Sunday, March 04, 2007
Immunologist Responds to Wagnitz Mercury-Autism Link Argument
The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) carried an opinion piece recently by Michael Wagnitz, a chemist with years of experience in trace analysis, who argued that the brains of some deceased autistic persons showed evidence of neuroinflammation which he attributed to mercury poisoning from the vaccine preservative thimerosal. On that basis Mr. Wagnitz argued that thimerosal poisoning is a cause of autism. The Capital Times has now published a passionate response to the Wagnitz argument by Cheryl A. Robinson, R.N., M.S., immunization program manager, public health, Madison and Dane county.
Ms. Robinson takes particular aim at Wagnitz's dismissal of epidemiological evidence refuting a thimerosal-autism link:
"The real disservice to your readers was Michael Wagnitz's dismissal of a vast body of epidemiological evidence. These studies compared large groups of children who received thimerosal-containing vaccine to large numbers of children who did not get these vaccines. The occurrence of autism in each group was the same. While no one believes that mercury is healthy for children or adults, there is simply no evidence demonstrating that thimerosal in vaccine causes or is linked to autism.
Developmental problems are most often noticed when children reach the age of 1 or 2 years - a time when children also receive a large number of immunizations. I understand how easy it is for families to link the two events."
Ms. Robinson also notes that vaccines in the US are now thimerosal free, with the exception of influenza vaccine for which a thimerosal free version can be requested. She accuses Wagnitz of the kind of alarmism which drives some parents to avoid immunization an unwise decision which poses a genuine threat to public health.
Personally I have not been a subscriber to the mercury-autism link theory and do not think parents should avoid immunizing their children but I thought Mr. Wagnitz argument about neuro-inflammation interesting. Further scientific study and evidence may yet reveal some connection. We certainly should not stop looking at the best available evidence even if it contradicts our own views. I find discussions such as are taking place in the opinion pages of the Madison Capital Times helpful in understanding these issues and the developing state of scientific knowledge surrounding them.