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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Iowa State Senator Pushes Bogus Notion on Autism and Vaccines

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Unfortunately, Republican politicians have been pushing this dangerous myth.

Senate File 193, sponsored by five Senate Republicans, would also prohibit discrimination based on vaccine status. The Senate Human Resources subcommittee voted on a 2-1 party-line to move the bill to a full committee Thursday, as Iowa continues its COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The subcommittee's two Republicans, Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City and Sen. Mark Costello, R-Imogene, voted in favor; its sole Democrat, Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, voted against advancing the bill to the full Human Resources committee.

After Carlin posed questions to an anti-vaccination speaker, Jochum asked Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa's state epidemiologist, to speak to the subcommittee. Pedati echoed a concern brought up by public health advocates.

"There's good data to show that when you increase things like exemptions, people do take advantage of them," Pedati said. "It creates pockets of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated populations, which can lead to the spread of infectious diseases like measles, which is exactly what we saw in 2019."

Carlin, who recently announced a run for U.S. Senate, quizzed Pedati about the increase in the number of vaccines and the increase in the incidence of autism, alluding to the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism.

"When I was a kid, I think I don't think we had any autistic kids in my entire class," Carlin said. "Now, it's, I don't know what the actual numbers are, 1 in 10, 1 in 9. The autism numbers have exploded. You know, I know that's a classic argument."

"There is absolutely no correlation between vaccination and autism and I can tell you that with confidence as a pediatrician," Pedati replied. "I appreciate what you're reflecting on, which is that there's been an increase and I think there are reasons for that. I think in the past, we weren't as good at recognizing some of these conditions and providing supports and keeping track of them. I think that, you know, there are also things to consider, like genetic and environmental factors."