Heavy Metals

Ground-Breaking Monkey Study: Mercury-Containing Hepatitis B Vaccine Causes Brain Damage

SafeMinds calls for moratorium on use of mercury-containing H1N1and seasonal influenza vaccine

September 30, 2009 – A study published today in Neurotoxicology, the leading scientific journal in its field, discovered brain damage in newborn monkeys given the Hepatitis B vaccine containing the mercury preservative thimerosal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) added this vaccine to the recommended immunization schedule for newborn babies in 1991. The vaccine caused a significant delay in the acquisition of key primate survival reflexes essential for life in the wild. Mercury is especially toxic to the developing brain and immune system.

Chronic neurological disorders, especially autism, have increased rapidly during the past two decades in association with increases in vaccines (from 10 to 36) and total mercury exposure. In July 1999, CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine companies agreed to remove mercury from all childhood vaccines “as soon as possible,” but it still remains in 16 licenses vaccines, five of which are still given to infants. Contrary to its own recommendation, now a decade old, CDC is now recommending the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines for “high priority” groups of pregnant women and babies older than six months who could get four doses. While some doses will be available in single syringes without mercury for those who ask, most doses contain mercury and CDC has refused to state a preference for the mercury-free versions.

An elite interdisciplinary team of top scientists from across the country collaborated on the study, “Delayed Acquisition of Neonatal Reflexes in Newborn Primates Receiving a Thimerosal-Containing Hepatitis B Vaccine: Influence of Gestational Age and Birth Weight.” The lead author, Dr. Laura Hewitson, oversaw the study, which was funded in part by SafeMinds. The animals were housed at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. This study compared infant macaque monkeys vaccinated with the Hepatitis B vaccine containing the mercury preservative thimerosal with those who received a saline placebo and those who received no shots at all. The vaccine group showed significant delay in the acquisition of key survival reflexes. Neonatal responses in unexposed animals were not delayed.

This paper focuses on one part of a larger comprehensive research program investigating the safety of the entire human infant vaccine schedule by employing standard animal research protocols. The program is examining differences in developmental behaviors, brain, blood, GI tissues, the immune system, health status, pathology, and gene expression profiles between vaccinated and unvaccinated primates.  Preliminary results of the wider program were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in London in May 2008.  The presentation suggested evidence of widespread harm caused by the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule.

Despite the 1986 Mandate for Safer Childhood Vaccines, the Combating Autism Act efforts, and a recent unanimous recommendation in June from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Government has refused to fund research comparing vaccinated versus unvaccinated humans or animals. Such a comparison is the only way to assess baseline health and vaccine-caused damage, and is absolutely necessary to fulfill our moral obligation to protect children by preventing vaccine-caused damage. Safety can be enhanced, for example, by removing the heavy metals, changes to the schedule, screening for susceptibility, reliance on anti-virals, separating the combination vaccines.

In the Hewitson study, the three key survival reflexes (root, snout, and suck) found to be delayed in the vaccinated animals are functions controlled by the brainstem, a crucial area especially susceptible to damage from mercury. “Many studies have reported that autistic children show damage in this brain region,” noted Theresa Wrangham, president of SafeMinds.

The neurodevelopment delays were statistically significant without regard to birth weight and gestational age. However, further analysis of the impact of these factors demonstrated that more time in the womb and greater birth weight reduced the delay in survival reflex acquisition. “Smaller babies, premature babies and fetuses would thus appear to be especially at risk for mercury injuries,” noted Ms. Wrangham.

This is the strongest direct evidence yet that mercury-containing vaccines may cause brain injury in human infants. Animal studies using primates are routinely employed to assess the safety profile of medicines. “Had this study been done as a pre-clinical trial, the FDA could have never licensed a mercury-containing Hepatitis B vaccine, nor could CDC have ever recommended one, at least for young children and infants,” explained Ms. Wrangham. “We are especially alarmed because the seasonal influenza and swine flu vaccines contain mercury. We think pregnant women and young children should not be given mercury-containing medicines with such significant side effects.”

The present study examined the impact of the first vaccine, Hepatitis B, and did not try to isolate the particular component responsible for causing harm. Although mercury is the most likely culprit because of its known toxicity to the brain and the immune system, other components such as aluminum may play a critical role. While there is more than sufficient evidence to eliminate all mercury now, further research will be required to validate the safety of the entire schedule and establish baseline data for necessary changes.

Controversy has raged for years over whether mercury received through vaccines is sufficient to cause harm to children. Virtually all studies absolving mercury-containing vaccines of safety deficiencies have been conducted by vaccine insiders with a stake in the outcome. The new primate study is important because it begins to fill a crucial gap in basic vaccine safety science, comparing the overall health status of those vaccinated versus those not unvaccinated. CDC claims there is “no convincing evidence of harm” that vaccines cause significant neurological damage or autism, and cites a number of studies claiming to exonerate mercury. “The studies they reference are all deeply flawed, and, as was the case with decades of ‘tobacco epidemiology,’ were deliberately manufactured to hide the truth,” stated Jim Moody, director of SafeMinds.

In fact the Institute of Medicine, Congress, Health & Human Service’s National Vaccine Advisory Committee, the American Academy of Pediatrics former President Dr. Lou Cooper, and former Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Bernadine Healy all agree that current research is inadequate to demonstrate vaccine safety, as required by law, especially in terms of risk for neurological damage, including autism, in a genetically susceptible subset of the population. Most have made statements in support of a study evaluating health outcomes in vaccinated compared with unvaccinated subjects.

“This study adds substantially to the scientific evidence that mercury-containing vaccines given early in development may lead to increased risk of neurodevelopmental delays and possibly autism,” stated Sallie Bernard, SafeMinds Executive Director. Data from CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink first revealed an association between mercury and brain damage, but these findings were suppressed and the data were manipulated to exonerate thimerosal. This scientific manipulation was first revealed by SafeMinds through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, leading to a best-selling book, Evidence of Harm, and to a published retraction of any “no cause” interpretation by the study’s lead author Thomas Verstraeten (who by then had left CDC for a vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline). The most recent study of VSD data by Young et al. made additional findings that vaccine mercury caused not only autism but several other neurodevelopmental disorders. Despite criticism from the Institute of Medicine and Congress, CDC still refuses to grant access to VSD to private researchers and the Justice Department refuses to permit petitioners in Vaccine Court access to these crucial data.

Supporting the new Hewitson study, two recent epidemiological studies by Gallagher and Goodman at Stony Brook University Medical Center have demonstrated an association between mercury-containing Hepatitis B and a seven-fold increase in early intervention services and twice the risk for autism.

In light of this new research, the Government must immediately fulfill its promise, now ten years old, to eliminate mercury from all vaccines. Pregnant women and infants are especially at risk for mercury injuries and must be warned against getting mercury-containing flu shots. CDC has listed pregnant women and infants older than 6 months as priority groups to receive the first shots, and children under 10 could get up to four mercury-containing shots. Yet supplies of single-dose influenza vaccines that do not contain mercury are readily available. “Giving mercury-containing flu vaccines to such vulnerable groups is medical insanity, especially when there are sufficient supplies of mercury-free shots,” said Mr. Moody.

Please see the SafeMinds Science Summary for a list of animal and cell studies which have demonstrated the harmful effects of mercury. Review papers by SafeMinds founders have demonstrated that the symptoms of autism are a unique form of mercury poisoning and that vaccine-induced autism is a plausible hypothesis because the prevalence of autism increased rapidly along with a simultaneous sharp rise in vaccine mercury. Environmental mercury and other pollutants are on the rise, contributing to autism susceptibility. Mercury in vaccines is unnecessary and should not add to background pollution body burden in children.


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The Natural Care Clinic is a located on Appleby Line in Burlington. We specialize in naturopathy and massage therapy.

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