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« NY RESTAURATEUR MORE DILIGENT THAN PEDIATRICIANS | Main | ABC: GIRLS WITH AUTISM, AIRS TONIGHT »

ABC DRAMA TAKES ON AUTISM AND VACCINES

Eli_stoneBy Kim Stagliano

ABC is running a drama called "Eli Stone" at 10pm (EDT) on January 31st. The story line takes on autism and vaccines. On prime time, network TV! And it doesn't portray autism mothers in straight jackets or delusional fathers waving swords like Don Quixote.

From the New York Times article, "(Eli Stone) centers on a lawyer who begins having visions that cause him to question his life’s work defending large corporations, including a pharmaceutical company that makes vaccines.

The issue is a potentially delicate one for ABC. Eli Lilly & Company, which developed thimerosal, and the two companies that now make the bulk of childhood vaccines used in the United States, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, spent an estimated $138 million for advertising on ABC last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, though little to none of it was spent advertising vaccines."

My, my, do you smell that scent of change in the air? The pharmaceutical shield is being penetrated. Perhaps the litany of drugs pulled from the market recently, the exposes on drug trial results as skewed and/or withheld to produce the "right" (meaning marketable) results and the constant drumbeat of parents demanding answers for their kids with autism is making a dent in the media?  Not to mention the crumbling economy, skyrocketing healthcare and drug costs and general feeling of malaise that is morphing into a death rattle during this political year.

It's not often I get to tell my horrendously bad jokes to an audience outside of my poor husband. So here goes:

A woman named Lilly is talking to her friend Kate, mother of a child with autism who hails from the tough side of London. Lilly says, "Kate, I asked my pediatrician if any of the 6 shots baby Jane got today could cause autism and he assured me that there's no evidence of harm.  Kate turns to her friend and says, 'E lie Lilly.'

Yeah, I know. Don't quit your day job(s), Kim.   You can contact ABC HERE.

Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism.

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At least it isn't another Law & Order.

I looked more at the New York Times review itself. What did it really tell us about the series? Not much compared to the time that was spent by reporter Edward Watt telling us that there really isn’t a case for the alleged link between vaccines and autism.

Watt uses the standard denials: "A new legal drama making its debut this month on ABC is stepping into a subject that is the source of heated debate among some parents - the relationship between autism and childhood vaccines - and seemingly coming down on the side that has been all but dismissed by prominent scientific organizations.”

To be fair and balanced, Watt also writes, "But plenty of parents, as well as groups like SafeMinds, continue to say that a link exists. "We feel it is still an open question," said Theresa Wrangham, president of SafeMinds, a nonprofit parent organization. Their position has been supported in recent years by some members of Congress and by public advocates including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. "

The autism community has heard this for years. The "prominent scientific organizations" and “reams of scientific studies by the leading American health authorities“ to which Edward Watt refers when he tells us there’s no causal link are presented as completely unbiased in this debate. There’s no mention of the role of the CDC in mandating these vaccines or the extensive financial web that exists tying officials and a researchers to the vaccine makers.

The controversy is falsely presented as parents vs experts. No doctor or scientist whose work links vaccines to autism is mentioned. The date that mercury was supposedly removed is wrong.

The epidemic autism rate is ignored. The date when mercury was first used as a vaccine additive is mentioned briefly with no background given. Watt seems to feel that since the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal has been around since "the late 1920s," it must be okay.

Watt makes a fleeting reference to the flu vaccine, but he skips the danger from the massive mercury assault in the flu shot by saying, “In recent years vaccine makers have produced new versions of the flu vaccine for children that do not contain the mercury-based preservative."

Really? Has Watt ever looked for a mercury-free flu shot? Ninety percent of the vaccine available contains mercury. Good luck on finding the ones without.

Finally Watt subtlety calls the whole thing just a silly coincidence: "Autism often is diagnosed in children between their first and fourth years, during the time that many children begin receiving regular rounds of vaccinations."

So all the controversy that just won't go away is over nothing. Watt spends so much time defending the use of mercury that he doesn't bother with statistics. He ought to look into the upcoming number of young adults who will be going on Social Security Disability. Maybe when this happens, autism will receive the attention it deserves as a health care emergency.

It will be interesting to see how the Times will be covering that disaster. Will they be able to explain things away as just a coincidence?

Many in the autism community will be viewing "Eli Stone." Let's hope it is a little better researched than this New York Times piece was.

Anne Dachel
Media Editor
Age of Autism

"While police and legal dramas often use ripped-from-the-headlines topics as the basis of episodes, rarely do broadcast networks allow themselves to stray into the middle of heated debates that contain such emotional touchstones for large segments of their audience, if only because another big segment of a network’s audience is likely to be on the other side of the debate."

I am going to guess that this "another big segment of the network's audience" is going to get this show axed. I will be very surprised if this first episode gets broadcast at all. Berlanti may have to eat his hat.

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