Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A quick comment on the thimerosal and autism connection

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:17 AM |  

There are a number of good comments and questions at this post from people that do not believe that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in childhood vaccines causes autism, which I will get to as I catch up after being off the grid for several days. However, I did want to respond to the especially insightful comment by “Credenza.” In part, she writes --
“Mr. Westover made it plain in his early postings on autism that he has had friendly [face to face, I believe] contact with the handsome and pleasant David Kirby.

I think that Mr. Westover just wants to stand by his friend, Kirby's, version of events and not actually look into the science that Kirby spins as supporting the supposed causation of autism by thimerosal.

It would probably be painful to find out the Kirby had lied to him, or that Kirby was entirely ignorant of the science involved and unknowingly misrepresented it.”
Although I had looked into the science before reading “Evidence of Harm” and have continued to follow it, relying on sources in addition to Kirby, Credenza is correct -- it would indeed be painful for me to find out Kirby lied or proved to be ignorant and misrepresenting of the science. Since coming to know David, I have no doubt about his having done his homework on this issue and no doubt about his sincerity in getting to the bottom of the issue -- regardless of the outcome.

Having said that let me flip my instincts about Kirby onto the many good men and women working for the FDA, the CDC, IOM, the pharmaceutical companies developing and producing childhood vaccines and everyone connected to or with a stake in the National Immunization Program. Think of these people in context of Credenza’s comment.

How painful, how devastating would it be for these people to learn that childhood immunization -- which admitted by every rational thimerosal critic is one of the great scientific, social and government success stories -- may have inadvertently damaged a significant number of children, caused children to suffer and families to fall apart, and endangered the immunization program by creating billions of dollars of potential liability damages and required social assistance to care for people who might not be able to function on their own?

An inability to conceive even the possibility of unforeseen consequences of immunization policy is the reason why, I believe, the government has focused its efforts on disproving a thimerosal connection rather than the real scientific approach of investigating whether or not there might be a connection. It is why the government’s position is based on retrospective epidemiology, not innovative research. It is why government has failed to adequately resolve the issue and marginalize the postion of parents and independent researchers.

Although it would indeed be painful to me to find out David Kirby lied or even that he has any motivation other than finding the true answer in the thimerosal controversy, fully investigating the issue is worth that personal risk. Admittedly, I have far less at stake that those whose whole lives have been invested in childhood immunization, but it was their better instincts that drew them to that calling. I would appeal to those better instincts now, call on them to examine Credenza’s comment, and as people like David Kirby have, put their reputations to work in the pursuit of the truth.

There need be no shame in correcting an error honestly made; there is no excuse for silence in the face of uncertainty.