When I was young, Summer brought the threat of Polio, with the possibility of spending time in an Iron Lung, and having a limp if you survived. Polio vaccines have greatly reduced the incidence of this dreaded disease. Unfortunately, some of those who got the vaccine, got an unwelcome virus along with it; SV40 monkey tumor virus. One definite risk traded for another unknown possible risk.
There has been an increase in the administration of vaccines for other viruses, based on this success. Undoubtedly, many have been spared of the devastating effects of the illnesses they prevent. Unfortunately, there has been an observation among the public that occasional infants and toddlers get sick with a high fever immediately after vaccination, and when they recover, they loose the ability to speak and regress in their development, and are diagnosed with autism.
Most of the medical authorities believe that there is no relationship between the development of autism and the reaction to vaccines. Indeed, good scientific studies show that the children who develop autism already have a predisposition to it well before the vaccines. The concern is that predisposition plus viral “antigen” exposure, sometimes in the form of a vaccine might be a cause of autism.
Many of my patients refuse vaccination for their children and themselves. A recent outbreak of measles has created a strong government response with guidelines for mandatory vaccination. Creating widespread immunity is good public health policy. But forcing people who are likely to become cripples to themselves and society if they are susceptible to develop neurologic or other disease from the vaccine, is also poor public health policy.
The first question I would like to pose an answer to is how could a dead or attenuated virus cause damage to the brain. The virus may not even reach the brain, but it could incite an attack against itself or the material that it is combined with. If some aspect of the brain tissue resembles a portion of the virus, then the unfortunate individual with that similarity will find they get an immune attack against their brain cells. Such attack could result in neurologic problems such as autism.
First, we know that a small percentage of autism cases are precipitated by a virus, so the model I proposed has already been shown in autism. Second, the brain develops by pruning of circuits and leaving those that matter. The cells that do that pruning are microglial cells, related to the immune system.
I believe that we are reaching the time when those susceptible to neurologic disease such as autism from a specific vaccine should be screened in a way that can determine who they are, and those are the ones that should avoid immunization. Techniques that we developed at the NIH nearly 40 years ago could serve as models for the first screening, and then more efficient techniques could be progressively developed to do this screening much more efficiently. I do not see this sort of screening being discussed. It's time we look into this more deeply.
To your health,
Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD