The Everyday Art of Autism Activism
David Kirby on AAP's Dr. Renee Jenkins: For the Record

Mary Holland on the Every Child by Two Press Conference

Peet_jenkinsBy Mary Holland, Esq.

The Press Conference

I arrived at my office Tuesday morning in Greenwich Village, to find an urgent email from Jenny McCarthy and the Autism Action Network to attend this ECBT-AAP press conference in New York City.  The press release promised a swank address, celebrity, politics, science and the press – so why not? I thought.  So I hopped on the subway, entered the Peninsula Hotel at 5th Avenue and 55th St., and went to the appointed hall, where outside lay glossy red press kits labeled “Get the Facts: Vaccines Save Lives!” and videos with Amanda Peet’s smiling face and her public service announcements.

Rosalynn_carter_2Inside the conference room was a long dias, set with placards for Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady and co-founder of ECBT; Betty Bumpers, former First Lady of Arkansas and co-founder of ECBT; Renee Jenkins, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Paul Offit, Director Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Amanda Peet, mother and actor; Ann Hotez, mother of an autistic daughter and wife of Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute; and Amy Pisani, Executive Director of ECBT.  Each person on the dias spoke briefly and then they took questions.  The centerpiece was Amanda Peet’s remarks and the showcasing of the website www.vaccinateyourbaby.org and her public service announcements on vaccines. 

The take-away messages from the presenters:

--it is a “myth not based on science” that vaccines cause autism (Carter, Bumpers);

--Ann Hotez’s child with autism had autism from birth (and implicitly so do all other children with autism):

--vaccines are exceptionally well-tested and safer than any other drugs (Peet, Pisani);

--it is implausible that there is a conspiracy of government, industry and medicine to obscure or hide a causal link between vaccines and autism (Peet);

--where would be if all parents failed to vaccinate their kids? (Peet)

--there’s nothing to fear from vaccines! (Offit, Jenkins)

There you have it.  I imagine we would all love to live in that world, if only it were true and matched our hard-earned experience.

After these presentations, they opened the floor for questions.  There were several softball questions from the press – when will the site be active?  Can you get answers to questions?  If 5 vaccines in a day is OK, is 6 or 7 OK, too? 

I was able to wedge in a final set of comments and questions.  I noted that their presentations suggested that all science was on one side – but indeed this is a very live controversy with science on both sides, as evidenced by the Omnibus Autism Proceeding.  In fact, on the first day of the thimerosal hearings and after the Poling concession, Dr. Bernadine Healy, former Director of the NIH, stated that the government and scientific communities had not done enough to look at those who may be susceptible to vaccine injury.  I asked if they really thought Dr. Healy was ill-informed.  Well, yes, Dr. Offit offered – she must be misinformed, and she couldn’t possibly have seen the latest epidemiological studies yet again showing no link. 

Then I asked why they don’t support a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations – surely if they really want to convince people to vaccinate, they should support the Maloney-Weldon bill in Congress that would prove one way or the other whether vaccines are as safe as they suggest.  Here both Drs. Jenkins and Offit chimed in.  Dr. Jenkins said that no internal review board of any major institution would support such a study as it would be so compromising to the unvaccinated.  But Dr. Offit disagreed and said that a retrospective study could be done.  But unlike even Dr. Gerberding, Director of the CDC, who said this study can be done and should be done, neither presenter opined about the desirability of such a study. 

The Demonstration

After the press conference, I joined a rally of about 20 autism advocates across the street from the hotel, among them Kevin Barry, Jeff Dubrowski and Katie Wright.  To my amazement, Katie Wright had been denied access to the press conference, although seats were available, for the stated reason that she had not sent in an electronic rsvp.  To my further amazement, a representative from Autism Speaks was in attendance and that representative apparently neglected to put in a good word that would have ensured Katie access.  A newscaster from Channel 9 interviewed the demonstrators and said the story would air Thursday, August 7 at 6:00.

The Take-away

ECBT and AAP fear that they are losing the public opinion battle that vaccines are harmless.  They are deeply afraid of parents who assert that their children’s autism was triggered by vaccines.  And they appear to deeply believe that they are right – that autism has nothing whatsoever to do with vaccines.  What to do? 

My strong impression was that at least some of these people are well-intentioned and imagine that they are doing God’s work to protect children from terrible diseases.  While I certainly don’t imagine that it’s possible to change all of their minds, I think it might be possible to change some of their minds. 

Could Autism Research Institute, the National Autism Association, Defeat Autism Now!, Age of Autism or another autism organization host an off-the-record meeting with some of these people to present the vaccine-autism evidence and engage them in dialogue?  It may be a long shot, but who expected the Poling concession or that Dr. Healy would start to speak out?

Thanks to Cris Italia of Spectrum Publications for the photos. 

Mary Holland teaches at New York University Law School and may be contacted HERE  Thank you to A-CHAMP for providing this important service. A-CHAMP, Advocates for Children’s Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning, is a national, non-partisan political action organization formed by parents in support of children with neurodevelopmental and communication disorders.

Comments

gerald

mary,my son was born in 1981.he has autism.i saw your report on fox news today,05/10/2011.who and how do i contact someone to report my sons condition?can he also be compinsated for his very hard life that he tries to live?its been a hard life to live for me&my wife watching our son to stuggle with his condition. thank you

catina wells

I am a 32 year old single black mother raising 4 children (14,9,6,2) with only my mother helping me and I am a nurse whose 2 year old son was diagnosed with autism. My son's doc diagnosed him at age 1 really but I honestly couldn't believe it so I bought all the books and educational toys out here today nothing helped. My son is at a 10 month old level in speech! he never asks to eat he lines up every toy he has and I love him just like I love all my children the same. We don't treat him any differently we only do things in a different prespective for him. I'm new to this and yes I have cried alot we all have but we have help now. All my children were vaccinated at appropriate times and ages as required and none of my kids were diagnosed with autism execpt for my son. Why is that I asked myself and I realized no child is the same and my son didnt ask for this diagnosis he didnt ask to do things the way he does but God made him this way and I love my baby.

KarenAtlanta

Cool to be skeptical of Pharmaceuticals???
Vioxx Fudged FDA approvals
Cold meds harming babies
Diabetic Drugs causing heart attacks.
It's SMART to be skeptical of Pharmaceuticals!
If that is the case Hollywood has it right.

Twyla

When I watched Amanda Peet being interviewed on TV, what struck me was that the story gave equal time for videos of Jenny McCarthy, and the reporter said quite firmly that this controversy has not been resolved, that the jury is still out, so to speak.

So, rather than quieting the fears of viewers, I think Amanda Peet's interview prompted the station to publicize both sides of this controversy. Hardly what ECBT, AAP, & Offit were hoping for.

The vaccine-problem-deniers were so successful for so long in squelching this story. Finally they realized that the word is getting out via the internet and grass-roots parent-to-parent communication and a few news outlets, and so they decided to try to wrestle with the cat which is out of the bag. But the result is just more publicity for our side.

Thank you so much, Mary Holland, for asking such great questions at this event!! One can only hope that people who are genuinely thoughtful and well intentioned (as Ms. Carter seems to be) will eventually listen.

Anne Dachel

Thank you Mary for giving us this first-hand report on the press conference. The obvious thing here is that they've played all their cards. There are just so many ways you can say, "vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives." The public is well-aware of how many kids have autism and they are afraid. Officials and doctors out there defending vaccines can't tell us why countless kids are disabled. There are now so many parents talking about how vaccines caused their children's autism and they're often in the news. Faced with the choice of vaccinating, parents are increasingly skeptical of safety claims.

Who can blame them?

Wouldn't it be nice to see a press conference sounding the alarm over the epidemic of autism and calling for a massive national effort to stop this disaster from striking more children? As long as the medical community and health officials pretend that all the autism is normal and acceptable, they will have less and less credibility no matter how how many doctors and public figures they have on the dais.

Anne Dachel
Media editor

Kelli Ann Davis

"I think there’s a feeling, especially in Hollywood, that it’s cool to be really skeptical of pharmaceutical companies."

Cool??

How about smart, careful, cautious, informed?

After all Amanda, there've been some major pharmaceutical *blunders* in recent years --can you say, V-I-O-X-X-- and it would take an idiot to miss the handwriting on the wall.

Deborah

I think what may be happening here is an "every man for himself" move. First the CDC says yes do the study, then they say that yes, vaccines contributed to Hannah Polling's autism. THEN they say the study done in 2000 is pretty much worthless in proving NO association between vaccines and autism. Add to that the following individual that used to think we were crazy: Dr. Bernadine Healy

At the same time the AAP began to gear up for this by first, lying to the autistic community by showing their treacherous faces at a DAN conference. That was for show, to throw us off, and to collect information. Nothing more.

Then they get their celebrity spokesperson who eloquence is in serious jeopardy every time she opens her mouth.

Now this ECBT conference.

This is posturing on both their parts and the AAP is very worried indeed. Indeed they should be. When they fail (and they will) the drug cartels are going to come out from under their rocks and the real war will begin.

Everything up to that point is simply battles.

Tanners Dad

Mary
Great review Thank you. Don't you think that Amanda Peet is a liability to their cause. She makes blanket and bold statements that are false and offensive. Isn't there something in Truth in advertising, Public trust laws, or anything that we can do or say to refute the real garbage propaganda?

This exchange was posted recently on the new www.vacinateyourbaby.com
from Amanda and the AP

G: Tell us about the work you’re doing with vaccines.
AP: My sister is a physician and my brother-inlaw is at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He works in infectious diseases and his mentor is [infectious-disease specialist] Dr. Paul Offit. Our plan is to try to clarify and dispel some of the misinformation about the dangers of vaccines and the association between autism and vaccines. They’ve been coming out with studies for the last 40 years, and none of them show any association between autism and vaccines.

G: And you’re championing the cause?
AP: Yes. The idea is that by the age of two, every child should be vaccinated—the organization is called Every Child by Two. I think there’s a feeling, especially in Hollywood, that it’s cool to be really skeptical of pharmaceutical companies. I think that we’re so used to being skeptical that sometimes we take it too far. It leads to what can be really dangerous misinformation.

http://www.gotham-magazine.com/cover_story.html

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