Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even Congress Fuels Vaccine Myths

Jason Terk, MD 
Pediatrician, Keller, TX
Chair, TMA Council on Science and Public Health

Dr. Terk writes in response to the U.S. Congress’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings earlier this month. During the hearings, several legislators revisited the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, even though this belief has been discredited multiple times by numerous scientific, objective studies. Dr. Terk has written for MeAndMyDoctor before about the critical public health role vaccines play and the dangers of not vaccinating ourselves and our children.

Once again, the tongues of the anti-vaccine superstars are wagging. ‘Tis the season of misinformation on Capitol Hill as the Lame Duck Congress winds down. It is the time when old axes are ground and agendas are pursued at the expense of the truth. One of the perennial darlings of the anti-vaccine movement, Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, recently participated in hearings in which two scientists were invited to testify on the issue of autism.

One is a pediatrician — Alan Guttmacher, MD — who leads the National Institute of Child Health and Development of the National Institutes of Health, and the other is a PhD named Coleen Boyle who serves as director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Representative Burton was not really interested in what they had to say. Rather, he simply wanted to use them as a foil to advance his anti-vaccine agenda by bullying them.

In a disgraceful but all-too-familiar move, Representative Burton used the occasion to restate long-disproved allegations of mercury from vaccines being the cause of autism and suggested that people diagnosed with autism needed to have the mercury chelated because it accumulates in the brain. There is of course no scientific basis to what he says. But Rep. Burton has never been too concerned with good research and science.

Like many others who genuinely feel passionate about this issue but who are nevertheless still wrong, he continues to use his substantial position to broadcast dangerous lies that are unencumbered by good evidence. And these are the lies we must continue to respectfully rebut to our patients.

The anti-vaccine movement has been around as long as vaccines have been benefiting public health and will continue to be here in the future. We must be prepared and willing to say what we know about vaccines in ways that are effective and meaningful for our patients and families. Yes, it does get tiresome. And it does require time and sensitivity. But, we must accept this as part of our mission to protect our patients and the public health. If we don’t, then we as trusted leaders will be abrogating an important responsibility.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Two thumbs up Dr. Turk and Me&My Doctor, for giving him a platform!

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