VACCINE: House Directs HHS to Study Links to Autism
Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee agreed yesterday to ask HHS to study whether certain childhood vaccines cause autism, the New York Times reports. The agreement came after the committee heard testimony at a hearing about whether a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella may have caused a "small number of cases of autism." The hearing was called by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), whose granddaughter has autism. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) "prodded witnesses and complained to Burton that the hearing was unfairly stacked to show a connection between vaccination and autism," arguing that the government must ensure that parents can trust vaccine programs. Health care professionals and medical organizations "agree that here is no convincing evidence for the theory that the vaccine, MMR, for measles, mumps and rubella, causes autism."
Rising Numbers, New Theories
The leading proponent of the theory is Dr. Andrew Wakefield of the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London. Although autism is believed to be genetic, Wakefield contends that parents he dealt with said that their children's autism came on "rather suddenly, over a period of months, and often just after vaccination with the triple vaccine." But Dr. Brent Taylor, an opponent of the vaccine correlation, found "no relation between the children's vaccination dates and the onset of their disease," after studying 498 autistic children in London. Still, Burton said, "We owe it to our children and grandchildren to insure we're being diligent in looking for causes of autism." Complicating the issue is the "dramatic rise in the reporting of autism in several countries, including the United States" (Hilts, 4/7).