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What is MMR?
MMR is an abbreviation for measles, mumps, and rubella-three common childhood illnesses up until the mid-1970s. Vaccines are available for each of these diseases. However, in the 1980s they were combined into a single "three-in-one" MMR shot.
Why are the three vaccines combined?
The three vaccines are combined for convenience, not safety or efficacy. In fact, 180 Swiss physicians analyzed 320 scientific works from around the world and concluded that there is no medical foundation for combining measles, mumps, and rubella into a single shot.1 Speaking as a group, these doctors formally rejected a compulsory MMR immunization campaign, but not before making several observations:
One thing is...unmistakably clear from the example of the USA: the MMR immunization campaign...has elements of compulsion that work right into the sphere of individual rights. Since the USA has enforced a 95 percent immunization level by means of obligatory vaccination, unexpected epidemics now make rigorous, police-enforced measures necessary, with quarantines, exclusions from school, and house-to-house vaccinations. An obligatory MMR booster vaccination has already been implemented...Can the three vaccines be administered separately?
Similar experiences have been recorded in other countries with high levels of immunization. Moreover, recent investigations...have convincingly shown that eradication of the three diseases of measles, rubella, and mumps is in practice impossible. The rational basis of every immunization strategy that rests upon the mass vaccination of infants is thereby invalidated...
These three childhood diseases necessitate the fulfillment of three completely different objectives to which it is impossible to do justice with a single combined injection... After a careful analysis of the relevant material [we, the 180 unified physicians] reject the state MMR immunization campaign... [and] advocate a very restrained, individually adjusted immunization practice which takes account of the different nature of the problems relating to the three childhood diseases, does not fundamentally alter the epidemiology of the three diseases, and respects parents' freedom of choice.2
Yes. The three vaccines are available individually from vaccine manufacturers.3 However, doctors and health authorities in the United States, England and other countries are unlikely to offer this option to their clients.4 They claim that if these vaccines are administered separately, children will remain vulnerable to disease. In fact, the British Medical Association formally banned making single vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella available. Doctors who oppose this ban risk losing their licenses to practice. For example, Peter Mansfield, a U.K. doctor who believes that families should have the right to choose single vaccinations instead of the controversial MMR, and who has been offering them as an alternative, was accused by the General Medical Council of putting children at risk; he faced a disciplinary hearing that nearly forced him to end his medical career.5
How safe is the MMR vaccine?
The drug company that makes the MMR vaccine publishes an extensive list of warnings, contraindications, and adverse reactions associated with this triple shot. These may be found on the vaccine package inserts (available from any doctor giving MMR) and in the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) located in the reference section of the library.6 In addition, medical and scientific literature contains considerable documentation implicating the MMR vaccine in a multitude of serious and fatal reactions. Because MMR was initially administered as three separate shots, rarely at the same time, early reports of adverse consequences could be attributed to a particular vaccine. Later, when the three-in-one MMR vaccine replaced the individual vaccines, it became much more difficult to link a bad reaction to either the measles, mumps, or rubella portion of the shot. Nevertheless, the following afflictions have been reported subsequent to the individual or combined vaccines: encephalitis, neurological disorders, seizure disorders, learning disabilities, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (demyelination of the nerve sheaths), Guillain-Barré syndrome (paralysis), muscle incoordination, deafness, optic neuritis (including partial or total blindness), fever, headache, joint pain, arthritis (acute and chronic), transverse myelitis, thrombocytopenia (blood clotting disorders and spontaneous bleeding), anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions), inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, autism, meningitis, diabetes, immune system disorders, and death (Figure 1).7
In 1943, the well known child psychiatrist, Leo Kanner, announced his discovery of 11 cases of a new mental disorder. He noted that "the condition differs markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far..."8 This condition soon became known as autism.
What is autism?
Autism (often referred to as autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder) is a complex developmental disability-a neurological derangement that affects the functioning of the brain. This condition usually appears during the first three years of life and often strikes following an early childhood of apparently normal development. Mental and social regression is not uncommon. Although the severity of the affliction varies from child to child, the following symptoms are typical: inadequate verbal and social skills, impaired speech, repetition of words, bizarre or repetitive behavior patterns, uncontrollable head-banging, screaming fits, arm flapping, little or no interest in human contact, unresponsiveness to parents and other people, extreme resistance to minor changes in the home environment, self-destructive behavior, hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, and an inability to care for oneself.9-11
What causes autism?
When the first cases of autism began to appear in the 1940s, researchers were puzzled by the high incidence of autistic children being born into well-educated families. Over 90 percent of the parents were high school graduates. Nearly three-fourths of the fathers and one-half of the mothers had graduated from college. Many had professional careers. As a result, scientists unsuccessfully tried to link autism to genetic factors in upper class populations.12 Meanwhile, psychiatrists, unaware of the neurological basis of the illness, sought psychological explanations. The mother was often accused of not providing an emotionally secure home environment, and was therefore presumed to be the cause of her afflicted child's ailment.13,14
Today, researchers have discounted these earlier notions but still do not have an adequate explanation. Although autism has been linked to biological and neurological differences in the brain, and genetic factors appear to play a role in the etiology of this disease, no single cause has been identified.15 However, recent dramatic increases in the number of children stricken with this debilitating ailment-coincident with the introduction of new vaccines-may shed some light on this medical mystery.
How common is autism?
According to several researchers who investigated Kanner's claims, autism was extremely rare prior to 1943.16 In 1966, British researchers conducted the first epidemiologic study of autism and found the autism rate to be 4 to 5 per 10,000 children.17 By the 1980s, over 4500 new cases were being reported every year in the United States alone.18 In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one of every 500 children is autistic (20 per 10,000).19 Today, autism is a raging epidemic; in some parts of the country one of every 150 children (66.6 per 10,000) is permanently damaged by this devastating ailment.20
Autism and the pertussis vaccine:
The first cases of autism in the United States occurred at a time shortly after the pertussis vaccine became available. When the pertussis vaccine was initially introduced (during the late 1930s), only the rich and educated parents who sought the very best for their children, and who could afford a private doctor, were in a position to request the newest medical advancements. (Remember how researchers were puzzled by the high incidence of autistic children being born into well-educated and upper class families.) However, by the 1960s and 1970s parents all over the country, within every educational and income level, were seeking help for their autistic children. Socioeconomic disparities began to disappear during this period. Today, autism is evenly distributed among all social classes and ethnic groups.21 Once again this puzzled the researchers. Many simply concluded that earlier studies were flawed. But there is an explanation. Free vaccinations at public health clinics didn't yet exist in the 1940s and 1950s. Compulsory vaccination programs were still on the horizon. However, as vaccine programs grew, parents from across the socioeconomic spectrum gained equal access to them. The growing number of children suffering from this new illness directly coincided with the increasing popularity of the mandated vaccination programs during these same years. Autistic children were now being discovered within every kind of family in dreadfully greater numbers than ever before imagined.22
The same correlations between autism and childhood vaccination programs may be found in other countries as well. When the United States ended World War II and occupied Japan, a mandatory vaccine program was established. The first autistic Japanese child was diagnosed shortly thereafter, in 1952.23 Afterwards, hundreds of new cases of autism were reported annually in Japanese children.24
Europe began promoting the pertussis vaccine in the 1950s; the first cases of autism began to appear there in the same decade. In England, the pertussis vaccine wasn't promoted on a large scale until the late1950s. Shortly thereafter, in 1962, the National Society for Autistic Children in Great Britain was established.25
Autism and MMR:
In the 1980s and 1990s, cases of autism soared once again. For example, the California Department of Health examined the number of people with autism requiring developmental resources. There were increases each year from 1987 to 1998, with an overall increase of 273 percent during this period. Services for all other developmental disabilities increased by no more than 50 percent during this same time span.26 The U.S. Department of Education showed even more dramatic increases: from 1991 to 1997, the number of children with autism requiring special education services increased 556 percent.27 In fact, the latest figures from the Department of Education show higher rates of autism in every state.28 Other countries have experienced similar increases.29 Autism researchers do not attribute these increases to better diagnostic skills nor to expanded diagnostic categories. Several analysts implicate vaccines, especially MMR, introduced and aggressively marketed during this period. In fact, every year as the number of required vaccines rise, autism cases soar (Figure 2).30,31