Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is lending credence to the alleged link between vaccinations and autism:

McCain said, per ABC News’ Bret Hovell, that “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

McCain said there’s “divided scientific opinion” on the matter, with “many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it.”

The established medical community is not as divided as McCain made it sound, however. Overwhelmingly the “credible scientists,” at least as the government and the medical establishment so ordain them, side against McCain’s view.

Moreover, those scientists and organizations fear that powerful people lending credence to the thimerosal theory could dissuade parents from getting their children immunized — which in their view would lead to a very real health crisis.

I’ve previously discussed vaccinations insofar as they relate to “preventative medicine”. More and more, the current studies suggest that there is no link. If you continue to see a link, you are not only suggesting that all of these studies are by contemptible and corrupt figures that simply don’t care about autism while believing that the comparatively few studies suggesting that there might be a link are passed down by God’s divine hand to people whose motives are as pure as the driven snow… you are suggesting that the medical establishment suggesting that there is no link is so diabolical that they would risk the health of their own children to further their case. If medical professionals are willing to immunize their own kids, I am more than happy to immunize mine.

I am vaguely reminded of a subplot in The Shield from a couple seasons back. Vic Mackey, the star of the show, has two kids (of three) with autism. They are informed in the third episode of the possible link with thimerosal and they join a class-action suit. As we were watching, Clancy and I started rolling our eyes at the prospect of a season’s subplot turning the advocates for a highly debatable theory into the daring truth-tellers and the skeptics as the nefarious knights of the pharmaceutical theory and medical establishment. They were taking a very emotional subplot exploring the problems that countless parents across the country have and were going to use it to grind a political axe.

Then the funniest thing happened. A few episodes later, the entire subplot was dropped like an anvil. Suddenly they were part of a test program for some pharmaceutical but they had to back out of the lawsuit to join. I feared that this was going to be another volley in the subplot (“We will not be bought off!!”) but they accepted it and we never heard a word about the thimerosal or the test program again (though the autism is obviously still there). The only times I’ve ever seen subplots dropped so quickly in such an early stage is when there is some big unexpected casting change.

My personal theory behind the whole thing is that after the show started to air, producer Ryan Scott was approached by someone that he knows in the medical field who set him straight. An alternate, more conspiracy-minded explanation is that the advertisers got to the network who got to him. The Shield doesn’t exactly have a reputation for backing down from controversy, though.

Category: Hospital, Theater

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5 Responses to The Mercurial Senator

  1. Peter says:

    As I understand it, the recent increase in the number of autism cases might simply be the result of new diagnostic standards. Borderline cases that would not have been considered autism a generation ago are now being classified as such.

  2. trumwill says:

    That’s likely some of it, Peter. It’s also possible (or likely) that in the past things that were autism were diagnosed as something else.

    I think that’s only part of the story, though.

    Full-fledged autism has very distinct characteristics (as opposed to ADHD, which is an extreme variation of characteristics a lot of people have) and I think this would have been on our radar much sooner if it had been happening earlier (in part because unlike other disorders and birth defects, this one doesn’t seem to be more heavily concentrated on the downward side of the economic scale).

  3. Brandi says:

    This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. My oldest son has been diagnosed with Autism (he’s high functioning), and it really bothers me to see people dwelling on the vaccinations topic. Not you, Will, just the people who believe that it is a contributing factor to Autism. Most people who back the vaccination theory believe that it’s the MMR given at around one year of age. Most people (including myself) with children with Autism will tell you that they noticed someone “odd” or “different” about their children before then. My husband found some interesting articles that suggest that the rate of brain growth may affect Autism and ADHD (follow the links below is interested in the articles).



  4. trumwill says:

    I don’t begrudge parents with autistic children their anguish and their need for answers and accountability as I have a great amount of sympathy for them. The people that make me angry are those that exploit that anger in a crusade against pharmaceutical companies that if successful will result in a genuine health crisis that the vaccines have been keeping at bay.

  5. Brandi says:

    I can’t agree with you more.

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