Rick Rollens is a parent advocate who presented this testimony last week in Washington D.C. to a packed hearing room. The immediate reaction in the room at the end of his speech was stunned silence, reports Rick.
Mr. Chairman and Members:
My name is Rick Rollens. I currently reside in Granite Bay, California which is located 30 miles east of Sacramento with my wife of 23 years, Janna, and my two sons, Matthew, 13 and Russell, 8. Thank you for inviting me to testify today. For me, this is somewhat of a homecoming. In 1973, I had the privilege of serving on the Washington staff of former Representative Jerome Waldie of California. Following my service in the House, I embarked upon a 23-year career of public service with the California State Senate. Working through the ranks, I was elected by the Members of the Senate to serve as the Secretary of the Senate until I chose to resign my position in 1996, in order to dedicate myself to the pursuit of effective treatments and a cure for my son, Russell.
I am here today to share with you the story of my son's case of vaccine induced autism, and to report on the growing autism epidemic in California, and the pandemic of autism sweeping across this country. Russell began his life as a normal, healthy, and robust child, meeting all his age appropriate milestones. At seven months old, within 72 hours after receiving his third DPT and his first HIB vaccinations, Russell developed a high fever and shrieked with a high wailing scream for days. After these vaccinations, he started losing eye contact, smiling less, losing interest in people, developed constant croup and was chronically sick. At seven months old, Russell's life had begun to change along with the lives of all who know and love him. Within days after his first MMR vaccination at 18 months old, Russell began his final journey into the abyss of what my wife and I now know as autism -- losing most of his remaining skills, developing severe sleep irregularities, chronic gastrointestinal problems, and expressing constant pain exhibited by harrowing days of endless crying.
Russell was officially diagnosed at two and a half years old with autism. After many months of medical investigation of Russell's condition, including state-of-the-art brain scans, immunological, neurological and genetic work-ups, we consulted a noted pediatric neurologist who thoroughly examined Russell and reviewed all of Russell's medical history. He advised us that, in part, Russell's brain dysfunction had very likely occurred as a result of some form of encephalitis, resulting in bilateral damage to the temporal lobes of his brain. Based on the facts that we have absolutely no family history of autism or any other type of brain disorders in our family, that he was born a normal, healthy child. That there exists the strong temporal relationship between the timing of the DPT vaccination he received at seven months and the onset of his autistic condition, his classic DPT vaccine reactions, coupled with the 18 month old hit from the MMR and the subsequent deterioration of his condition, as well as the scientific evidence that one of the many serious adverse effects of DPT vaccine is encephalitis and brain damage, I believe that Russell is a victim of vaccine-induced autism.
My story is far from unique. Mr. Chairman and members, next week when you return home to your districts, talk to your constituents, many of whom are among the growing number of parents who have children with autism. I can assure you that you will hear first-hand accounts from those parents about their normally developing children, about the introduction and reaction to a vaccine or multiple complications that accompany the acquired autistic condition. The first rule of medicine is to listen to the patient. A child born today in California will have received his first vaccination between six to eight hours old. By the time that child is 6 months old he will have received 15 doses of vaccines and by the age of five years old, 33 doses of vaccines.
Vaccine contains numerous active agents such as live viruses, killed bacteria and toxic chemicals including aluminum, mercury and formaldehyde. Where are the safety studies on the short or long term effects of the interaction of these numerous multiple vaccines and their agents on the developing brain and immune systems of our children? Where is the science? Many safety studies of individual vaccines only include a few days follow-up period for reactions, but the CDC tells parents and the news media that the onset of autism after vaccination could only be an "unrelated chance occurrence." Show me - CDC - the science. Show me the studies Dr. Satchir.
Is it appropriate to continue to entrust the CDC and the indemnified vaccine manufacturers with the responsibility of guaranteeing parents of this country that these vaccines do not cause autism or other brain disorders when these same groups are the most aggressive promoters of vaccine use? The situation can easily be likened to charging the tobacco industry to undertake independent scientific studies to find out if there is any relationship between lung cancer and smoking. This science on the safety of vaccines and their relationship to the development of autism is not there. Not there because the pleas of parents have been ignored. I suffered the ultimate betrayal of trust by blindly allowing my child to be injected with a multitude of vaccines . . .trusting my government had made sure that my child would not become autistic after his vaccinations.
Responding to the outcry of parents, professionals, and educators over the concern of the rapidly increasing number of children with autism and autism spectrum disorders, the California Legislature and two Governors of different political parties responded within the past 12 months by requiring a study on whether autism was increasing in the State and, after finding that there was a huge, unexpected increase, appropriated several million dollars for independent research as well as an independent follow-up study into the real factors causing the increase. Under the leadership of former State Senator, now U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, last year the Legislature required the Department of Development Services to report on the increase of autism in California from 1987-1998. The report was released earlier this year and documents a very conservative 237% increase in the number of new children with autism entering the developmental services system; 1685 new children last year alone when incidence projection would have predicted 105 - 263 new children.
The report led the Los Angeles Times to declare that the state has an epidemic of autistic children. We all know there is no such thing as a genetic disease epidemic, so clearly other factors are involved. According to the Department, from January 6 to July 7 of this year, 1,027 new children were added to the system; which means that California alone added on average six new autistic children a day, seven days a week . . .or one new child every four hours! Besides the immeasurable human cost on child and family, the thousands of autistic children already in our system along with these 1,027 new children are, according to the Department, going to cost the taxpayers of California and the country a minimum of $2 million each for their lifetime of care. Surely any intelligent, thoughtful person cannot with a straight face suggest that the huge increase in one of the most easily recognizable of all childhood disorders is all due to genetics, better recognition, or to minor changes in the diagnostic criteria that occurred 10 years after the massive increase in autism had already begun over two decades ago.
Earlier this year, the national and local news media extensively covered the story of the observations by parents in Brick Township, New Jersey that there were a lot of kids with autism in their community. In fact, the CDC publicly announced that they had discovered a cluster of autism in Brick was 1 in 150 children. 1 in 150 children with autism represents a prevalence rate 12 times higher than the published prevalence rate. My family and I reside in a community approximately three thousand miles from Brick Township, a community that is almost in every way as different from Brick as two communities in America can be. Where we live, our children are served by a single public elementary school district. The prevalence of autism in our elementary school district is 1 in 132 children. Mr. Chairman and Members, Brick Township, New Jersey and Granite Bay California are not "clusters" of autism, but snapshots of what is occurring everywhere.
Numerous parent organizations around the world, including the Autism Research Institute, the National Vaccine Information Center, Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT), Autoimmunity Research Project, Cure Autism Now, and Allergy Induced Autism are all constantly hearing from scores of parents reporting vaccine-related autism. You will find these children throughout the neighborhoods of your own districts. Vaccine policy has always been a cost-benefit proposition. I am here to tell you today that the once numerically rare sacrificial lambs that society has been willing to tolerate for the good of the whole could now, very likely before our eyes, be turning into herds of casualties of the most precious resource we have - our children and grandchildren. We must act quickly, by investing in good, independent research and science to pursue the truth about the link between vaccines and autism. If we don't discover all the causes, we will never find a cure. Thank you.
- Rick Rollens