Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CANWEST News and Megan Fitzpatrick Re-Publish Article, Change Swine Flu Vaccine and Autism Story

UPDATE The original full unedited version of the article is now online again and the 2 cropped versions removed.

I am reposting in their entirety 2 articles, one published yesterday, September 21, 2009 by Megan Fitzpatrick and the same story re-published today September 22, 2009 with half of the article edited out. The effect of the editing is to omit any middle ground quotes, including from me, and from autism researcher Dr. Derrick MacFabe of the University of Western Ontario on the need for parents to be heard on the issue of vaccines and autism and the need for further research on the issue. The further effect of the editing is to recast the whole debate as one between a celebrity activist parent and the medical community.

Many news organizations have followed the NYT lead and reported nearly verbatim the position of Dr. Paul Offit, vaccine patent holder, and consequent multi-millionaire, without mentioning that respected professionals like Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding and Dr. Jon Poling have all called for more research on the issue of vaccine and autism connections. The original version of the Fitzpatrick article displayed some balance. The edited version does not.

The two stories which I repeat verbatim because the two stories are now themselves news items are repeated, first today's shortened version, then yesterday's longer version with the omitted segment in bold italics.

Judge for yourself the difference.

H1N1 vaccine arrival refuels autism debate

The much-anticipated H1N1 vaccine has given new life to an ongoing debate about whether vaccinations in children can cause autism, a discussion that will likely heat up as Canada and other countries move closer to releasing the new vaccine.

From one side of the debate come assurances that vaccines are safe and there is no conclusive link to autism; from the other, warnings that there is a relationship and parents should think twice about giving shots to their children.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, has repeatedly said that vaccines have a long history of being safe and effective.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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Flu vaccine rekindles debate over connection to autism
























The much-anticipated H1N1 vaccine has given new life to an ongoing debate about whether vaccinations in children can cause autism, a discussion that will likely heat up as Canada and other countries move closer to releasing the new vaccine.

From one side of the debate come assurances that vaccines are safe and there is no conclusive link to autism; from the other, warnings that there is a relationship and parents should think twice about giving shots to their children.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, has repeatedly said that vaccines have a long history of being safe and effective. Weighing in on the autism debate, he noted in a recent interview with Canwest News Service that vaccines are given to children at around the same age as when neurological disorders can surface.

"You can have a close time frame," he said. "Just because something's associated in time does not mean it's causal."

Butler-Jones said he recognizes that parents are searching for answers about autism's cause, but added claims that vaccines are the culprit have not been proven.

"The studies have been pretty clear and consistent that vaccination is not the cause of many of the things that have been claimed around the vaccine," he said.

The benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks, said Butler-Jones, but he understands people need to think carefully about it.

"It's important that they get the facts — not the theory, not the conjecture, not the claims — but the actual facts about what we know about the vaccine and the disease and I think . . . virtually everybody would choose the vaccine," he said.

The theory that childhood vaccines are behind an upsurge of autism cases emerged in the 1990s and in recent years has gained high-profile advocates such as Hollywood star Jenny McCarthy, whose son was diagnosed with autism. McCarthy is among the people who believe children receive too many vaccines, too close together, and that a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal used in some vaccines is harmful.

McCarthy is passionate about her cause, but she has her critics who are equally fervent on the pro-vaccination side of the debate.

Harold Doherty, a New Brunswick parent who writes a blog about his son's experience with autism, says his opinion on the controversy lies somewhere in the middle.

"While I once accepted without questioning the public health authorities' position that there is no vaccine-autism connection, I am no longer so sure," he posted in one entry. In an interview, he told Canwest News Service that not enough research has been done for him to accept or reject the theory.

"I've never said that my son's autism was caused by vaccines, or that vaccines have been proven to be a factor. I do believe that the research has not been sufficient to rule it out," said Doherty.

There will be no end to the "vaccine-autism war" unless an observational study is done comparing autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, according to Doherty, and the H1N1 immunization program that will get underway this fall is an opportunity for such a study, he said.

Thimerosal has been removed from most of the vaccines given to children, but it is contained in influenza shots, including the new H1N1 vaccine.

Public health officials have said the vaccine will be ready in early November and children age six months to five years are among those who should get it first.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's most recent statement on thimerosal, issued in 2007, concluded that the weight of evidence refutes any link between thimerosal and autism, but that the long-term goal of removing the preservative from vaccines is advisable as a way to reduce total environmental exposure to mercury.

Dr. Derrick MacFabe, an autism researcher based at the University of Western Ontario in London, said parents who believe their child developed an autistic disorder after being immunized must be heard.

"These people's stories about what's happened to their children are completely valid," he said. "You can't deny what these people are saying."

At the same time, people shouldn't have "tunnel vision" when it comes to pinning autism on a single cause, he said. Vaccines should continue to be studied, but so should a host of other factors, including environmental toxins and infectious agents, said MacFabe.








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4 comments:

farmwifetwo said...

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2019523

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2017186 The article you posted and unedited.

Autism Reality NB said...

fw2

Thank you. That article was posted yesterday Sept 21 and carried on the National Post yesterday.

CANWWEST published 2 different versions of the story today Sept 22.

farmwifetwo said...

Makes you wonder what they were actually trying to say and who, decided to edit it they way they did.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am open to the idea that vaccines are related to autism in some instances IF there is evidence to point in this direction.

One point that bothers me a bit - the observation that vaccinations and regressive autism occur in approximately the same time frame is not evidence of causation. By this logic, entering middle school causes the onset of adolescence. I say this not to be critical but because I think this is one of the most common ways for parents to lose credibility with scientists. They hear this and think "clearly they just don't understand causation, they are linking things due to a coincidental time frame."

Also, for the sake of looking at the issue, I'm wondering about alternate reasons that Insel opposed the study.

For one, if such a study would prove extremely costly in terms of money, time, and resources, it could be that he thought the money would be better spent investigating other possible environmental triggers. Vaccinations may not have been studied to everyone's satisfaction, but they have been studied, unlike some other possible environmental triggers.

Also, I'm unclear as to how commensurate the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated groups would really be in an observational study. Perhaps Insel suspects that there would in fact be lower rates of autism in the unvaccinated group, but for a multitude of possible reasons. For example, are we talking about a large sample of Amish children? Obviously such a group probably has less exposure to other types of potential environmental toxins as well. Once such a study was published, though, it would be seen as proof that vaccinations are linked to autism.