When Autism Is Made Too Easy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 2008 | Go to article overview

When Autism Is Made Too Easy


Byline: Malcolm A. Kline, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When television personality Jenny McCarthy hits the talk-show circuit promoting the theory that autism is caused by vaccines, she does so with more perceived credibility than the average starlet of the month flogging the cause du jour. Ms. McCarthy draws on her own experience as a parent of a boy diagnosed with autism.

Additionally, she is coming to the same conclusion as an array of politicians on both the left and right. Nevertheless, studies of the suspected link between autism and vaccinations prove that all of these celebrities are wrong.

Vaccines have been blamed for many diseases for which there is no known cause, Paul Offit, M.D., said at the American Enterprise Institute on Oct. 10, 2008. Autism has no known cause.

Dr. Offit is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. At the center of the public controversy is the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and its key ingredient, at least until about 10 years ago - thimerosol.

Ten epidemiological studies have shown MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism; six have shown thimerosol doesn't cause autism; three have shown thimerosol doesn't cause subtle neurological problems; a growing body of evidence now points to the genes that are linked to autism; and despite the removal of thimerosol from vaccines in 2001, the number of children with autism continues to rise, Dr. Offit writes in his new book.

That book, Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure, is published by the Columbia University Press. Dr. Offit is donating all of his royalties from Autism's False Prophets to research of the condition.

Since the late 1990s, many studies have shown that the rates of autism are the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated children, Dr. Offit writes. The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine have all issued statements supporting these studies.

So the notion that vaccines cause autism isn't a medical controversy.

Indeed, it only became one outside of the medical profession when mercury was found in the bloodstream of autistic children.

The results of these lab tests proved to be misleading when: 1. Mercury was found in the bloodstream of children without autism; and 2. Children who were found to have mercury poisoning did not develop autism. Mercury was a key ingredient in the banned thimerosol. Beyond the science, various parties have a lot at stake in the vaccination battles.

During a congressional hearing chaired by Indiana congressman Dan Burton to investigate the cause of autism, John Tierney, a congressman from Massachusetts, asked if I had vaccinated my own children, Dr. Offit remembers in his book. I said I had, stating their names and ages.

Never, never mention the names of your own children in front of a group like this, one of Mr. Tierney's aides told the doctor during a break. Menacing phone calls to Dr. Offit's home followed.

As Dr. Offit recounts, others who have made the same case have received similar treatment. …

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