The newly proposed legislation to
autism rate in never-vaccinated
American kids could settle the debate over vaccines
and autism once and for all. Does that mean it will
This week U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.,
stepped out front on the issue. She announced at a
briefing at the National Press Club that she is
drafting legislation to mandate that the
government find the answer to that
Notice the word "mandate" -- as in "direct,"
which is the language the bill uses. As in, quit
making excuses and just do it.
lobbyists and "experts" sometimes
forget that the power in this country resides with
the people, who express their will through their
elected representatives. This may sound rather
grand, but the point is that legislators are not
some "special interest" who must be humored while
the permanent ruling class goes on its merry way.
That's why putting a bill before the
Congress -- which Maloney says she
will do by the end of April after getting as much
public comment as possible -- could be a bigger
threat than people realize.
After all, as Maloney said this week, "Maybe
someone in the
medical establishment will show me
why this study is a bad idea, but they haven't done
Maloney, who credits this column with the idea to
look at the never-vaccinated, also critiqued the
studies that supposedly have ruled out any link
between vaccines -- particularly the mercury-based
preservative thimerosal -- and autism.
"The one major government study to date, the
Institute of Medicine's 2004 review, has been met
with skepticism from a lot of people," she said.
"There are serious questions about the data set and
"Meanwhile, there is new biological evidence
published in top journals, and from major U.S.
universities, to support the mercury-autism
hypothesis. Just last week we saw the study out of
UC Davis, which found that thimerosal disrupts
normal biological signals within cells, causes
inflammation and even cell death.
"In short," the congresswoman concluded, "I
believe that there are still more questions than
answers. But answers are what we desperately need."
Surely everyone's in favor of answers, aren't
they? Well, no, they're not. Already, doubts are
being raised about whether there are enough
never-vaccinated kids to do such a study (there
are); whether it's worth doing (it is); and what the
results would really show (well, let's find out).
In fact, if the feds hadn't been contentedly
dozing for the last decade as the autism rate
inexplicably soared, we'd already have our answer.
Back in 2002 a woman named Sandy Gottstein, who
does not even have an affected child, came all the
way from Anchorage, Alaska, to raise this issue at a
"My question is, is the National Institutes of
Health ever planning on doing a study using the only
proper control group, that is, never-vaccinated
children?" Gottstein asked.
Dr. Steve Foote of NIH responded: "I am not aware
of a proposed study to use a suitably constructed
group of never-vaccinated children. ... Now CDC
would be more likely perhaps to be aware of such an
Responded Dr. Melinda Wharton of the CDC: "The
difficulty with doing such a study in the United
States, of course, is that a very small portion of
children have never received any vaccines, and these
children probably differ in other ways from
vaccinated children. So performing such a study
would, in fact, be quite difficult."
Another futile effort is recounted in David
Kirby's book, "Evidence of Harm," which recounts
parents' compelling stories that their children's
regressive autism was triggered by vaccine
The book -- just out in paperback and winner of
this year's prize from the prestigious Investigative
Reporters and Editors -- describes how in 2004 Lyn
Redwood of the advocacy group SafeMinds sent a list
of proposed studies to Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla.
Weldon, a strong advocate of banning thimerosal,
sent the list on to Dr. Julie Gerberding, director
of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Redwood's proposal No. 1: "An investigation into the
rates of neurodevelopmental disorders including
autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations
(e.g., Amish, Christian Scientists.)"
Last year this column set out to test that theory
among the Amish, in an unvaccinated subset of
homeschooled kids and in a large medical practice in
Chicago with thousands of never-vaccinated children.
In this admittedly unscientific and anecdotal
reporting, we didn't find very many kids with
That's certainly not conclusive, but we did
conclude there are plenty of never-vaccinated kids
in this country, and not all of them are riding
around in buggies and reading by candlelight. The
total number of appropriate "controls" -- reasonably
typical never-vaccinated kids -- is well into the
tens of thousands, at least.
Nor is the issue pro-vaccines vs. no vaccines, as
some who oppose such a study are subtly suggesting.
It's safety vs. complacency.
After all, the CDC switched to an inactivated
polio vaccine in 2000 when it became clear that the
live polio virus was causing a handful of polio
cases each year. And kids today are still protected
from polio -- only now with zero chance of actually
contracting it from the vaccine.
Switching to a safer vaccine did not cause a
collapse in public confidence in childhood
immunizations -- probably quite the contrary.
Expect to hear all kinds of excuses, including
that one, from the powers that be as to why such a
conclusive study couldn't, shouldn't and really
mustn't be done. Then ask yourself, Why?