The vaccine and autism debate

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Over the last half-century or so there has been an explosion in the rates of autism -- particularly among boys.

While there is no argument over those numbers, there is a huge debate over what caused it.

Some families blame vaccines, and particularly the mercury that was used for years as a preservative in them.

But the medical community continues to defend vaccines as safe.

And in this edition of the Buckley Report you're about to meet two Piedmont families who ask whether, to some degree, both sides are right and what we need to do about it.


  • Debate eeh.

    A debate? When did that start….I just thought it was a group of in-bred soccer moms not believing ‘wut dun da guv’mit did tells em’….

  • JB

    The issue is that autism is exploding in the world today. What do we do about it? Having worked in the medical field, I have seen that it takes medical professionals 20 years to catch up with new ideas and they fight vehemently, ideas for which they “know” to be false. It’s nice to see that FINALLY there is some concession and possible acknowledgement to the fact that this might be true.

  • TindallMom

    So wonderful that Blake, who is barely able to speak, can be the VOICE of Autism and the negative effects of toxins in vaccines. Keep up the fight, you are getting the word out and people are listening!!

  • Angela

    Flu shots still contain full amounts of mercury from the preservative thimerosal. Mercury containing flu shots are currently being recommended for pregnant women & it is well known through research this form of mercury will go to the fetus. Please read your package inserts before receiving any vaccine.

  • Chris Hickie

    You did a horrible disservice to public health here, Channel 8. There is no debate about vaccines and autism as the research has clearly shown no link whatsoever. There are also very clear differences between autism and mercury poisoning, yet you assert, with no research to back you that somehow children with autism had their autism “caused” by the mercury that was in vaccines. This is terribly reckless reporting. The US is suffering outbreaks of measles and whooping cough this year at record levels due to declining vaccine rates, and your article, as it stands will serve to wrongly further frighten more parents into not vaccinating. The proper thing for you to do would be to retract this story and issue and apology to the public. –Chris Hickie, MD, PhD

    • Ashley

      I find doctors like you deplorable. I applaud Fox 8 for showing more than one side of a story! By the way Dr. would you be willing to sign a form saying that everyone you vaccinate will not be injured and if they are you will personally be held responsible?

      • reissd

        A. A personal attack is not a substitute to having evidence or arguments.

        B. I do not applaud presenting inaccurate claims as facts.

        C. No reasonable doctor would sign such a form, because nothing is 100% safe. The evidence is still very clear: the small risks of vaccines are much smaller than the risks of not vaccinating.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey)

        There are adverse reactions to vaccines. Autism is not one of them. And we all as a people have accepted liability for this. That’s why there is a special court where people can petition the government for damages caused by vaccines.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey)

        There are more than two sides to this story.

        There’s the science and data story about vaccines and autism

        there’s the some parents still believe in things like thimerosal causes autism, even though the data are overwhelmingly against it.

        Then there’s the story about how a whole industry of faux medicine has built around “healing” vaccine injury with approaches that can range from expensive water (homeopathy) to dangerous (Lupron, Actos, chelation, etc.)

      • lilady RN

        Dr. Hickie is a respected pediatrician and a child advocate, who is concerned about the false information about vaccines which is being promulgated by crank bloggers and credulous parents.

        Ashley, your post is libelous and without merit.

    • JAB

      Thank you Dr. Hickie. I nearly threw-up when I watched this report last night. We’ve been in this battle for ten years now, with some of the most well educated, well respected doctors studying this disease. Time and time again, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not the cause of autism. Even Jenny McCarthy changed her tune! Why hasn’t more attention been given to auto-immune diseases, and the increasing amount of studies showing a link between the two? In my opinion we’ve got parents who know nothing about medicine trying to make a diagnosis, which in many cases is even more dangerous.

  • reissd

    It is beyond unfortunate that the journalist uncritically presented this misleading, wrong piece.

    A. Scientists looked at whether there is a difference in autism rates between children that got vaccines and thimerosal and those that did not. They looked in California, Japan, U.K., Scandinavia, and other places. There is no difference. Thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism.

    B. Mercury poisoning is not autism; the symptoms are different. See: Thimerosal and Autism?
    Karin B. Nelson and Margaret L. Bauman Pediatrics 2003;111;674

    C. Sincere as these parents are, it really sounds like they were misled by the network of doctors specializing in discovering high levels of mercury in children’s body, and prescribing the dangerous, inappropriate (as the FDA pointed out) treatment of chelation for autistic children. There’s no evidence for chelation doing anything for autism, and no biological basis for it. And chelation, as the FDA points out, carries risks. In 2005 a little autistic boy died when chelated. The fact that the parents are misled to blame vaccines, and misled to believe in the harms of thimerosal, is tragic. The fact that their claims are presented without pointing out that they were misled is irresponsible.

    Allowing these claims to stand this way may mislead some parents into not protecting their children against dangerous diseases. The evidence is very complete that vaccines do not cause autism: not vaccinating will not protect a single child against autism. It will, however, leave those children at risk of diseases like HiB, measles, diphtheria and whooping cough.

    • joejoe

      Can we get a toxic vaccine for shills such as ReissD, she is a toxic vaccine promoter, she obviously does not care about the devastation it has caused to a generation of children.

      • lilady RN

        I believe that JOEJOE is a crank anti-vaxxer who posts vile comments under multiple ‘nyms.
        Please stop referring to your autistic child as “vaccine-damaged”. It is a lie and it is an abomination.

  • joejoe

    The liars keep defending the toxins in vaccines, when if fact they are destroying our children, our families, our country. Enough already, quit pretending that vaccines are safe, as the quack does in the video, he’s is so clueless.

    • lilady RN

      I believe that JOEJOE is the same crank anti-vaxxer who posts nasty comments under a variety of ‘nyms and whose child has been diagnosed with an ASD. That person, made a claim on behalf of his autistic child, which was tossed out of the Vaccine Court for lack of evidence.

  • JB

    As a former journalist and the parent of an autistic child, I find Mr. Buckley’s reporting sickening. You’ve done a disservice to those us that have been fighting this battle for years. I feel for the families featured in this piece, but they offered no scientific proof to back up their claims. Yet, the doctor (who got an astonishing 6 second soundbite) offers research and statistics and is left on the cutting room floor. He said the research has been “exhaustive” and points to know found connections between autism and vaccines. But then you mix mercury toxicity with autism numbers (is it 1 in 80, or 1 in 50, you changed your mind mid sentence) to lead the viewers to believe that the doctor and research is wrong!

    How about this – do your research, listen to the experts, and check your facts before you report (or did you not go to J school like the rest of us did?). It’s because of reports like that we’re seeing a rise in cases of diseases like measles that at one point had been stopped in their tracks, all because parents stopped vaccinating their children(funny how this was mentioned in the tag and not the actual report). If I were producing your show, that piece wouldn’t have aired. It was incredibly one sided, misguided, and dangerous. If I were your news director I wouldn’t be worried about your ratings WGHP – I would be more worried about your lack of credibility.

    • lilady RN

      Thank you JB for your cogent comments about this dreadful dreck about the now totally debunked link between vaccines and the onset of autism.

      I have a comment that has been stuck “in moderation” for hours, with two links to reliable websites about vaccines. Here’s my comment (minus the links):

      This is a travesty when you feature two mothers and a reporter who have a “belief” that the organomercury compound which was formerly in multi-dose vials of vaccines caused autism.

      There’s an entire industry of alternative practitioners who cater to credulous parents who do not accept their children’s autism diagnosis as being a developmental disability. These practitioners test for mercury toxicities by sending specimens to “specialty laboratories”, which by using non-CLIA certified testing modalities, invariably find “mercury toxicities”.

      Once those phony mercury toxicities are established, autistic children are subjected to oral and IV chelation, which is invasive, painful, not-clinically-indicated and downright dangerous.

      I suggest you contact those mothers and offer to pay to have their children referred to a physician who is a specialist in toxicities and have them give consent to have real, not bogus, testing done, for heavy metals toxicities. At the very least, that is what you should do, to set the record straight about the totally disproven supposed heavy metal toxicities causing autism.

      The next time you run a story like this, make certain that your reporter has an education in basic sciences, so that you don’t perpetuate totally disproven “theories”:

      • JB

        Well stated LiLady RN! I don’t like seeing any family suffer, especially anyone with this horrible disease. but providing false information the way Mr. Buckley did is unethical and dangerous! Thank you for being the voice of reason.

  • SkepticalRaptor

    False and hypocritical balance. But what do we expect from a “Fox News” station. There is NO debate at all about vaccines and autism. Unless you are totally anti-science, the vast majority of science absolutely refutes any link between vaccines and autism.

    If you were to actually do balanced journalism, which we have no evidence that you can, you would have the millions of children who do NOT have autism and were vaccinated. You would also bring the million or so scientists, physicians, public health experts, epidemiologists, and all the other experts who say the same thing. Can you do that? Or are you to lazy to actually do real science journalism.

    • lilady RN

      As usual, Skeptical Raptor has provided the definitive comment about this vile Fox News story.

      Thank you S.K., for your blog and your excellent posts about vaccines and the serious, oftentimes deadly, diseases that vaccines prevent.

  • lsmw

    Thimerosal defenders, until you have looked at the lab work of these children you should not pretend to know more than the doctors who ran the labs. Why did the vaccine makers stop adding additional mercury (still used in the manufacturing process) in vaccines? Show the science that proves vaccines do not cause autism, Why were autistic children added to the homeland security bill stating they can not sue Eli Lilly for thimerosal causing autism? Look up Dr, Frank B, Engley;s research on thimerosal from as far back as the 1940;s, he served on advisory boards of the CDC and FDA and showed thimerosal was actually more toxic to tissue cells than forms we are exposed to daily. He found it was toxic to a nano molar level. Babies are not one size fits all and have different genetics, research has identified children with MTHFR and autism have a difficult time excreting metals because they can’t produce enough glutathione. ANyoner remember the burn merthiolate? That is what is being inject into pregnant women and small children, imagine what it can do to the brain, This is not that difficult to figure out, anybody that took chemistry knows the dangers of mercury, unless you make money from vaccines than you will never figure it out. Injected mercury is far more dangerous than ingested mercury, Retired doctors admit that the children born in the 90’s got too much mercury. Metabolic encephalopathy due to immunizations, secondary to heavy metals is a better diagnoses than autism.

    • reissd

      A. When the research points out that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism, that autism symptoms are different than mercury poisons, and when there’s evidence of a network of doctors dedicated to showing heavy metal poisoning and selling the dangerous and ineffective treatment of chelation, we do not actually need the specific medical records to point out that the claim that thimerosal in vaccines caused autism is against the evidence and baseless.

      B. Engley has no publications on thimersoal and vaccines.

      C. The rates of autism are no higher in states where they don’t provide thimerosal containing flu vaccines.

      D. Prenatal exposure to mercury is not associated with autism: Epidemiology. 2013 Sep;24(5):651-9. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31829d2651.
      Autism spectrum disorder phenotypes and prenatal exposure to methylmercury.
      van Wijngaarden E1, Davidson PW, Smith TH, Evans K, Yost K, Love T, Thurston SW, Watson GE, Zareba G, Burns CM, Shamlaye CF, Myers GJ “Conclusions: Prenatal exposure to methylmercury was not associated with ASD phenotypic behaviors in our cohort of high fish consumers. Our findings contribute to the growing literature suggesting that exposure to methylmercury does not play an important role in the development of ASD phenotypic behavior.”

    • lilady RN

      There’s so much nonsensical drivel in your post, I scarcely know where to begin.

      Thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines more than a decade ago, due to the paucity of studies about the organomercury compound. Since that time, studies have been completed in research centers around the globe which have looked at vaccination records and medical records of millions of babies and children. Hundreds of these studies have been published in first tier, peer reviewed medical and science journals and the studies have found no association between any vaccine, any ingredient in vaccines (preservatives, culture media, adjuvants or excipients), the spacing and timing of vaccines…and the onset of autism…or any other developmental disability or disorder:

  • Chris Hickie

    Given the lack of responsiveness to the many, many valid concerns expressed regarding the illegitimacy of this “news story”, I unfortunately suspect WGHP is a place where being truthful and admitting mistakes is important. I wonder if this can be brought up when it is time for FCC license renewal for WGHP?

Comments are closed.