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Medical community confronts vaccine fears

No matter how many times the medical community reassures parents that vaccines are safe and necessary to prevent life-threatening diseases, some people remain unconvinced.

"I believe that herd immunity is a complete myth," says J.B. Handley, co-founder of an autism advocacy organization called Generation Rescue that is critical of the way vaccinations are carried out in the U.S. "It's a tactic used to scare the public."

Handley, a father of three in Portland, Ore., has an 8-year-old son with autism. He believes that the cocktail of immunizations his son received when he was 13 months old is to blame

"Do I think a vaccine appointment was a trigger for his decline into autism? Yeah, with every fiber of my being I do," he says. "And I've met several thousand parents who feel exactly the same way."

Handley insists that his organization, led by actress-turned-activist Jenny McCarthy, isn't opposed to vaccines altogether but believes they shouldn't be given until children turn 2 years old and their immune systems are mature enough to handle them.

"We think too many shots are given to children too early in their life and administered in too unsafe a manner, meaning simultaneously," he says.

Handley points to a 2010 study in the Polish journal Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis in which researchers administered a series of vaccines to infant rhesus monkeys. The timing of the shots was designed to mimic the childhood immunization schedule used in the U.S. from 1994 to 1999. The brains of the immunized monkeys appeared to be less mature than the brains of the other animals, the researchers reported.

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