Parents Ask for Investigation Into Role of Vaccines in Autism

May 2, 2000

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and the Autism Research Institute (ARI) are calling on the US Department of Health and Human Services to launch a public-private collaborative effort to investigate the possible relationship between vaccines and the autism epidemic in Brick Township, New Jersey, documented in a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the nationwide autism epidemic highlighted in congressional hearings on April 6. Both NVIC and ARI represent families, many with children who developed normally until given routine vaccinations.

Barbara Loe Fisher, cofounder and president of NVIC, said "The CDC was asked publicly at a meeting with parents in Brick Township two years ago to look at the role vaccines may have played in the children's autism. The CDC did not do it. Parents want independent, non-government researchers to be involved in the Brick investigation and in any study of the national autism epidemic discussed in congressional hearings earlier this month so that parents can have confidence in the outcome."

Bernard Rimland, PhD, founder of ARI, agreed. "Parents want to know the truth. No stone should be left unturned. The vaccine question will haunt any government investigation into the autism epidemic until it is dealt with honestly. What is the CDC afraid of? Outside experts that parents trust should come in to take an unbiased look."

Suzanne Applegate, of Tom's River, who attended the initial CDC meeting held in Brick Township with parents two years ago said that she asked CDC officials not to exclude vaccines as a factor in the children's autism. "I asked them to look at the children's vaccine histories and to take blood samples and do other lab tests but the CDC officials said there was no scientific evidence vaccines cause autism. But now there are just too many parents with autistic children all over this country who know that their children were developing normally until after they got their shots."

The CDC reportedly discounted water pollution or other environmental causes for the high rate of autism in children living in Brick Township in 1998. The Brick Township study revealed that 1 in 149 children suffer from autism spectrum disorder, a much higher incidence than the 2 to 10 in 10,000 published figures often quoted by public health officials and autism researchers. The 1 in 149 figure did not include evaluation of children younger than 3 years.

The CDC report strongly supports the mounting evidence that the nation as a whole is experiencing an autism epidemic, first documented in a 1999 report by the California Department of Developmental Services (, which found that there was a 273% increase between 1987 and 1998 in the number of new children entering the California developmental services system with a professional diagnosis of autism. Since then, Maryland has reported a 513% increase in autism between 1993 and 1998 and several dozen other states have reported 300% or more increases in the numbers of autistic children served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Rick Rollens, father of a son who became autistic after a series of vaccinations and cofounder of the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute at the University of California-Davis, criticized the CDC's lack of investigation into the vaccine question. He said "If 1 in 149 children in America were sick with a brain-damaging infectious disease, the CDC would be all over the country sounding the alarm to find out what was going on and trying to find ways to stop it. Non-government physicians and scientists, especially those at the MIND Institute, should be involved in any government investigation into whether vaccines had anything to do with these children becoming autistic."

Hearings in the House Government Reform Committee last August and earlier this month included testimony from parents and physicians, who presented evidence that vaccines may be a cofactor in the development of autism in some children ( Meetings have taken place between agencies at the National Institutes of Health and parent groups in the past few months where both NVIC and ARI have asked for a public-private collaborative autism research effort that focuses on investigating the biological mechanisms of vaccine-associated brain and immune system dysfunction leading to autism. In a letter sent to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, both NVIC and ARI formally asked that nongovernmental researchers at private research institutes, including those at MIND, be involved in any large government study of the incidence or biological causes of autism, including vaccine-associated brain and immune system dysfunction leading to autism.