Managing Editor's Note: The following is from our sponsor TACA.
The Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee Meeting Rescinds Vaccine Research Initiatives from the Strategic Plan of Combating Autism Act
Statement prepared by TACA's Rebecca Estepp
January 16, 2009
What happened Wednesday January 14, 2009 in Bethesda, Maryland?
In a dramatic turn of events, the National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel, MD Chairman of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) called for a vote on a previously voted-on and approved decision to the Strategic Plan of the Combating Autism Act of 2006. December 2008, IACC approved two studies to address vaccine safety as it pertains to autism. The vote to reverse this previous decision was a surprise to the public members of IACC. It was not listed on the meeting’s agenda.
Who is IACC and what do they do?
IACC is made up of eighteen seats. Twelve members are government representatives and six members are from the general public. IACC is responsible for developing and updating the Strategic Plan for Autism Research under the mandate of the Combating Autism Act. They decide which studies get funding from the $940 million that was allocated to autism research under the Act. The two vaccine research studies in question totaled $16 million, less than two percent of the available funds.
What is the reason for the re-vote?
Ed Trevathan from the Centers of Disease Control (the government agency who promote the vaccine program) brought up the idea of removing the vaccine studies from the Strategic Plan. Dr. Insel agreed under the auspices of conflicts of interest since the Department of Health and Human Services is the defendant in Vaccine Court. Dr. Insel also felt that the National Institute of Health was poorly equipped to do vaccine research.
How did the vote go?
It was decided to reject the previously approved vaccine research studies by a vote of 11 to 7. Five out of six public committee members voted against rejecting the approved studies. The one lone public voice that voted with most of the government representatives was Alison Singer, former Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks.
What has been the fall out?
There has been plenty of fall out and this situation is only hours old. Autism Speaks has withdrawn its support of the Strategic Plan. They have issued a very good press release detailing the events of the meeting. Read it HERE.
Alison Singer no longer works for Autism Speaks. It gets even more interesting. The Autism Speaks’ Press Release was issued early in the afternoon on January 15th. A few hours later a new press release came out by Every Child by Two about Alison Singer’s departure from Autism Speaks. Read about it HERE.
Does this mean that Alison Singer will be working at Every Child by Two? That is not clear.
The Strategic Plan has lost support from Safe Minds (Sensible Action For Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders). Safe Minds is also asking incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Daschle to remove the National Institute of Mental Health as the lead agency for autism research. They have another request to Congress to get the repealed studies reinstated.
TACA supports both Safe Minds & Autism Speaks press release and response to the recent IACC actions. In light of the recent Mind Institute Study (Reference HERE) environmental research including vaccines must be completed as part of the Combating Autism Act funding.
There may be a silver lining to these actions. Dr. Insel brought up a good point, although, it may not have been his intent. Our country does need truly independent vaccine research. The department of Health and Human Services is the defendant of Autism Omnibus Cases; it is a conflict of interest in having them research vaccine safety. Independent studies are something the autism community must demand.
Alison Singer left her position at Autism Speaks. Alison was not friendly to the bio-med and environmental research community. With her departure, there could be an easing of the relationships between Autism Speaks and the bio-med / environmental research community.
There is also a feeling that the repeal of this IACC vote is tantamount to the 2002 Homeland Security Rider which briefly gave exoneration (it was later repealed) to the drug companies for injuries that occur because of vaccination. That rider was so egregious that it got the attention of a journalist named David Kirby. Look how that turned out. Hopefully we have the same situation here.
What to do?
The response plan is still being hammered out by many of the Autism Organizations. In the next weeks, we may have call to actions for parents, friends and family to take part in as this situation evolves. Please check the TACA website and E-news for more information.