Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Autism Science Foundation - Doesn't Science Require An Open Mind?

The Autism Science Foundation, a new purported autism advocacy group, has been formed and announced to the world.

I have some concerns about the ASF's approach to advocating for "autism science". The new Foundation has announced that it will focus on non-vaccine related causes of autism. From its inception it has ruled out the possibility that vaccines could cause or contribute to autism, even in potentially susceptible population subgroups. To this humble non-scientist such an approach smacks more of political goals than scientific research. The ASF makes a clearly political statement supportive of vaccine programs and concluding with finality that vaccines do not cause autism:

The Autism Science Foundation’s mission is premised on the following facts and principles:
Vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism. Numerous studies have failed to show a causal link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine safety research should continue to be conducted by the public health system in order to ensure vaccine safety and maintain confidence in our national vaccine program, but further investment of limited autism research dollars is not warranted at this time.

In fact Dr. Bernadine Healy former CDC head, and Dr. Julie Gerberding, recent NIH head, have indicated that more vaccine autism research is needed. Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), an NIH agency stated, as reported by David Kirby at the Huffington Post that "scientists must investigate susceptible subpopulations of children, including kids with mitochondrial disorders and those who have trouble metabolizing mercury." Kirby quotes Dr. Alexander's statement from a February 24, 2009 interview with Dr. Geraldine Dawson of Autism Speaks:

"One question (is) whether there is a subgroup in the population that, on a genetic basis, is more susceptible to some vaccine characteristic or component than most of the population, and may develop an ASD in response to something about vaccination. We know that genetic variations exist that cause adverse reactions to specific foods, medications, or anesthetic agents. It is legitimate to ask whether a similar situation may exist for vaccines"

Given the existence of legitimate questions concerning possible vaccine autism questions it seems odd for an organization founded to provide quality scientific research to make such a dogmatic statement conclusively ruling out those very questions. It also seems odd that the founders of this organization believe that public confidence in the vaccine program will be maintained by shutting the door on areas of research in which substantial numbers of the population believe are legitimate areas of inquiry - including members of the public like Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Dr. Duane Alexander and Dr. Jon Poling.

Personally, this father of a 13 year old autistic boy does not have a rigid view of the vaccine-autism issues. While I once accepted without serous question the official view of these issues I have changed my position. While I have not concluded that vaccines or vaccine ingredients cause autism I now have an open mind on the issues, largely because of the views expressed by credible people like Dr. Healy. As a lawyer I can also not ignore the fact that some of the vaccine cases have resulted in settlements in favor of the plaintiffs where a vaccine-autism connection was alleged, particularly in the Banks and Poling cases.

Personally, this humble member of the public would have greater confidence in the safety of vaccine programs if more research of the type suggested by Doctors Healy, Gerberding and Alexander were conducted and the results were positive than by the incessant repetition of the dogma that the vaccine-autism link has been disproven. It has not. And many members of the public know that. It is time to do the research and move on.

Hopefully the "Autism Science Foundation" will stick to advocating FOR research of possible autism causes, and treatments, and not spend its time simply promoting the view, not shared by all, that there is no possible vaccine- autism connection.

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Chun Wong said...

Although I think it's great that this new are advocating research into potential causes of autism, but I think that vaccines have got to be a part of this. We still don't know enough about vaccines and whether they can cause autism in vulnerable children. Even the Vaccine Court has compensated one family for vaccine induced autism, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr-and-david-kirby/vaccine-court-autism-deba_b_169673.html
We need research into autism and ALL potential causes or triggers.

farmwifetwo said...

I'm not excited about the "vaccine" part b/c Paul Offit sits on the board of directors so that's no shock!!!. What gets me is that this new "foundation" is "OK" in the ND world b/c Paul Offit is part of it.

Since when is Paul Offit and "autism specialist"? That's the same as calling those ECE (daycare teachers) that were our ABA therapists "autism specialists".

The 2 founders are parents of children with autism.

So... why does LB/RB think it's "ok", but other parents and other "professionals", if they don't agree with them, are not autism specialists????


TannersDad said...

I guess what gets me wound up about this new site is the question Why do we need another new site? Alison is trying to bring back her career with a stolen seat on the IACC from Autism speaks. Looking at their board, I bet a couple million will go to line their pockets. Then you will have another layer of rent, letter head, office personnel, and hosts for their informative lunches in NYC. What the double hockey sticks, this is just a bunch of bull. Then, with the focus being on genetic basis, we will see nothing but a bunch of tests here in a few years that will lead to abortions. I say veto this site and inform any parent that supports it, they are taking dollars away from services and supports that families need today. Oh isn't that one of their arguments. We can not talk about the Autism Vaccine connection because it takes away services. Well again why do we need to pay Alison half a mil (just my guess at what she will pay herself) to guide us down this rosy path. I Say BS.

Anonymous said...

Never mind that thousands of parents reported regressions after vaccinating their children.

Never mind that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program hears case after case of ADEM and neuropathy and encelphalopathy, all publicly recorded for posterity.

Never mind that 346 pages of related study summaries can be found here.

This is like R.J. Reynolds starting the "Nope, It's Not Cigarettes Lung Cancer Foundation."

Or O.J. Simpson starting the "Find My Ex-Wife's Killer Association," which will attempt to prove that leather gloves don't shrink after they're soaked. (They do.)