By David Kirby
I am honored and more than a little excited to be heading over to London next week, where I will speak at the hallowed House of Lords, deliver a free public lecture at Regent Hall, and attend a reading, book signing and Q&A in Kensington.
The trip seems to have gathered some notice in blogger circles and, while I don’t always read what is being said about me online, I did want to see what our friends across the waters were thinking in anticipation of my visit.
Some Brits, in that colorful way that we Yanks find charming, have taken to calling me “infamous” and “nefarious” -- though, to be fair, one blogger made the effort to remonstrate that I was not to be considered “wicked.” (I’m quite grateful to them for clearing THAT up).
It’s amazing what one can learn about oneself, just by doing a little googling.
Some critics say that I believe thimerosal was solely responsible for the dramatic rise in autism cases. Others criticize me for fueling a debate that only distracts attention from finding the “real” cause of autism. And everyone assails me for being “anti-vaccine.”
But then it occurred to me that “Evidence of Harm” is not widely available for sale in the UK (at least I can’t be accused of that most cardinal of sins attributed to writers: “He’s just trying to sell books!”).
I thought I might help them hone their accuracy skills a little bit before resuming their otherwise legitimate lines of questioning.
Indeed, I welcome critics to attend my public events in England, if only to unleash whatever slings and arrows of outrageous indignation upon me that they see fit – though I do hope they will listen to what I have to say first.
But to my esteemed opponents, and in the interest of general credibility and a nice healthy debate: You might want to “brush up your Kirby” before you begin to “lock and load,” (if I might mix metaphors from Broadway to Beaumont).
To that end, allow me to share some excerpts from the introduction of “Evidence of Harm,” as a way of preemptively answering at least three of the most commonplace accusations floating around out there.
1) David Kirby said the autism epidemic was caused by thimerosal. But thimerosal use has ended, and the numbers did not go down. So isn’t he wrong?
The very first words of my book, I believe, begin to answer this:
“Does mercury in vaccines cause autism in children? A definitive
answer has proven elusive, and it remains so to this day. No one
can say with certainty that thimerosal helped fuel the explosion in
cases of autism, attention deficit disorder, speech delay and other
disorders over the past decade.”
A page or so later, I list many of the other “culprits” that should be researched (a topic I have always included in virtually all public appearances):
“Several potential culprits beside thimerosal have been mentioned,
though there is no hard evidence to link any of them to autism.
Possible environmental “triggers” include: mercury in fish, pesticides,
PCB’s, flame retardants, jet fuel, live viruses in vaccines or some
as-yet unidentified virus, and even rampant cell phone use. It is
plausible that any combination of the above, with or without
thimerosal exposure added into the mix, might cause harm to
some fetuses and infant children.”
2) Is Kirby worried that, because of people like him, research and attention has been diverted from finding the actual cause of autism?
Again, as I point out in the introduction:
”At the very least, the thimerosal debate has compelled the scientific
community, however reluctantly, to consider an environmental
component to the disorder, rather than looking for a purely genetic
When I began my research in 2002, it was virtually laughable heresy to even ask if environmental toxins might be playing any role at all.
3) Why is Kirby such a rabid “antivaxer?”
Quite apart from being juvenile and artless sloganeering, this pointless canard, construed to distract, is simply false. If I were anti vaccine, why on earth would I insert these words into my introduction?:
“Some parents, fearing harmful effects, have been tempted not
to vaccinate their children. Most people would agree that this
is foolhardy and dangerous. Few of us are old enough to remember
the great epidemics of influenza, pertussis, smallpox, polio,
diphtheria and measles that once swept entire populations –
until the advent of vaccines reduced those maladies to abstract,
unthreatening concepts, at least in America. These diseases, all
of them preventable, can kill children. When vaccination rates fall,
disease rates rise.”
I would answer question number three in good old New York style: With a question (or two).
Why am I anti-vaccine? Why would I be anti-vaccine?
And for that matter, if I truly were anti-vaccine, why on earth would I say that I am PRO-vaccine, including while going out live on “Larry King” to dozens of countries around the world?
No one has ever come up with a rational answer for that.
People who question aviation safety are not labeled “anti-airplane.” And calling someone who advocates for cleaner lakes, rivers and streams, “anti-water,” is just plain stupid.
Vaccines save lives. My message is not: “Don’t vaccinate your children.” My message is this: “We need more research to determine if a small subset of kids is genetically susceptible to lifelong neurological injury from something, or things, in our current vaccine program.
“Vaccines save lives,” is not an answer to the question, “Were some kids with autism made that way by their vaccines?"
But we can talk about that more in London.