Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vaccine-Autism War: Albert Einstein's Reply To Paul Offit

These outbreaks have not, apparently, been sobering. If anything, the number of parents choosing to delay or withhold or separate vaccines is increasing. So what will it take?

Paul Offit

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

How rational are public health authorities and health care professionals who express concern over increasing non-vaccination rates of children of parents concerned the vaccines might trigger the onset of autism in their children? A strategy in place, for over 10 years, of demonizing parents and researchers who claim that vaccines cause or might cause or contribute to the onset of autism disorders has failed. Yet public health spokespersons continue the same failed strategy expecting different results.

Research of a possible vaccine-autism connection has been actively discouraged by public health authorities as was noted by researcher Teresa Binstock in 1999. Ms Binstocks observations can be confirmed in public health documents like the 2004 IOM report on autism and vaccines. At the same time authorities and spokespersons simply choose to ignore and not respond to, public statements by such a credible authority as Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross who has pointed out the need for research, beyond epidemiological studies, of possible vaccine-autism connections (1)(2).

Teresa Binstock also pointed out in 1999 that parents offering anecdotal evidence of a vaccine-autism connection, and researchers who attempted to study such evidence, would be demonized by spokespersons for public health authorities and what she has predicted has come to pass. Her predictions are reflected in the recent media offensive, led by Dr. Paul Offit and Alison Singer, to promote demeaning views of parents who believe, based on their observations and knowledge of their own children and their development history, that vaccines played a role in their children's autism onset. At the same time very credible critics like Dr. Bernardine Healy, who has made a case for proper research of possible vaccine-autism connections are ignored.

Still the numbers of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are rising, according to Dr. Paul Offit, suggesting that a strategy of marginalizng parents and critics of vaccine programs has failed. The public is continuing to lose confidence in the safety of vaccines as Dr. Offit implicitly acknowledged in his most recent opinion piece, this time on the Huffington Post:

These outbreaks have not, apparently, been sobering. If anything, the number of parents choosing to delay or withhold or separate vaccines is increasing. So what will it take? Certainly, as more and more children contract measles and pertussis, deaths from these diseases will follow. And it's not a leap to believe that we could see other deadly diseases, like polio and diphtheria; both of which still occur commonly in some areas of the world; and both of which are only a plane ride away from causing outbreaks in relatively unvaccinated communities in the United States.

Dr. Offit's question is rhetorical at best and cynical at worst. He is a very intelligent individual, extremely well educated and very well informed. He knows, or should know, the answer to his own question. It will take credible research of possible vaccine-autism connections to restore public confidence in the vaccine programs. The kind of research that the IACC backed in December of 2008 before reversing itself a few very short weeks later on January 14, 2009.

The demonizing of parents as desperate, delusional and dangerous has not worked. Ignoring their anecdotal evidence has not worked. Ignoring credible critics, like Dr. Bernadine Healy, who have presented a strong case for reliable research of vaccine-autism issues has not worked. Refusing to conduct the necessary research while repeating endlessly the discredited mantra that vaccine-autism connections have been dis-proven will not work. It is time to stop the public relations offensive against parents and do proper, credible research into these issues.

Pursuing the same strategy of marginalizing parents, ignoring credible professionals and refusing to do the necessary research will not produce a different result, it will not restore public confidence in the vaccine programs. To expect otherwise is ...... insanity.

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