Vaccine critics blast mercury report
June 3, 2004
By Maggie Fox
Source: IOL (Reuters)
Washington - Several members of Congress who believe that vaccines can cause autism in children criticised an official report meant to lay such fears to rest, saying on Wednesday they do not believe the findings.
The Institute of Medicine report last month was the final in a series of investigations into vaccine safety. It was meant to answer concerns about whether vaccines or the mercury-based preservatives in them can cause autism.
The panel of experts said there was no evidence to link vaccines with autism and urged researchers to look elsewhere.
But Indiana Republican Representative Dan Burton, who has led Congressional efforts to find a connection between autism and vaccines, denounced the report.
"Unfortunately, I believe the findings announced in the May 18 IOM report are heavily biased, and unrepresentative of all the available scientific and medical research," Burton, who has a grandchild with autism, said in a statement.
He said the findings were "based on selective scientific studies that are greatly flawed to begin with".
The Institute of Medicine is an independent organisation, free of government funding, that advises the federal government on health matters.
The vaccine panel was headed by Dr Marie McCormick, an expert in child and mother health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
She has denied being biased and noted the panel was not paid and had no ties to vaccine makers or to the government.
Autism can affect a child's ability to learn, speak and socialise. No one is sure precisely how many children have autism, but some researchers say it could be as common as one in every 1000 children.
Barbara Loe Fisher, who founded the National Vaccine Information Centre, said she was not convinced by the report and said she would not trust any government-commissioned panel.
"Just because there is not a preponderance of scientific proof does not mean that we should discontinue investigations," said California Democrat Representative Diane Watson, Ranking Minority Member of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness.