New study ‘disproves’ MMR-autism link? Not so fast: pro-life vaccine expert
SEATTLE, WA – A new study making the rounds claims to definitively disprove the long-rumored link between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shot and rising rates of autism. But according to a prominent pro-life vaccine researcher, the study only looked at one MMR vaccine – an ethically-sourced Japanese product that contains none of the human DNA fragments found in more common MMR vaccines produced from aborted fetal cell lines – and doesn’t apply to the MMR available in the United States.
"What we have found is that across continents, and across decades, change points in autism disorder (not considering autism spectrum but only autism disorder) are clearly associated with the introduction of vaccines produced using human fetal cell lines."
“The MMR all the news are talking about is from Japan and was made in animals, not aborted fetal cells. Therefore, we would not expect that study to show any link between animal based MMR and autism,” explained Dr. Theresa Deisher, a Seattle-based genetic research scientist. “We only see a link between aborted fetal manufactured vaccines and autism.”
Deisher previously worked as a researcher for Genentech, Repligen, ZymoGenetics, Immunex, and Amgen before her pro-life convictions drove her to found AVM Biotechnology and Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute in order to provide ethical alternatives to so-called “Big Pharma.”
The bulk of Dr. Deisher’s research has been aimed at trying to untangle the web of anecdotes and rumors surrounding the MMR, which has been at the center of controversy ever since scientist Andrew Wakefield published a 1998 study linking the vaccine to rising rates of autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and other brain dysfunctions. Wakefield’s study has been widely criticized by the mainstream medical community, but according to Deisher, other studies and governmental data actually back up his assertion that some MMR shots may be causing autistic symptoms in children.
Deisher’s own review of available literature on the MMR-autism link has consistently showed that results depend entirely on the source of the MMR shot being studied.
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Testifying before the Minnesota legislature in 2011, Deisher told lawmakers that governments around the world have identified clear jumps or “change points” in the rate of autism diagnoses over the past twenty years, and in almost every case, the jump coincided with a change in the MMR vaccine from animal-based production to human fetal cell line production during the year the new wave of autistic children were born.
“What we have found is that across continents, and across decades, change points in autism disorder (not considering autism spectrum but only autism disorder) are clearly associated with the introduction of vaccines produced using human fetal cell lines,” Deisher said. “Each time we inject our children with one of these vaccines, we are also injecting them with residual fetal human DNA.”
FDA scientists have speculated that residual human DNA in vaccines could trigger cancer, autoimmune diseases, and disruption of the recipient’s genome. But in the absence of clear-cut peer-reviewed research on the topic, manufacturers continue to use aborted human cell lines, mostly because it’s cheaper and faster than developing vaccines from scratch in test tubes.
It is Deisher’s assertion that this residual human DNA, not the MMR itself, is the likely cause of rising autism rates. And she says the study making news this week – a meta-analysis of 67 previous studies on vaccine safety performed by the RAND Corporation and published in the Journal of Pediatrics – actually reinforces her point.
“Only one of the studies included in their meta-analysis focused on the link between MMR and autism, and that was a study from Japan,” Deisher told LifeSiteNews. “It was published in 2012 by an author named Uno, and in that study in Japan, the only MMR available was an animal-manufactured MMR. So what that paper showed is that if you immunize children with an animal-based MMR, there’s no increased risk of autism.”
In the United States, there are more than ten vaccines produced from aborted fetal cell lines. (A complete list can be found here (PDF).) Many have ethical, potentially safer alternatives, but patients often must ask their doctors to special order them. However, in the case of the MMR, the Hepatitis A shot, and the Varicella (Chicken Pox) vaccine, there are no ethically derived alternatives. Merck, the manufacturer of the sole MMR available in the U.S., “has fought to keep [alternatives] out,” Deisher told LifeSiteNews. “There are many things in play here. One is economics.”
It’s not just about competition – Merck previously offered two separate vaccines for measles and mumps that allowed patients to avoid the problematic rubella portion of the MMR, which was grown in a fetal cell line. But Merck took those products off the market because the MMR is far cheaper to produce. “The most expensive part of manufacturing a vaccine is not making the virus that goes into the vaccine,” said Deisher, “it’s vialing it.” In other words, putting three or more vaccines into a single shot saves the company money on packaging, boosting its bottom line.
Deisher said that if Merck wanted to offer an alternative to parents who object to the current MMR on ethical or safety-related grounds, it could easily “in-license” the Japanese version of the shot. “That’s something they choose not to do, but it’s certainly not out of their reach,” she said. She suggested that parents wanting a non-fetal-cell-line-based option for the MMR write to Merck and show the company there is a strong demand for it.
Deisher also suggested that parents educate themselves on the various vaccines on the U.S. schedule, and make sure they are aware of ethical alternatives to popular fetal-derived shots. (A chart providing information about both can be found here (PDF).) “Most doctors will work with parents to get the alternatives,” she said.
Deisher understands that many parents will remain conflicted about whether to give the MMR, particularly if not giving the shot may put the child at risk of serious illness. For those parents, said Deisher, it’s important to carefully weigh all the risks and ethical considerations before making a decision. She noted that the Catholic Church says that in cases where there is a grave risk to the child’s health if the vaccine is not given, and there is no ethical alternative available, parents may choose to vaccinate as long as they make their objection to the use of human fetal cell lines clear to their physician and work to bring ethical alternatives to market. She also noted that there is some evidence that waiting until later to give the shot – say, just before entry to school – is associated with a lower risk of developing autism.
Correction Feb. 9/2015: This article originally indicated that Dr. Deisher had testified before Congress in 2011, however she in fact gave her testimony to the Minnesota legislature.
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