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Vaccine-Autism War : Will Vaccine Safety Make A Comeback?

Posted Jun 06 2009 10:16pm
The Offit Offensive branding parents concerned about vaccine safety issues as kooks, dangerous to the public health, and suppressing democratic discussion of vaccine safety issues by attributing disease increases to parents expressing such concerns has been been unrelenting since the release of the vaccine patent holder's book False Prophets. David Kirby, one of those vilified by Offit for raising vaccine safety concerns, reports in the Huffington Post that the highly influential National Vaccine Advisory Committee has this past week made a number of vaccine safety research recommendations including two that focus on possible vaccine-autism connections. The Offit Offensive may finally meet an opponent it can not dismiss with demeaning insults and unproven allegations. The Offit Offensive may encounter open minded, credible study of vaccine safety issues.

One recommendation is for an " observational study comparing vaccinated, unvaccinated, and "alternatively vaccinated" groups of children for a number of immunological and neurological disorders -- including autism." A second panel recommendation that could include vaccine autism issues was that "Consideration should be given to broad biomedical research including laboratory studies, and animal studies."

Kirby also reports that the NVACrecommendations are subject to external review by an agency such as the IOM, the Institutes of Medicine. Unfortunately this could result in the implementation of recommendations being unduly delayed or scuttled completely. It was the same IOM that issued a 2004 report which expressly discouraged further research of vaccine autism issues.

Kirby attributes the NVAC recommendations to a number of sources without singling out the names of specific individuals. Personally I believe that three people deserve special credit for the vaccine safety issues being taken seriously. Jenny McCarthy, mocked and vilified, at times cruelly, for her campaign for vaccine safety acted as a lightning rod for media attention to the issues. Whether positive or negative the comments about Ms. McCarthy have kept the issue in the realm of public discussion. To the same effect David Kirby himself has been a powerful voice offering the skills and ability of a professional journalist to document the issue fully for public consumption. Neither Ms. McCarthy nor Mr. Kirby have buckled under to the immense pressure exerted by Dr. Offit and the medical establishment.

Ultimately though I believe that it is the input of Dr. Bernadine Healy that has had the most influence in arriving at the NVAC (and IACC ) recommendations for further vaccine autism safety and general vaccine safety research. As the former head of the NIH Dr. Healy could not be dismissed as a crackpot. Her presentation of the need for further vaccine autism research was clear, cogent and compelling. She risked disenfranchisement from the medical and research establishments by pointing out the need for vaccine safety research. Her specific recommendations are clearly identifiable in the two NVAC recommendations above as well as her focus on vulnerable population subsets and the inadequacy of the epidemiological studies in examining the possible impact of vaccines on such groups.

The mainstream media is still enrolled in the Offit Offensive dismissing any need for vaccine safety research and dismissing as kooks anyone who suggests that there should be discussion and research of vaccine safety issues generally or vaccine autism issues specifically. The IACC strategic research plan and now the NVAC recommendations are powerful counter forces to the Offit offensive. Hopefully they will carry the day.

There should be no illusions though. The attempt to prevent research of vaccine autism safety issues is not over. The vaccine autism war is not over. The IOM, if it conducts an external review will be mindful, if not bound, by its own 2004 report discouraging the type of research recommended by the NVAC.

Look too for vaccine patent holder Dr. Paul Offit to step up his media tours demeaning those who dare ask questions of vaccine safety. Dr. Offit will once again don his "regular guy" flannel shirts and grandfatherly sweaters for interviews by adoring mainstream media. And Neurodiversitybloggers will be counted on to echo his demeaning characterizations of concerned parents around the world wide web.

If the IOM does do a replay of its 2004 strategy of discouraging serious research of vaccine safety issues it will be making a very big mistake. It is time to end the vaccine-autism war. Let the research be done, let the concerns be address and if those concerns are upheld or new ones found, let the vaccines and vaccine programs be adjusted accordingly.

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