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A Hudson Valley Parent speaks out on the Autism versus vaccines controversy

A health report spurs immunization debate

Robert Lachman
According to the Center for Disease Control, “an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” and parents and doctors continue to look for answers to what is becoming more of an epidemic every year. Concerned parents want to know why, especially Dawn Havas Sinisi of Beekman, the mother of two children who were given the usual series of 25 vaccines including MMR, and Hepatitis B. Her 10-year-old son is now in residential treatment at Deveraux in Red Hook diagnosed with autism and her 12-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a milder form of the disease. Both suffered severe reactions immediately after being administered vaccines when they were infants.

A Hudson Valley parent speaks out

Sinisi herself has also been diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult which she feels began after an MMR vaccination. The meteoric rise in autism cases is of acute concern to parents worldwide. According to the Center for Disease Control, “an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” and parents and doctors continue to look for answers to what is becoming more of an epidemic every year. Concerned parents want to know why.

The usual answer from the medical profession seems always to be ‘better diagnoses.’ But could something environmental be causing what has generally been diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder? Could the series of 25 vaccinations we routinely dose our children with from birth to age two be deadly to many of them? The debate continues.  

7 warning signs that may suggest that
your child is autistic

The controversy over the link between Lilly’s Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism reached a peak this year when BMJ (
British medical journal) claimed the 1998 study by Royal Free College Fellow and researcher Andrew Wakefield, citing a vaccine and autism link was an “elaborate fraud.”

Wakefield studied 12 children with a history of normal development who, according to their parents, lost “acquired skills, including language, together with diarrhea and abdominal pain.”

Hudson Valley Pediatrician Gives His Views

Dr. Paul Mark Baker of Hudson Valley Pediatrics in Middletown sees things from a much different perspective. He agrees with the reports that Wakefield’s study is false and says he has never seen any evidence of the kind of gastroenterological problems reported in the study. “I have been practicing for 32 years and never have I seen damage to any child from the vaccines we give them,” he explained.

He did say however that the Wakefield study caused parents concern over the years and many parents wanted the vaccines separated. Instead of a three-in-one MMR, they got one dose of each. “That has ended because the company has stopped making it. There was some impact but we do our best to deal with that,” he says. “There have been some families who have been nervous about it, especially recently and of course there are some families who won’t take any vaccines.”

Dr. Baker went on to explain that Thimerosol was used as an additive years ago when many of our vaccines were distributed in multi-dose bottles. “Now everything is in single dose vials, so Thimerosol is no longer an issue, but then it was never proven to be an issue,” says Dr. Baker.

When asked if he thought the drug companies were making huge profits from these vaccines he replied, “The companies never made much on vaccines. My feeling is that most companies got out of the vaccine business.”

Similar symptoms associated by children who've received vaccines

The onset of behavioral symptoms were associated by the parents with MMR vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child and otitis media in another. All 12 children had intestinal abnormalities … Behavioral disorders included autism (nine) disintegrative psychosis (one) and possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis in two children.”

Since Wakefield’s study was released the public has been up in arms about the dangers of Thimerosol (a mercury-based preservative) in vaccines and in many cases have refused the vaccines altogether causing concern that new outbreaks of disease will occur.

Newly found documents seem to prove that two years before Wakefield’s Lancet paper was published, two other doctors released similar findings involving the same 12 children used in Wakefield’s study. Dr. John Walker-Smith, former Head of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Royal Free Hospital and Dr. Amar Dhilion found the same problems with the children, including autism. Therefore Wakefield’s case study actually backed up the findings of the other doctors and could not have been fabricated, as BMJ alleged.

Wakefield's Study Connecting Vaccines to Autism vindicated

Independent research from around the world continues to vindicate Wakefield’s study, including a new study presented at the 2010 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society in Vancouver which confirms the link between autism and serious gastrointestinal disease in children.

There is a feeling among many people, especially parents with children who developed autistic symptoms right after vaccines were administered, that destroying Wakefield’s reputation was specifically designed to protect drug company profits at the expense of the truth.

Dawn only learned of Wakefield’s report six months ago and it has changed her outlook considerably.

 “I used to be a naysayer and never believed vaccines caused autism,” she says. “A few years ago I needed an MMR shot. After three months I came down with a non-specific colitis. I got diarrhea so bad the doctor said he’d never seen anything like it.”

Dawn's Story

Dawn already had a similar experience with her son after his second inoculation of Hepatitis B and MMR at two months old. “At three months his bowel movements increased and were watery. He started to cry all the time. At three years old he was diagnosed with a Gianotti-Crosti rash, which is only seen in people with hepatitis. He also used to bang his head and sit for hours just spinning the wheels of his matchbox car.” Her daughter reacted to her Hep B shot in much the same way.

Dawn was quick to point out that she is not anti-vaccine just “vaccine pro-choice.” Wakefield’s study did not say all children were at risk from vaccines, just those with underlying conditions and Dawn and her children fall into that group.

“My children were born with Lyme disease,” she says. “So our immune systems are already compromised. Vaccine inserts say don’t take them under those conditions but the medical system protocols never mind the one-in-five who are at risk.”

Since reading the Wakefield report and following the controversy Dawn has made a few changes in her life. She no longer gets flu shots because they were too debilitating, and has been detoxing her children and herself with vitamins and minerals and stays away from gluten.

“Doctors have the responsibility,” Dawn explains, “to check for any underlying unknown medical conditions that can cause adverse reactions and the vaccine schedule needs to be more responsible. I read somewhere that doctors get $30 per vaccination, so there is a financial incentive to give as many vaccinations as they can.”

Robert Lachman is an award-winning journalist who lives in Red Hook. He has worked for many local newspapers and is also a singer-songwriter, who performs in the area.