Tuesday, November 10, 2009

End the Vaccine-Autism War Now: Do The Comparative Study and Quit Demeaning the Parents Who Actually Care for Autistic Children

The vaccine-autism war has continued unabated, primarily because of the actions of Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Thomas Insel and the IACC. It will continue until a credible observational study comparing autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations is done.

The IACC ventured near a possible end to the war when it contemplated doing an observational study comparing autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. Instead, under Dr. Insel's direction, it engaged in procedural shenanigans to take the option off the table, aggravating hostility and suspicion amongst those who observed the onset of autism symptoms in their children after vaccination.

Dr. Insel added to the mess by informing Senator Harkin's committee that such a study could not be done. Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH, and Dr. Julie Gerberding, formerly of the CDC, have both stated that the observational autism study could and should be done. Dr. Duane Alexander has also stated that such a study could be done.

Dr. Paul Offit signaled that it was OK for the media to heap scorn on vaccine concerned parents when he painted himself as a martyr and began a crusade to silence any criticism or questioning of vaccines. Now mainstream media and bloggers, including alleged science bloggers , routinely demean and admonish the people who are actually helping autistic children ... their parents. In doing so they are hurting those same autistic children and elevating hostilities in the vaccine-autism war.

It is parents, not Dr. Paul Offit, who actually do the day to day caring for autistic children and who represent their children's interests. In telling these parents to sit down and shut up, in mocking these parents, the "vaccines above all else crowd" are in fact signaling their contempt for the role of the family, the role of parents, in caring for and raising children.

The IACC can continue to sit by and hope that the current Offit inspired media offensive against parents of autistic children who question whether vaccines caused or triggered their child's autism will silence those parents. It is a false and futile hope. Not because these parents are inherently stubborn but because they require more than condescension , flawed, conflicted, statistical massages, and trite cliches (correlation does not imply causation) before they will be persuaded.

If the IACC wants to end the vaccine-autism war it will recommend funding to do the comparative study called for by Dr. Healy and Dr. Gerberding and have it done by credible, conflict free, research authorities. The more the IACC resists calls for such a study the more it will appear it has something to hide. If it wants the vaccine-autism war to continue it will refuse to conduct the study.

It's that simple.

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Autism Mom Rising said...

Excellent post. I entirely agree. They hide behind those Thimerosal studies. My kid never had a Thimerosal containing shot, an yet he had 2 vaccine reactions, with significant regressions after each (and I haven't counted the Hep B shot at birth where he became jaundiced within hours). I have yet to hear the powers that be explain away this one.

They like to say that parents just "want something to blame." With that one sentence they dismiss the eye witness accounts of tens of thousands of people. I believe history will shame them for it.

I think what people who say such things don't get is that when your kid gets a shot and then tanks, it is that cut and dry, that immediate - there is no confusing it with anything. That's why this story has been told by many parents since before the internet...because they know what they saw happen to their children in their own houses. They were there and people like Paul Offit were not.

Anonymous said...

A scientific study may start with anecdotal evidence, but if that is the only ground on which an idea is based, it will not be worth all the funding required for a large-scale, population-based, epidemiological study. At the veyr least, a credible, consistent theory has to be behind the idea. The vaccine theory is neither of these: the mercury theory lost its credibility when autism diagnoses kept rising despite the removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines. Then of course, if there'd been another theory that would still be credible to why vaccines indeed cause autism, it would've been reason to investigate. Rather, anti-vaccine organizations come up with vague claims like "live viruses"(which?), "heavy metals" (which? is exposure to them truly rising?), etc. If these organizations want attention from the science community, they should come up with scientific reasoning rather than anecdotal sentiment, cause that is not enough reason for an expensive research study. Ther eis, after all, no a priori argument to deny vaccines as a possible cause, but not having an a priori argument against it, is no scientific argument to support a theory. There is, after all, no a priori argument against the idea that women eating apples during pregnancy, causes autism, either, but you wouldn't call for a population-based study into that cause, would you? You'd first want to have credible information about what substance in apple I think causes autism (and it would have to be credible through some evidence that toxicity fromt hat substance leads or could lead to the same symptoms as autism), and that it passes from the mother to the fetus, and so on. Now when are all teh anti-vaccine organizations finally going to collaboratively show Big Science their credible and conssitent evidence that is enough ground for expensive, large-scale research? Alternatively, of course, what if they somehow collected the funds for the study themselves?

Unknown said...

"A scientific study may start with anecdotal evidence, but if that is the only ground on which an idea is based, it will not be worth all the funding required for a large-scale, population-based, epidemiological study."

I don't agree astrid. Anecdotal evidence is still evidence albeit the weakest form of evidence. When you have substantial numbers of people reporting the same or similar anecodtal evidence then it is more than ample justification.

The fact is that studies were done ... poorly. Witness the "thimoseral' removal Danish studies which looked at the removal of thimerosal from vaccines and noted that autism continued to rise, during a period that actually overlapped the 1993-4 diagnostic definition changes which are even today used to deny increases in actual autism diagnoses.

The failure to do a credible study on autism and vaccines has eroded confidence in public health authorities pronouncements about vaccine safety. Ample reason to do the study.

A former NIH head, Dr. Healy, and a former CDC director, Dr. Gerberding have both said the study could and should be done.