In late August, during the pre-marketing phase for my book,
How to End the Autism Epidemic, USA Today reached out to my P.R. firm and requested a 2,000 word exclusive excerpt from my book.

It never ran, but you can read it right here. What's happened to the free exchange of ideas when it comes to vaccines?

MCLEAN, Virginia-No, I never really believed they would run it, but I put my feelings to the side and put the best possible excerpt together that I could, after reading this email from my publicist:

In retrospect I shirked my duty to research vaccines properly. You don't think of a vaccine as a medical procedure, but that's what it is. I hadn't done a shred of primary research about vaccines prior to vaccinating my children. I remembered being vaccinated as a kid and thought, "I've been vaccinated, and I'm fine." I trusted the authorities, who all seemed to be saying that vaccines were safe and effective.

I had no idea that in 1986 vaccine makers were given blanket indemnity from liability by the US Congress. I didn't know the vaccine schedule in the United States had tripled since the mid-1980s. Or that the US government had paid out $3.6 billion for vaccine injuries. Or that other developed countries gave many fewer vaccines, and had much less autism. I didn't know the hepatitis B vaccine, often given on day one of life, only provided protection for four years. Or that autism, ADHD, asthma, and allergies were all skyrocketing, and that their rise corresponded to changes in the vaccine schedule. I couldn't know that biological science would show how a vaccine can injure an infant's brain-because it hadn't been published yet. And I certainly had never read the many published studies showing how vaccines can result in autoimmunity and neurological damage.

I believed the narratives that appealed to emotion and trust in authority that we often hear about vaccines. Herd immunity, for example: Nobody wants to be the selfish parent who puts everyone else at risk. Vaccination is important, not only for our own kids but for the health of the community, especially the vulnerable, right? Well, no one really knows because we've never come close to achieving herd immunity through vaccines.

Today the science is clear that most vaccines wane in four to ten years. With the adult population less than 50 percent up to date on vaccines, we're nowhere near herd immunity and never have been. "Herd immunity" is one of the many sophisticated PR strategies designed to compel parents into vaccinating their children through emotional manipulation.

Enough with the "anti-vaccine" label

"Anti-vaccine" is a slur used to quell debate and a waste of my time and yours. People for safer cars are not "anti-car." We don't have time for these kinds of oversimplified attacks and binary labels. Our kids desperately need us to rise to the occasion of an informed, intellectual, and fact-based debate that examines arguments on their merits.

What I genuinely believe is that each vaccine needs to be evaluated on its own merits. While I acknowledge that vaccines provide some benefit to society in reducing cases of certain acute illness, they also cause brain damage in some of the vulnerable kids who receive them. The public health establishment in this country has not been forthcoming with us. They exaggerate the overall benefits from vaccination and severely downplay the risks, either through improper monitoring and testing or through blatant misrepresentations. And while we have the capacity to do it, we don't systematically assess the children who are more vulnerable to vaccination before they receive any.

The real history of vaccines and measles

Just before the first rollout of a nationwide measles vaccine program, the three leading scientists at what was then called the Public Health Service (today's CDC) made a presentation in San Francisco on November 1, 1966. Some of the matter-of-fact statements they made might get a doctor banned from the mainstream media today as even a single case of measles is a cause for panic and outbreak stories that often make the national news. In fact, a new parent might think measles was just like Ebola, except it's not, as the PHS scientists made very clear in 1966, stating, "For centuries the measles virus has maintained a remarkably stable ecological relationship with man. The clinical disease is a characteristic syndrome of notable constancy and only moderate severity. Complications are infrequent, and, with adequate medical care, fatality is rare."

In the 1950s and '60s, even without vaccines, measles outbreaks only happened every few years, on a somewhat dependable cycle; they noted that "in large population centers, as in cities or whole metropolitan areas, measles epidemics recur in 2-to-3-year cycles." They also established a vaccination threshold to eradicate measles well below the 95 percent number public health officials use today, noting that "it is evident that when the level of immunity was higher than 55 percent, epidemics did not develop." Before the vaccine had been introduced, it's worth noting that the death rate from measles in the United States had already declined by approximately 99.96 percent from its peak in the mid-1800s. In 1960 the death rate from measles was 0.23 per 100,000 people. Asthma, by comparison, had a mortality rate more than ten times higher for the same year.

Published in the AAP's own journal, Pediatrics, is a study from 2000 by public health scientists from both the CDC and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health that singularly refutes the oft-told lie that vaccines saved humanity. As anyone who studies public health can tell you, clean water, sanitation, plumbing, refrigeration, and proper food handling are far more important to reducing the spread of infectious disease, and it was the gains in these standards of living in the United States that lead to a dramatic drop in death from infectious disease. How big a drop? In the study "Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans During the 20th Century," the scientists explain that "vaccination does not account for the impressive declines in mortality seen in the first half of the century. . . . Nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccine were available."

What's particularly odd is that many other infectious diseases also declined precipitously, despite the fact that no vaccine ever existed for them-how can both be true? Did vaccines contribute to a small decrease of certain acute illnesses? Yes, but their relative benefit is often exaggerated.

A moderate solution?

In the United States 13 percent of children are in special education today, with many counties and schools reporting numbers of 25 percent or higher. No matter where you look, the stories are the same: there is a massive physical and mental health deterioration happening in this generation of children. Rising special education, anxiety disorders, ADHD, autism, depression, anaphylactic food allergies, behavioral issues, and on and on. Name it, they have all exploded. Teachers are stressed out, overworked, and in short supply.

And it's nearly impossible to find people in positions of power in the public health establishment asking the obvious question: Where in the world did all these sick children come from? "I have over 13,000 children in my pediatric practice and I have to say, as unpopular as this observation might be, my unvaccinated children are by far the healthiest," says Dr. Paul Thomas, a Dartmouth-trained pediatrician who has been practicing medicine for thirty years and also happens to be my children's pediatrician here in Portland.

His recent best seller, The Vaccine-Friendly Plan, has challenged the mainstream medical establishment at every turn, and Paul has emerged as a fearless voice. I want to understand from Paul what triggered his awakening. Paul explains, "What ended up happening for me was that some of my patients didn't seem to be doing as well neurologically, developmentally, as kids used to be, and I started wondering, what the heck is going on? I started seeking out alternative information and doing my own research."

He walks me through the research he did, the conferences he attended; he recounts that "once you start looking, you become more aware that there's actually something going on with what we're doing and the outcomes we're starting to see. Kids not developing, regressing into autism."

In the mid-2000s he started to see children who regressed into autism after being perfectly normal. Paul decided to change the way he doctored newborns. He reduced the number of vaccines he gave. He delayed certain vaccines, avoided antibiotics, and counseled parents on other ways to avoid toxins. The result was that among his more than two thousand patients, none developed autism. There should have been fifty. So one doctor changes the way he treats his pediatric population and sees no autism.

Could it be that easy?

A six-point plan

What follows are my recommendations for how to end the autism epidemic. Consider it a six-point plan to dramatically reduce the rate of autism in the United States.

1. Immediately reduce the total number of vaccines given to American children.

Reduce the vaccine schedule to the following vaccines: DTaP, Hib, polio, and MMR. Of course, this will be viewed by pro-vaccine talking heads as a radical and dangerous idea, despite the fact that until the late 1980s, the entire US vaccine schedule was DTaP, polio, and MMR. Furthermore, decisions need to be made about when, exactly, to give these vaccines. In general, first vaccines should be delayed until children have reached their first birthday and the MMR delayed until they are past three years old, as Dr. Paul Thomas does in his practice.

2. With the remaining vaccines, have the CDC and AAP institute an immediate policy change for when and how the vaccines are administered.

Children in the United States are routinely vaccinated while they are sick and when they are taking antibiotics. While the CDC website discourages these practices, American pediatricians violate these guidelines every day, as they did with my son and the children of so many parents I know.

3. Make the MMR available as three separate shots.

The MMR vaccine is a "triple live virus" vaccine that may be creating too heavy a burden for some children's immune systems to process all at once. I have heard so many stories of regression and seizures immediately after the MMR. In the United States parents cannot access separate vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, but in Japan that's exactly how they are given: as separate shots.

4. Substitute titer tests for booster shots.

Booster shots are provided for most vaccines. For example, the DTaP vaccine is typically given four separate times before a baby's fifteen-month birthday. Many of these shots are unnecessary, as immunity has already been conferred through the first vaccine, which titer tests-which measure antibodies in the blood-can reveal. A blood test carries far fewer risks than a vaccine.

5. Screening for vulnerable children needs to be implemented immediately.

Screening tools need to be rolled out through the CDC and AAP immediately. Some vulnerabilities are genetic or based on health conditions of the parents. Some vulnerabilities are the product of how the child presents physically. Eczema, persistent ear infections, diarrhea, dark circles under the eyes-any of these could serve as a warning that vaccines may cause further harm. We need a clear, explicit screening system.

6. Vaccine safety must be removed from the CDC.

Ten years ago two members of Congress, Representatives Dave Weldon and Carolyn Maloney, tried to pass a bill to separate vaccine safety from the CDC. Alas, like every bill intended to reduce the power and influence of the CDC, the bill never passed, but it sits there as a template for how to make this separation of the fox from the hen house happen.

Right now, thousands of American children, every single day, are having their lives unnecessarily and permanently altered by a reckless, poorly tested, and poorly monitored vaccine program that puts industry profits ahead of children's safety. My son and millions of other children are being stricken with a mental disability that reduces their ability to pursue a life of liberty and happiness. This is a man-made disaster that needs to end now, and it should be treated like a national emergency.

About the author

J.B. Handley is the author of How to End the Autism Epidemic. He is an honors graduate of Stanford University and spent two decades running a private equity fund.