The anti-vaccine movement has friends in powerful places in the form of congressional Republicans, Steven Salzberg reveals via Forbes:
I was in my car yesterday listening to C-SPAN, when to my stunned surprise I heard Congressman Dan Burton launch into a diatribe on how mercury in vaccines causes autism. The hearing was held just a few days ago by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Congressman Burton used this hearing to rehash a series of some of the most thoroughly discredited anti-vaccine positions of the past decade.
To make matters worse, the House committee invited Mark Blaxill to testify. Blaxill is a well-known anti-vaccine activist whose organization, SafeMinds, seems to revolve around the bogus claim that mercury in vaccines causes autism. His organization urges parents not to vaccinate their children, and giving him such a prominent platform only serves to spread misinformation among parents of young children.
The committee called on scientists Alan Guttmacher from the NIH and Colleen Boyle from the CDC to testify, but in fact the committee just wanted to bully the scientists. Congressman Bill Posey from Florida was just as bad as Burton, demanding a study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children, a standard talking point of the anti-vax movement.
Dr. Boyle simply wasn’t prepared for a Congressman who was parroting anti-vax activists. It’s too late now, but her response should have been this:
Congressman Posey, only an extremely unethical scientist would consider conducting such a study. To compare vaccinated versus unvaccinated children in the manner you suggest, one would have to withhold vaccines from young children. We know from decades of evidence, involving tens of millions of children, that vaccines save lives.
The scientific community has done observational studies of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children, comparing autism rates in children whose parents chose not to vaccinate. Those studies show that autism rates were slightly higher in unvaccinated children. That’s right, vaccinated children had autism at a lower rate.