NOTE: That headline is as relevant today as it was in 2009, when Age of Autism's Mark Blaxill wrote a scathing report on the utter failure of the CDC to act during what we now know is a worldwide autism PANdemic. An pandemic born from the malicious minds at the CDC from the top down to the scientists who worked on vaccine programs. Several commenters recalled Mark's brilliant analysis in our comments yesterday, so here it is as a Best Of.
By Mark Blaxill - 2009
With the recent (this report was written in 2009) announcement of the "largest ever" study to investigate the causes of autism, run through Kaiser Permanente (the HMO that lost vaccine safety data implicating thimerosal in harming children) and led by Lisa Croen (the epidemiologist who first attempted to deny the autism epidemic with faulty data), sometimes you just want to shake your head and wonder, what on earth is going on down in Atlanta?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was once a proud and prestigious agency, staffed by the most elite corps of disease fighters on the planet, manning the front lines of the most threatening health problems facing mankind. Today, riven by dissension and ridiculed by many, the CDC has made a mockery of itself in failing to get to the roots of the most critical public health challenges of the day, including, but not limited to, autism. The consequences of its failures are profound. Morale has deteriorated and Congress has been investigating the agency for months.
Reflecting their loss of trust in the CDC's objectivity, autism advocacy groups have actively lobbied to reduce (and even zero out) CDC funding in the Combating Autism Act. The CDC has dual responsibility for monitoring vaccine safety and promoting the vaccine schedule; at the same time it's also responsible for surveillance on diseases like autism. In light of widespread concern over the link between autism and vaccines in the autism parent community, when the CDC announces that it's launching a new effort to find the cause of autism, it's hard not to think of OJ Simpson offering a reward for finding his wife's killer.
It was not always so. Indeed, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, it was the CDC that took the lead—often against the intransigence and conservatism of NIH researchers—in tracking down the causes of the AIDS epidemic and taking steps to reduce its toll on society. For many years, CDC was held up to the world as a model government agency. Yet in autism, we have truly seen the downward spiral of the agency reaching its nadir: defensive, secretive and non-responsive to a health crisis in full flower. There are undoubtedly larger forces affecting the agency and its leadership. But if (as I believe to be the case) there are turning points in the lives of large institutions, critical crossroads at which difficult choices are made, then the CDC's handling of the autism epidemic is certainly one such turning point. Poor choices at crucial moments can lead, not only to negative consequence on a specific issue, like autism, it can cause the institution to lose its way. In a way, autism has been both a strategic and a moral problem for the CDC. For it's in the autism epidemic, I would suggest, that the CDC has truly sold its soul.