It was the shot -- or, rather, the words about the shots -- heard 'round the world. In a U.S. News column in April and then a brave interview on CBS in May, one person yanked the vaccine-autism debate back into the mainstream of medicine where it has always belonged.
For that, and more, it is a pleasure to name Bernadine Healy Age of Autism's Person of the Year.
This was not a hard decision. Just listen:
"I think public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the [vaccine-autism] hypothesis as 'irrational,' without sufficient studies of causation... without studying the population that got sick," Dr. Healy told CBS's Sharyl Attkisson. "I have not seen major studies that focus on 300 kids who got autistic symptoms within a period of a few weeks of the vaccines."
David Kirby put it this way: "As someone who has come under, shall we say, 'sniper fire' for refusing to concede that there is no link between vaccines and autism, I now have a semi tongue-in-cheek response to my once and future critics: 'Go tell it to Dr. Healy.'"
Go tell it to Dr. Healy, Paul Offit. Go tell it to Dr. Healy, Dr. Tayloe. Go tell it to Dr. Healy, all you condescending public health officials who cite your eight or nine or however many studies that "prove" vaccines don't cause autism.
But be prepared to argue with someone your own size -- in fact, someone much more imposing in terms of credentials and credibility. Member of the Institute of Medicine. Former head of the Red Cross. And, most importantly, former head of the National Institutes of Health.
We're so used to hearing the folks at the CDC opine on their studies that show vaccines are safe (actually, they don't) that we've come to think the CDC is responsible for figuring out what's causing autism (actually, they're not).
The nation's premier medical entity is the one Bernadine Healy headed. They are the ones who spend the money to do the research to find the answers to what cause particular diseases. And then they figure out how to treat and, ultimately, cure them.
The NIH went wobbly on us this year. Dr. Tom Insel, who occasionally shows flashes of recognition that autism is an epidemic, and thus an environmental disorder that could be triggered by vaccines, turned around and made the IACC -- charged with figuring out how to spend the billion dollars Congress appropriated -- into a toothless agent of the status quo.
In contrast, Dr. Healy stood up and spoke out for thousands of parents -- you know, the ones whose first-hand observations are supposedly just anecdotal evidence, the weakest kind of scientific data.
Well then, says Dr. Healy, why don't we go study them like actual scientists instead of shills for the vaccine-development complex? Take 300 children whose parents believe they developed autism soon after vaccination and study the heck out of them.
"We do have the opportunity to understand whether or not there are susceptible children -- perhaps medically, perhaps they have a metabolic issue, mitochondrial disorder, medical issue -- that makes them more susceptible to vaccines, plural, or to one particular vaccine, or to a component of vaccines, like mercury."
Oh, and you have to love her comment on mercury in that U.S. News article:
"Pediatricians were concerned enough about mercury, which is known to cause neurological damage in developing infant and fetal brains, that they mobilized to have thimerosal removed from childhood vaccines by 2002. Their concern was not autism but the lunacy of injecting mercury into little kids through mandated vaccines that together exceeded mercury safety guidelines designed for adults."
Lunacy! And mercury is in the flu shot pregnant women and infants get, and in vaccines distributed around the world for the sole reason that the lunatics who run the show in the United States say it's A-OK.
There's another kind of shot Bernadine Healy has given all of us, one that won't wear off or cause adverse events: She gave us a shot of Adrenalin just when we needed it most.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.