Published on: 03/20/08
By now, many parents in America have heard of the Hannah Poling court case. They know the government has acknowledged that vaccines contributed to autism in at least one little girl from Georgia. Understandably, they are worried, and they want answers.
But instead of frank talk from leading health officials, their concerns are being met with stonewalling, denial and misinformation.By refusing to address what really happened to Hannah — by commanding parents to settle down and adhere to the nation's rigid immunization regime — officials will only drive people away from vaccines in anxiety-ridden droves.
But what if we could test children for underlying conditions that might increase their risk of vaccine injury and autism? And what if we allowed those at risk to slightly delay and spread out their shots?
It's a difficult, but not impossible, proposition. And I believe doing so would reduce the rate of autism, seizure disorders and even asthma in some children. And we would boost vaccination rates by restoring faith in the nation's teetering immunization program.
Why do I say this? New documents have surfaced in the Poling case that shine more light on how Hannah's vaccine injury led to autism.
A government document filed in the case last November conceded that Hannah's vaccines had aggravated an underlying disorder of the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the tiny powerhouses within each cell that convert food and oxygen into energy. Government officials acknowledged that Hannah's disorder led to a condition known as low cellular energy metabolism, which was aggravated by vaccines and ultimately led to an autism diagnosis.
It was a tantalizing admission but did little to explain just how the vaccines had aggravated the disorder or caused autism.
But on Feb. 21, the U.S. government made a second, unpublicized concession in the case. In addition to triggering autism, officials now admitted, Hannah's vaccines had also led to her "seizure disorder," or epilepsy.
And there was more. The November document claimed that Hannah had a mitochondrial "disorder." But by February, this was modulated to a mere mitochondrial "dysfunction."
That's because Hannah's underlying condition was asymptomatic and most likely environmentally acquired. It was not some rare, grave, inherited disease that would have progressed to autism anyway, as many officials contend.
The November report said Hannah's vaccine reaction had "manifested" as early-onset brain disease, with "features of autism spectrum disorder."
But the February report is more blunt. It says that Hannah's vaccines "caused" her "autistic" brain disease.
But the real bombshell was this: Hannah's autism was caused by vaccine-induced fever and overstimulation of her immune system, according to court documents. Her low cellular energy and reduced metabolic reserves, due to mitochondrial dysfunction, were overstressed by the contents of nine vaccines (including mercury) at once.
The Cleveland Clinic defines low cellular energy metabolism disorder this way: "The process of converting food and oxygen (fuel) into energy requires hundreds of chemical reactions, and each chemical reaction must run almost perfectly in order to have a continuous supply of energy. When one or more components of these chemical reactions does not run perfectly, there is an energy crisis, and the cells cannot function normally. As a result, the incompletely burned food might accumulate as poison inside the body."
The cause of Hannah's mitochondrial dysfunction is up for debate, though ample evidence exists to implicate heavy metals in air, water, food and vaccines as possible suspects. But the government has acknowledged that low cellular energy can increase the risk of immune system overdrive, and regression into autism.
Now, one would think that investigating — and preventing — such vaccine-induced overstimulation in susceptible children would be a top priority of health officials. But it is not.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has vowed to "adamantly" enforce the one-size-fits-all vaccine schedule, no matter what happened to Hannah and other kids like her.
Frantic parents, desperate for answers, were admonished by Gerberding to "set aside this very isolated, unusual situation" in so-called Vaccine Court, even though "the court apparently made the decision that it is fair to say that vaccinations may have been one of the precipitators."
Gerberding was either grossly misinformed, or lying.
To begin with, this "decision" was not made by the court at all, but by medical personnel working for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Gerberding's boss.
More important, the Poling case is neither isolated nor unusual. At least 12 other autism-related claims have been paid out in Vaccine Court to date, and perhaps hundreds more cases like Hannah's are pending.
Most striking is how typical Hannah's cellular dysfunction may be among children with autism. While extremely rare in the general population, at two per 10,000 people, it seems unusually common in autism — with estimates up to 2,000 per 10,000.
Many opinion leaders are calling on the government to release all relevant documents leading to the Poling concessions. The family has waived all claims to privacy, and the public has a right to know.
For now, all we have is the CDC Web site, which says that "simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system."
But did Hannah have a "normal" immune system? Are other kids out there also metabolically primed for overstimulation from too many shots at once? Should their vaccines be spread out?
Instead of answers, we get adamant silence. This is not a matter of national security. It's a national emergency. Millions of parents are anxiously waiting for their government to tell them what the hell is going on.
• David Kirby, an investigative journalist, is author of "Evidence of Harm – Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy"