It’s Time to Pay Real Attention to Children’s Health
By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Every year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation in honor of Child Health Day (the first Monday of October), which in turn launches Children’s Health Month. President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to dedicate a special day to children’s health, in 1928, recognizing that “the conservation and promotion of child health places upon us a grave responsibility.” The U.S. is not living up to that vital responsibility and, in fact, is failing children miserably. American children’s ability to develop and thrive is being sabotaged by an avalanche of chronic ailments, with pediatric rates of some chronic conditions among the highest in the world.
Announcing the Campaign to Restore Child Health:
An abysmal children’s health report card
Nationally representative studies show that the chronic disease burden shouldered by children in the U.S. is not only heavy but has increased steadily over the past three decades. One of these studies, published in 2010 in JAMA, used national longitudinal survey data to examine the prevalence of four types of chronic conditions (obesity, asthma, behavior/learning problems and “other” physical conditions) in American children and youth from 1988 to 2006. The researchers found that prevalence of these conditions doubled—from 12.8% to 26.6%—over the 18-year-period.
The results of a second national study were even worse. Over two-fifths (43%) of children participating in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health had at least one of 20 chronic health conditions (see list of conditions in Table 1), and when the researchers added overweight/obesity and moderate or high risk for developmental/behavioral problems to their analysis, over half of all children (54%) suffered from at least one chronic condition.
Table 1. Chronic health conditions assessed by National Surveys of Children’s Health
|Developmental/neurological*||Developmental delay; learning disability; conduct or behavioral problems; speech problems; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; autism spectrum disorder; Tourette syndrome; epilepsy or seizure disorder; migraines|
|Other brain-related conditions||Brain injury or concussion|
|Mental health||Anxiety; depression|
|Atopic||Food/digestive allergies; environmental allergies; asthma|
|Other||Chronic ear infections; hearing problems; vision problems; joint or bone problems|
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines developmental disabilities as physical, learning, language or behavioral impairments.
The picture and trends for specific chronic conditions are equally bleak:
- Developmental disabilities: Overall, more than one in six children (15%) between ages 3 and 17 have at least one developmental disability. The CDC notes that these disabilities “usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.”
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): In 2012, the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network identified ASD in one in 68 children (1.5%); by 2014, the National Health Interview Survey (as reported by a different branch of the CDC) estimated autism prevalence at one in 45 children (2.2%). Parent-reported lifetime prevalence of ASD rose by almost 400% (from 0.5% to 2.0%) from 2003 to 2012.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): As of 2012, about one in nine 4-17-year-old children (11%) had ever received an ADHD diagnosis, up from 7.8% in 2003.
- Tourette syndrome (TS): An estimated one in 162 children (0.6%) have TS (tics); of these, the vast majority (86%) have at least one additional neurobehavioral condition.
- Epilepsy/seizure disorders: Roughly 0.7% of children have a seizure disorder. The risk of epilepsy is “strongly associated with increased number of allergic diseases.”
- Food allergies: Allergies to food, including severe anaphylactic reactions, increased by 50% in children aged 0-17 (1997–2011).
- Asthma: In a nationally representative study of kindergarten-age children born in 2001, almost one in six children (17.7%) had asthma, and 6.8% had been either hospitalized or taken to an emergency room for asthma. Another study estimated that the lifetime prevalence of asthma increased by 18% in less than a decade (2003–2012).
- Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes in youth (< age 19) increased by 21% from 2001 to 2009, for a 2009 prevalence of 1.93 per 1,000. Over the same time frame, there was a 31% increase in type 2 diabetes in children aged 10-19.
- Obesity: Almost one in six children and adolescents (17%) are obese.
Vaccination and chronic illness
American children also are the most highly vaccinated in the world. Since 1990, when the U.S. began substantially expanding its vaccine schedule, the number of vaccines required for school entry has increased by approximately 260%. There also has been a growing push to recommend certain vaccines (especially influenza and the Tdap vaccine for tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis) to mothers-to-be, even though the package inserts for these vaccines openly state that “safety and effectiveness have not been established in pregnant women.” Currently, children receive repeated shots for 16 distinct illnesses (antigens). Counting vaccines administered during pregnancy, this adds up to as many as 73 total doses of the 16 antigens by the time children are 18 years old (Table 2).
Table 2. Number of Vaccine Doses Administered to U.S. Children through Age 18
|Type of Vaccine||Disease Antigens
(Number of Doses)
|Hepatitis B (HepB)||3|
|Rotavirus (RV)||2 or 3
|Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP)||15
(5 shots x 3 antigens)
|Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)||3 or 4
|Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)||4|
|Inactivated poliovirus (IPV)||4|
(2 shots x 3 antigens)
|Hepatitis A (HepA)||2|
|Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap)||3
(1 shot x 3 antigens)
|Human papillomavirus (HPV)||2|
(1 shot x 3 antigens)
Without pregnancy vaccines
With pregnancy vaccines
67-69 doses of antigens
71-73 doses of antigens
There can be no dodging the observation that chronic illnesses and neurodevelopmental disorders in children have increased in tandem with the burgeoning vaccine schedule. Unfortunately, citing bogus ethical concerns, the CDC has steadfastly refused to carry out a study comparing total health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children, even though a study of this type would help elucidate the apparent association. Filling this research breach, evidence from other studies has been slowly accumulating, highlighting telling differences between the two groups of children.
Health status: A pilot study published in 2017 by Anthony Mawson and colleagues in the Journal of Translational Science compared the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year-old homeschool children (N=666) in four states (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon). In the U.S. in general, a higher proportion of homeschool versus public school children are unvaccinated; in this sample, 39% were unvaccinated. Otherwise, homeschool families are generally representative of U.S. families as a whole. For most of the analyses in this comprehensive study, the researchers defined “vaccinated” as either partially or fully vaccinated.
The study furnished a number of revealing results:
- Chronic illness: Compared with unvaccinated children, vaccinated children had a more than twofold greater odds of having been diagnosed with any chronic illness and a nearly fourfold greater odds of a diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder (learning disabilities and/or ADHD and/or ASD). One in 13 vaccinated children (7.5%) had a neurodevelopmental disorder. Vaccinated children also had a greater odds of having a diagnosed atopic condition—allergic rhinitis, other allergies or eczema.
- Partial versus full vaccination: Partially vaccinated children had intermediate results (between fully vaccinated and unvaccinated children) for most of the atopic and neurodevelopmental health outcomes.
- Acute illness: Vaccinated children were significantly more likely to have had pneumonia and otitis media (middle ear infection). Unvaccinated children were more likely to have had chickenpox or pertussis. There were no meaningful differences for the other illnesses targeted by pediatric vaccines.
- Preterm birth: Evidence (expanded on in a separate publication by the same authors) showed a synergistic increase in the odds of neurodevelopmental disorders in children who were preterm and vaccinated, suggesting that vaccination may “precipitate adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm infants.”
As far back as 1992, a New Zealand study produced almost identical findings, comparing the prevalence of 11 chronic health conditions in 226 vaccinated (46%) and 269 unvaccinated children (54%). With the exception of diabetes (zero cases in either group), the incidence of the remaining ten conditions (including asthma, tonsillitis, hyperactivity and “slow development of motor skills”) was two to ten times higher in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children.
Use of health care services: In the Mawson et al. homeschool study, the vaccinated children were significantly more likely to use medications, to have visited a doctor when sick (past year) or to have had a hospital stay (ever). Echoing this pattern, a large 2013 study of pediatric clients at managed care organizations (MCOs) similarly found that “age-appropriately vaccinated children” used more health services than “undervaccinated” children. The MCO study, which included several hundred thousand children (N=323,247) born between 2004 and 2008, assessed undervaccination at two years of age based on “the difference between when the vaccine dose was administered and when the vaccine dose should have been administered.” The researchers also reviewed medical records to ascertain which children were undervaccinated for “nonmedical reasons” (that is, by parental choice). By these measures, half (49%) of the children were undervaccinated for any reason in the first 24 months, and an estimated 13% were undervaccinated due to parental choice. Undervaccinated children in the parental choice subgroup had significantly fewer outpatient and emergency department visits—both overall and for acute illness—compared with children vaccinated according to the standard schedule.
Toxic pathways to chronic illness
Increasingly, experts are studying how epigenetic factors contribute to the development of serious chronic diseases and disorders in children. Epigenetics looks at “de novo” genetic changes that “spontaneously arise within the child and are not present in the parents’ genes.” These changes control which genes switch on and off (gene expression). Many studies have described how environmental toxins prompt epigenetic changes that lead to developmental abnormalities and diseases. As the National Institutes of Health concedes, these environmental toxins include chemicals and medications.
According to the CDC, vaccines contain an astounding variety of ingredients, including preservatives and antibiotics to prevent contamination, adjuvants to stimulate a stronger immune response, stabilizers to enable transportation and storage, cell culture materials to grow antigens and inactivating ingredients to kill viruses or inactivate toxins. It is disingenuous to deny that these vaccine ingredients—both “chemicals” and “medications”—carry a sizeable toxic load straight into children’s bodies. Vaccine-friendly celebrity doctor Robert Sears acknowledges that parents are right to worry about the developmental impact of the “chemicals and metals and artificial things” harbored in vaccines. To name just four ingredients:
- The neurotoxic ethylmercury-based preservative thimerosal is present in seasonal influenza and Tdap vaccines and can lead to accumulation of inorganic mercury in the brain in vaccine-relevant concentrations.
- Aluminum adjuvants contribute to chronic neuropathology via multiple mechanisms, including through direct and indirect reductions in mitochondrial performance and integrity.
- Formaldehyde, used as an inactivating agent, is both neurotoxic and a known carcinogen.
- As an excitotoxin, monosodium glutamate (MSG) overstimulates nerve cells; neonatal exposure to MSG can produce “a significant pathophysiological impact on adulthood,” including increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.
The ingredients of the Pediarix (DTaP-HepB-IPV) vaccine further illustrate the toxic soup injected into infants. They include formaldehyde; three different types of aluminum adjuvants; bovine, calf and monkey products; the inflammatory emulsifier polysorbate 80; and two different antibiotics. The complete list is as follows: “Fenton medium containing a bovine extract, modified Latham medium derived from bovine casein, formaldehyde, modified Stainer-Scholte liquid medium, VERO cells, a continuous line of monkey kidney cells, calf serum and lactalbumin hydrolysate, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, aluminum salts, sodium chloride, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B, yeast protein.”
Neurodevelopmental experts have described a number of biologically plausible mechanisms whereby the heavy metals in vaccines may trigger neurodegenerative processes by prompting chronic microglial activation and excessive immune stimulation; interacting with autoantibodies (which are associated with higher blood mercury levels); impairing detoxification pathways; and causing mitochondrial dysfunction. Both thimerosal and aluminum harm astrocytes, which play an important role in higher neural processing.
Questions that need to be answered
The parallel timing of the increased vaccination schedule in the U.S. and the chronic disease epidemic in children cannot be dismissed as a coincidence. Moreover, there are many additional vaccine-related questions that urgently demand answers. For example, what are the synergistic effects of multiple toxins such as thimerosal and aluminum, and what happens when these toxins build up over time? What is the association between the timing and spacing of vaccination and subsequent health outcomes? Is there a down side to tinkering with the innate immune system so early in life? On this latter point, Dr. Suzanne Humphries comments that aluminum adjuvants “create a red-alert situation forcing the infant’s innate immune system to respond in the opposite manner to the way it should function in the first year of life.”
Finally, it is important to remember that vaccines have been associated not only with morbidity but also with mortality. Infants in the U.S. receive more vaccines in their first year of life than anywhere else in the world, yet the U.S. infant mortality rate is much higher than in other high-income countries. A group of researchers examined reports to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) following Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccination (1990–2013) and found reports of 896 deaths (median age=6 months); 749 records cited a cause of death, and 51% of these (n=384) listed the death as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although the vague SIDS moniker often has made it difficult to definitively pinpoint a causal role for vaccines, in July 2017, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims handed down a decision ruling that the parent-petitioners put forth “preponderant evidence” that vaccines “actually caused or substantially contributed” to their son’s SIDS death. Corroborating a vaccine-mortality association, a study in the African country of Guinea-Bissau found that infant mortality in children who received the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and polio vaccines was roughly double (10%-11%) the infant mortality observed in the no-vaccination group (4%-5%).
At this juncture, millions of children’s futures are at stake. It is critically important to honestly assess whether vaccines have had a net negative impact rather than the “enormous” beneficial impact that the public health establishment likes to present as fact.
The Children’s Health Defense is recognizing October 2017, Children’s Health Month, by launching a set of videos highlighting the chronic health issues plaguing our children. In our Campaign to Restore Child Health, CHD is also asking for everyone’s help to demand vaccine safety science. Our government health leaders who should be protecting children’s health are urging parents to vaccinate all children without doing the necessary safety studies. Watch the videos and read about the campaign.