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Dr. Offit, Tell Us What Happened To These Children

Posted Apr 01 2011 12:00am

Great_powerful_oz By Anne Dachel

I found a recent story from the Stanford University Medical School called, A national health challenge: How the anti-vaccine movement threatens us all.  It was all about  the wonderful job Dr. Paul Offit is doing defending the vaccine program for America’s doctors.  HERE  

Offit was described as “one of the most public faces of the pro-vaccine movement for childhood immunizations. He's a hero to pediatricians around the country for taking on an aggressive anti-vaccine movement that makes erroneous claims that vaccines are dangerous to children's health and can cause autism and brain damage.”

To parents in the autism community of course, Offit is the constant voice out there in the media challenging anyone who dares to propose that the ever-expanding vaccination schedule is responsible for a host of chronic and debilitating conditions affecting our children, most notably autism.

Offit can explain away anything that happens to kids following vaccinations.  I’ve read his books, watched videos, and read countless articles where he’s featured.  His message is always the same.  Studies disprove serious reactions.  Our vaccines are incredibly safe.  The public is being misled by the “anti-vaccine movement” that fuels parents’ fears about what vaccines can do their children.

He’s also very outspoken when it comes to government’s vaccine compensation program.  Offit has a whole chapter in his book, Deadly Choices, simply called, “Justice.”  His idea of justice is anytime government rulings reject the idea that serious side effects can result from the mandated vaccine schedule.  

According to Offit, what can look to parents like direct and immediate vaccine damage, is merely coincidence.  He has this mantra so ingrained in his thinking that the most dramatic and debilitating changes following routine vaccinations are dismissed as happenstance.  The problem is that when you start to look into the claims of vaccine damage, it’s a little hard to believe that thousands of healthy children would have suddenly gotten sick without the common denominator of being vaccinated at the same time.

A Jan 2011 story from CBS News should have set off alarms everywhere, but it didn’t.  Sharyl Attkisson wrote about a bittersweet victory in federal vaccine court involving a little boy named Elias Tembenis. (HERE)

“The tragic death of little Elias Tembenis is yet another vaccine injury case you probably won't hear much about. Yet some medical experts believe it could teach us something about how to make vaccination safer.

“According to court and medical records, Elias was born on Aug. 23, 2000 and appeared healthy until Dec. 26 when he received his second dose of DTaP vaccine. His parents noticed some swelling around the injection site. According to court records:

“Early in the morning on December 27, 2000, Elias's parents found him seizing in his crib and took him to the emergency room ...Within one day, he developed a fever, which led to a complex febrile seizure. Subsequently, Elias developed epilepsy. This fact pattern is commonly seen in the Vaccine Program.’

“According to court records, after the DTaP reaction, the once-healthy baby ended up with debilitating medical problems, including features of autism, ear infections and developmental delay. His parents first filed their case as one of the ‘omnibus’ group of autism cases to be heard in federal vaccine court.

“According to those familiar with the case, the couple felt their chances of winning with the autism cases was slim because the idea of a link between vaccines and autism is so controversial. So they separated their case from the autism group and filed on the basis of their son's epilepsy and seizures.

“They recently prevailed in court. It's one more example where vaccine-injured children who end up with autism are quietly winning their cases, but only when they focus on the more general argument of seizures or brain damage rather than autism.

“Some victory. On Nov. 17, 2007 Elias' illnesses became to much for him. The little seven year old boy died.”

In Sept, 2010, Sharyl Attkisson had another story called, “Vaccines, Autism, and Brain Damage: What’s in a Name?”  She wrote, “CBS News has found nearly 1,300 cases in which vaccine-related brain damage has been compensated in court over the past 20 years.

“The debate over any links between vaccines and autism - a behavior problem triggered by brain damage - couldn't be more contentious. The great majority of medical opinion holds that vaccines don't cause autism. However, many of the same experts don't dispute that vaccines can, in rare instances, cause brain damage.

“Our examination of federal vaccine court decisions over the years reflects this. Children who end up with autistic symptoms or autism have won vaccine injury claims over the years-as long as they highlighted general, widely-accepted brain damage; not autism specifically. But when autism or autistic symptoms are alleged as the primary brain damage, the cases are lost.”

Attkisson added, “The case of Michelle Cedillo, now 16, couldn't have turned out more differently. Her autism claim was a "test case" in federal vaccine court. If she'd won, it could have opened the floodgate for thousands more vaccine-autism claims to be paid. Michelle's attorney argued that an MMR shot on Dec. 20, 1995 directly caused her severe autism. But the federal vaccine court couldn't have been firmer in smacking down the claim last year, saying there was no credible proof that vaccines caused her autism. Michelle is also diagnosed with severe encephalopathy. Her mother, Theresa Cedillo, feels they could have won if they had simply based their case on encephalopathy. Mrs. Cedillo doesn't regret her daughter being a landmark autism case, even though they lost. But for future families, she says: ‘if you want to be compensated, I would say stay away from the autism word.’

“Since the late 1980's, more than 2,100 families have received compensation for vaccine injuries under the federal program designed to help in rare instances of severe vaccine side effects. And more than half of those awards are for brain injuries.”

I mention all this because in Deadly Choices, Offit has a lot to say about these cases in his “Justice” chapter.  According to Offit, the vaccine court made wrong judgments for years and only recently starting getting them right with cases like the one involving Michelle Cedillo. 

Offit said, “During the twenty years of its existence, the [Vaccine Injury Compensation Program] had been generous with its money.”

“Vaccine court was an unusual place.  When it first started awarding money in 1988, the compensation table was relatively loose and the VICP compensated injuries that weren’t caused by vaccines. …The court also routinely compensated parents whose children died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome even though studies had shown that SIDS wasn’t caused by vaccines.  Other awards were even more bizarre.  Petitioners successfully claimed that a child’s crying or irritability or sleeplessness following DTP was evidence of brain damage leading to attention deficit disorder.”

 Then in 1995 things changed.

“To applause from the medical community, the VICP’s vaccine-injury-compensation table was tightened.  No longer could parents successfully claim that DTP vaccine caused permanent brain damage or SIDS or genetic disorders.” 

And according to Offit, the biggest accomplishment of the vaccine court had to do with the vaccine-autism controversy. 

“By July 2002, vaccine court… had received more than three hundreds claims that vaccines caused autism.  It was only the beginning—the number would eventually exceed five thousand.”

Offit explained that the court set up three test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding involving Michelle Cedillo, Yates Hazlehurst, and Colten Snyder to rule on all the pending claims that autism could be caused by vaccinations.  In the end, all three cases lost in vaccine court. 

In the case of Yates Hazlehurst, the special master wrote, ‘The Hazlehursts’ experience as parents of an autistic child…has been a very difficult one. [I am] moved as a person and as a parent by the Hazlehurst account and again extend to the Hazlehursts very sincere sympathy for the challenges they face with Yates.  [My] charge, however, does not permit decision making on the basis of sentiment but rather requires a careful legal analysis of the evidence.’

With that it seems that justice was finally served in vaccine court and the special masters were now basing their judgments on the scientific evidence and not on misguided compassion for the suffering of these children.

In his book, Offit said that things had changed over the years since the beginning of the VICP.  “[Now] studies showed that children who received the pertussis vaccine weren’t at greater risk for permanent brain damage and that the real cause of the damage was a defect in how brain cells transported certain elements, such as sodium, across the cell membrane. …When the Omnibus Autism Proceeding started, epidemiological and biological studies had already gone a long way toward exonerating vaccines.  The science was in, and the special masters knew it.”

The only way anyone can climb on board with Offit’s theory that the study findings are valid, is to never look too closely at those studies and who funded them or listen to any of the parents’ stories of what actually happened to their children.  The elephant in the room that Offit never really addresses is the question: If it wasn’t the vaccines, what happened to all these kids to cause such a sudden and dramatic change in their health? 

Are we to believe that because of some genetic defect, thousands of children, for no apparent reason, suddenly develop seizures, sleep disorders, bowel disease, and encephalopathy?   Countless children stop talking and lose learn skills, eventually ending up with an autism diagnosis.  Doctors have no explanation for why these things happen, except that it can’t be the vaccines because all the studies say so. 

Offit’s position is simply not supported by real world evidence.  In fact, everything he says flies in the face of logical thinking.  The only things he has to back his position are the vaccine court rulings and “the studies.”  No matter how many thousands of parents protest that they saw direct side effects after having their children vaccinated, he can pretend they’re wrong.  Making the vaccine court cases go away was the best way to do that.  It also sends a clear message to parents that vaccines can’t be held responsible in case of injury.  If all the science says they’re safe, what claim can parents possibly make?

I recently read A Shot in the Dark by Harris L. Coulter and Barbara Loe Fisher.  published in 1985.

This book is a careful analysis of the scientific evidence in the medical literature that the "P" or pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in the DPT shot can cause brain inflammation and the claims made by parents that their children were severely and even fatally damaged by the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine.  This is the vaccine that Offit feels was falsely implicated in some of the early vaccine court rulings.  Reading clinical descriptions by doctors in the medical literature and the first-hand accounts by parents of the horrific suffering described in this book, leads me to ask again, if it wasn’t the DPT vaccine, what happened to these children?

Consider this example from A Shot in the Dark .

Richie, aged 2 months, received his DTP vaccine.  “By that evening, … Richie’s hip started to swell … Richie’s hip then turned from red to dark purple, and later the purple started to spread out from the site of the injection in round patches.  ...

“When he woke up [the next morning], he started screaming off and on.  He sounded like a cat in pain.  His scream was high and forceful…”

Then severe diarrhea started.

“His diapers were full of light brownish diarrhea with a lot of mucus.  He fell asleep for about two hours and woke up crying.  When I picked him up, he was completely soaked through two receiving blankets.  …

His mother gave Richie a bath and said, ‘He was limp and he just stared at me with dark eyes as if he was mad at me.  I noticed his hands were ice-cold.  From the wrists down.’ 

“In the afternoon, [his mother] changed three more diapers, all of them containing yellow diarrhea.” 

(The mother explained that she didn’t call the doctor because Richie had the same reaction that his older brother had had.  At that time, she was told by the pediatrician that it was ‘a normal reaction to the DTP shot and not to worry.’)

By that evening, Richie’s condition had continued to deteriorate and he felt cold.  His mother phoned the doctor and described his symptoms.  She said that the doctor “didn’t sound worried and agreed that it was probably a DPT reaction.”  She was told that if she wanted to, she could bring her son to the hospital. 

While she was getting him ready, ‘he stopped breathing.’  They called an ambulance but it was too late, her son was dead. 

“Richie had died thirty-three hours after he received his first DPT shot.”  At the emergency room, the mother asked the doctor, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that the vaccine could do this to my baby?’  The doctor replied, ‘Oh, the vaccine couldn’t have done this to your baby.’

The mother challenged him, ‘Don’t tell me that.  My son Ryan had the same reaction.’

This story will have to serve as just one example of the dozens and dozens of accounts I’ve read.   A Shot in the Dark is filled with many reports equally stunning.  How do doctors and nurses witness these happenings and not have to face the truth?  Are they able to convince themselves by repeating over and over, “Studies show no link”?

Offit mentioned A Shot in the Dark in his book and I’m left mystified that he could have read accounts like this and simply shrugged them off as unrelated to the vaccine this child received right before he got sick.

And if it only involved a handful of children, maybe the coincidence idea would be convincing.  But there are many thousands such claims of vaccine damage. 

In Deadly Choices, Offits talked about the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, (VAERS).  This is a place for people to report suspected vaccine reactions.  Offit cited Dr. Robert Sears’s claim that between 1991 and 2001 people reported eighteen thousand severe side effects that ‘resulted in a prolonged hospital stay, a severe life-threatening illness, a permanent disability, or a death.’

This doesn’t bother Offit.  He wrote, “VAERS can, at best, alert public health officials to the possibility of a serious side effect from a vaccine.”  "VAERS, however, cannot determine whether a vaccine caused a side effect.  Only controlled studies can do that.  The problem with VAERS is that two groups of people never report to it: people who get a vaccine and don’t suffer any side effects and people who suffer the same illness as is reported to VAERS but never got the vaccine.” 

Evidently, if we also looked at those two missing study groups, there’d never be any evidence of a bad reaction to a vaccine.

I would like to tell Offit that the real problem with VAERS is that most parents have never heard of it and most doctors discount the reaction they’re seeing and don’t report it.  Health officials acknowledge that only one to 10 percent of vaccine injuries are ever reported to VAERS.  So if the eighteen thousands incidents Bob Sears wrote about are only one to ten percent of the real damage, we’re looking at the possibility of hundreds of thousands of unreported reactions.  Parents really do have to question the safety of the one-size-fits-all vaccine program.

Offit has his studies but the damage claims continue to mount.  How much coincidence can the public be expected to swallow?   Offit feels supported by the Omnibus rulings in the cases involving Colten Snyder, Yates Hazlehurst and Michelle Cedillo.

Rolf Hazlehurst had this to say about his experience with the vaccine court:  “My son [Yates] is eleven years old.  He suffers severe and permanent brain damage. In all probability, he'll spend his adult life locked in a mental institution. ... When you consider that the rate of autism has risen from one in 10,000 to one in 100 in less than twenty years, we as parents have a moral obligation to legitimately question vaccine safety….

“For twenty-five years, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 has kept vaccine-injured children out of state and federal court.  It should be called the National Vaccine Manufacturers Protection Act. ...  For twenty-five years, the government has said that before you can go to a court of law, you must first go to vaccine court.  It's highly misleading for the government to refer to Vaccine Court as a court.  In Vaccine Court, there is no judge, no jury, and the most basic rules of law do not apply.  The rules of evidence do not apply.  The rules of civil procedure do not apply. The rules of discovery do not apply.  In Vaccine Court, the rule of law and the American legal system has been replaced by what is known as a Special Master.  A Special Master is nothing more than a politically appointed, government attorney.  Vaccine Court is nothing more than a procedural hurdle that has kept the vaccine-autism issue out of court for twenty-five years.  I truly believe that if it were not for the Vaccine Act of 1986, the autism epidemic would not be possible.  I've been an attorney for 15 years and in my personal opinion the actions of the government officials in Vaccine Court is part of the most frightening and blatant abuse of power that I've ever witnessed.”

And Theresa Cedillo said this:  “For the past fifteen and a half years, our daughter Michelle has suffered profoundly from the severe injuries caused by her childhood vaccinations.  Michelle was born a healthy and normal baby. She received all of the recommended childhood immunizations. She reached all of her baby developmental milestones on schedule until receiving the Measles, Mumps Rubella vaccine. Seven days following the MMR vaccination, at the age of fifteen months, she developed a very high fever.  That day marked the beginning of a brutal regression.  Michelle lost all language and communication skills, she stopped eating solid food for almost twelve weeks.  She withdrew into a world of her own, no longer turning to the call of her name.  She was so withdrawn, we thought she had lost her hearing.  Her GI health deteriorated with the beginning of chronic diarrhea and vomiting.  Unfortunately, her health and the disease process has continued to worsen.  Today, Michelle is under the care of eight pediatric specialists.  She has been diagnosed with severe autism, severe static encephalopathy, a life-threatening seizure disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammtory arthropathy, severe bilateral pes planovalgus deformities, uveitis, glaucoma, and osteoporosis.  The optic nerve damage from the IBD associated eye disease has left Michelle legally blind.  She has bone deformities in both feet from the arthritis and osteoporosis. She has great pain and difficulty walking and standing.  She receives all of her nutrition via a jejunal feeding tube.  She receives 18 doses of medications per day. She needs assistance when walking. She requires 24 hour care by two people.

 “The thimerosal containing vaccines she received altered her immune system so that when she received the MMR, it was the final insult throwing her into a full blown regression.  Michelle has tested positive for vaccine strain measles RNA in her colon tissue biopsies.  Michelle has undergone five genetic evaluations at top medical facilities.  Each more in-depth than the previous.  She has no existing genetic abnormalities. There is no alternate explanation for her current medical condition. Michelle is vaccine injured.

“Justice was not served for Michelle.   Her injuries and diagnoses are the same as other children awarded in the VICP. She was punished for using the "autism" word.  The decisions in her case were political statements, and not what Congress intended for this program or injured children.” 

I ask again, if it wasn’t the vaccines, what happened to these children?  How long are we going to accept that no one knows anything, except that it couldn’t be the vaccines?

Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.

Posted by Age of Autism at April 15, 2011 at 5:48 AM in Anne Dachel Permalink

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