Autism News Beat

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Autism in the news – weekend edition

May 4th, 2009 · 4 Comments · Housecleaning

In what is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse, anti-vaccine celebrity activist Jenny McCarthy has agreed to mind meld with Oprah Winfrey’s stable of talk show hosts. According to the Hollywood Reporter, McCarthy has signed a contract to join Winfrey proteges Rachel Ray and “Dr. Phil” McGraw. For now, she’s blogging about PMS and sugar at Be afraid – be very afraid.

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Mary Ann Roser reports in the American-Statesman about the alleged insurance fraud and autism quackery at Austin’s CARE Clinic. Our friend Dr. Stephen Barrett at Quackwatch first warned us about CARE in February, in a post appropriately titled Be Wary of CARE Clinics and the Center for Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Roser’s piece stops short of warning parents, but she largely avoids false balance, making it clear there is no real science behind the “alternative treatments” employed by CARE:

The owner of an Austin-area clinic that treats children with autism — using techniques that are controversial in mainstream medicine — says investigations by three major insurers have left it with a pile of unpaid claims and a crisis: She’s had to lay off most of her staff and drastically reduce the clinic’s hours.

In addition, Kazuko Grace Curtin said the Texas Medical Board is investigating her medical director. She and the doctor — Jesus Caquias — say the investigation is a way of harassing them because they offer nontraditional care for autism patients.

This is a great piece of investigative journalism that will work in just about any major media market, where shady clinics lure parents with unproven and potentially harmful autism treatments. Insurance companies, says Rosen, are finally catching on.

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Dr. Ryan Coller takes no prisoners in his Sunday LA Times Op-Ed on the fabricated vaccine-autism link. The pediatrician and incoming chief resident at UCLA’s School of Medicine covers familiar ground, but it’s a message worth repeating:

It’s no wonder the public is confused, with competing celebrities saying vaccines do or don’t cause autism and a lot of media attention on the subject. Vaccines, like every medicine, can have real side effects. Autism, however, is not one of them. Though I believe those who decline vaccines are doing what they believe is best for their children, their fears about vaccines and autism are not only unsubstantiated, they have been fully refuted. There is no rational reason to put children in harm’s way by declining vaccinations.

We are retreating into illnesses that had nearly vanished, and we are stalling research progress by deferring enormous sums of money to dismantle autism/vaccine theories and establish campaigns to educate families. Wouldn’t that money be better spent understanding the true causes of autism and pursuing effective therapies?

We must vaccinate against this misinformation, and stop its spread.

Unfortunately, there is no herd immunity against ignorance.

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Kristy Davies, general assignment reporter for south New Jersey’s Courier-Post Online got an earful while covering an anti-vaccine conference held in Cherry Hill. Rev. Lisa Sykes, whose vaccine-related lawsuit was dismissed last year, told the U.S. Autism & Asperger Association’s regional conference over the weekend  that the “The American government is labeling (autism) as genetic to protect industry from catastrophic liability. The madman named mercury has returned.”

Davies says she’s since been deluged with emails and calls, both pro- and anti-vaccine. “I was just there to cover a conference. I’m not writing any more about autism,” says says.

Davies’ report is largely a recitation of anti-vaccine talking points with little effort at clarification or setting the record straight. But she still considers her story balanced. “I included what the CDC says about vaccines. The story is balanced,” she says.

Here’s the paragraph:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no convincing scientific evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. But after a public outcry of concern in 1999 the Public Health Service agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal should be reduced or eliminated in vaccines as a precautionary measure.

So if thimerosal has been removed from scheduled pediatric vaccines all these years, what is Rev. Sykes talking about? Informed readers need to know.



4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LAB // May 4, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I was one of the people emailing Ms. Davies about her puff piece on the opinions of Lisa Sykes. Davies claims she was just reporting on the conference, not the “debate.” Hmm. For her own sake, I hope she stays away from covering Holocaust deniers’ conventions, KKK rallies, and Flat Earth Society meetings.

  • 2 ANB // May 7, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Ms. Davies also told me she was unaware of Lisa Syke’s lawsuit.

  • 3 lurker // May 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Nitpicking, but the paper is the “Austin American Statesman” – not the Statesman American. It’s also got mixed readers, and gets mixed reviews – personally, I hate it.

    Fixed! Thanks.

  • 4 KWombles // May 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    New forum, Science Rocks at We hope you’ll come join us in fighting against the anti-vaxxers’ misinformation and other woo. :-)

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