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In response to news reports that President-elect Donald Trump may form a commission to investigate alleged links between vaccines and autism, the Prevention Institute released the following statement from founder and Executive Director Larry Cohen, and an opinion piece by Communications Manager Jessica Berthold. They have given me permission to repost the statements here.

 

Statement from Larry Cohen:

“As a long-time public health leader, I am not only opposed but shocked that we would re-examine this issue. We should not face backwards and waste time investigating baseless claims against vaccines, which have been completely proven—by rigorous research—to save lives and resources.

If President-elect Trump is shopping for health issues to put his stamp on, there are plenty of real and pressing community-based prevention policy issues that need attention and investment

Issues such as ensuring access to healthy food and clean water, investing in community-based approaches to mental health and substance abuse, addressing health inequities, and preventing injury and violence, to name a few. Let’s move forward on finding the best ways to promote health, rather than give credence to long-discredited conspiracy theories on vaccines that stand to do great harm to the public if taken seriously.”

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Opinion piece by Jessica Berthold, Communications Manager

I spent many sleepless nights in the months after my son’s autism diagnosis fretting whether I could have done something to prevent it. I recounted, in obsessive detail, the course of my pregnancy, the birth, and the two years of child-rearing that led to the moment when our pediatrician confirmed my fears—and life as I’d known it tilted off its axis. In my spare waking hours, I pored over research that exhausted me mentally and emotionally.

It was a painful period of reckoning—and it’s the reason I vehemently oppose a commission to investigate a link between autism and vaccines, as proposed by President-elect Trump. This link has been thoroughly disproven, and it is distracting and irresponsible to pursue it. The original study upon which the myth of an autism-vaccine link is based was retracted by its publisher for being unethical and scientifically invalid; indeed, The Lancet editor publicly declaimed the study results as “utterly false”. Subsequent studies also found no association. Instead of wasting money and time on chasing phantom causes, we should use our resources to assist the millions who live with autism every day. And we should lay to rest the idea that vaccines have done anything but save lives from the misery of measles, mumps, polio, and other diseases that affected millions.

It is, ironically, the very lack of these diseases in our present life that makes parents feel they can safely refuse to vaccinate their children. Parents want to protect their children in any way they can, and the risk of contracting mumps or measles can seem more remote than that of autism, which now affects one in 68 kids. I know many parents who suspect the autism-vaccine link is false but still choose not to vaccinate; they simply don’t want to take the chance.

And here is where creating a commission to investigate a spurious link between vaccines and autism sends two dangerous messages: The first is that we are correct to worry about vaccines, despite the science verifying their safety. And the second is that autism is a terrible condition to be avoided at all costs. As a mother, that second message enrages and terrifies me, on behalf of my son and the many wonderful people that I know with autism. How awful to live in a world that tells you it is better to risk getting a life-threatening disease than to be like you.

The autistic person’s struggle to overcome a state of constant overstimulation is one that should be admired, not maligned. The modern world is fast, brash, clamorous, and intense—and autistic folks experience this more than anyone. Perhaps this should be heeded as a signal that the world could use a little calming. Perhaps, when it comes to autism, our time and energy should be spent more on reducing stigma and welcoming autistic people as valuable members of society, with experiences and ideas to contribute that we all could learn from. We could do that by putting money into the autism community itself—into early intervention, better diagnosis and screening, better insurance coverage of treatment, more support at school, respite services for caregivers, housing and job opportunities for adults with autism. Like anyone else, people with autism need to be supported to exist successfully in the world—and to change it for the better. That’s an investment that will pay off for everyone.



Patricia Salber MD, MBA (@docweighsin)
Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Here we have another article putting forward three ideas that are easily proven false. 1 – vaccines are perfectly safe and the science is settled. While the percentage of vaccinated people having problems in the studies is fairly low the winning law suits against vaccine makers was high enough to cause them to begin pulling manufacturing out of the US. To counter that move, the US congress created a law that absolves the manufacturer and others of any liability for damage caused by vaccines. Clearly then repeatedly stating that there is no danger from vaccinations is a false hood and only serves to reduce the believability of the person making such a statement.

    2 – Any statement that reads similar to: “The “research” purporting to find a link between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly discredited and disproven by countless studies that failed to replicate the results of Andrew Wakefield’s original, falsified “study.”. This statement conveys the idea that Dr Wakefields retracted study somehow established that vaccines caused Autism. Anyone that has actually read the study knows that any such connection was specifically denied in the report itself. In fact it was noted that future studies, which Dr Wakefield was prevented from completing, were needed before such a claim could be made. Any author claiming that Dr Wakefield proposed to show that vaccines caused Autism are perpetrating a faleshood and further loses credibility. In addition Dr Wakefields study only concerned the Measles vaccine, not all vaccines and there were only about 25 participants so it was hardly a definitive study.

    Finally, 3 – the study done by Dr Wakefield which only showed that the bacteria in the gut of Autistic children is different from those in the gut of normal children, has been replicated in at least three different studies of which I am aware since that time. Claiming Dr Wakefields study has not been replicated further damages the authors credibility.

    I am not taking a position on vaccines one way or the other, but articles like this which only repeat the standard talking points of the vaccine industry do nothing to convince anyone. Those that have already read the study and done the research ignore these comments and those that are promoting vaccines cheer, but nothing changes.

    The opposing side is not much better, so unless and until one side or the other starts looking at and trying to understand the other sides position we will continue this shouting match until some scientist accidentally discovers the actual cause of Autism. Till then we are engaged in what looks to me like a religious war that neither side can win.

  2. It is time to look at Round Up residue in food…eg in the corn syrup made by GMO corn that is in baby formula and has been re-labeled “natural sweetener”. It is NOT vaccines that cause autism; however the most implicated vaccination, the MMR, has been found to have the most round-up residue in it of any vaccination.
    Breast feed babies have 1/4 of the incidence of autism. Many European countries ban GMO food. Why?
    Maybe because their research isn’t hobbled by Monsanto’s huge team of lawyers and bribed officials.

    It is widely accepted that Round Up can cause leaky gut syndrome, so it may also be implicated in the huge surge in auto-immune diseases too.

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