in childhood vaccines: what did the government know?
(second in a two-part series)
WILLIAMS / WFAA-TV
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Report: U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) calls for
criminal penalties for government agencies that knew about
Thimerosal hazards. CLICK
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For a pdf
copy of Phase I of the CDC's Thimerosal Vaccine Safety
Datalink (VSD) Study see cdcthimerosal.pdf
For decades, half of all childhood vaccines contained a
chemical preservative called Thimerosal.
It is made from mercury, one of the most poisonous
substances on Earth.
News 8 has spent the past three months investigating
claims that government regulators and some pharmaceutical
companies knew of the dangers, but never told the public.
From the outset, it
must be stressed that this report is not anti-vaccination.
Every person interviewed for this story believes in the
importance of having children immunized.
Rather, the focus is on the possible link between
Thimerosal and neurological disorders.
Before the 1990s, 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed
with autism. But in the past decade, as the government has
increased the number of mandatory vaccines, some recent
studies suggest the rate of autism has risen to 1 in about
Some say the cause may be mercury poisoning.
From the day that little Jac Counter was born in 1996,
his proud parents began documenting his progress with a
There was the first tooth, the first bowl of spaghetti,
and the first steps.
But among all the precious images of their baby boy,
there was another "first" that the Counters
unknowingly recorded on video. And that, they say, was the
beginning of Jac's descent into "mercury-induced
On one of the tapes, at 22 months, Jac verbalized
playfully with his father.
Jac's parents say by the age of 4, however, he had lost
all his verbal skills. Communication became a series of
screams and tantrums. And there was other odd, compulsive
behavior, like constant repetitive movements and licking
It was a urine test for 15 toxic metals that provided
Joe and Theresa Counter with the first indication of what
was wrong with their son.
The test showed that Jac's levels for arsenic, cadmium
and nickel were normal or within an acceptable range. But
as far as the results for mercury were concerned, the line
goes off the chart.
Experts report that patients with mercury poisoning or
autism share many of the same symptoms, including
obsessive-compulsive behavior and loss of speech.
Jac's only possible encounter with sizable amounts of
mercury, say the Counters, is through his vaccines.
"It's not that any one shot (did it)," father
Joe Counter said. "The Thimerosal or the mercury in
one of my son's vaccinations - well, he didn't get one
shot, he got 30 shots or whatever, or however many he got.
And it was the cumulative affect that, at some point, his
body said, 'Stop it, I can't take this any more.' "
The Counters, who live in Plano, became the first
family in the nation to file a lawsuit against
pharmaceutical companies who put Thirmerosal in their
Since last year, another 50 families with autistic
children in 8 states have filed suit as well.
Medical files obtained by News 8 for at least five of
the children show excessively high levels of mercury, just
like Jac Counter.
So how much mercury are we talking about?
Approximately 12 out of the 18 vaccine doses the
average American child receives before the age of two
contain Thimerosal. Cumulatively, that's more than 200
micrograms of mercury, which would fit on the head of a
According to the EPA, dropping that
pin-head of mercury into 23 gallons of water would make it
unsafe for human consumption.
"Think about the idea of injecting your own child
with levels of mercury that are thirty to forty times
what's considered safe for an adult," Dallas attorney
Andy Waters said. "And, I think if any human being
thinks about that very long, they recognize that this is
something that never should have happened."
Waters represents the Counters, as well as other
families in the lawsuits. News 8 took some of his firm's
research on Thimerosal to several top experts for their
Dr. Boyd Haley is the Chairman of
the Chemistry Department at the University of Kentucky.
He's one of the nation's leading experts on mercury
poisoning and has studied Thimerosal in vaccines.
Thimerosal "is one of the most toxic compounds I
know of," Haley said. "I can't think of anything
that I know of is more lethal."
Dr. Jane Siegel is a professor of pediatrics at UT
Southwestern in Dallas. For the past five years, Siegel
has sat on the government vaccine committee that decides
which vaccines are mandatory for children.
"I believe there is no data thus far that's been
looked at to prove that there's a connection - that
there's a causitive relationship," Siegel said.
But just two years ago, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention did conduct a study, which showed that
three-month-old babies exposed to just 63 micrograms of
mercury - less than half of the aforementioned pin top -
were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop autism.
The study is stamped "Confidential" and
"Do Not Copy or Release." Siegel says it was
never made public because it was just a draft.
"Until they're final, and are
ready for publication, they're always considered a draft,
not to be widely distributed," Siegel said.
"This preliminary information could be distributed,
and that could do harm."
So why was it marked 'Confidential, Do Not Release',
rather than a simple 'Draft'?
"I think we're mincing words," Siegel said.
Subsequently, the CDC did release a report to the
public, but the findings were much different. The new
study was amended with different data which lowered the
Dr. Sidney Baker has reviewed both reports. Baker has
authored six medical books, and written scores of articles
on childhood behavior and autism.
Baker is critical of the CDC study.
"I can't imagine that smart people could possibly
have re-arranged the data the way they were done, and
represented the data the way they were done, without doing
it on purpose and with the express purpose, as you say, of
a coverup," Baker said.
Baker treats hundreds of autistic patients each year
from around the country. He suspects that about half of
the children he sees have been affected by Thimerosal from
Baker said the CDC's refusal to release raw data from
the study for outside experts to evaluate - a standard
protocol in medical research - is helping to fuel the
To parents like the Counters, that is unforgivable.
"It doesn't matter that 95% or 98%, or whatever
the percentage of the kids - somehow their system is able
to take in a particular metal - in this case, mercury -
and flush it out," Counter said. "My kid
couldn't, and it wreaked havoc on his system.
"It fried his wires."
Under pressure from the American Academy of Pediatrics
and the CDC, pharmaceutical companies agreed to stop
manufacturing vaccines containing Thimerosal in March
2001. But while production may have ceased, vaccine vials
already containing Thimerosal were not recalled.
A very simple solution for parents worried about
upcoming shots for children is to ask your doctor ahead of
time for Thimerosal-free vaccines.
Tuesday night, the News 8 investigation continues with
what the government, and at least one pharmaceutical
company, knew 30 years ago about Thimerosal's dangers -
and didn't tell the public.
DTaP: Tripedia (Pasteur Merieux
Connaught), Acel-Immune (Wyeth-Ayerst),
Certiva (North American Vaccine)
• Td: All Products
• DTaP-Hib: TriHIBit (Aventis
• Hib: HibTITER multidose (Wyeth-Ayerst),
ProHIBit (Aventis Pasteur)
• Hib/HepB: COMVAX (Merck)
• HepB: EngerixB (Glaxo-Smith
Kline), RecombivaxHB (Merck)
How can I be sure my child is receiving a
thimerosal free vaccine?
A: Ask your pediatrician. If you are
concerned your child's vaccine may contain
thimerosal, call your doctor’s office
ahead of your child’s scheduled visit and
request Thimerosal-free inoculations. One
sure sign of a thimerosal free vaccine is a
single dose vial as opposed to a multi-dose
Q: Do vaccines still contain
A: Beginning in March 2001,
thimerosal was no longer added as a
preservative to childhood vaccines though
none were recalled. Some are still in
circulation. You can also ask to see the
vial and package insert to check for
Q: What if my child exhibits
some signs or symptoms of autism?
A: Consult your doctor. Many symptoms
of autism are also symptoms of other
childhood disorders like ADD and ADHD. If
your child does exhibit some autistic
behavior, it does not mean an automatic
Q: What if my child received
vaccines which contained thimerosal?
A: If you are concerned that your
child has been adversely affected by
thimerosal, they can be tested for the
levels of heavy metals in their body. One
method is a urine/creatinine test. Ask your
physician for referrals and additional
Q: Should I still have my child
A: Absolutely. Childhood
immunizations have greatly reduced and/or
eradicated many deadly childhood diseases.
If you feel unsure about immunizing your
child, sit down and discuss it with your
pediatrician. Ask questions. Be informed.
pdf copy of Phase I of the CDC's Thimerosal Vaccine Safety
Datalink (VSD) Study see cdcthimerosal.pdf