My wife, Lisa, and I never started out with the goal of being lightning rods in the national debate over autism and vaccines in the United States. We just wanted to understand what happened to our 2-month-old son Jamison and how we could help him.
The year was 2002. After Jamison received six separate vaccines, his health deteriorated and he never rebounded. He developed eczema all over his body. He didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. He developed dark circles under his eyes. His stomach became distended, and he looked skinny and frail. He sweated profusely at night.
By the time he was 18 months old, Jamison was sick, needy, rarely sleeping and his behavior was changing. His speech regressed. Lisa and I decided to have him tested and he was diagnosed with autism.
As time went by, we absorbed the grief but decided we needed to know more about autism and vaccines. The more research we did, the more we realized that the medical community was split into two camps. One believed autism was a genetic condition, sort of like Down’s Syndrome. If a child had autism, he always would. They believed parents should accept their child’s fate. The second camp believed autism was an environmental illness, mostly (but not only) caused by the recent massive uptick in the number of vaccines given to kids.
Luckily, we both had significant research experience, so we decided to dig in and see which camp we would believe when it came to our son’s health. We were fortunate to find Dr. Lynn Mielke, who was a member of a group called “Defeat Autism Now,” known as “DAN!”
Dr. Mielke, a graduate of Indiana University’s medical school, had completed her psychiatry residency at UCLA. She had been a practicing psychologist until she watched her son disappear into autism after his vaccine appointments, just like our son. Her research led her to the DAN! movement. Her son’s symptoms improved, so she opened a clinic to help other children.
Unlike other doctors we had seen who had dismissed our questions about the relationship between vaccines and autism, she answered our questions and said frequently it is the vaccines that “pushed them over the edge.”
We removed gluten and dairy from his diet and took Dr. Mielke’s advice on giving Jamison a combination of nutritional supplements, cod liver oil and probiotics. The regimen flattened Jamison’s belly, and he stopped leaning on furniture to alleviate his gut pain. He started to have more eye contact with us, and the dark circles under his eyes were going away. We could tell he was more aware of the world around him. Although not cured, he was clearly much better.
So once that happens to your child, how do you stay quiet? How do you not want to tell others? How do you not want to do all the research you possibly can so you can help not only your child but others who may be in the same boat?
Contrary to what the pharmaceutical industry wants you to believe, all children and all vaccinations are not created equal. There are tests available that can determine which children should not receive which vaccines. Plus, there are other factors that should be taken into consideration like if the child has been sick prior to getting a vaccination.
Children in the 1960s had three vaccinations – today they get 38. I would ask our critics to follow the money – who is benefiting from all these additional vaccinations? The revenue for big pharmaceutical companies went from $170 million in the early 1980’s to more than $60 billion today. In 1986, the US government granted vaccine makers blanket indemnity. So the more vaccines they can come up with – and the more of their existing vaccines they can make mandatory for children – the more money they make.
Not only had the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbyists been successful in getting the government to prohibit anybody from suing them, but I found there was little government oversight of the industry. A study published in 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation concluded that the pharmaceutical industry “masterfully influences evidence base production” and also “exerts direct influences on professional decisions and health consumers.”
So that is our story into how we began the long journey into the world of physicians, the pharmaceutical industry, vaccinations, and autism. Lisa and I have learned more in the last 15 years on this subject than we ever thought we would learn about anything. But the bottom line for us is our son and his well-being and helping others in a similar situation. Every minute that we have devoted to finding out the truth about autism is dedicated to him. And if that makes us a target for those who want unlimited vaccinations on children without comprehensive oversight about the possible dangers and without screening for our most vulnerable children, that is a price we are gladly willing to pay.
J.B. Handley is the co-founder and chairman of Generation Rescue, a non-profit organization focused on helping children recover from autism that was inspired by the journey of his son, Jamison, who was diagnosed with autism in 2004. He is the author of the book “How To End the Autism Epidemic.”