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Deadly Immunity

The title above comes from one of the most stirring articles on health care. Author Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presented this article in the June 2005 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The article starts off by reporting on a secret meeting that was held at a retreat in Georgia in June of 2000 in which fifty-two attendees representing high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur were strickly embargoed against sharing any information outside the meeting.

Participants attending this secret meeting, convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were repeatedly reminded that there would be no making photocopies of documents, and no taking papers with them when they left. The meeting was called to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children.

Tom Verstraeten, a CDC epidemiologist had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children. He found that a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines (thimerosal) appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children. He commented, "I was actually stunned by what I saw." What Verstaeten told the group was that since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

The article notes that the attendees were shocked. One doctor, Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado whose grandson had been born early on the morning of the meeting's first day commented, "Forgive this personal comment -- I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on."

However, as the Robert F. Kennedy article further reported, instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the attendees of this secret meeting spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the startling data. Kennedy noted that under the Freedom of Information Act, transcripts showed that many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line.

Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware stated, "This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country." He continued, "given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let's say, less responsible hands." Dr. John Clements, vaccines adviser at the World Health Organization, took a stronger approach and stated that the study, "should not have been done at all" and warned that the results "will be taken by others and will be used in ways beyond the control of this group. The research results have to be handled."

Mark Blaxill, vice president of Safe Minds, a nonprofit organization concerned about the role of mercury in medicines was quoted in the article by saying, "The CDC is guilty of incompetence and gross negligence. The damage caused by vaccine exposure is massive. It's bigger than asbestos, bigger than tobacco, bigger than anything you've ever seen."

In summing up his article Kennedy stated his passion for doing this investigation, "I devoted time to study this issue because I believe that this is a moral crisis that must be addressed. If, as the evidence suggests, our public-health authorities knowingly allowed the pharmaceutical industry to poison an entire generation of American children, their actions arguably constitute one of the biggest scandals in the annals of American medicine."

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