For the uninitiated, JB Handley may not be a familiar name. It certainly wasn’t for me up until about seven years ago. Mr. Handley is one of many people behind “Age of Autism” and “Generation Rescue.” Both anti-vaccine groups who seek to link vaccines to an innumerable number of conditions. They also seek to link vaccines to autism.
Mr. Handley’s story of how he became such an ardent anti-vaccine activist varies depending on who you ask. Heck, it varies depending on what he feels like writing about it. For example, in the Generation Rescue page I linked above, the story is this:
“When Lisa and JB Handley’s son was diagnosed with autism in 2004, they simply did not believe it would be [child]’s lifelong destiny. They committed themselves to healing their son.
Lisa and JB pursued all of the theories and avenues they could find, educating themselves as fully as possible as they reached the most likely conclusion: the combination of antibiotics and vaccines administered to [child] in his first 18 months of life had overwhelmed his system and triggered his body into a state of being that we currently call autism.”
Note the key component of the story: It was “the combination of antibiotics and vaccines” given to their child “in his first 18 months of life.”
In February, 2015, JB Handley penned an article titled “An Angry Father’s Guide To The Measles Vaccine” where he wrote:
“Be informed. Please. I wish I had, 10 years ago, and my life and my family’s life would be much different today.”
Okay, so 2004 and 2005 are close. Maybe it was 10 years ago (2005) and not eleven (2004). I’m splitting hairs. But then there’s this:
“Man, did I get played by the CDC. It was the winter of 2003. You couldn’t turn on the T.V. without reading about another child dying from the flu: it’s a particularly bad strain, children are at high risk, flu shot supply is strained, get your child vaccinated while you still can!
And, we were listening closely. For my oldest son, turning 4 and healthy, we weren’t too worried. But for my younger son, our baby [child], at 15 months old, we were very concerned. He was sick all the time. This could be a real problem for him. They are talking about death here, and [child] seems to qualify as high risk.”
So now it’s 2003, and the child is 15 months old. Okay, it jives with the narrative. Then this:
“The first shot was in December. Our Christmas videos that year show a very normal [child] — excited about Santa’s arrival and closely tied to his older brother. The booster was in January.
By March, [child] was gone.”
Gone where? Ah, yes, gone nowhere. JB Handley seems to be the kind of person who sees children with special needs as “gone” or “missing” or “dead.” None of which is true. Those children are still alive and there, and many reach milestones which allow them to look back on their parent’s statements about them, something that saddens me as a child should never be referred that way by someone who loves them. But I digress.
Note that this article is about the measles vaccine. JB Handley, an angry father by his own description, wants to warn us about the measles vaccine, but here he is plainly telling us that is was the influenza vaccine in the winter of 2003-2004 that made his child be “gone.”
JB Handley spends the rest of the article using misinformation and intellectual dishonesty to tell us how vaccines don’t work, how they’re dangerous, blah, blah, blah. Typical anti-vaccine stuff. But note that his son was “sick all the time” and that this is why he and his wife opted to have the child vaccinated.
Now read this from an interview he gave in 2005:
“A Lafayette couple, certain that chelation therapy has helped their autistic son, stepped squarely into the controversy surrounding the causes of autism and its treatment Tuesday as they joined 150 other parents in launching an international support group that will aggressively promote the treatment.
[Child] was a happy, healthy baby who reached all his developmental milestones until he turned 18 months, his parents said. Then, he started spinning in circles and standing on his toes and no longer responded to his name. They were eventually told he was autistic — one of an increasing number of children over the last decade to be diagnosed with the disorder, which severely impairs a child’s ability to interact with others.”
So which is it? Was he sick all the time at age 15 months and that’s why he was vaccinated against influenza, or was he happy and healthy until 18 months? Remember, this is 2005, a little over a year has gone by. Recall bias may be at play, but it’s only a little over a year. (The child is said to be three years old at the time of the interview.)
By the way, the article is horrible. It claims that JB Handley’s child “returned” from autism in 2005. (Remember that part.)
In 2010, JB Handley wrote this in a post for AoA:
“More commonly, I hear from parents about a chronic slide into autism with a progression of health issues accompanying the slide. This was certainly true for my son. The eczema and bad bowels came immediately after the 2 month visit and his twelve month vaccine appointment (MMR, Varicella, Hep B, and Hib in his case) was what really seemed to push him over the edge, but it was a full year before we got a formal diagnosis. From 2 months forward, it was just a slow motion loss of everything.”
So now it’s a story that the child was sick starting at two months and got worse from there. But he was healthy and happy until 18 months according to JB Handley in 2005. This doesn’t make sense!
The thing that bothers me most about this is that many of the people at Age of Autism make a big deal when anyone writes about their children, but then they use their own parenting experiences and anecdotes as definitive proof that vaccines cause autism. For Kim Stagliano, one of the editors of AoA, even her unvaccinated daughter has autism because of vaccines: Because of the vaccines that Ms. Stagliano received before her daughter was born.
I would very much like it if children did not become entangled in this whole mess because those children will one day reach a place in their lives where their names will be associated with some pretty “interesting” conspiracy theories. (Nothing stays hidden on the web.) Many, too many, of those children will read that they were “lost” or “dead” because they were born autistic, even if their parents swear up and down that vaccines caused their autism. And many, too many, children will be the target of unproven, unscientific, sometimes unethical treatments for something that cannot be “cured.”
I truly wish JB Handley and others stuck to the evidence and left their children out of it. But, as you can see, their desire to use anecdotes only helps to show the inconsistency and lack of reliability to eye witness accounts and the necessity for objective, science-based evidence of what is really going on.