Responding to a new report released yesterday by the California Health and Human Services Agency revealing a 273 percent increase in California children diagnosed with autism during the past decade, the National Vaccine Information Center and three other advocacy organizations representing parents of autistic children are calling for independent scientific research into whether increased vaccination in early childhood is a contributing co-factor to the development of autism.
According to the California State Department of Developmental Services (DDS), in 1998 there were 1,685 new cases of children diagnosed with autism with an incidence rate, based on 1998 population figures, of one in 312 California children now being diagnosed with autism. These figures include only children served by the California Developmental Services System and do not include the more than 13,500 children aged zero to three years in the state’s Early Start Program, yet to be diagnosed, most of whom present with language and developmental delays. Autism as a percent of the total clients’ population served by California’s regional centers nearly doubled between 1987 and 1998, with the most significant increases seen in young children less than nine years of age.
It has been widely accepted that between two to five cases of autism occur per 10,000 live births in the U.S. Based on these estimates, only one in 2,000 to one in 5,000 births in California should eventually be diagnosed with autism instead of the one in 312 which actually occurred in 1998.
The DDS report stated that "the number of persons entering the system with autism has increased dramatically over the past 11 years relative to the other three developmental disabilities (cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation)" and "compared with other disabilities, net growth in the number of persons with autism is on average about three times greater each year." DDS predicted that the autism population in California would continue to grow and that "independent study of the factors that have contributed to the increase" needs to be conducted.
Calling the report "a warning bell," and pointing out that the dramatic rise in autism in young children during the past decade coincides with dramatically rising vaccination rates in California and other states, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) joined with Autism Research Institute (ARI), Cure Autism Now (CAN), and Autism Autoimmunity Project in endorsing the state agency’s call for independent scientific research to investigate causes of autism. The parent groups are urging that immunization be examined as one of the possible biological co-factors involved in the development of autism in some children.
"Parents are reporting to our organization in record numbers that their children are becoming autistic after vaccination. Our experience in the past 17 years has been that, as immunization rates have increased significantly in all states, we have seen an increase in reports of vaccine reactions, including immune system dysfunction and autistic behaviors." said NVIC cofounder and president, Barbara Loe Fisher.
Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., founder and director of Autism Research Institute (ARI), said "Our database includes thousands of cases of previously healthy children who began exhibiting autistic behaviors soon after getting a routine vaccination." Portia Iverson, founder and president of CAN, the Cure Autism Now foundation, agreed adding "Approximately one-half of the hundreds of parents who call our office each month report that their healthy child became autistic shortly after vaccination." Ray Gallup, Director of Autism Autoimmunity Project, said "We can’t wait any longer to find whether some children are at higher risk than others for developing autism following vaccination."
Six new vaccines were added to the mandatory vaccination schedule in the U.S. between 1963 and 1998, including five doses of live oral polio; two doses of live measles, mumps and rubella; four doses of HIB; and three doses of hepatitis B vaccine. During the same time period, vaccination coverage rates rose in American children under age three from between 60 and 80 percent in 1967 for MMR, polio and DPT vaccines to between 80 and 95 percent coverages in 1997 for DPT; MMR, polio, HIB, and hepatitis B vaccines.
The April 2, 1999 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that "Overall, U.S. vaccination coverage is at record high levels. In 1997, coverage among children aged 19-35 months exceeded 90 percent for three or more doses of DPT ... poliovirus vaccine ... HIB vaccine and one or more doses of measles containing vaccine." Additionally, coverage for three doses of hepatitis B vaccine was 84 percent.
Many previously healthy children, who begin exhibiting autistic behaviors after vaccination, also show signs of an immune system dysfunction. Some of the children have been diagnosed with high measles or rubella titers and have had their autistic behaviors eliminated or reduced through therapies affecting immune system function, such as intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) infusions and diet modifications.