In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.
This past week, Dr. Mark Green, M.D., who was recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Tennessee declared: “Let me say this about autism, I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County [Tennessee], to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines. As a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it,"
As a clinician dedicated to serving people with autism and their families, I am both appalled and disheartened that a physician — and future member of Congress — has once again promulgated the "vaccines cause autism" narrative that has led to so much misinformation and fear regarding vaccinating toddlers and preschoolers against deadly diseases. Moreover, these shameful comments demonstrate why this lie has proven extremely difficult to overcome,
Another important challenge for clinicians, scientists, and public health officials is that the actual cause of autism is not yet known. Parents ask me whether vaccines cause autism, and I can (and do) confidently answer “no” and provide the sources included in this article for them to read. But then they ask what causes autism, and I have to say, “We do not yet know the cause.” The confident assertions that vaccines cause autism is met with an intellectually honest uncertainty that is not very comforting or reassuring to families. To be sure, I can offer honest hope in the form of effective, evidence-based treatments that will improve the symptoms of autism in their child, but it would be much more powerful to know the cause.
Not knowing what causes autism creates a knowledge vacuum that can be readily filled with the “certainty” that people, such as Dr. Green, who “know” vaccines cause autism and who argue that the CDC, federal government, “Big Pharma,” and the media are in an evil cabal to cover up the truth.