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Anti-vaccine movement takes case to Capitol Hill

May 12th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Careless sourcing

Activists from an anti-vaccine law center told nine Capitol Hill staffers today that the purported connection between vaccines and autism is a national problem that Congress needs to address.

Mary Holland, Lou Conte, and Lisa Colin of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) hosted the briefing, after they released a study Tuesday which claimed the US government has been secretly compensating cases of vaccine-induced autism for over 20 years. The paper was published in the Pace Environmental Review, a student publication associated with Pace Law School. The study claims that Pace students and faculty helped with the investigation. Pace Law School says the study was peer reviewed prior to publication.

The paper’s authors held a press conference Tuesday in front of the US Federal Court of Claims, where lawsuits claiming vaccine injury are decided under a 1986 federal law called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

The major push from Holland and her colleagues for Congressional action and review into VICP follows recent devastating setbacks for the anti-vaccine movement. They include:

  • A US Supreme Court ruling in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth which preempted all design-defect claims against vaccine manufacturers outside of vaccine court.
  • An action by the Maryland Board of Physicians this week which suspended the license of Mark Geier, a geneticist and leading figure in the anti-vaccine movement who treats autistic children with a chemical castration drug.
  • The continued disgrace of Andrew Wakefield, the UK gastroenterologist whose fraudulent 1998 Lancet article is now publicly tied to vaccine rejectionism.
  • A measles outbreak in Minnesota over the winter which is tied to fear of vaccines spread by Wakefield and others
  • The favorable publicity surrounding several books, released over the last six months, which are heavily critical of the anti-vaccine movement.

Meanwhile the Executive Branch stands behind HHS and the CDC, two powerful federal agencies that rely on best available scientific evidence to defend the vaccine program against misleading information and outright propaganda.

Of the nine staffers in attendance at today’s briefing, half were junior colleagues. They represented Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and Sen. Olympia Snowe (D-ME).

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a Pace law professor, had scheduled his own press conference in front of the White House on April 11 to talk about the study, but cancelled the event. A spokesperson for the law school said Kennedy cancelled because the study was still being reviewed for publication.

Tuesday’s EBCALA press conference, which was held in front of the US Court of Claims, has been largely ignored by news media. One exception is Fox News,  where Alyson Camerota characterized the study as “a major investigation.”

In a Wednesday report, the Boston Fox affiliate mischaracterized today’s briefing as “a Congressional hearing.”

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steven Miles // May 12, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Fox News and conservative Republicans seem to be engaging in a pattern of political mobilization of populist-antiscience constituencies.
    These include creationists, climate change deniers, autism-vaccine groups, birthers, abortion-causes-breast-cancer groups, death
    panelists, unconstrained sales of handguns improve public safety, torture works for interrogation, etc. They are acting as if they can
    solidify some substantial political base by aggregating these groups.

    The trend is dangerous because collectively it means that know-nothingism will be politically enshrined as the US faces daunting national challenges that require a public capable of recognizing the need to obtain and analyze facts rather than be mobilized by demagogic use of opinion and anecdotes.

    Steven Miles, MD
    Professor of Medicine
    University of Minnesota

  • 2 Chad // Nov 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I am a student finishing up my degree and was asked to take a side on the subject “Vaccines vs genetics: which causes autism in your opinion?” Well, after tons of research and review I believe there is minimal to no link between vaccines and autism. With people believing that there is we are creating a whole new problem by not vaccinating our children. The link between genetics and autism is still blurred, but with all the scientific research that has been done it all points to genes. When looking at the different studies of twins and missing gene clusters how can you not believe this? Vaccines do more good than bad I believe and it’s just scary knowing this is becoming a larger and larger issue with today’s parents.

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