International autism expert joins new charity to battle for research and resources ... and against triple vaccine
By Meg Milne and Sarah-Kate Templeton
The international autism expert who created an Oscar-winning role for Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man is to join a Scottish charity. California-based Dr Bernard Rimland was the brains behind Hoffman's stunning performance alongside Tom Cruise in the blockbuster movie, which won four Oscars.
Rimland is director of the Autism Research Institute in California and an acknowledged world authority on the condition. He is said to have based Hoffman's character Raymond Babbitt on his 46-year-old autistic son.
For months before and during filming, Rimland worked one-to-one with Hoffman, coaching him in how to play the part and adopt convincing mannerisms.
He has now agreed to join a medical and scientific team for the Scottish pressure group Action Against Autism, which has relaunched as a registered charity.
'My son is autistic and I have worked in the field for over 35 years,' said Rimland. 'Because of my expertise, I was invited to join the Rain Man team and work with Dustin Hoffman.
'Dustin was marvelous in the movie and showed for the first time on the big screen the problems people with the condition, and their families, suffer. His performance and the success of the film also did a great deal to make the general public much more aware
of the condition.'
Rimland's Autism Research Institute in San Diego has the largest data bank on autistic children in the world, with the detailed case histories of 25,000 sufferers from more than 60 countries.
'Through this, I have been greatly impressed by the work done by the pressure group Action Against Autism,' he said. 'Now they are a registered charity in Scotland, I am delighted to join their medical advisory board and help them keep up their great work.'
Rimland is a staunch opponent of the controversial triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), and has given evidence to the US House of Representatives on the urgent need for research into the link between the vaccine and autism.
His decision to join the Scottish charity follows anger across the UK at the government's refusal to make single vaccines available to parents . The government -- and most of the UK's leading medical bodies, including the British Medical Association -- insist that the MMR vaccine is safe.
'When my son was born, autism was extremely rare -- now it is extremely common,' said Rimland. 'Some experts will tell you that the increase reflects only greater awareness. That is nonsense. There is a real increase in autism and the numbers are huge and growing. The epidemic is serious and worldwide.
'Let me dispel the myth promoted by those who deny the autism-vaccine connection. They claim the vaccine is safe, but doctors are indoctrinated to disbelieve claims of harm and are not trained to recognise, nor required to report, any adverse reactions.'
He added: 'In 1964, I began to hear from parents in America who told me their children were normal until they were given the triple vaccine. In 1965 I began system atically collecting data on the symptoms and possible causes of autism.
'During the past few years our institute has been flooded with an upsurge in pleas for help from parents throughout the world. These pleas have come from wherever the World Health Organisation vaccine guidelines on triple vaccines are followed.'
Rimland will be joined on Action Against Autism's new advisory board by 12 other international scientists and doctors.
Yesterday Bill Welsh, the charity's chairman, said: 'We are absolutely delighted that we are being joined by a man of such international prestige.
'By appointing Rimland and the other leading scientists and medical experts we are mobilising the best brains in the world to help us fight a situation which is now disgraceful for thousands of autistic children. My seven-year-old grandson Luke is autistic and I formed the pressure group four years ago because he, and children like him, were being thrown on the
scrapheap by the authorities.
'Now the new charity will bring together the world's leading authorities on autism to fight for research, treatment and, eventually, recovery for all children with autism'.
The involvement of Dr Rimland in the Scottish charity was last night welcomed by the parents of autistic children. Anne Grant from Denny, Stirlingshire, said people still ask her: 'Is it like in Rain Man?' when she tries to describe the condition her daughter, Ashleigh, suffers from.
'Everyone has heard of Rain Man,' she said. 'Anyone who doesn't know much about autism asks me that same question. That film alerted a lot of people to autism and what the condition is like.'
Grant is convinced that Ashleigh's autism was caused by the MMR triple vaccine and she is angry that there has not been adequate research into what causes the condition, or into possible treatments. She said she welcomed the fact that Action Against Autism was concentrating on research.
'There is hardly any research being carried out, and definitely not enough money going into researching the causes,' said Grant.
Earlier this year the government-funded Medical Research Council (MRC) refused to pay for a Scottish study into the possible connections between autism, bowel disorders and the triple vaccine.
The MRC said it was not satisfied with the scientific quality of a proposal put forward by Edinburgh University, Edinburgh Sick Children's Hospital and the Moredun Research Institute, Midlothian.
Government-commissioned research into the safety of the MMR vaccine was thrown into doubt when it emerged that the scientist leading the invest igation was employed by the drug company that makes the vaccine.
Dr Phil Minor, who works for the government's national Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), was being paid to advise legal firms acting for GlaxoSmithKline on the safety of vaccines.
ZAHN: And when we come back: What's a parent to do? Vaccinations: why some people say they could do more harm than good.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: Later: the bizarre courtroom appearance and now this, new meaning to the word thriller -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.
ZAHN: Is autism on the rise and are childhood vaccination to blame? As for the first question, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest autism is on the rise. California reported a 273 percent increase in diagnosed cases over a recent 10-year period. But are vaccinations to blame for that?
We asked Rusty Dornin to tackle the controversy.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picture perfect, a happy, healthy baby. Then at 15 months, just like every other baby, Russell Rollins got his measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination.
ROLLINS: He has a very physical reaction to those vaccines including a high-pitch scream and days of high-pitched crying and listlessness.
DORNIN: Ten years later, those problems continue. Russell Rollins is autistic. How do you describe what you go through as a parent of an autistic child?
ROLLINS: It's a living hell. It's a living hell for everyone involved. It's a living hell for my son who suffers terribly from this disorder.
DORNIN: And it's a struggle that most autistic kids go through in the classroom. We're at the ABC School for Autistic Children, classes are full. Are you seeing bigger numbers, more kids knocking at the door to get in places like this?
ROLLINS: Yes, both in our school and in our in-home services, even in comparison to last year. We probably have 15 more kids than we had the year previous.
DORNIN: And parents are asking questions. No one knows what causes the brain development disorder but Rick Rollins who has become an activist for autism thinks the vaccine is connected.
ROLLINS: Thirty-three percent of new families with children of autism believe that vaccines played a role in the development of their child's autism.
DORNIN: But a recent, well-respected Danish study found no link between vaccinations and autism. Epidemiologist and pediatrician Robert Byrd doesn't believe the measles vaccine is a problem but he says concern about what's in some vaccinations is justified. Byrd applauds the removal last year of a small amount of mercury used as a preservative in some vaccines.
DR. ROBERT BYRD, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: To have anything that's potentially harmful packaged with something that's supposed to be entirely good is a bad package. DORNIN: Byrd authored a recent study that ruled out better testing and population increases as possible causes for California's dramatic increase. He believes what's happening here is probably happening nationwide. California has the only system for registering autistic children.
There is no biological test for autism. Some researchers believe there could be connection between genetics and the environment, but Rollins says he knows vaccines are only one possibility. Do you believe there could be other factor as well?
BYRD: Absolutely. You know I don't think anyone in any area of research in autism believe there's one single cause. We worry day and night about his future and who's going to take care of him when we're gone.
Give me a kiss.
DORNIN: Rusty Dornin CNN, Sacramento, California.
ZAHN: And joining us now is Bernard Rimland, head of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego. He believes childhood vaccinations may be the culprit.
Good of you to join us. Welcome, sir.
Why do you think vaccinations may be part of this equation?
BERNARD RIMLAND, AUTISM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, I've been studying this matter for some 35, 40 years.
Way back in the '60s, I began collecting information from parents about the possible causes of autism in their kids. Even back then, there were a number of parents who said their kid was quite normal until they got vaccinated. Nowadays, of course, the evidence is very, very convincing that the autism has extremely accelerated in its prevalence.
The California study is one of many which shows this huge increase. The evidence that vaccines are a major cause of the increase comes from a number of directions. One direction that's been largely ignored are the laboratory studies. There are at least seven laboratory studies, clinical studies, of blood, cerebral, spinal fluid, biopsies of autistic children which show huge differences between autistic children and normal children in terms of the presence of things like measles vaccine virus in their intestinal tract, for example, or their neurons. So, there's one line of evidence.
Another, of course, is that we have data from thousands of parents who testify, often with videotapes and photographs and eyewitness reports, that their kid was perfectly normal. And they can demonstrate it, as I say, very conclusively with tapes until after the vaccine. The kid retreated into autism. There's just converging evidence from many, many directions. ZAHN: But, Doctor, it's also true that not every child who gets vaccinations ends up with autism. And there are some scientists who believe that there is a preexisting genetic weakness that makes them almost predisposed to contracting autism. What do you say to those scientists?
RIMLAND: Well, I totally agree with that. As a matter of fact, my autism book, "Infantile Autism," which was published in 1964, established beyond any doubt that there is a strong genetic element in autism.
In the present instance, the genetic element seems, on the basis of a good deal of evidence, that the children have a tremendously difficult time detoxifying heavy metals, including mercury. There's the differences of 10,000 percent in the sensitivity of some individuals vs. others in their sensitivity to mercury. Many of the vaccines that these autistic kids have been given contain huge amounts, very, incredibly large amounts of extremely toxic mercury, which what was put in there as a preservative.
And it's the genetic predisposition, plus the mercury, plus a huge number of increased vaccines that kids are getting which causes the increase. When my son was born -- my autistic son was born in the '50s -- kids were getting three vaccines: DPT, one shot of DPT vaccines before the age of 2.
Now, if the kids get the recommended amounts, they are getting 22 vaccine doses before the age of 2. And, as the number of vaccines the kids are given before the age of 2 has increased, the population of autistic children has concomitantly increased.
ZAHN: What is your best recommendation to parents? I think of when I had all three of my kids inoculated. When the doctor hands you this horrible pamphlet with all the conceivable things that could happen to your child, most of them bad, and you have to sign on the dotted line that you understand all that, what are you supposed to do?
RIMLAND: Well, there are some really very closely agreed-upon recommendations that the experts make.
One is, make sure the kid does not get a vaccine that contains mercury. Mercury is used in a preservative called thimerosal. And it supposedly was taken off the market. Or at least the vaccines were manufactured starting in '99, I believe, without that mercury in them. But an awful lot of the vaccines still on doctors' shelves in warehouses and in pharmacies still contain the vaccines. So, make absolutely show that there's no mercury in the vaccines given to the kids.
Another extremely important rule is, never have a kid vaccinated when the child is sick or has any sign of immune system dysfunction, a cold or anything of that sort. And still another rule which I really think should be strongly enforced as a policy matter, do not start vaccinating kids as young as they are now vaccinating them. Some kids are given multiple vaccines before they leave the hospital. Some experts say don't vaccinate before the kid is 1-year-old. Others say before the kid is six months old. But delay it as long as possible.
ZAHN: Well, you've certainly given us a lot of information to think about and to debate. Dr. Bernard Rimland of the Autism Research Institute, thank you very much for your time tonight.
RIMLAND: You're most welcome. Thank you for the opportunity.
ZAHN: We also wanted to address this dilemma parents face when they have to decide whether vaccinations are work the risk, or the alleged risk. So we asked our own medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to give us a hand.
You are by training a neurosurgeon.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
ZAHN: And you know what it's like for any parent that sits down with their pediatrician and tries to read through these pamphlets. It is scary. And you ask yourself as a parent: "Do I want my kid to get this dreadful affliction or do I inoculate him or her and live with the possible risk of having autism be contracted?"
GUPTA: Yes. Well, I think Bernard Rimland made some good points. There's no question.
The number of vaccines that a child gets today compared to 20, 30 years ago has almost tripled, if not quadrupled, in some cases, in some of those particular vaccines. And, as a result of that, a lot of those childhood diseases, a lot of those scourges of childhood have been all but eliminated as a result.
When you think about some of the diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, actually being able to get rid of those diseases, that benefit far outweighs any of the possible associations we've seen with...
ZAHN: But you heard the same interview I just did. The doctor said that they found these traces of the measles virus in the neurons.
GUPTA: And they were talking specifically about the polyps within the intestines. And they were saying that it was possibly a way that certain bacteria and viruses could get into the body.
There's a lot of research on this. This is perhaps one of the most researched things in childhood medicine. And a lot of that, you can find papers really on both sides of the aisle. Whether or not some of these vaccines actually led to autism as a result either because of this mercury derivative that we've been hearing so much about or otherwise, has never been proven.
ZAHN: Well, that doesn't make me feel good either that any of us who inoculated our kids pre-1999 shouldn't stop worrying about this stuff. So what is the best advice you can give us tonight? GUPTA: You bring up 1999. And he made a good point there.
In 1999, the CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a lot of organizations came together and said: "You know what? We're going to get rid of this mercury derivative in the vaccines. It used to be at a certain level. We're going to essentially get rid of it altogether. Why? Because we believe there's enough lack of public confidence now in these vaccines because of all of this that people won't do the right thing, which is get their kids vaccinate."
They never, on the other hand, admitted liability, admitted culpability, or confirmed any association between these vaccines and any of these other things, autism being the most commonly-discussed one now. Thimerosal, the name for the mercury derivative, doesn't exist in those vaccines today. So the best advice is really to continue getting children vaccinated. That association was never proven. And now, with this thimerosal, this mercury derivative being gone, it's even less likely.
ZAHN: Thanks for the house call, Sanjay. It helps.
July 14, 2003
STATEMENT BY BERNARD RIMLAND, PH.D.
THE AUTISM EPIDEMIC IS REAL, AND EXCESSIVE VACCINATIONS ARE THE CAUSE
The vaccine manufacturers, the Center for Disease Control, the FDA, and the various medical associations have failed miserably in their duty to protect our children. Rather than acknowledge their role in creating the immense, catastrophic rise in autism, these organizations have resorted to denial and obfuscation. They stand to lose their credibility, and billions of dollars in liability suits will soon reach the courts.
As a full-time professional research scientist for 50 years, and as a researcher in the field of autism for 45 years, I have been shocked and chagrined by the medical establishment’s ongoing efforts to trivialize the solid and compelling evidence that faulty vaccination policies are the root cause of the epidemic. There are many consistent lines of evidence implicating vaccines, and no even marginally plausible alternative hypotheses.
As the number of childhood vaccines has increased 700%, from 3 in the ‘70s to 22 in 2000, the prevalence of autism has also showed a parallel increase of 700%..
Late onset autism, (starting in the 2nd year), was almost unheard of in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; today such cases outnumber early onset cases 5 to 1, the increase paralleling the increase in required vaccines.
Thousands of parents report and demonstrate with home videos -- that their children were normal and responsive until suffering an adverse vaccine reaction. (The Autism Research Institute has been tracking such autism-related vaccination reactions since 1967.)
Mercury, one of the most toxic substances known, is used as a preservative in many vaccines. Some infants have had 125 times the maximum allowable limit of mercury injected directly into their bloodstreams, in one day, in vaccines. (People vary enormously in their sensitivity to mercury, because certain genes predispose to mercury sensitivity. The highly-touted New England Journal of Medicine Danish study failed to mention the very convenient fact that none of the Danish children had prior exposure to mercury, since Denmark, unlike the U.S. had, banned mercury from childhood vaccines in 1992, the year before the birth year of the children in the study.)
There are numerous scientific studies showing large differences in clinical laboratory measures of blood, urine and biopsies which compare autistic children with normal controls. Such findings, pointing directly to vaccines as the cause of the group differences, are conveniently overlooked by those attempting to conceal the strong connection between the autism epidemic and excessive use of unsafe vaccines.
The truth must and will emerge. It is long overdue.
Bernard Rimland, Ph.D.
Director, Autism Research Institute
Editor, Autism Research Review International
Founder, Autism Society of America