It’s been a busy time for my business and as a result I have neglected Babyminding.com. There is so much to talk about as related to green parenting for healthy children and I apologize to my readers for not being more persistent with my posts. However, a recent story came to me from the Autism Research Institute Newsletter that I must share:
Study Shows Newborn Monkeys Given Vaccines Do Not Develop Normally
Dr. Laura Hewitson to join Science lineup at next week’s conference in Dallas to present Hep B findings
Newborn monkeys in the wild depend on the strength of a few survival reflexes; when a human baby can’t figure out how to nurse, the hospital staff steps in and offers help, but a baby monkey, lacking such assistance, will die. The sucking reflex, common to all mammals, must be present at birth; it drives the newborn to suck at anything touching the roof of the mouth. The rooting reflex is closely linked, and assists in breastfeeding–a newborn instinctively turns its head toward anything that touches its face. These reflexes are controlled by the brainstem, a very important part of the brain that regulates autonomic functions such as breathing, heart rate, and intestinal activity.
We have standardized neonatal tests (modeled after T. Berry Brazelton’s Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, 1995) that measure a range of abilities, including reflex strength, visual alertness, and response to social stimulation. While designed for human babies, these assessments are commonly used in clinical and research settings on primates, as an early screening measure for developmental problems.
These tests were essential for researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in designing the study: “Delayed Acquisition of Neonatal Reflexes in Newborn Primates Receiving a Thimerosal-Containing Hepatitis B Vaccine: Influence of Gestation Age and Birth Weight” (NeuroToxicology e-pub 9/30/09).
The primary researcher on the paper, Laura Hewitson, PhD, now at Thoughtful House Center for Children, wanted to see if the development of survival reflexes of the 13 newborn male rhesus macaques that received a weight-adjusted thimerosal-containing Hepatitis B (Hep B) vaccine at birth were delayed compared with the four animals who received a saline placebo, or the three who received no injection at all. In vaccinated animals there was a significant delay in the acquisition of three survival reflexes: root, snout, and suck, compared with unvaccinated animals. (No neonatal reflexes were significantly delayed in the control animals.) Also, in some areas, the animals with the lowest birth weight and / or shortest time in the womb were more severely affected. (Note: the researchers assessing the monkeys were blinded.)
When asked about the relevance of the study, given that Hep B is now free of thimerosal (nearly 50% ethyl mercury by weight), Dr. Hewitson replied, “Our study design does not enable us to determine whether it was the vaccine itself, the exposure to thimerosal, or a combination of the two that caused the observed effects. While thimerosal is no longer used in Hepatitis B vaccines given to American infants, thimerosal-containing Hepatitis B vaccines are still widely used in many countries. Furthermore, all multi-dose flu vaccines contain thimerosal.” (Note: the influenza vaccine is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for both pregnant mothers and for infants at 6 months of age.) “Clearly, more research into the safety of the Hepatitis B vaccine is a matter of some urgency,” said ARI’s Director, Dr. Stephen Edelson.
Thimerosal is still a concern to me, especially as the H1N1 Vaccine becomes available in early October. I urge all parents to read more about this before they make a decision on whether to vaccinate their family for Swine Flu. Dr. Sears has some very useful information related to the H1N1 and flu vaccines on his website.
I promise to try and be more diligent in my updates!