory childhood vaccines. “We had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

To be fair, as far as medical hypotheses go, Trump’s idea is not completely crazy. Or at least it wouldn’t be if this were still 1998.

That year, a well-respected journal published a paper by researcher Andrew Wakefield and 12 of his colleagues linking a standard measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism. Despite its tiny sample size of 12 and its speculative conclusions, the study was publicized far and wide — launching a global movement involving celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey (and of course Trump) who warned parents to stop vaccinating their children. The result was what public health officials reported was a dangerous drop in MMR vaccinations.


The problem: The study was an elaborate fraud.

Editors of the Lancet, which published the original piece, discovered that Wakefield had been funded by attorneys for parents who were pursuing lawsuits against vaccine companies and that a number of elements of the paper were misreported.

In February 2010, the journal retracted the piece, and in an investigative piece in 2011, in The BMJ found even more shenanigans in the way the study was conducted. Some parents of children in the study reported by Wakefield to have autism said they did not, and others who were listed in the study as having no problems before the vaccine actually had had developmental issues.

Journalist Brian Deer wrote: “No case was free of misreporting or alteration. Taken together … records cannot be reconciled with what was published, to such devastating effect, in the journal.”

Despite these revelations and reassurances from the federal health officials and other experts that vaccines are safe, the public remained fearful.

Much of the alarm came from the case of Hannah Poling — whose condition after she received five vaccines at 19 months old seemed to confirm every parent’s nightmare.

Hannah’s parents had described their child as interactive, playful and communicative before she got those shots but reported that after she got the vaccine, she develop problems with language, communication  and behavior, features of autism spectrum disorder.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine described the drama of what happened after her parents sued the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for compensation under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and won:

On March 6, 2008, the Polings took their case to the public. Standing before a bank of microphones from several major news organizations, Jon Poling said that “the results in this case may well signify a landmark decision with children developing autism following vaccinations.” For years, federal health agencies and professional organizations had reassured the public that vaccines didn’t cause autism. Now, with DHHS making this concession in a federal claims court, the government appeared to be saying exactly the opposite. Caught in the middle, clinicians were at a loss to explain the reasoning behind the VICP’s decision.

The issue became so controversial back then that dozens of studies were launched to address the question Wakefield posed.

The research, published in top journals including JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, is consistent and confident in its conclusions: There’s no link between autism and vaccines.

One of the largest was published in JAMA in April of this year and looked at 96,000 children in the United States and analyzed which ones got the shot and which ones were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. They found “no harmful association” between the two.

Another large study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002,  involved a half-million children in Denmark’s health registry. Its takeaway: “This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.”

On Thursday, medical associations and patient advocacy groups decried Trump’s remarks as false and potentially dangerous. The American Academy of Pediatrics said that “claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature.” Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy group, expressed similar sentiments noting that “extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.”

“The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism,” the organization said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explicitly states that there is no link between vaccines and autism, that vaccine ingredients do not cause autism  and that vaccines in general are very safe.

It cites numerous studies, including a 2013 study that looked at the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies, showed that the total amount from vaccines received was the same between children with autism and those without.

The CDC said it has looked specifically into thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in multidose vials of vaccines that has been a source of concern among those who believe in an autism-vaccine link, and found no link. A review in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.”

Today, most scientists believe that autism there is no single cause of autism, but that genetics and abnormalities in brain structure or function may play a role.

Jill Stein on vaccines: People have ‘real questions’

Asked whether she believes vaccines cause autism, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said corporate influence on federal agencies has caused “rampant distrust” of agencies that approve medication and food.

For a week, Jill Stein was everywhere that the Democratic National Convention was not. The Green Party’s likely candidate for president made drop-ins to a four-day Socialist Convergence at the Quaker meeting hall, rallied “Bernie or Bust” protesters outside the gates of Philadelphia’s sports complex and sat for interview after interview.

When she sat with The Washington Post’s Sarah Parnass and Alice Li, Stein explained her stance on something that had flared up during a Reddit AMA. Did she think vaccines were harmful?

“I think there’s no question that vaccines have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases — smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication,” Stein said. “Like any medication, they also should be — what shall we say? — approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem. That people do not trust a Food and Drug Administration, or even the CDC for that matter, where corporate influence and the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of influence.”

“Monsanto lobbyists help run the day in those agencies and are in charge of approving what food isn’t safe,” said Stein, whose platform calls for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “There is rampant distrust of our institutions of government right now. The trust level for the presidency is somewhere around 15 percent. The strong confidence in Congress is somewhere around 4 percent, and the same is true of our regulatory agencies.”

Stein went on to explain that she’d studied the value of vaccines and come out with questions.

“As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved,” Stein said. “There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.”

“We have a real compelling need for vaccinations,” Stein said. “It requires an agency that we can trust to sort through all of those concerns. To assure the American public, whether it’s vaccinations, whether it’s administering estrogen to, you know, treat symptoms of menopause, or at one point it was the solution to prevent Alzheimer’s and then it was discovered — oh, my goodness — it may actually contribute to Alzheimer’s — it’s really important that the American public have confidence in our regulatory boards so that all of our medical treatments and medications actually are approved by people who do not have a vested interest in their promotion. In my experience, this is not a radical idea. This is basic common sense.”

Cancer doctors leading campaign to boost use of HPV vaccine


The nation’s leading cancer doctors are pushing pediatricians and other providers to help increase use of the HPV vaccine, which studies show could help avert tens of thousands of cancer cases during young Americans’ lives. Yet a decade after its controversial introduction, the vaccine remains stubbornly underused even as some of those diseases surge.

The vaccine’s low uptake among preteens and adolescents belies its universally acknowledged effectiveness in preventing the most common sexually transmitted infections linked to the human papillomavirus. Those infections can cause a half-dozen cancers, including more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers; 70 percent of vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal, or middle throat, cancers; and 60 percent of penile cancers.

The oncologists’ goal is to rebrand the vaccine to focus on cancer prevention. They are determined to dismantle what researchers say is the No. 1 obstacle to wider inoculation: pediatricians and family doctors who aren’t strongly recommending the vaccine.

We have a vaccine for certain cancers. Why don’t more people get it?

Studies show that a forceful endorsement from a physician is the most important factor in whether children get the vaccine, which is recommended for ages 11 and 12. Yet a frustrating level of “provider hesitancy” persists.

“The failure belongs to us,” acknowledged Jason Terk, a pediatrician in Keller, Tex. “It’s an epic fail.”

Terk has been working with experts at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to spread the word. Lois Ramondetta, one of the hospital’s gynecologic oncologists, has taken to the road to meet with practitioners across the state.

Last month, she delivered a blunt message to the staff of Su Clinica in Harlingen, deep in the state’s south valley: If they didn’t increase HPV vaccination of their young patients, those youths would face a greater risk of developing deadly cancers as adults. Boys would be especially vulnerable to throat cancers, a growing scourge of middle-aged men.

“If you are not recommending the vaccine, you are not doing your job,” Ramondetta said. “It’s the equivalent of having patients in their 50s and not recommending a colonoscopy — and then having them come back with cancer.”


For Su Clinica’s doctors, the candid discussion hit home and quickly prompted changes in some procedures. Gynecologist Rose Gowen said many of the staff were especially surprised by the urgent need to vaccinate boys.

Ramondetta understands why the challenges are so pervasive. “Pediatricians never see the cancers caused by HPV, so some of them don’t recognize the vaccine’s importance in preventing cancer,” she said. “They don’t know how to talk about it with patients, or they wait too long. And their knowledge level is not where it should be.”

While the HPV vaccination rate varies widely from state to state, it has ticked up nationally over the past few years. Yet the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in 2014, 40 percent of teenage girls and 22 percent of boys had gotten all three doses. That’s far below the 80 percent to 90 percent rate for the vaccine booster for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — as well as for the shot to prevent meningitis — that most states require for middle-schoolers.

The 64,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics has urged members to use the vaccine. But Cleveland pediatrician Margaret Stager, who works on adolescent health issues for the organization, said it remains “brand-new territory” for many doctors, especially older physicians.

“They have seen whooping cough, meningitis, measles and mumps and have real-life evidence of the power of vaccines to save lives,” she said. “Now we have a whole new fundamental concept, because this vaccine is trying to prevent cancer several decades from now.”

A 2014 U.S. study, for example, projected that nearly 29,000 additional cases of cervical cancer would be averted over young girls’ lifetimes with a vaccination rate of 80 percent compared with 50 percent. Cancer doctors hope that pressing the case with such statistics can provide reinforcement for public health officials at the CDC and in state and local governments, as well as for the other medical groups encouraging doctors and parents.

Much of their current activity dates to 2013 when the President’s Cancer Panel, alarmed by how the HPV vaccination rate was leveling out, called for a drastic acceleration. The National Cancer Institute funded several efforts to identify barriers to vaccination, and earlier this year, all 69 NCI-designated cancer centers issued a first-of-its kind consensus statement saying the HPV vaccine was “tragically underused” and calling on doctors to strongly recommend it. The American Society of Clinical Oncology followed with a similar statement.

Meanwhile, the NCI is planning a large clinical trial to determine whether a single dose would be as effective as the current regimen. That could sharply accelerate utilization, especially in developing countries, where cervical cancer is among the deadliest cancers.

“We’re doing this to help the women of the world,” said NCI acting director Douglas Lowy, who was instrumental in discoveries that paved the way for the vaccine.

About 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, and 14 million become newly infected each year. While the body’s immune system clears most of the infections, high-risk strains are directly linked to 27,000 new cancers a year.

The vaccine is recommended for preteens because their bodies have the most robust responses, and it works best before sexual activity begins. (Intercourse isn’t necessary to contract HPV.) In 2006, the vaccine was first approved as Gardasil for girls, followed a few years later for boys, amid controversy that has never completely dissipated. Critics questioned the safety of the vaccine, made by Merck, and said it would encourage teenagers to be promiscuous — concerns that research has shown to be unfounded.

Ruth Marroquin, 13, looks away as she is vaccinated against HPV. (Matthew Busch for The Washington Post)

Unlike other childhood shots, the one for HPV isn’t required by most states; only Virginia, Rhode Island and the District have mandates. The vaccination rate varies sharply across the country, with relatively high rates in the Northeast and California and lower rates in the South.

Yet the vaccine is having an impact overall. A CDC study published earlier this year showed that the prevalence of the virus was reduced by almost two-thirds among teenage girls, compared with the years before the vaccine became available.

And this month, Merck announced that a review of 58 studies published in the last decade in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand found that vaccination sharply reduced cervical pre-
cancers and genital warts.

As for side effects, the most common are swelling and pain at the injection site, with occasional fainting. Several large studies over the past decade have more than proved the vaccine’s safety, the CDC says


But the concerns of some parents still aren’t assuaged. Aimee Gardiner, who is leading a group to repeal the Rhode Island mandate, said she won’t have her children inoculated. “I don’t think the risks of HPV are high enough to warrant getting the vaccine,” she said.

Similarly, the National Vaccine Information Center, an advocacy group founded by parents who opposed routine childhood inoculations, continues to raise questions about the research behind the HPV vaccine and its safety.

In Texas, Terk says he advises fellow pediatricians to recommend the shots in a matter-of-fact manner, to “bundle it” with other inoculations and to avoid talking about sex unless asked. “If you approach it in a confident, presumptive way, many parents will say, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” he said.

The HPV vaccine has a fraught history in Texas. In 2007, Republican Rick Perry became the nation’s first governor to require girls to get the vaccine, which caused a firestorm in part because of his close relationship with a former chief of staff who was a lobbyist for Merck. The Legislature overturned the mandate.

MD Anderson has been leading a major HPV initiative since 2014 that involves other cancer centers, pediatricians, nurses and school officials. During a meeting last summer, 69-year-old Michael Terry described his struggle with HPV-related throat cancer, saying, “You need to know how miserable it is to suffer from this disease.”

Terry, whose father was Luther Terry, the 1960s-era U.S. surgeon general who issued a landmark report about the dangers of tobacco, talked about undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and about living with splitting headaches, neck aches and difficulties swallowing. His concluding plea: “Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, boys and girls.”


In the fall, pediatrician Lori Anderson took a couple of pediatric residents from her community health clinic in Corpus Christi to hear Ramondetta speak at a Texas Pediatric Society meeting. The oncologist showed an emotionally wrenching documentary about cervical cancer called “Someone You Love.” When the lights went up, some of the doctors were in tears.

“I think it was an ‘aha moment’ for the residents,” Anderson said. With her help, they organized a recent school health fair in the beach community of Port Aransas.

Two dozen children got vaccinated against HPV.

What you need to know about those new, deadly heart-surgery infections

Coronary artery bypass surgery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned open-heart surgery patients recently that they were at risk of a deadly infection linked to a medical device used during their operations. Now, worried consumers say they are having a hard time getting information from hospitals and doctors about what they should do.More than a half-million patients could have been exposed to bacteria that can cause serious illness or death. That’s the estimated number of patients who had open-chest surgery involving potentially contaminated equipment in the past several years. The bacteria are a type of nontuberculous mycobacteria, or NTM. Although infections are rare, experts are worried because patients may not develop symptoms or signs of infection for months, so diagnosis may be missed or delayed.

The device is a heater-cooler unit, which helps keep a patient’s circulating blood at a specific temperature during operations. It’s used in an estimated 250,000 surgeries in the United States every year, including cardiac bypass, valve replacement and  liver transplants. About 60 percent of these procedures use the German-made model that has been linked to the infections, the Stöckert 3T heater-cooler, made by LivaNova PLC, formerly Sorin Group Deutschland GmbH.

The CDC is advising hospitals to notify patients who had open-chest surgery involving these devices going back to Jan. 1, 2012. There is new information that indicates these devices were probably contaminated during manufacturing.

The Washington Post’s Lena H. Sun spoke with consumer advocates and health experts, including CDC’s Mike Bell, deputy director of health-care quality promotion, about what patients should do.

How do I know if I need to be worried?

If you’re not having symptoms, there’s nothing you need to do. But patients who have had open-heart surgery should seek medical care if they’re having nonspecific symptoms associated with infections, such as night sweats, muscle aches or pain, weight loss, fatigue or unexplained fever.

What if I don’t have symptoms but want to make sure my doctors know about this situation?

The CDC has a sample letter that patients can download, customize and take to their cardiologist or family doctor or whomever you see for ongoing medical care. The letter explains the risk of infection and CDC’s recommendation that clinicians consider NTM as a potential cause of unexplained chronic illness.

“Patients should say to their doctors, ‘I want you to put this in my file and be aware this could happen. If I start having infection symptoms, I want to be tested,’ ” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.

What if my open-chest surgery took place before Jan. 1, 2012?

The CDC’s Bell said the vast majority of infections flare up within four years of exposure. But regardless of when you had this type of surgery, if you are having symptoms, you should contact your health-care provider as soon as possible.

Are there any drugs I can take to prevent these infections?

Currently, there aren’t any safe prophylactic treatments.

Are these infections treatable?

Yes. A specific combination of antibiotics can treat NTM infections.

Why is the CDC worried about these devices?

Researchers have found that fans on these units may blow bacteria from inside the machine into the operating room. If the bacteria land on a heart valve that is about to be implanted or a surgical wound, it could cause an infection.

How many hospitals do this kind of operation in the United States?

An estimated 1,200 hospitals in the United States perform bypass operations, according to federal government sources.

What if my hospital used a different brand of heater-cooler?

These machines operate in similar ways. They could be contaminated in similar ways and also pose infection risk.

What is the risk of infection?

In hospitals where at least one infection has been identified and linked to the device in question, the risk was low, between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000. CDC officials say patients who had valves or other prosthetic implants are at higher risk.

How long does it usually take for these infections to show up?

It may take months and up to several years after the operation. Virtually all the cases reported so far in Europe and the United States have occurred within four years of surgery.

What are these bacteria? Can an infected person spread it to others?

NTM is common in water and soil. The bacteria rarely make healthy people sick. The danger arises when these bacteria enter the chest cavity or an open wound, especially in someone with a weakened immune system. The bacteria cannot be spread to others.

How many illnesses and deaths have been linked to these infections?

Between January 2010 and August 2016, the FDA received 91 reports from around the world about these devices. At least 79 were patient infections, with 55 in the United States. The infections include at least 12 deaths, including seven U.S. deaths. (In some cases, a report may describe a cluster of patients. In other cases, more than one report may be submitted from the same incident.)

Hospitals in Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania have reported infections.

Is there a test to know whether I’ve been exposed?

There is no such test. Infections can only be diagnosed by growing the bacteria in a lab. But that may take up to two months or longer. What’s more, getting the right kind of specimen depends on where the infection is. It could be in the blood, or it might show up in an infected wound.

“It has to be cultured under the right circumstance so the finicky bacteria will actually grow,” Bell said.

Why hasn’t my hospital notified me? There’s nothing on the website, and I can’t reach a person who knows anything.

Many patients say they’re frustrated by their inability to find out anything from the hospital where the operation took place. The hospitals have been getting alerts for the past year from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. But the CDC and FDA don’t have authority to require hospitals to notify patients. The American Hospital Association, an industry association, says it has advised its members to review and determine how best to follow the CDC recommendations. But Jay Bhatt, the AHA’s chief medical officer, said it takes time to review records and identify patients who might have been affected

How many of these Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices are there? Why haven’t these devices been recalled?

As of July 2015, the company publicly reported there were 1,914 devices in health-care facilities around the world, including in the United States. In 2015, the company recalled the instructions for use, but not the device itself. The FDA imposed an import alert in December 2015. The devices are critical for lifesaving surgery, and a recall could result in many patients being harmed.

I’m supposed to have elective surgery to have a heart valve replaced. Should I postpone the surgery?

For nonemergency surgeries, patients might want to ask their doctors if they have the option of waiting for a little while, says CDC’s Bell. Patients should make sure their surgeons and hospitals disclose these risks, in writing, during the pre-surgery informed-consent discussions.

What are hospitals doing in the meantime?

Hospitals are working through the logistics involved in notifying patients.

“Facilities are not well set up to receive a large number of public calls,” said Bell. He said hospitals in Pennsylvania and Iowa that had clusters of infections had to set up a special telephone number to receive inquiries and guide people to the next step.

Hospital officials are also looking to find ways to minimize the risk of infection, such as keeping the devices outside the operating room, or looking for alternative machines that don’t have fans, Bell said.

“Every hospital is thinking about how to make this problem no longer exist,” he said.


More parents believe vaccines are ‘unnecessary,’ while a mumps outbreak grows

The contrast between parents’ attitudes about vaccines today and a decade ago is striking. A survey published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that more and more moms and dads are refusing the shots for their children.

Much of the blame for this phenomenon can be attributed to continuing claims from everyone from actor Jim Carrey to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the link between vaccines and autism — an idea that originated with a paper later shown to be fraudulent and that numerous scientific teams have tested exhaustively and found to be untrue. But while many parents’ scrutiny of vaccines may have been triggered by the autism theories, they have grown beyond those initial concerns.

That’s a big change, but the more interesting part of the survey is why.

In 2006, the No. 1 reason parents were refusing vaccines was because of concerns about the ingredient thimerosal causing autism. In 2006, 74 said it was about autism. In 2013, that number had declined to 64 percent.

Now, more parents are refusing the vaccine on the grounds that they are “unnecessary” — 73.1 percent in 2013 vs. 63.4 percent in 2006. Moreover, even parents who believe in vaccines appear to be delaying the shots that are supposed to be given on a strict schedule to maximize their effectiveness. Seventy-five percent of pediatricians said that parents asked for delays because of worries about their child’s “discomfort” and 72.5 percent because of a concern “for immune system burden.”


That’s stunning because of the scary history of infectious disease in this country. Polio once killed and paralyzed by the hundreds. An outbreak in New York City in 1916 left an estimated 27,000 people infected and 6,000 dead. The disease is now making a comeback in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan because of poor immunization rates. In a 1964-65 rubella outbreak that is being compared to what’s going on today with Zika, 1,000 babies miscarried or were aborted, and 20,000 others were born with defects because of rubella. A rubella vaccine is now one of the standard vaccines given in childhood.

The rapid speed at which a modern outbreak can spread was underscored in 2014-2015 when a single unvaccinated child with measles at Disneyland in California started an outbreak that spread to 146 people, many of whom were also unvaccinated. There were no deaths, but many became so seriously ill that they had to be hospitalized.

A lot of the recent controversy over vaccines has focused on a new vaccine for HPV, or human papillomavirus, for preteens or teenagers. The adoption of this vaccine has been low, in part because parents and pediatricians may be reluctant to discuss the fact that it protects against a sexually transmitted virus. Health officials have been focusing on the vaccine’s effectiveness for preventing cancer instead.

Health officials said that some of those infected had been vaccinated, leading them to wonder whether there is a new strain going around, but that they still believe immunization provides the best precaution and urged everyone in the area who has not gotten the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to get it right away. “We’re trying to prevent this from getting larger,” Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County’s health commissioner, told ABC News.

The AAP expressed alarm about the findings of the study, stating that “parental noncompliance” with the recommended schedule of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is an increasing public health concern.”

If the AAP’s urging and the description of some of these outbreaks isn’t enough to persuade you to get yourself or your kids vaccinated, there’s also this.

The pediatrician survey also showed that more doctors are pushing back at parents who refuse vaccines for their children. In 2006, only 6.1 percent said they “always” dismiss patients for this. In 2014, 11.7 percent said they always dismiss patients. So if you continue to refuse vaccines, it’s your right — but it may be harder to find a pediatrician willing to support that choice than before.

7 things about vaccines and autism that the movie ‘Vaxxed’ won’t tell you


Karman Willmer, left, and Shelby Messenger protest SB277, a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, at a rally last June in Sacramento.  

On its surface, the movie “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” appears to be a slickly produced scientific documentary with lots of charts and data about one of the most important issues of our time. The central premise of the film is that the country’s mandatory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine — when given to children under age 2 — may be leading to an epidemic of autism diagnoses.

It contains heartbreaking footage of happy, laughing toddlers who, their parents say, became profoundly disabled almost overnight after receiving the shot. It explains the findings of a study that confirms the link and unearths recordings from a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who purportedly claimed the government quashed findings of the connection.

But what the movie doesn’t get into is as compelling as what it does present. There are numerous facts, backstories and events that the filmmakers pretend didn’t happen that challenge many of the main points of the film. Here’s what you need to know to put “Vaxxed” into context:

1) The most important thing to know is that the link between vaccines and autism has been debunked — widely and repeatedly. The original study that raised the issue was published in 1998 in the journal the Lancet and involved 12 patients who, after receiving the MMR vaccine, suffered ill effects that appeared to be autism. While many researchers were skeptical of the finding, panicked parents in both Great Britain and the United States pushed vaccination rates down sharply. Outbreaks of the measles, mumps and rubella on both sides of the Atlantic soon followed.

In 2004, Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer reported serious ethical violations by the 1998 paper’s lead author, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Deer accused Wakefield of having been paid by a law firm that had been planning to sue vaccine manufacturers and of subjecting some of the children to unnecessary, invasive procedures for the study. After the revelations, most of the researchers named as co-authors in the study disavowed the findings and withdrew their names from the paper. In 2010, the Lancet’s editors retracted the paper. Three months later, Britain’s General Medical Council revoked Wakefield’s medical license.

In 2011, the British medical journal the BMJ published a detailed investigation into the research, calling it an “elaborate fraud” by Wakefield and lamenting the harm it had caused and would continue to cause to the public health.

“It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee told CNN at the time. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

2) The director of “Vaxxed” — and the main expert who appears on camera — is that same Andrew Wakefield.

3) Actor Robert De Niro, who has an autistic son, originally lobbied to put the film on the schedule for the Tribeca Film Festival in March. But several days later, he said he had a change of heart.

“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family,” he said in a statement. “But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

Thompson has remained silent on the matter, but the other researcher, biologist Brian Hooker, has released a statement saying that Thompson would be publishing a paper soon that shows no link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African American males after all.

Hooker said he is “suspect of any analysis coming from the CDC due to the historic nature of the agency’s scientific misconduct and conflicts of interest specifically around any link between vaccines and autism.” He also detailed his conversations with Thompson:

Dr. William Thompson, senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contacted me during 2013 and 2014 and shared many issues regarding fraud and malfeasance in the CDC, specifically regarding the link between neurodevelopmental disorders and childhood vaccines. Dr. Thompson and I spoke on the phone more than 40 times over a 10 month period and he shared thousands of pages of CDC documents with me. Eventually, Dr. Thompson turned this information over to Congress via Rep. Bill Posey of Florida.

5) While the issue of vaccines and autism still comes up regularly — as it did when presidential contender Donald Trump mentioned his belief in the theory in a debate last year — most scientists consider the connection between vaccines and autism to be discredited. Dozens of top journals — including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders — have published papers that looked into a possible link and found none.

A study in JAMA in April 2015 was one of the largest; it involved an analysis of 96,000 children. The authors wrote that their findings “indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and [autism spectrum disorder] even among children already at higher risk.”

Other reviewers weren’t so generous. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan called it “closer to horror film than documentary.” Stat’s Rebecca Robbins commented on the film’s “paranoid tone.” The Age’s Sarah Gill warned: “Don’t be fooled — Wakefield’s story is not the tale of a man wronged by powerful corporations or the medical establishment, which, in fact, closed ranks to protect him. It’s the story of a physician who set out to cast doubt on vaccine safety before he’d even gathered the evidence, and he did so not for the public good, but for private gain.”

Medical detectives raced to save a man from a rare, ‘universally lethal’ disease

Erich Burger, of Baltimore, is recovering at home from a rare and often fatal disease.

The problems started after Erich Burger returned from an unforgettable safari in Botswana and Zambia last month.

The Baltimore software engineer got sick the day after he got home. He headed to a community hospital after about a week of fever and chills, thinking he might have malaria given his recent travel to Africa.

Clinicians took a detailed travel history, admitted him to the intensive care unit as his blood pressure plummeted and ordered blood tests. A sharp-eyed hematology technician discovered when she looked in her microscope that he was suffering from a disease so rare in the United States that it has been seen only 40 times in the past 50 years. The disease is one of the few “universally lethal” infections: It always kills unless it is treated, and it kills quickly.

It is often what went wrong that dictates the course of stories about exotic diseases or the challenge of diagnosis. But in this case, the opposite was true: At every step, Burger encountered health-care workers who did the right thing at the right time, with little precedent for their decisions, while everyone raced the clock.


Burger, 48, spent about four weeks this fall in Botswana and Zambia with his wife, Bernadette, his brother, Dorsey, a wildlife biologist, and friend, Patrick Sosnowski. It was a reunion of a safari trip they had taken together two decades earlier. They roamed game parks without guides, driving 30 to 60 miles a day in rented Toyota Land Cruisers, spotting wildlife that included lions, elephants, hyenas, even a python.

Burger and his wife returned to Baltimore on Nov. 19. When he developed fever, aches and chills the next day, he thought he had picked up a minor bug — and that the long flights were catching up with him. He got progressively worse and had to skip Thanksgiving at a relative’s house.

On Monday, Nov. 28, Burger went to his primary care doctor. Initial blood tests showed some troubling indicators, such as elevated readings of liver enzymes. The doctor suggested over-the-counter medication to control the fever. But by Dec. 1, Burger had nausea and was having bad night sweats and difficulty getting out of bed. His wife drove him to the emergency room at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, Md., the hospital where his doctor is affiliated.

Burger could barely stand. His blood pressure had fallen to 70 over 52 millimeters of mercury; a typical reading is 120 over 80. For several hours, Burger received intravenous fluids to stabilize his blood pressure before being admitted to the intensive care unit.

“He was very sick. Once that top number is much below 100, it’s often associated with a patient who is in shock,” said David Vitberg, the ICU doctor at GBMC who oversaw Burger’s care.

The ER team took his travel history, including the specific countries he had visited. Like Burger, doctors thought malaria was the most likely suspect, even though he had taken anti-malarial medication. The ICU team started Burger on medication to treat malaria and sent his blood to the lab for a positive diagnosis.

A panic alert

The order for a blood parasite test was at the top of Gail Wilson’s to-do list when she arrived for work at 7 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2. She has worked for 22 years as a medical technologist, the last two at GBMC. She knew the procedure would take several hours. The blood smears — one thin and one thick — needed to dry for three hours first before a stain could be applied that would highlight any parasites.

Looking at his blood cells under a microscope, she realized he didn’t have malaria. Instead, she found a rare and lethal parasite most clinicians have only seen in textbooks. Wilson had to look really hard because “there were just a few on my slide and could have easily been missed,” she said. But there they were, some purplish-blue parasites that looked “like a wavy kind of ribbon with a dot in the middle,” she said. Wilson recognized the distinctive shape from competency exams she is required to take every year.

“When I first saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ ” recalled Wilson. “I knew it was serious and that the patient could die.”

After conferring with colleagues and supervisors, she notified Burger’s nurse that the blood parasite screen was positive for trypanosome parasites. The notification was a panic alert reserved for lab tests that show extreme or unusual results. Wilson realized that Burger had African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness — a deadly disease spread by the tsetse fly.

It was 10:55 a.m.

Among infections, African trypanosomiasis is in a special category.

“Unlike almost any other infection, this is a death sentence if it’s not treated,” said Theresa Shapiro, a clinical pharmacology professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who has spent much of her career studying the disease. Along with HIV and rabies, sleeping sickness is one of the few “universally lethal” diseases: they are always fatal without treatment.

The disease has two forms, both transmitted by the tsetse fly, which lives only in rural Africa. The parasites for both forms look identical.

West African trypanosomiasis accounts for virtually all reported cases of sleeping sickness, according to the World Health Organization. A person can be infected for months or years without major signs or symptoms of the disease.

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches. But left untreated, the disease progresses to the central nervous system after one to two years, leading to personality changes, daytime sleepiness and progressive confusion, according to the CDC. Death usually occurs in about three years.

East African trypanosomiasis is more rare but kills within months. Nearly all cases are reported in parts of eastern and southeastern Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. People at greatest risk are tourists, hunters and others working in or visiting game parks, where hoofed animals are the main reservoirs for the parasite that causes the disease and tsetse flies are common.

Fighting Neglect: Sleeping Sickness

Sleeping sickness is a fatal and much neglected disease that plagues parts of Africa. Sleeping sickness is a fatal and much neglected disease that plagues parts of Africa.

Over the past century, the disease has caused several epidemics in Africa, and those hardest hit live in the most remote parts of the continent. In the United States, most cases of sleeping sickness have been in travelers such as Burger, on safari in East Africa.

Within seconds of Wilson’s panic alert, the information popped up in Burger’s electronic medical record. Vitberg and the rest of Burger’s medical team happened to be in his room during their daily rounds.

“I think I said, ‘Holy cow, I’ve never seen that before,’ ” Vitberg recalled. He knew that making a diagnosis of African trypanosomiasis in the United States was “probably a once-in-a-medical career experience.” He wanted to make absolutely sure. On the laptop, he immediately pulled up an online medical reference, an industry standard known as UpToDate, and rifled through the sections on the disease.

He asked Burger whether he remembered being bitten by tsetse flies, “and he was immediately able to tell me he was bitten when he was in Africa,” Vitberg recalled.

Burger suspects he was bitten by tsetse flies while walking through game parks. “They’re sizable and they hurt and they tend to land on you and they stay,” Burger said. Once, he had a dozen flies on his back. It was too hot to wear anything but shorts and T-shirts, he said. Insect repellent is not particularly effective against tsetse flies, which can bite through lightweight clothing.

Immediately, the diagnosis shifted from a consideration to near 100 percent confidence.

What was worse, Burger’s medical team knew he must have the fast-acting East African form of the disease because of his travel history and because he got sick so quickly after infection.

But no one knew which stage of the disease he had, and the treatments are different — and dangerous.

Within minutes, the hospital’s infectious disease doctor, Alina Sanda, started making calls, including to the CDC’s 24-hour parasitic diseases hotline, to ask for help. The drugs to treat the disease are extremely toxic, and only the CDC has a supply. Sanda, with seven years as an infectious disease doctor, had only learned about sleeping sickness in theory.

“I never took care of a patient with it, so that made me anxious and worried,” she said.

Unable to reach someone at the CDC right away — she left a message on a recording — Sanda contacted an infectious disease colleague at Hopkins for help. Robin McKenzie, an infectious disease specialist, had never treated African trypanosomiasis, either. But she was able to reach an epidemiologist at CDC’s parasitic diseases branch.

It was just before 2 p.m.

‘The stakes are very high’

At the CDC, epidemiologist Eugene Liu spoke with both infectious disease experts, consulted with another CDC expert and began putting the wheels in motion for the agency to get the medicine and transport it to Baltimore. His background is also infectious disease, but he had also never cared for a patient with African trypanosomiasis.

“It is very rare, even for the CDC,” he said.

GBMC sent electronic images of the blood smear to Atlanta, and the CDC lab confirmed it showed the lethal parasites.

But now a critical question loomed.

Which medicines to send? The medications differ depending on the form of the disease and how far the infection has spread. Suramin, discovered in 1920, is used to treat patients with the East African form if the parasites are only in blood. But if the parasites have reached the central nervous system, a much more toxic medication is the only treatment. Called melarsoprol, it is basically arsenic.

“Between five and 10 percent of people die from the treatment because it’s so toxic,” said Shapiro, the Hopkins sleeping sickness expert. Untreated, the patients always die. “So the stakes are very high,” she said.

The CDC, which maintains a stockpile of therapeutics to treat rare, serious or life-threatening diseases, decided to send both medicines, just in case. By then, the agency’s regular drug service was closed. Liu had to get the medicines from an emergency supply at the Parasitic Diseases Branch.

He wrapped 10 ampuls of the melarsoprol and five vials of suramin in bubble wrap and put them in a package marked with a red-and-white “emergency medical supply” label. The agency’s Emergency Operations Center arranged for the medicine to be flown on a Delta Air Lines flight leaving Atlanta at 10 p.m. for Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Liu waited outside the agency’s security gate for the courier. There would be no charge for the medicine or the emergency transportation.

The only way to tell whether Burger had parasites in his central nervous system was by performing a spinal tap to collect the clear fluid that circulates in the space surrounding the spine and brain. But there was concern about when to do the spinal tap. If the infection had not yet spread to the central nervous system, injecting a needle into Burger’s back could make things worse.

“Often when you do a spinal tap, as you push the needle through the skin and muscle, you drag in red blood cells from those tissues,” Vitberg said. That could introduce parasites from the blood into the spinal column.

By then, it became clear that Hopkins, an academic medical center with more resources and expertise, would be better equipped to treat Burger than GBMC, a community hospital. Burger arrived by ambulance at Hopkins on Friday evening. The medicines from the CDC arrived a few hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3.

Burger got his first dose of suramin on Saturday, an intravenous treatment that lasted four hours. That allowed the drug to reduce the level of parasites in his blood so doctors could do a spinal tap the next day to check for parasites or evidence of infection in his spinal fluid.

The results showed no parasites and no sign of infection. “That was a big relief for me,” Burger said.

Within days, he was feeling better. On Dec. 8, he was discharged, one week after he showed up in the emergency room.

He still needs one more treatment, on Friday. And doctors must monitor him closely because the drug can be toxic to the kidneys and liver. He has developed an itchy rash on his arms, legs and chest.

But he feels lucky and grateful to the CDC and the personnel at both hospitals, especially to technician Wilson who first spotted the parasite. She, more than anyone, saved his life. He’s thinking of framing the electronic image of the parasite from her blood test, but he may hold off. He still needs to have a spinal tap every six months for the next two years to make sure the parasites aren’t lurking in his nervous system. And he doesn’t want to press his luck.

And yet, he would not hesitate to travel to Africa again.

“Really, my answer has always been, of course I’ll go back to Africa,” said Burger, who has made several trips, starting when he was 15. “I don’t want to go through life too frightened of the risks to actually live and enjoy. I’m not going to stop traveling because a fly bit me.”

New data shows a deadly measles complication is more common than thought

A complication of measles that kills children years after they have been infected is more common than previously thought, according to disturbing data released Friday.

The research, presented at IDWeek, the annual meeting of four professional infectious disease organizations, underscores the critical importance of vaccination for everyone who is eligible. Such widespread vaccination, which results in herd immunity, protects children who can’t be immunized. Particularly vulnerable are babies, who typically get the vaccine known as MMR, for measles, mumps and rubella at 12 months of age.

The complication is a neurological disorder that can lie dormant for years and then is 100 percent fatal. Researchers don’t know what causes the virus to reactivate, and there is no cure once it does. The only way to prevent the disorder is by vaccinating everyone possible against measles.

Measles is an extremely contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus. Once common in the United States, it was eliminated nationally in 2000, but has made a comeback, mostly because of the growing number of people who refuse to vaccinate their children or delay those vaccinations, experts say.

The first MMR dose is typically administered at 12 to 15 months of age. (Babies may be vaccinated at age 6 months or older if they are at risk of exposure to measles, for instance if they are traveling to an area with an outbreak.) Unvaccinated babies can be infected with measles and later develop this complication, which is called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE.

“This is really frightening and we need to see that everyone gets vaccinated,” James Cherry, a study author and expert on pediatrics and infectious diseases at UCLA’s medical school, said at a press conference Friday. He said the findings suggest that other cases of SSPE are likely occurring and being missed.

Many parents who intentionally refuse to vaccinate their children believe “they are trying to do the right thing,” said Gary Marshall, a pediatrics professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. “Unfortunately, they’re mistaken. The right thing to do to protect their children is to vaccinate them to prevent them from getting measles and getting a horrible complication.”

In 2014, the United States experienced a record 667 cases of measles, the largest number since the disease’s elimination here, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One major outbreak occurred primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.

In 2015, there were 189 cases, with 131 cases linked to an outbreak at Disneyland, that put Orange County in California at the center of the worst measles outbreak in that state in 15 years. Twenty-four cases involved children under age 2 who are now at risk of developing the always-fatal SSPE, said Jennifer Zipprich of the California Department of Public Health.


Vaccinating a very high proportion of the population — typically about 90 percent regardless of the disease — ensures herd immunity, which means those who can’t be inoculated are still protected because the disease is less likely to spread. The MMR vaccine isn’t recommended until after a first birthday because children retain some of their mother’s antibodies until that age, making the vaccine less effective, experts say. Others who can’t get vaccinated include people with immune system disorders.

The researchers analyzed cases of California children who got measles between 1998 and 2015, finding that 1 in 1,387 were younger than 5 when they were infected. They identified 17 cases of SSPE during that period, all of whom had measles before being vaccinated. All but one of those patients have died. A 5-year-old boy, who was infected during travel to Germany, is now in hospice, unable to move or respond to commands, researchers said.

The average age of SSPE diagnosis was 12, but the range was from 3 to 35 years. Many of the patients had ongoing cognitive or movement problems before they were definitively diagnosed. SSPE typically progresses in stages. Initially, the signs are subtle, starting with behavioral problems, Cherry said. Then seizures develop until the person becomes comatose.

An additional suprising finding is that Asians are disproportionately affected by SSPE, Cherry said. He is not sure why but suspects the disorder could behave like some other diseases, such as influenza, which seem to hit Asians harder and cause higher mortality than other ethnic groups.

Measles infection causes fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat and rash. The virus spreads throughout the body and is usually cleared within 14 days. In rare cases, the virus spreads to the brain but then becomes dormant. Eventually, that can lead to SSPE and result in death.

Among other severe complications of measles, as many as 1 of every 20 children will develop pneumonia — actually the most common cause of death from measles in young children. And about 1 of every 1,000 children will develop encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.

Because there is a 5 percent failure rate with the MMR vaccine, a second dose is given to children before they begin school. Measles is so contagious that 95 percent of people need to be vaccinated with two doses to protect those who aren’t, experts say. That means all who are eligible, including adults who haven’t been previously vaccinated, should receive two doses of the vaccine.

Nearly 92 percent of U.S. children 19 to 35 months old have received the MMR vaccine, according to the CDC. Through Oct. 8, 54 people from 16 states were reported to have measles this year.

Parents are insisting on doctors who insist on vaccinations

Avis Meeks Day, a pediatrician at the Austin Regional Clinic in Texas, examines a girl. Last year, the clinic announced it would no longer accept new patients who aren’t getting fully vaccinated.

Pediatricians around the country, faced with persistent opposition to childhood vaccinations, are increasingly grappling with the difficult decision of whether to dismiss those families from their practices to protect their other patients.

Doctors say they are more willing to take this last-resort step because the anti-vaccine movement in recent years has contributed to a resurgence of preventable childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. Their practices also have been emboldened by families who say they will only choose physicians who require other families to vaccinate.

But the decision is ethically fraught. Doctors must balance their obligation to care for individual children against the potential harm to other patients. They must respect parents’ right to make their own medical decisions. And they need to consider the public health consequences of a refusal to treat, which could result in non-vaccinating families clustered in certain practices, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.

Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics considered it unacceptable to refuse families for not vaccinating.

Everything you need to know about the vaccine debate

 At the large Salem, Ore., pediatric practice where Mark Helm is a partner, clinicians eventually felt that their top priority was to protect their many medically fragile patients, including children with cancer or weak immune systems and infants not yet old enough to be fully vaccinated. Last year, Childhood Health Associates of Salem became the first practice in Oregon to require all of its families to vaccinate their children fully and on schedule for the diseases most easily spread from person-to-person contact.

“Our policy happened because it simply did not seem ‘just’ to permit the kids who could not be vaccinated to face dire risks because another child’s parent ‘disbelieved’ vaccination,” Helm explained. “We did not want anyone to get measles because they passed through our waiting room.”

In response, about a dozen families out of several thousand chose to leave the practice, Helm said. But other doctors’ groups in the community followed Childhood Health’s lead and adopted similar measures. The overwhelming majority of Childhood Health’s families have supported the move, blurting out thanks in person, on the practice’s website and Facebook page.

“These are young parents and they’re saying, ‘I’m so glad about your policy. . . . I don’t understand why people don’t vaccinate their kids,’ ” Helm recalled. “That kind of spontaneous comment did not used to happen.”

After years of meeting hesi­ta­tion or reluctance from parents, he said, “it’s just nice to hear parents say that — that they want their children to be vaccinated.”

Some of the heightened appreciation of vaccines grew out of a 2015 measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in California. A single, unvaccinated child with measles led to the infection of 131 people, many of whom also were unvaccinated. One infected adult who visited several hospitals ended up exposing 98 infants, 14 pregnant women and 237 hospital employees, according to the California Department of Public Health.

For years, the official position of the AAP was not to dismiss vaccine-resistant families. But recently, the AAP recognized what many individual pediatricians have been wrestling with on an ad hoc basis. This summer, it announced for the first time that dismissal is now an acceptable option if doctors have exhausted counseling efforts.

“We found there was a lot of resentment at the AAP for hanging those of us who did choose to dismiss [patients] out on a limb with no institutional support,” said Jesse Hackell, a Rockland, N.Y., pediatrician and an author of the AAP report. “We felt that it was time for the AAP to recognize that there were many members who did choose this route, and that we were good pediatricians and loyal members.”

The AAP found that pediatricians are increasingly likely to dismiss families who refuse vaccinations. In 2013, nearly 1 in 8 pediatricians reported that they always do so, twice as many as in 2006, according to a study comparing the survey results published this summer in Pediatrics.

Pediatricians say this more systematic and open acceptance of dismissing vaccine refusers is evident in email discussions and in one-on-one conversations at meetings. In addition to the public-health impact, there is also the personal frustration and burnout among providers who have repeated unsuccessful conversations with vaccine refusers, Hackell said.

Still, only a minority of the several dozen audience members said they would dismiss those families.

“That’s one of the hot-button issues right now,” she said. “While I can see situations where that is the only option, it really should be kept as a last-ditch option.”

Nevertheless, some doctors say more families seem to want pediatricians to take a firm stand. Gary Marshall, a pediatric infectious-disease expert at the University of Louisville, said the university-run pediatric clinics have been getting telephone calls asking if “we fire patients who refuse vaccines,” he said, because they say if there are unvaccinated children nearby, “they don’t want to bring their kids to the clinic.”

“It’s possible,” Marshall said, “that the tide is turning.”

The modern anti-vaccine movement began in 1998, when a medical journal published a study suggesting a link between vaccines and autism. The study was later revealed to be an elaborate fraud, and scores of studies from around the world since then have shown conclusively that vaccines do not cause autism. Every relevant scientific and medical organization has examined the evidence and concluded that vaccines are safe and effective and that the real danger lies in skipping or delaying them.

Conspiracy theories against vaccines tend to be strongest in politically extreme communities suspicious of modern medicine, such as fundamentalist conservatives or back-to-nature liberals. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has made ambiguous comments about vaccines, and during a televised Republican primary debate, President-elect Donald Trump claimed that vaccines cause autism. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has been mentioned by Trump as a potential secretary of Health and Human Services, has said he would consider alternate vaccine schedules from the current protocol.

In Austin, where anti-vaccine sentiment is fierce and the number of students with nonmedical exemptions to school immunization laws has soared statewide in the last decade, one of the area’s largest medical providers adopted a policy in July 2015 requiring pediatric patients to be immunized.

The Austin Regional Clinic is a large, multispecialty practice that includes 70 pediatricians. Relatively few families left the practice as a result, said Alison Ziari, chief of pediatrics. Many families made a point to say how grateful they were. Growing parental awareness of disease risks led one mother to frantically call the clinic, on short notice, to get her son’s immunization records last summer. The boy, not yet old enough to attend kindergarten, was going to a birthday party. The mother hosting the party required all children coming to the party to bring proof of immunization.

Doctors are finding that having a dismissal policy “forces the tough discussion” with families, and that, in turn, can often change minds, said Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a spokesperson for the AAP.

“When you draw this line in the sand — vaccinate or get out — they realize how seriously we feel about it that we’re willing to sacrifice our patients and revenue,” Hackell said.

Part of the underlying problem is that many clinicians and patients are too young to have experienced the deadly illnesses that were common before vaccines were available.

When McCarthy and Helm were in training, for example, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection known as epiglottitis was common, and often associated with croup, a hacking cough. After effective Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccines were licensed in the late 1980s, “we don’t see epiglottitis any more,” McCarthy said.

“It gives me pause,” she said, referring to parents who refuse to immunize their children, including a distant family member. “I believe in modern medicine and the scientific process. I want to do what I can so my children have the best option for a healthy life.”

When Roth sees mothers in her Facebook moms group asking for doctors who will accept patients who aren’t immunized, she says she makes a mental note “never to go that doctor” if she ever has to change pediatricians.

Her pediatrician, Heather Felton, part of the University of Louisville practice, says doctors are still trying to figure out what their policy should be for vaccine refusers. So far, clinicians have been able to convince reluctant families.

When parents are unsure or reluctant to get their children vaccinated, Felton says her most powerful argument may come from her status not as a doctor, but as the mother of a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old baby.

“I tell them I have two little girls,” Felton said. “I get them all their shots, and I get all of them on time.”

WARNING: Aspartame Renamed – Now Being Marketed As A “Natural” Sweetener: Amino Sweet

Aspartame has been one of the most controversial food additives for years, with some even claiming it it one of the most dangerous ingredients used in our food supply


The official line is that the additive is safe, and regulatory bodies often do their best to ignore the negative results that have come from certain studies.

Aspartame has been linked to numerous health problems, from seizures all the way up to fatal cardiovascular attacks in women. More recently, studies have shown positive links to diabetes , and also increases the risk for heart, kidney, and brain damage

This concern over aspartame in not just a recent problem, way back in 1967, Dr. Harold Waisman, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin, on behalf of the Searle Company, conducted an experiment regarding the effect of aspartame on baby monkeys. Seven monkeys were fed aspartame mixed with milk, the results? one monkey died and five of the others suffered grand mal seizures. 

Despite the public controversy surround aspartame, and the length of time we have known about the dangers of it, it is somewhat shocking that it is still found in many of the most popular food items consumed today.  “Diet” beverages, chewing gum, breakfast cereals, all contain this artificial sweetener, which is regarded as an excitotoxin.
In a crafty marketing move, aspartame can now be labelled under the name aminosweet in an effort to fool consumers into thinking the product they are buying is aspartame free. Do not be fooled.
Marketed under the brand names Nutrasweet or Equal, aspartame is used as an artificial sweetener in many ‘diet’ versions of foods. In the 1980s the CEO of Searle, Donald Rumsfeld, campaigned for it’s approval to be allowed in foods, and now with the blessing of the FDA how many millions more people will be duped into consuming this harmful chemical?
Aspartame is created by using genetically modified bacteria in the USA. In the European Union, it is codified as food additive E951.