Thursday, May 07, 2009

Vaccine-Autism War: Discover Does Disingenuous

In its June online edition Discover does anything but discover, opting instead for disingenuous, when it asks Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On? There is is little need to read the entire article. The title question is immediate answered in the sub-title Research has soundly disproved the alleged connection, yet fears about vaccines continue to be a major risk to public health.

The article correctly points out the health and safety benefits that vaccines have brought to the general public as a whole. It even, to its credit, acknowledges that vulnerable subsets of the general population might have contracted autism from vaccines:

Kirby says—and even some vaccine defenders agree—that some small subgroup of children might have a particular vulnerability to vaccines and yet be missed by epidemiological studies. But the two sides disagree as to the possible size of that group. “If one or two or three children every year are getting autism from vaccines, you would never pick that up,” Offit says.

Despite that acknowledgement the Discover article, while focusing on Kirby, Robert F. Kennedy and Jenny McCarthy makes no mention of Dr. Healy, Dr. Gerberding ( who also said more studies of unvaccinated children should be done to explore the autism issue) , Dr. Duane Alexander an NIH agency head who has said more studies could be done, or Dr. Jon Poling, a neurologist and father of an autistic child who was successful in obtaining a settlement for his daughters vaccine induced autism, a condition hidden under euphemisms in official statements.

In discussing the vaccine court decisions it is telling that the settlements arising out of vaccine induced autism claims are not mentioned in the article. The names Poling and Banks, in particular are no where to be seen. The article mentions the Times of London allegations against Dr. Wakefield mentioning that he denies the allegations but not mentioning that he has published a detailed response online and is fighting the allegations in professional proceedings that have gone on for so long. Nor doe the Discover article mention that the role of the Times of London and journalist Brian Deer are now under scrutiny.

The Discover article mentions the IOM without mentioning, as was pointed out by Dr. Bernadine Healy, that the IOM in its 2004 report on vaccine safety, expressly discouraged the type of research that could have provided more reliable conclusions about vaccines and autism. While repeating ad nauseum the standard defences of vaccines Discover asks why the vaccine autism controversy continues?

The IACC appears to have at least acknowledged that the way to rebuild trust is to do the research that Dr. Healy, Dr. Gerberding and Dr. Alexandre have all stated or acknowledged could and should be done. It has called for some vaccine autism research in its strategic plan for Autism Spectrum Disorders Research:

To address public concerns regarding a possible vaccine/ASD link, it will be important over the next year for the IACC to engage the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) in mutually informative dialogues. The NVAC is a Federal advisory committee chartered to advise and make recommendations regarding the National Vaccine Program. Communication between the IACC and NVAC will permit each group to be informed by the expertise of the other, enhance coordination and foster more effective use of research resources on topics of mutual interest. Examples of such topics include: studies of the possible role of vaccines, vaccine components, and multiple vaccine administration in ASD causation and severity through a variety of approaches; and assessing the feasibility and design of an epidemiological study to determine whether health outcomes, including ASD, differ among populations with vaccinated, unvaccinated, and alternatively vaccinated groups.

Discover's attacks on Jenny McCarthy, promoting vaccine defenders from Offit to Peet as heroic and demonizing parents who continue to ask questions, is simply more of the same insanity described by Einstein - repeating the same action over and over again and getting the same result but hoping for a different result the next time.

Discover does disingenuous and does a disservice to the public and all sides involved in this very serious debate with this article.

Discover should discover candor and sincerity and follow the lead of the IACC, Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding and Dr. Duane Alexandre.

Discover should let the research be done without further acrimony inducing rhetoric.

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