Archives for vaccine safety

Watching VaxXed, Not Censoring It, Is The Hallmark of a Free Society

Filmgoers in Ashland, Oregon pose for a photo at the Varsity Theater. Ashland was the first city in Oregon to show the documentary. Photo by Jennifer Margulis

Filmgoers in Ashland, Oregon pose for a photo at the Varsity Theater. Ashland was the first city in Oregon to show the documentary. Photo by Jennifer Margulis


A Documentary About Vaccine Safety Makes People in High Places Uncomfortable


By Julie Akins, Special to


June 14, 2016—Ashland, Oregon


Standing outside the quaint and collegial Varsity Theater in Ashland, Oregon with a group of mothers discussing their child’s vaccination schedule did not seem like any sort of revolutionary or heretical act. As a woman long past the time of needing such considerations, it actually seemed a bit uninteresting. However, I quickly learned that this semicircle of women, some of whom preferred not to have their names noted so as not to appear as “anti vaxxers,” were involved in a line of questioning which seems to make people in high places uncomfortable.


The women were discussing “VaxXed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe,” a documentary film produced by Emmy-award-winning television journalist Del Bigtree and directed by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. The film is now on its way to Portland after an extended schedule in Ashland. “Vaxxed” looks at the Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine administered to children less than two years old and its possible links to profound health impacts including autism. It suggests that either giving the vaccines separately or at an older age (after age three) would be safer. It goes one step further with the recorded statements of a senior scientist who still works for the Centers for Disease Control Doctor, Dr. William Thompson, Ph.D. In these recordings Thompson explains that the tests which cleared the MMR and its timetable of a causatory role in autism were deliberately manipulated by himself and his colleagues at the CDC. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., the researcher and autism father whom William Thompson contacted, says in the film that Thompson wants Congress to depose him, which has yet to happen.


While the movie itself suggests a high level of corruption at the CDC, the smaller idea of waiting a little longer or maybe taking the vaccines some time apart does not seems as if it would illicit strong feelings.


Yet it does.


So strong in fact, Dr. Jim Shames of the Jackson County Health Department suggested in an opinion piece published in the Ashland Daily Tidings that no one see the film. It’s too dangerous.


“Not to believe the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and countless others is to accept a gigantic level of conspiracy to delude the public. Some of us have worked with the CDC and WHO and can assure you they are dedicated public servants whose motivation is to seek the truth, not to get rich and deceive all of us,” Shames wrote.


The top doctor in the rural county on the California border went on to disparage theater owners for allowing the movie to play in there: “To bring this inflammatory film into our community and legitimize the falsehood that MMR vaccine causes autism is nothing short of irresponsible. Rather than peddling thoroughly discredited information to vulnerable parents, we should be strengthening public health, promoting this effective vaccine and reducing the risk to children and the immune-compromised.”


Here’s the thing: I don’t know if the MMR vaccine would be better taken in three separate doses or later in a child’s life, as the filmmakers suggest, based on a reanalysis of the CDC data. Certainly many parents chose to do it this way. In fact entire countries do, such as Japan.


My issue comes in saying that theaters should not show this film and parents should not have the ability to weigh the information on their own.


“They weren’t saying don’t take it. They were saying let’s just look at the safety of this thing,” a mother told me shaking her head. “It’s unbelievable that we can’t even look at it.” She was referring to the failure of health organizations such as the CDC to re-open the study that CDC scientist William Thompson claims is based on fraudulent data.


I am not intending to wade into waters over my head. I do not know what causes autism but I do know what causes the decay of a free society. Being ridiculed, sued and denied an education because you or your parents want to ask questions puts us well on the way. California recently passed a law eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccines for children in both public and private schools.


It is not irresponsible to see a documentary nor is it “inflammatory” for a movie theater owner to allow an interesting movie, which raises legitimate questions, to be shown at his theater. If we’re going to be worked up about what’s responsible I might suggest trying to suppress a private business owner from showing a film is irresponsible and “anti- American.”


So is silencing someone who disagrees with you. These mothers worry about anyone knowing their position on vaccinations for fear of retaliation against their families. The taxpayer-funded public health official calls out those who see the film and show it. Many news organizations don’t want to touch it.


Yet, we’re still all over “creationism” as a legitimate theory and global warming as something controversial—shouldn’t that be more worrisome?


Parents need to question the vaccines, medicines, food, and even clothes they bring around their children. That’s their job. Parents can assess the information and make decisions. Some will get it right, some will not. But that’s how all this works in a free country. You get to be wrong but you also get to have access to information and make decisions—however they come out.


Parents do not need information fed to them like baby food by public health officials or anyone else. They certainly don’t need it on their dime and time.


Asking questions, presenting those questions too, is the hallmark of a free society. When that becomes revolutionary we are no longer what we perceive ourselves to be.


Reporter Julie Akins reflects on Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to CatastropheJulie Akins is an award-winning television and print journalist based in Southern Oregon.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a 3-part series on #VaxXed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Part II will be a summary of the main points of the film. Part III will be a summary of the community panel discussion held in Ashland, Oregon.

The trailer and a list of cities where VaxXed is showing can be found on VaxxedTheMovie.Com



5 Ways To learn More About Vaccine Safety and #Vaxxed:

1. Read William Thompson’s press release:

My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.


I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

2. Read Dr. Deborah Gordon, M.D.’s opinion piece in the Medford Mail Tribune:

I would like to thank the Varsity Theater for its decision to screen the movie, “Vaxxed.” I would suggest that in reading about the movie, your readers pay attention to whether or not a particular spokesperson has actually seen the documentary.


Quite contrary to the guest opinion featured in your newspaper, the movie does nothing to denigrate, criticize or attribute harm to the measles vaccine. In fact, the movie goes out of its way to suggest that the measles vaccine is safe, effective, necessary and valuable to a healthy child and healthy community.


The distinction missed by your guest’s opinion is between the measles vaccine and its unfortunate replacement, the combined vaccine directed against measles, mumps and rubella in one fell swoop. Previously booted out of Canada and the UK for an associated risk of meningitis, the combined vaccine has been adopted and mandated in the United States for decades. The movie suggests we go back to the three separate vaccines.


The main issue at hand in the movie is the reliability of the CDC. We learn of the existence of a CDC whistleblower, a member of the original team studying the safety of the MMR, who has divulged previously unavailable information about the study — information that contradicts the stated official conclusions of that study. Congress has been asked, as protectors of the health of US children, to solicit the testimony of the whistleblower. So far, no public body nor news organization has expressed an interest in hearing his testimony. Without a hearing, we don’t know if he’s delusional or brave, imaginative or brilliant, pitiable or heroic.

3. Pre-order The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health, From Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years.

Dr. Paul's book about vaccine safety and effective ways to support immunity will be published on August 23, 2016 by Ballantine Books

Dr. Paul’s book about vaccine safety and effective ways to support immunity will be published on August 23, 2016 by Ballantine Books

4. Read 13 Reasons Why The CDC is Right and You Should Vaccinate Your Kids

13 Reasons Why the CDC is Right and You Should Vaccinate Your Kids by Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D.

5. Follow Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an investigative journalist and book author. She earned her B.A. from Cornell University, her M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Emory. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. She is also a frequent contributor to Jefferson Public Radio.Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an investigative journalist and book author. She earned her B.A. from Cornell University, her M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Emory. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. She is also a frequent contributor to Jefferson Public Radio.

Join Me and Dr. Bob Sears, M.D., at Pomona College Monday, November 16th

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.11.03 AM

This event is primarily to benefit the Pomona College community but it is free and open to the public. Rose Hill Theatre seats 200.



7PM MON, NOV 16 // ROSE HILLS THEATRE (Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont, California)

In December 2014, at least 40 people who visited or worked

at Disneyland contracted measles. On June 30, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 277, which eliminates the personal and religious belief exemptions to vaccination, requiring nearly all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated. Legislation on vaccination continues to be a contentious political issue, earning it the name: “vaccine wars.“

Join the PSU for a discussion on vaccination policy, looking at the intersection of public health, individual choice, and the role of our government.


ALEXANDER CAPRON: University Professor, Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics, Professor of Law and Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, Co-Director, Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics

JENNIFER MARGULIS, PHD: Former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism; featured in PBS Frontline’s “The Vaccine War;“ author of “Your Baby, Your Way: Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Parenting Decisions for a Happy, Healthier Family“

HILARY LACONTE, MA, EDUCATION: President, Governing Board, Claremont Unified School District; Associate Director of Public Policy Analysis Program at Pomona College

DR. BOB SEARS, MD: Orange County pediatrician; founder of the non-profit Immunity Education Group

For More Information: ACN22013 [at] MYMAIL.POMONA.EDU

Protestors Say Proposed Law is Bad for California’s Kids


Medical freedom advocates protest SB 277 outside the State Capitol Tuesday. Photo credit: Jennifer Margulis

Medical freedom advocates protest SB 277 outside the State Capitol in Sacramento last Tuesday. Photo: Jennifer Margulis

June 14, 2015

Protestors Say Proposed Law is Bad for California’s Kids

ASHLAND — Over a thousand people wearing red attended a rally in Sacramento last Tuesday, June 9 at the California State Capitol to protest SB-277.


If passed, SB-277 will forbid children from attending both public and private schools in California unless they are fully vaccinated.


Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated preschoolers will also be barred from daycare under the proposed law.


In his remarks to the State Assembly Health Committee, Democratic Senator Richard Pan, co-sponsor of the bill, said the law excluding children from school would insure “freedom” for California’s children from infectious diseases.


Yet the bill’s critics point out that rates of infectious childhood illnesses are extremely low in California, despite small pockets of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children.


Hepatitis B, which will be required for all infants and children under SB-277, is spread mainly through sexual contact and intravenous drug use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children who are Hepatitis B carriers are allowed to attend school in California (source).


Tetanus, another required vaccine, is a soil-borne bacterium, which cannot be spread from child to child.


The outbreak of measles in Disneyland, which started last December and infected only 131 people in the entire state (in a population of 38.8 million) was declared over by California health authorities in April. There were no deaths.


Health advocates say that the fact that measles, an extremely infectious disease, did not infect more Californians is proof of the high herd immunity in the state.


It is wrong to sacrifice a child’s basic right to education, said Barbara Loe Fisher, director of the National Vaccine Information Center, who flew from Washington to speak at the rally.


“We will defend freedom of thought, and speech, and religion, and conscience in this great country of ours because that’s what it means to be an American,” Fisher said.


Tina Kimmel, Ph.D., a research scientist who has worked for the California Department of Public Health, also spoke in opposition to the bill.


Kimmel said she and her medical colleagues were stunned when California began requiring a Hepatitis B vaccine to all newborns, regardless of risk.


“They were all very pro-vaccine,” she said, “but this was over the line … Hepatitis B was a disease spread in the U.S. primarily through unsafe sex and intravenous drug use … The disease was almost unknown among young, non-immigrant children in California.”


Screenshot of a poll conducted by USA Today. The vast majority of Americans do not want forced vaccines

Screenshot of a poll conducted by USA Today. 92% of Americans say they oppose forced vaccines

While giving the Hepatitis B vaccine to immigrants from countries where the disease is endemic, particularly in Asia, was an evidence-based practice, Kimmel and her colleagues argued that the evidence did not support its routine use for all infants.


“We knew we would be giving three doses each to a half a million children a year and it was likely to cause more morbidity from the vaccine itself than any disease it was likely to prevent,” Kimmel said. “We knew that from the get-go but we were powerless to stop this worrisome, pointless, and expensive mandate, which apparently was driven by pharmaceutical profits through corruption at the C.D.C.”


Others who spoke in opposition to the bill on Tuesday include Dr. Toni Bark, a Chicago-based M.D., Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biology at Simpson University, and Dr. Bob Sears, M.D., a pro-vaccine pediatrician in Southern California and author of The Vaccine Book.


State legislators have received thousands of letters and phone calls from activists around the state who oppose the bill. Critics say it is an unnecessary overreach and a violation of medical freedom.


One letter, from longtime California residents in Oakland, California, read:


My husband and I are pro-vaccine. We chose to vaccinate our children and we believe that children in California should be vaccinated. However, we urge you to vote no on SB-277. Why? Because we do not think the state should decide how and when parents vaccinate their children.

If you do not have a newborn, you may not realize that the Hepatitis B shot is given without hours of birth to all American children, regardless of the newborn’s need for the shot. Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease and can be passed from mother to baby. However, mothers are screened prenatally. The hysterical anti-vaccine “fanatics” you have been hearing about? Some have simply decided to forgo the Hep B shot, which even doctors and CDC officials themselves are choosing to opt out of. These parents are making a smart evidence-based scientific choice that is in the best interests of their family’s health, yet their children will no longer be able to attend school in California. This is just wrong. Decisions about a child’s health should be made in the privacy of a doctor’s office, not in the state legislature.


Despite the Tuesday protests, the bill passed the California State Assembly Committee on Health, 12 – 6.


It now must be voted on by the entire California Assembly.


If it passes, the amended bill will go back to the Senate for review and then to the governor’s desk for approval.


A spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown has said the bill will be “closely considered,” but Brown has not publicly indicated whether he will sign it.


If the bill is signed into law, California will join Mississippi and West Virginia, the only states that do not allow religious or philosophical vaccine exemptions.


Mississippi has the highest infant morality rate in America.

Jennifer Margulis, author and journalist.

Photo by Bryon Devore

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning investigative journalist and former Fulbright grantee based in Southern Oregon. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. An advocate for children’s health, she is the author/editor of six books, including Your Baby, Your Way: Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Parenting Decisions for a Happier, Healthier Family (Scribner), which includes one chapter on childhood vaccines.


You can find the phone number and email address for your representative in the California State Assembly is by clicking here.

Contact Governor Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

I trust my momma more than big pharma

Why this Reader Cancelled her Subscription to her Favorite Newspaper

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.30.50 AMYears ago an editor from the travel section of the Oregonian cold called me. He found my name from a colleague at the paper who had tossed a copy of a recent Smithsonian onto his desk. I had written the cover story in Smithsonian Magazine about the last herd of West Africa’s giraffes, and the Oregonian editor was impressed. They needed someone in Southern Oregon. Did I want to do some work for them, starting with writing and shooting a story about the bald eagle fly-out in Klamath Falls?

Did I? It’s every working writer’s dream to have an editor come to them with an idea, some flattering words about their work, and an offer of generous remuneration. I made a motel reservation, charged up my camera batteries, and started researching birds of prey.

Back then I subscribed to the Ashland Daily Tidings, where I had been writing weekly columns and monthly travel articles. I didn’t have a subscription to the Oregonian but I bought a copy at least once a week to read the travel section, and I was in the habit of reading the paper from cover to cover whenever I was visited my best friend in Portland.

I wrote travel articles for the Oregonian for a few years, including stories about wines in Walla Walla, Washington, free activities in Kauai, Hawaii, letterboxing, and things to do in Medford, Oregon. Then I took some time off from newspaper and magazine work to finish writing my fifth book. When I came up for air I found out that my editor had left along with hundreds of other journalists who were laid off.

In June 2013, the state’s largest circulation newspaper announced it was going down to four-day delivery only. People on the inside knew that they had been having budget problems for years, the remuneration to freelancers had been dwindling, and morale at the paper was at an all-time low. My friends in Portland decided not to renew their subscription.

Though some excellent journalism can still be found on its pages, since then the Oregonian has continued to have shrinking pains. Their readership continues to dwindle. Like so many other newspapers in the country, they continue to struggle with how to be financially successful in the digital world.

A newspaper is not a blog. Newspaper reporters are not bloggers. If you are writing a journalistic article you have an obligation to your readers to check your facts, present the most accurate information possible, and give equal weight to both sides of a reported debate.

Yet in covering the ongoing controversy about the Oregon state legislature’s attempt to mandate vaccines, the Oregonian showed a disappointing disregard for basic journalistic practices. Unlike Salem’s Statesman Journal, which has been covering questions about vaccine safety, vaccine risks, increasing vaccine rates, parental choice, medical freedom, and whether medical decisions should be made in a doctor’s office or by the state legislature in a fair and balanced way, the Oregonian continues to present biased reporting and propaganda as journalism.

Sonja Grabel cancelled her subscription to the Oregonian because she was tired of reading propaganda masked as reporting.

Here is a version of the letter she sent to the newspaper last month explaining why.

To date she has received no response from the editors.

Why I cancelled my subscription to the Oregonian
by Sonja Grabel

I called the Oregonian to cancel my paper. When I explained why, the lady on the phone encouraged me to send in a letter. She said that she could only write down a few notes, but she thought the editors should hear why I cancelled.

I love reading the newspaper. In print. I’m an oddity in my generation of digital-media consumers.

Today, with a heavy heart, I permanently cancelled my subscription to The Oregonian. Why? Because I can no longer trust the information you provide.

My main concern is regarding your coverage and editorials of (now withdrawn) SB 442. At first, I assumed that your position and coverage was due to lack of information. But, even after I know you were presented with the accurate statistics, you continued to publish misleading information. Chiefly, you continued to print that Oregon has a “7 percent exemption rate” and alluded to that meaning that 7 percent of Oregon kindergarteners are completely unvaccinated, which is far from the truth.

In fact, when looking at the data disease-by-disease, Oregon falls about average – and above average for some vaccines – with the rest of the country.

In fact, Oregon meets or exceeds all CDC goals for herd immunity. This accurate data was easily available via the School Law Immunization Office. I got the actual statistics with a simple phone call.

The tone of your articles was condescending and irresponsible. You call Andrew Wakefield a “fear-mongerer,” yet that is exactly what you did in your articles. Calling measles “deadly” when, in developed countries, it is incredibly rare to die from the measles – especially for school-aged children (the subjects of this proposed bill) is fear-mongering. Comparing exposing children with peanut allergies to peanut butter with a healthy, non-vaccinated child is ludicrous. (Kids who aren’t sick can’t make someone else sick.) You dismiss “nutritional strategies,” ignoring the vast knowledge that nutrition **IS** important for combating measles, especially vitamin A, and that most who suffer ill-effects from the measles are the malnourished. You have made so many biased and inflammatory statements in your biased coverage of vaccine safety and the legislative debate that I can’t list them all here.

You dismiss concerns about vaccines as being related to “the debunked study,” completely ignoring all of the studies that do suggest that parents should have concerns about side effects from vaccines, the billions of dollars that have been paid out to families of children with devastating vaccine injuries, the absence of studies that prove the safety of the entire vaccine program, the skyrocketing rate of child developmental disabilities and immune dysfunction, the egregious conflicts of interest between the CDC, FDA, and vaccine manufacturers, the Congressional reports slamming said conflicts of interest, and the current fraud cases in U.S. courts against vaccine manufacturers. In fact, I don’t know a single person who declines vaccines or selectively delays vaccines who cites Andrew Wakefield’s “debunked study” as the reason. (And, I know MANY people who question vaccine safety.)

I’m not writing to argue about vaccination or why I opposed the bill. That would be an extremely long letter. I’m writing to tell you how disappointed I am by your grossly biased coverage of this debate. In your February 3, 2015 editorial, as in many of the subsequent “news” articles on this issue, you only gave a voice to the proponents of the bill. I didn’t see a single quote from the opposition.

In contrast, the Statesman Journal had more comprehensive coverage, let the opposition have a voice in the discussion, and provided more accurate data. While I don’t expect you to agree with my position, I DO expect you to provide thorough, fair, and accurate coverage.

I did not cancel my subscription just because I disagree with your position. I canceled it because your coverage of this was so one-sided and biased that I have completely lost trust in your paper.

How can I trust anything else that you print?


Sonja Grabel

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.59.47 AMSonja Grabel, a native of New Orleans, has been a teacher for the past 15 years. She suffered from asthma, significant allergies, and chronic gastrointestinal issues until she moved to Oregon after Hurricane Katrina and began learning about natural and alternative medicine. A former pharmacy technician who was once on multiple medications, she has been able to heal herself though dietary and lifestyle changes. She lives with her husband and daughter in Portland.


Jennifer Margulis, author and journalist.

Photo by Bryon Devore


Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an investigative journalist, a former Fulbright grantee, and the author of Your Baby, Your Way. Her writing has been published in the Oregonian, the Medford Mail Tribune, the Ashland Daily Tidings, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Greenfield Recorder, and dozens of other newspapers around the country.

Related posts:
Why the CDC is right and you should vaccinate your kids
Why Every Oregonian Should Oppose SB-442
Oregonians Spoke and the Legislators Listened
What Horses Can Teach Us About the Measles

Autism Is My Problem: Report From AutismOne


“The doctor just dismissed my concerns,” a mom of three sons told me. “He said, ‘Mrs. G., nothing’s wrong with your son. He’s a boy. He’s just developing slower, he’ll be fine.’”

Mrs. G. knew her son wasn’t okay with every fiber in her being.

She looked at the doctor in surprise. I have two older sons, she told the doctor. I’m not a first-time mom. I have a degree in early childhood development and I’ve been a teacher my whole life. I’m not imagining things. Something’s wrong!

Her doctor walked out of the room without a backwards glance.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that a medical professional diagnosed Mrs. G.’s boy with the problem she already knew he had: autism. Since early intervention can be so helpful and her son is still so sick, she cries when she thinks about how much precious time has been lost.

“I’m broke. We spend every penny we have on interventions.”

“I called the pediatrician and he hung up the phone on me.”

“Our family has been betrayed so many times.”

“I just don’t know what to do.”

These are the voices from the trenches, the moms and dads of children who have broken brains and ailing bodies. I met dozens of them at the AutismOne 2013 Conference, which was held in Chicago, Illinois from May 23rd to May 26th this year.

“We can reverse this epidemic.”

“My child has recovered from autism. He’s no longer on the spectrum.”

“We are thinking moms and we won’t be silenced.”

“We’re in this together and we’re fighting this fight and we are going to win.”

These, too, are the voices from the trenches, the moms and dads of children who have broken brains and ailing bodies. For as many moms who burst into tears at this conference, there were twice as many (often the same ones) who burst into applause, told the best bad jokes, and knew how to have fun. Autism mamas know how to rock the house.

Some children who were diagnosed on the autism spectrum have recovered physically and mentally. When evaluated now they are found to no longer be autistic. What mainstream doctors, who maintain that children with autism cannot get better (and often tell parents to institutionalize their kids) say when they hear about this is that the original diagnosis—even if it was confirmed by four or five specialists—was simply wrong. They say children cannot recover from autism. Instead of seeking out these families, scrutinizing their medical records, and listening to their stories, they dismiss them.

But for every doctor who has kicked these parents out of their practices (for asking too many questions, for calling the office too often, for not vaccinating their already severely immunocompromised children), there are other doctors—many of whom presented their recent clinical findings at the conference—who are trying to fix the damage, listening to parents’ concerns, working tireless both to figure out the cause of what is clearly iatrogenic damage as well as to find solutions.

I don’t have a child with autism.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a child who has lost the feeling in his fingernails, who has constant and chronic diarrhea, who bangs his head against the wall, or who stims (self-stimulates) in other ways.

I don’t know what it’s like to have to clean feces off the walls. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child who cannot be left alone for one second of one day. I don’t know what it’s like to realize that I cannot ever die because I don’t know how anyone else can possibly take care of my kid. I don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom and have to institutionalize my teenager because he has become more than I can handle.

I also don’t know what causes autism.

But I do know that we are in the midst of an autism epidemic, and that America’s children are sicker than they’ve ever been.

In addition to autism, we are seeing rises in asthma, food allergies, Type 1 juvenile diabetes, childhood cancers, Crohn’s Disease, celiac disease and other disorders. The debilitating health problems are hitting my family: my cousin’s son has Crohn’s Disease. It’s hitting my friends: One good friend has a child with Type 1 juvenile diabetes, twenty others have children on the spectrum. It’s hitting my school: four children in my daughter’s third grade class had autism spectrum disorders. It’s hitting my neighborhood: two children at my son’s school have been diagnosed with cancer in the last three months.

I also know that we are vaccinating our children in America in a way that is literally unprecedented in human history, as my colleague Louise Kuo Habakus said during our panel entitled, “Stories, Science, and Social Change.”

I also know that we are vaccinating newborns against a sexually transmitted disease (Hepatitis B) found almost entirely in prostitutes and drug users in the absence of any medical indication without knowing what kind of long-term ill effects we may be creating by introducing a vaccine into a completely immature human immune system.

And that we are exposing unborn fetuses more often to more sound waves than ever before, without making sure that there are adequate safety checks in place on the ultrasound equipment, without ever having studied whether ultrasound exposure is safe, and without knowing what the implications of the fact that prolonged ultrasound exposure causes abnormal brain cell migration in rodents means for human brains.

I also know that there are now tens of thousands of parents who are telling the same story: their child was developing normally, making eye contact, saying words, babbling, engaging in pretend play, looking in the same direction when a parent looked at something. Then they took their baby in for yet another round of shots (these parents were all rule followers. They did exactly what their doctors told them to do on the schedule their doctors told them to follow) at 15 months or 18 months and the next day, or two days later, or five days later, or six days later, or nine days later, their baby was banging his head against the side of the crib, no longer speaking or making eye contact, having diaper blow-outs with yellow sulfurous diarrhea.

All of a sudden their baby was gone.

But when they asked their doctors if there could be a connection between the visit to the pediatrician’s office and their baby’s otherwise inexplicable illness, instead of saying, “I don’t know,” or “Let’s investigate that,” their doctors got angry and defensive and said adamantly and with absolute certainty, “No.”

The numbers of children with autism are staggering: At least one percent of the children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 have an autism spectrum disorder.

This is a nationwide health epidemic that deserves our highest priority.

Austism is my problem.

Autism is your problem.

We need to figure out what is causing autism and stop it. We need to help the children who have been severely damaged and who cannot function get better. For those who cannot recover, we need a viable plan for how to care for them and ensure they have a safe future.

This is not a burden families can shoulder alone. It’s too much to ask of anyone. Everyone in America is now affected by autism. This is our nation’s collective problem.

We need to start asking the right questions. We need to find the answers. And we need them right now.

It’s time to stop damaging our children’s brains.

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A former Fulbright award recipient, she is the author of “The Business of Baby” (Scribner 2013).