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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Autism in the GOP Debate

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.

Steve Sternberg writes at US News & World Report:
Three Republican candidates' assertions about childhood vaccines offered a revealing – and deeply dismaying – glimpse of how they'd perform in the White House, leading vaccine experts said Thursday after the second presidential debate.
"What you hear is so badly reasoned, so poorly thought out – it makes you wonder: 'Is that how they'll manage foreign policy?'" says Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The discussion began Wednesday night when debate moderator Jake Tapper of CNN asked candidate Ben Carson, a former pediatric neurosurgeon, whether he believed real estate mogul Donald Trump should stop making statements linking vaccines to autism.

The question touched off a rambling exchange involving Carson, Trump and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, also a doctor. It not only resurrected the vaccine-autism theme, but also raised concerns about whether some vaccines are more important than others and about the spacing of the vaccines offered to children before they reach adolescence.
Trump has repeatedly declared vaccines safe while – often in the same breath – raising the specter of autism, an association that emerged in a flawed, and since retracted, 1998 research study. The connection has since been disproved in dozens of scientific studies. For instance, an analysis of 67 research studies released last year in the journal Pediatrics found strong evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – impugned by the debunked 1998 study – does not cause autism in children and showed that vaccine-related side effects are rare.
Nevertheless, in remarks during the debate, Trump offered an account of an unnamed "child, a beautiful child" who "went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, [and] now is autistic."
He used the same language three years ago:
"It happened to somebody that worked for me recently. I mean, they had this beautiful child, not a problem in the world. And all of a sudden, they go in, they get this monster shot. You ever see the size of it? It's like they're pumping in—you know, it's terrible, the amount. And they pump this into this little body. And then all of the sudden, the child is different a month later. And I strongly believe that's it