New Research and Media Attention Focus on Autism

A large new population study published in the November 7 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine was designed to look for a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study looked at all the children born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998, a total of 537,303 children, of whom 82% received the vaccine.

Of particular interest is the fact that 738 of these children were diagnosed with autism or other disorders in the autistic spectrum. This equates to one child in 728, a rate that, according to the authors of the study, represents a greater than five-fold increase over rates reported in the 1980’s, but is only about half the rate currently estimated in the U.S. How can we explain this disparity? One suggestion may come from comments released by Dawn Richardson of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE). According to Ms.
Richardson, the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal had been removed from Danish vaccines before this study was initiated.

If this is true, it is possible that thimerosal may account for about half the cases of autism in the U.S. On the other hand, the high rate of autism in Denmark clearly suggests that other environmental factors, aside from thimerosal, must also be contributing to this epidemic. The researchers concluded that no relationship could be established between the MMR vaccine and autism, either in terms of the total number of children with the diagnosis or timing of the diagnosis. However, no information is provided about other vaccines administered to Danish children. In many European countries the immunization schedule is partly voluntary and lighter overall than here. It should be kept in mind that in this country the MMR is given at more or less the same time as the third hepatitis B vaccine, the fourth DTaP, the fourth HiB, the third IPV, the varicella and the fourth PCV, in addition to the first yearly flu shot! Could this huge pileup explain the association of the MMR with autism?

The other day I noticed that, at least on one national news program, this study was portrayed as definitive proof that there is no link between autism and vaccines. This is a complete misrepresentation of the study, which only looked at the relationship between one vaccine, the MMR, and autism and did not address the possibility that other vaccines – or the
cumulative effect of all vaccines – could cause autism either in Denmark or elsewhere. The study reference is N Engl J Med, 2002;347(19):1477-1482 and it can be found at For more in-depth comments on this study also see and

In addition to this study, both The New York Times and the Houston Chronicle featured articles on autism earlier this month. These articles reflect a heightened public interest in the topic of autism and an acknowledgment of the current epidemic and its possible causes. Until just recently, suggestions of an epidemic were met mostly with dismissal and the official position that there is no epidemic at all, just better identification of the condition as a result of improved diagnostic skills. Mothering Magazine also dedicated a large portion of its November/December issue to autism and its possible causes. This included an excellent article on mercury toxicity, an interview with Dr. Stephanie Cave and excerpts from the congressional testimony by Dr. Bradstreet. I strongly recommend you obtain a copy of this magazine and/or visit the website to learn more about the toxic effects of mercury from vaccines and dental amalgams.

The New York Times Magazine article was published on November 10 and was entitled “The Not-So-Crackpot Theory of Autism.” It tells the story of a prominent researcher and staunch supporter of the immunization program, Dr. Neal Halsey, an MD who recently reversed his position when he realized how much mercury children were getting through vaccinations. Dr. Halsey is quoted as saying: “In most vaccine containers, thimerosal is listed as a mercury derivative, a hundredth of a percent. And what I believed, and what everybody else believed, was that it was truly a trace, a biologically insignificant amount. My honest belief is that if the labels had had the mercury content in micrograms, this would have been uncovered years ago. But the fact is, no one did the calculation.” Aside from the fact that groups like the Autism Research Institute did do the calculation and tried unsuccessfully to draw attention to it for years, my question is: shouldn’t these scientists know how to count?

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