Autism: new risk in NHS vaccine
FRASER NELSON POLITICAL EDITOR
Source: Scotsman.com News
INFANTS injected with the whooping cough vaccine routinely used by the NHS are six times more likely to contract autism than those given the version used in the United States, according to new research.
A report shown to an investigation by the US Institute of Medicine (IoM) has linked autism to baby vaccines which contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. The UK is believed to be the last developed country not to have withdrawn it from baby vaccines.
This is the strongest evidence yet produced to link autism to the mercury in vaccines - and will fuel calls for the Scottish Executive to publicise the fact that parents can ask for a mercury-free vaccine.
The IoM - a panel of independent experts chosen by the US government’s National Academy of Sciences - is conducting a new investigation into claims that autism is linked not to the MMR triple vaccine, but to the use of mercury in the Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTP) jab.
This jab is given in the UK to infants when they reach two, three and four months. The NHS stocks two jabs: DTwP, which contains mercury and is given routinely, and DTaP, which is named Infanrix and is mercury-free.
While Infanrix DTaP is available in Scotland to parents who specifically ask for it, doctors are advised to give the cheaper DTwP jab to parents unless they raise questions.
In an evidence session last month Dr Mark Geier and Mr David Geier, his son, from the Genetic Centres of America, presented a study drawn from the US government vaccine files.
The Geiers’ report, called Review of the Relationship between thimerosal and Autism, said that infants given vaccines with mercury are twice as likely to develop a speech impediment, and six times as likely to be diagnosed with autism.
David Geier said the data he produced represented the "mere fraction of the scientific literature" which proves that thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used in the vaccine, is a neurotoxin.
The Department of Health said it has long been aware of the mercury debate, but said it has seen nothing so far to warrant removing its DTwP vaccine.
"There is no evidence to link thimerosal to neurological disorders," it said. It added that babies rapidly excrete mercury.
The Geiers’ report breaks new ground in the long-running mercury debate.
The IoM itself warned in 2001 that the link between mercury and autism was "biologically plausible".
But Mr Geier said the evidence is pointing to a defect in newborns where they cannot excrete the mercury in the way that healthy babies can.
"The evidence suggests that the children most likely to develop autism are those less able to excrete the mercury they received through the vaccine," he said. "They retain it, they have less mercury in their hair, and when they chelate [a process which expels toxins from the body] they produce more mercury]."
The Scottish Executive last night confirmed its position that doctors should explain the situation to parents - and grant a mercury-free Infanrix DTaP vaccine to anyone who asks for it.
The DoH said that its main reason for continuing to use the mercury-laced vaccines is that "a baby receiving DTaP is twice as likely to contract pertussis than a baby receiving DTwP."
The Scotsman has traced the studies used to form the Department of Health’s controversial policy to data now filed at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
The trial of the DTwP vaccine took place in Senegal in 1995 - but compared it to an old DTaP jab inferior to Infanrix.
There is not understood to be any published data comparing the efficacy of the two whooping cough vaccines available in Britain: DTwP, made in France by Aventis, and Infanrix DTaP made in the UK by GlaxoSmithline.