Rep. Bill Posey has quietly become a central figure in the movement linking vaccines to autism, even though he says he supports immunizations for young children.
Posey, R-Rockledge, whose district includes eastern Orange County, has tried for years to maintain a low profile on that issue while working behind the scenes with parents and others who believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and the disorder.
Now he is emerging more broadly and speaking out more publicly. In July he gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the House calling for investigation into vaccine-safety research. He also is a key figure in a book being published next week in which anti-vaccine activists raise allegations of federal-research fraud.
"I am absolutely, resolutely pro-vaccine," Posey said in an interview this week. "
Posey said he thinks parents should vaccinate their children but should spread out separate measles, mumps and rubella shots over time.
He said he recently told a friend, "'Tell your doctor, No. 1, you don't want any mercury in your vaccines. Number two, you want to spread out your MMR. She went and told her doctor, and he said, 'You're crazy; find another doctor!' Just like that."
Matt Carey, a nationally known advocate on autism issues, questioned Posey's self-description as "pro-vaccine" and his advice to mothers, because, he said, measles vaccines no longer are available outside the MMR shots.
"So what is a parent going to do? If you put fear into people like that, they will do neither, and they won't vaccinate," Carey said. "If you're pro-vaccine, and you're not really doing anything about it except carrying water for people who aren't pro-vaccine, it's a distinction without a difference."