A review of the book: Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality by Harris Coulter. (N Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA  1990)

This book, on the relationship between vaccination and neurological illness, by the historian and homeopathic physician, Harris Coulter, is an expose and a hypothesis: vaccination causes learning disorders, including infantile autism, social violence and criminality.  The author’s hypothesis is that there has been an explosive increase in developmental neurological injuries since 1960 and that this correlates with vaccination campaigns promoted by our Public Health Service.

Dr. Coulter focuses on infantile Autism, an uncommon learning disorder in which the affected children fail at language development, or at least at comprehension.  At the same time they fail to develop social relationships and instead become either compulsively attached to things or aggressively overactive and agitated by any change in their environment or schedule.  The recent movie, “Rain Man”, was for the most part, a good depiction of a high-functioning autistic grown-up. 

The first 11 cases of autism in children were described by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943 as a new psychiatric disease syndrome.  In the next 15 years only 150 cases were reported and these were believed to be caused by improper care on the part of frigid, rigid, perfectionistic parents. Since then the number of cases has sky-rocketed and there are over a quarter million cases in USA now, affecting 4 boys to every girl.  The incidence is estimated at 150 per 100,000 live births, about 5000 new cases each year.

Is autism but the tip of an iceberg of neurological damage that afflicts large numbers of the last two generations of our children?  Less severe cases of neurologic damage presents as hyperactivity and learning disorders in the primary grades at school; and become delinquency, drug abuse and violence in the teen age years?  The title “minimal brain damage” has been superseded by the less threatening label: Attention Deficit -Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.  No matter what you call it, does anyone doubt that we are seeing an epidemic of neurologic damage in our children? 

The amount of Ritalin prescribed for the treatment of hyperactivity disorder has more than tripled in the past 5 years and the number of children receiving this drug has more than doubled to over two million!  The rest of our children, those not diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, still have evidence of mental impairment!  Across the board SAT scores show a 10 percent drop in the past 30 years.  This is tantamount to a 10 percent drop in the average American intelligence!  The average Japanese high school graduate outscores all but the top 5 percent of our graduating students on our own tests!  The suicide rate among our teen-agers has doubled and the violent crime that threatens us is also a reflection of the dire condition of this same generation. 

Are the parents of autistics really to blame for the peculiar developmental behavior of their children?  In fact, the caricature of a “refrigerator mother” became the stereotype that was impressed on all the health professionals in training.  Imagine the pain this caused to parents, who were made to feel responsible for causing the exasperating and nerve-wrenching behavior problems of their autistic children.

According to Dr. Bernard Rimland, father of an autistic son and founder of The Autism Research Institute in San Diego, the initial 100 cases studied were a unique and homogenous group in terms of intellect and personality.  The parents were of above-average intelligence, perfectionistic, and a high number were lawyers or medically trained.  Kanner, himself observed that: “The mothers felt duty-bound to carry out to the letter the rules and regulations which they were given by their obstetricians and pediatricians.” 

Since the 1970’s this description no longer holds; i.e. there is no social or personality trait defining the parents now.  Coulter suggests the following scenario:  “Only the prosperous, who could afford private physicians, were in a position to request and pay for the vaccine in the early days.  But as vaccination programs became obligatory the incidence of autism evened out among class and education lines.  Researchers have assumed that the earlier statistics were incorrect; but actually they underscore the probable association of childhood encephalitis and vaccinations.”  Coulter was aware that professional training made it more likely that the parents would comply with routine preventive medical procedures, such as vaccinations.

The symptoms of autism are puzzling when viewed any way other than as a product of a disordered central nervous system.  The list of common symptoms overlaps with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, schizophrenia, paranoia, hyperactivity and anti-social personality.  But half of the autism children never develop speech!  And over half are unable to score above 70 on IQ tests.  And at least a third have obvious seizure disorder, though not necessarily the grand mal seizures that we usually identify with epilepsy.  In case you are interested in these details, here is a sample list of these symptoms: 

1.     Alienation

2.     Unaware of people

3.     Unable to say “yes.” 

4.     Unable to look another in the eyes

5.     Unaware of danger or risk.

6.     Anxiety--pervasive.

7.     Diminished pain sensitivity.

8.     Sleep disturbance, abnormal circadian rhythms

9.     Cranial nerve palsies

10.     Half the cases fail to develop speech

11.     Most are fascinated by music.  (Rock music popular in first vaccinated generation). p49

12.     Over-developed taste and smell (these are unmyelinated)

13.     Unable to relate new stimuli to remembered experience

14.     Resistant to change.  Kanner described their “anxiously obsessive desire for the maintenance of sameness.”

15.     Attachment to objects is greater than with people

Though many of these early cases involved a “refrigerator mother,”  Kanner corrected himself in 1971, saying that this had been a blunder.  Bettelheim wrote “The Empty Fortress” in 1967.  His influence and prestige put the onus on parental wrongdoing for over a decade longer.  Nikolaas Tinbergen, professor of animal behavior at Oxford, in his 1973 Nobel Prize Lecture (Physiology and Medicine), called autism an “emotional disturbance”, ..”an anxiety neurosis which prevents or retards normal affiliation and subsequent socialization.”   He went on to deny a connection to genetic or neurologic factors, instead blaming the condition on early environmental influences.

Kanner thought autistics were of normal intelligence except for an “innate inability to form ... affective contact with people.”  (1944, p 215).  Later research reveals that about 75 percent are mentally retarded and 40 percent have IQ lower than 50.  Am J Psychiatry, 1984, DeMyer, William and Marian, (1984) conclude: “No specific cut-off exists between ‘mental retardation’ and autism.  In fact, the rule is that the more retarded the child, the more ‘autistic’ features he or she will display.” 

Asperger’s Syndrome:

A milder form of autism or developmental disorder, which commences after age three.  Asperger first described “autistic psychopathy” in 1944.  These children are intelligent but lack an understanding of and interaction with other people’s feelings.  Lack of empathy.  Lack of intuition.  Absorbed in circumscribed interests.  Bore others by talking too much about self.  Sometimes commit crimes because they fail to appreciate context and consequences; but because they “look good” they are judged on moral grounds.

Minimal Brain Damage (MBD):

Hyperactivity vastly increased in 1950’s in American school-children.  Again boys up to 10 times more than girls.  About 3 percent of prepubertal children now suffer from MBD and most of these are also hyperactive. There is an association with mental retardation, seizures, cerebral palsy, sleep disturbance, nightmares, teeth grinding; enuresis, anorexia, and bulimia.

Hyperactivity diminishes with age but attention span and memory difficulties continue lifelong.  Dyslexia is common. Left-handedness is more common in dyslectics, and so both have increased.  Thus we find 16 percent of Americans under 30 are left handed; while only 12 percent of those over 60 are.  Bonnie Kaplan (1987) found a consistently greater frequency of otitis and asthma in hyperactive children.

Coulter’s basic premise is that vaccinations trigger a post-encephalitic syndrome with variable after-effects.

The present vaccine package insert carries this warning: “Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has occurred in infants following administration of DPT.”  This is not a small hazard.  In Japan, the number of cases of SIDS recently dropped by 50 percent simply by delaying vaccines until after age 2 years.  Vaccine reactions can be obvious, such as high fever; but about half the families Coulter interviewed did not recall an acute phase even though the child developed autism or neurologic symptoms afterward. Increased irritability or sleepiness can easily be over-looked; and the infant is unable to complain of headache.

Anna Lisa Annell’s treatise on whooping cough (pertussis) turns on this point:  “The degree of severity of the illness and intensity of the clinical symptoms do not appear to be decisive for the occurrence of sequelae.”  “Even apparently uncomplicated attacks of infectious disease of childhood may result in brain damage, which may then be the primary cause of subsequent behavior disorders.”

Coulter sums up as follows:  “This leads irresistibly to the conclusion that severe neurologic sequelae may occur after vaccination even in the absence of an acute reaction.  When the baby reacts to a DPT shot with a slight fever and fussiness or drowsiness for a few days, this may be, and often is, a case of encephalitis which is capable of causing quite severe neurologic consequences.”  Sometimes baby’s symptoms take the form of hypersomnia--and the family fail to recognize this as a symptom.”

The personality is influenced by impairment of mental concentration, attention and cognition, resulting in intellectual fragmentation.  This alienates the damaged child from peers, a kind of social alienation, which aggravates the already gross egocentrism and emotional deadness.  Many compensate by impulsiveness, aggressiveness, and hypersexuality.

Vaccination and Allergies

Half the American population suffers from skin allergies, rhinitis, asthma, irritable bowel and other allergic illness, that have been seen with increasing frequency in all industrialized societies.  The manufacturer of DPT vaccine warns, in the package insert, that “allergic hypersensitivity to any component of the vaccine:” is an “absolute contraindication.”  Of course, how does one know in advance who is allergic?  The Center for Disease Control now regards the vaccines as safe and advises doctors to give them to everyone? 

However, Lawrence Steinman et al at Stanford performed an animal study which suggests that those with allergies may over-react to the pertussis vaccine.  Kevin Geraght, a pediatric immunologist, compared strains of mice that react violently to DPT, with others that are unaffected.  However when non-reactive mice are first injected with histamine, the DPT vaccine then provokes a violent reaction, including convulsions and death.  The implication is that anyone with a high level of histamine, such as occurs with infections and allergies, is at risk of adverse results after vaccine administration.

Some authorities regard autism an auto-immune disease.  In 1982, Israeli researchers found autistic children with a cell-mediated immune response to brain tissue.  In 1970 G.A. Rosenberg wrote: “An autoimmune allergic mechanism has been postulated as the cause of the uncommon occurrence of post-vaccinal encephalitis, possibly with an initial invasion of the nervous system by a virus, with a subsequent antigen-antibody reaction.”

Brain development occurs in two stages: first the nerve fibers grow and unite with their receptors.  Then the process of myelination moves ahead, starting in the phylogenetically older parts of the brain and ending in the cerebral cortex, which are not completely myelinated until age 5 and later.  Charles M. Poser, a neurologist at Harvard Medical Center, writes: “Almost any...vaccination can lead to a non-infectious inflammatory reaction involving the nervous system...The common denominator consists of a vasculopathy that is often associated with demyelination.  This description fits the definition of autoimmune reaction.

Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis has been known since the 1920’s when it increased in frequency as a result of the smallpox vaccination program, which caused Guillain-Barre, an ascending spinal paralysis also. Thomas Rivers produced brain inflammation in monkeys by injecting them repeatedly with extracts of sterile normal rabbit brain and spinal cord material.  No longer was encephalitis attributed directly to viral or bacterial infection.  The EAE is identical to that which occurs after infectious disease, e.g. measles, whooping cough, chickenpox, and after vaccinations.  (Menkes JH, 1980 p 375) (Weizman A, et al 1982.).

Dr. A. L. Annell recognized an increased tendency for children’s diseases to attack the central nervous system in this century.  “Up to the 1920’s only isolated cases, were, as a rule, described.  After this time a large number--not uncommonly occurring epidemically--were reported.” (Annell AL: 1953, p 15-16).  25 years later Roger Bannister agreed: “These acute demyelinating diseases have become more serious because of some abnormal process of sensitization of the nervous system.” (Bannister R, 1978, p 408).

Coulter adds: “Prior to 1900 encephalitis from childhood diseases was an almost negligible danger.  After 1920 it was encountered more and more frequently.  And today the threat of encephalitis from whooping cough or measles is the main justification for vaccination programs.  Thus the medical profession is in the curious position of urging vigorous measures against a health threat created largely by itself.”(p 160) 

Coulter’s research led to another important conclusion:  “Autism, pervasive developmental disorder, developmental language disorders, stuttering, academic skills disorders, and many others are clustered in families and close relatives.  Autoimmunity and allergy are the common thread in many of these cases but a search for genetic linkage has been equivocal.  Coulter concludes that: “the genetic factor to be sought is the child’s predisposition to react to vaccination.”  “Clustering is due to a genetically determined predisposition of members of the same family to react violently to vaccination.” (Steinman L et al, 1982).

Coulter presents several other persuasive ideas:
“The pertussis vaccination program was only sporadic in the 1920’s and 1930’s, becoming widespread during and after World War II.  The appearance of autism and learning disabilities reflects the concomitant growth of this vaccination program.”  “Society’s increasing production of neurologic defectives has caused a remarkable upsurge in violent crime.  The start of this rise can be dated precisely to the early 1960’s... Rimland and Larson have called attention to the “striking, almost mirror-image correlation, starting about 1963, between the curves showing the decline in SAT scores and the upsurge in violent crime.”

The vaccination program intensified in 1965 when Congress passed the Immunization Assistance Act.  “A 1986 National Health Interview Survey found that between 1969 and 1981 the prevalence of “activity-limiting chronic conditions” in persons younger than seventeen increased by an inexplicable forty-four percent--from 2,680 per 100,000 to 3,848.  Almost all the increase occurred between 1969 and 1975.  Respiratory diseases increased 47 percent, asthma 65 percent, otitis media 120 percent.  Most important for our purpose, mental and nervous disorders increased 80 percent, while personality and behavioral disorders, drug abuse and hyperactivity, went up 300 percent.”

Coulter concludes:

“The catastrophe of childhood vaccinations is due above all to professional hubris--the physician’s desire (often with the best motives!) to seize control over forces of nature and bend them to his will.  The consequence can only be called a pollution of our internal environment..”  “Our authorities should be mindful of the fact that in Western Europe only the tetanus and the oral poliomyelitis vaccinations are obligatory.” 

It is too soon to know if Dr. Coulter’s theory is correct; however there is no shortage of reports by parents of autistic children that their child was developing normal speech, had a fever or other reaction to vaccination, and then lost speech within a few weeks after.  My own practice, which includes over 20 cases of autism in children under 5 years old in the past year and a half, bears out this scenario in over a quarter of the cases.

One thing is clear, the number of children being vaccinated has increased and it is highly suspicious that various mental and physical disorders have increased in direct relation.  It is the goal of our Public Health Service to have 90 percent of 2 year olds immunized with the full series of recommended vaccines by the year 2000.  In 1991 the rate of compliance was 55 percent and today, only five years later, it is up to 75 percent, the highest level in history.  The officials proclaim that infectious diseases are at an all time low as a result of their success.  One might ask, “why are we having an epidemic of asthma if infections are so much better.  Asthma is due to a combination of allergic and infectious bronchitis. 

Meantime the increased numbers of children with learning disorders has actually become one of the leading social problems of our time, and this is after lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, DDT, PCB and lindane have already been effectively taken out of our environment.  Infant formulas have been improved to include more vitamin E, B6, folic acid, taurine, carnitine even omega-3 fatty acids in the past decade.  Fluoridation would be suspect, but it has been taken out of infant formulas at the time when autism and ADHD are increasing.  A low fat diet might be implicated if it could be shown that babies are getting less vitamin A and vitamin D than before; but then we should be seeing more cases of rickets.  Antibiotics would be more suspect but then the epidemic should have happened long before now. Vaccinations are the most likely culprit.

Finally, let us note that it is the less damaged cases that represent the larger problem--because they are healthy enough to live in mainstream society.  But because they number in the millions they have become a threat to the stability of our entire civilization.  This is not only due to the direct impact of crime, but as crime and violence have increased we have given our police more power.  This is leading to passive acceptance of a “police state.”  Wire-tapping, searching of home and property without a warrant, confiscation of property before a trial, loss of habeas corpus rights, blanket access to medical records as a condition of insurance benefits, and a number of other invasions of our Constitutional rights have already happened.  Freedoms for which we have fought two World Wars, are now in danger of being given away due to a new kind of war here at home: a war against our young people, many of whom are excluded from the intellectual, occupational and economic mainstream because of undiagnosed neurological impairment.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that there are treatment options that offer real benefits--and some of the most effective are nutrients, not drugs.

(To be continued).


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