Monday, December 17, 2012

Politics, Autism and Vaccines

Politicians are frequently holding hearings and looking for more information on problems that arise in society.  Unfortunately, not all politicians have the best interest of their constituents at the top of their agendas.

Politics and vaccines made headlines earlier this month when the Committee on Oversight and Reform had a hearing about the Federal response to rising rates of autism.  Congressman Dan Burton from Indiana was at the hearing and spoke about his personal views on mercury in vaccines causing autism.  The problem with his statements was that thousands of scientists have proved Burton incorrect over the past decade.

Congressman Burton cannot be discredited for his interest in autism.  In the late 1990s, his grandson was diagnosed with autism, and his interest in finding the cause of autism is genuine.

However, using his position as an elected official to perpetuate untruths and scare people into not vaccinating their children is unacceptable.  Steven Salzberg is a professor at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and wrote:  “Burton is a firm believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism, and he arrogantly holds the position that he knows the truth better than the thousands of scientists who have spent much of the past decade doing real science that proves him wrong.”

The committee did call scientists Alan Guttmacher from the National Institute of Health and Colleen Boyle from the Centers for Disease Control to testify at the hearing.  But the committee didn’t really want to hear what Guttmacher or Boyle had to say.  Instead, they lectured the scientists and offered rapid-fire questions that were often bad science claims in statement form.  When the scientist tried to answer, committee members cut them off.

Is this really how our elected officials serve the best interests of their constituents?

At one point during the hearing, Burton stated:  “I’m convinced that the mercury in vaccinations is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism.”  Burton is wrong.  Dozens of studies involving hundreds of thousands of children have proved there is no link between mercury and autism, or between vaccines and autism.   Studies have actually proven that autism rates are slightly higher in unvaccinated children.

Burton and other committee members continued to make false statements that have been proven wrong by sound science for the duration of the hearing.  Vaccine Watch is stunned that these elected officials have all of the facts, continue to ignore them, and perpetuate lies and fear in the public record. 

As citizens, we have a responsibility to demand the truth.   We want Congress to conduct oversight in medical research and help us find answers.  Congressmen who abuse that power have no place in the system. 

Vaccines save lives.  Recent outbreaks of the whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, mumps, and haemophilus in the United States and Europe could have been prevented if people like Dan Burton weren’t scaring parents with lies and convincing them not to get their children vaccinated.  Vaccine Watch encourages everyone to do their own research using sound scientific resources.

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