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Did the IACC act in bad faith?

Posted Jan 18 2009 1:53am

A slew of Press Releases from Safe Minds and the NAA appeared today decrying the IACC ’s re-vote on two pieces of autism/vaccine research. SafeMinds say:

In a highly unusual departure from procedure, government representatives to the Federal Interagency Autism Advisory Committee (IACC) voted this week against conducting studies on vaccine-autism research despite approval of the same studies at their prior meeting. The research was supported by numerous autism organizations and requested by IACC ’s scientific work groups and Congress

NAA said:

In an unprecedented move on Wednesday, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) removed previously approved vaccine safety research from the Strategic Plan for Autism Research objectives…. The committee’s action is in direct opposition to the majority of its public members who support vaccine research, and to the Congressional directive of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA) which specifically called for research into “potential links between vaccines, vaccine components, and autism spectrum disorder.”

So, there’s a number of issues that need addressing. Lets take them in the easiest to address first.

1) The allegation that the re-vote is ‘highly unusual’ or a ‘departure from procedure’ or ‘unprecedented’.

Well, it may well be unprecedented. Thats because this is only the second time that vote was taken on this issue. The first time they voted one way, this time they voted another. If this was the 300th vote then NAA might have a point. As it is, they don’t. They’re using these as Scare Words to make the situation sound alarming.

I’ve talked to a number of people who attended the IACC meetings both in person and via the phone. The claim that the re-vote was a ‘highly unusual departure from procedure’ is rubbish. Why? Because there is no procedure. One person I spoke with said:

[There is]...no requirements other than to vote on approving or not approving the plan. There is not even a requirement to vote on individual initiatives!

Another person said:

[T]here are some rules—e.g they can’t hold a meeting later than the agenda says. In December, Lyn [Redwood] was calling for people to work into the night, but Insel canned it saying the rules are very clear on that.

But in the matters of voting, re-voting etc everyone was in total agreement. There is no procedure. This puts an instant black mark against the NAA and Safe Minds c;aims and reveals it as an attempt to hype up the situation by using Scare Words.

2) The claim that the CAA specifies vaccine specific language

The NAA say in their press release that:

The committee’s action is in direct opposition to…the Congressional directive of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA) which specifically called for research into “potential links between vaccines, vaccine components, and autism spectrum disorder.”

This is quite simply not true. Nowhere in the CAA is that sentence used. In fact, nowhere in the CAA do the words ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccination’, ‘immunize’, ‘immunization’, ‘inoculate’, inoculation’, ‘thimerosal’, ‘mmr’ etc appear. Don’t take my word for it. Download the Act and search for yourself. I guess somehow, the NAA made a terribly unfortunate accident and confused the CAA itself with this Senate discussionabout the act. A discussion which has no bearing whatsoever on the legal contents of the Act itself.

3) The insinuation that because they voted for vaccine specific research, that they speak for the majority of the autism community

The NAA ’s press release quotes a Ms. McIlwain as saying:

It’s no wonder parents around the country are questioning vaccines when government agencies refuse to investigate legitimate vaccine safety concerns

Safe Minds Lyn Redwood said:

“Advocacy groups and legislators have been marginalized in this process.”

As we’ve seen, legislators have not been marginalised. Certain advocacy groups may well have been. Boo-hoo. Its about time we asked ourselves the question: do these co-called advocacy groups actually accurately represent individual opinion?

In the Summer of 2008, the NIMH asked for public comments about the IACC ’s Strategic Plan. This was following the NIMH ’s Director Tom Insel statement to Lyn Redwood of SafeMinds during the Nov 21st 2008 IACC meeting:

We’ve received public comments on both sides and comments that make it clear that vaccines have no place in this report.

If one visits the public comments page (see link above) and does a search for the word ‘vaccine’, this is what you get:

Out of 148 total responses, 52 (35%) specifically mention vaccines, asking for research. 18 (12%) specifically mention vaccines, asking for the IACC in various ways to discount the vaccine idea. This leaves 78 (53%) who are so uninterested in the vaccine idea they don’t even mention it.

Or, to put it another way, 65% of responders did not ask for vaccine research.

I think this is pretty clear. When 65% of people who are interested enough in autism to respond to a request for public comments don’t ask for vaccine research then the 35% who do cannot claim to be in the majority, or to hold the leading opinion on the matter.

So lets recap. The re-vote was not unprecedented. It did not go against procedure. The CAA does not mention vaccines anywhere in the entirety of the bill. The majority of people who are interested in autism aren’t interested in vaccine research.

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