Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend two talks by Andy Wakefield a stone's throw from my home in Northern Virginia. One, a fund-raiser, included talks by David Lewis and Patrick Tierney, two friends of our community who know a thing or two about the suppression of unpleasant science.
The other was a public event, at which Josie Nelson and Louise Kuo Habakus also spoke. Louise has the most polished, impressive presentation of how to take responsibility for your own vaccine choices that I've ever heard. I hope she is called on to share it far and wide (and I'm reminded why AOA named her Person of the Year a few years back).
There were a couple of families in the crowd with adorable infants, and if anyone could help them understand the issues, it was Louise.
Andy updated everyone on his defamation suit against Brian Deer and the BMJ, which now awaits a jurisdictional appeal in Texas. One thing Andy said that really struck me: The autism rate is now 1 in 25. It's happening, it's set in stone, nothing will change it in this cohort of kids.
He didn't elaborate, but he didn't really need to. At the rate of increase, how could it not hit 1 in 25? Only the manipulations of the DSM and the CDC will change it, absent a clear-eyed look at the real cause. (Speaking of which, how about Rep. Posey's speech? He is going to be a must-see at Autism One.)
One in 25 -- that's a rate of one autistic child in every homeroom. Just like the old days.
Josie Nelson gave a wonderful intro, a ringing defense of free speech and independent thinking when it comes to vaccine safety. I asked her to share it with me so I could share it with you:
"Last fall, I said to Brooke Potthast and a room of about…oh twelve other people…that one of my goals for 2013 was to help create an educational event around vaccine exemption rights for our local community. I don’t think any of us imagined we’d be standing with Louise Habakus and Dr. Andrew Wakefield just a few short months later. What a treat!
"And why, might you ask, would any sane person choose to talk about this subject in the first place? While increasing numbers of parents, scientists, and health practitioners have questions about the size of the CDC recommended vaccine schedule, the signs and symptoms of vaccine injury, and conflicts of interest in the vaccine industry, to be curious about these issues is an easy route to hearing oneself labeled: threat to public health, unscientific, emotional, and even anti-vaccine. As a consequence, conversations about this important topic tend to take place with pointed fingers and with raised voices, or behind closed doors and in hushed tones; and sometimes, sadly, they don’t take place at all.
"This leads to an odd disconnect where on one bright day in November of 2012, at a congressional hearing on autism just a stone’s throw from where we stand today, democratic and republican congress people alike, one after the other, can ask probing questions about plausible documented scientific connections between vaccine injury and chronic health problems like asthma and allergies, and bowel disorders, and yes autism too…and yet parents who witness a change in their child’s physical or behavioral health following vaccination are still routinely dismissed by medical professionals who have been taught that no such connection could ever be possible period.
"I have my own views about this phenomenon and I’m sure you have yours too. With autism rates that have gone from 1:1500 in the early 1990’s to 1:150 about a decade ago to 1 in just fifty earlier this year (that’s 1:31 boys), with seemingly little sense of urgency on the part of our nation, it’s not disagreement about probable causes that trouble me most. What troubles me most is a climate in which smart, thoughtful, respectful, conversation about this subject doesn’t happen easily enough. It’s the unease that troubles me. The fear, if you will.
"Aren’t vaccines a product like any other medical product? Subject to the same potential flaws that impact other consumer products? Isn’t that why congress placed a 75 cent excise tax on every vaccine dose given in America and set up the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? Wouldn’t it be wise to study (at least once) what happens to the human body when multiple vaccines with multiple adjuvants and multiples viruses are given at one time? Or to compare the health of vaccinated children to unvaccinated children? And why, at the end of the day, is all of this so hard to talk about?!
"I don’t pretend to know the answers to all of these questions and we can’t tackle them all here. But today we’re going to roll up our sleeves, as colleagues and friends, and talk about the importance of parent instincts. We’re going to talk about vaccine exemption rights. And we’re going to hear from a doctor who has been at the center of an international controversy about the MMR vaccine for the better part of eighteen years, a man reviled in some circles, revered in others, and consistent in his story from the outset. "
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.