By Michael John Carley
I keep waiting for Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump's autism/vaccine comments to blow over, but the story won't die; and such an extended lifespan seems as dumb as his actual comments because this isn't the first time Trump has expressed this opinion, and this is the third Presidential election in a row to get sidetracked by the issue.
During the campaign trail for 2008, the trio of Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton all pandered to the crowds by irresponsibly paying lip service to "vaccine-causes-autism" theories. And in 2012 it was Michele Bachmann's ridiculous comments on the subject of the HPV vaccine (she linked it to "mental retardation"), that pretty much ended her candidacy in 2012.
But Trump lives on (for now--check out how well Rick Perry looked in 2011, or Rudy Giuliani in 2007); probably because less than intelligent male candidates are rewarded by angry and poor white men, yet we wisely get rid of less than intelligent female candidates like Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
When should this issue have died? In 2007, that's when. Prior to that year, autism prevalence numbers were at 1 in 166, and everyone wondered what the new autism prevalence numbers--soon to be released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)--would look like. Thimerosal, the preservative full of Mercury that some blamed for autism, had been all but phased out of most vaccines at or around 2001. So, theoretically, if the prevalence numbers decreased, then that meant that the vaccine-hating crowd had been right all along.
The new CDC prevalence numbers came out in February, 2007, at 1 in 150.* The numbers hadn't decreased, as the vaccine-haters had hoped; they had increased. The issue should have been over, right?
Well then, the issue should have been dead because the best, most scientifically authoritative leadership the vaccines-cause-autism movement could scrounge up was a racist shock-jock (Don Imus), and an ex-Playboy playmate (Jenny McCarthy),† right?
Such "leaders" then became indirectly responsible for the subsequent outbreaks of preventable diseases such as whooping cough, and the measles. Those outbreaks, which have claimed lives, should have ended the discussion, right? Wrong . . . None of this mattered.
Maybe the only day it will matter will be when some kid's transmission of a preventable disease kills off an entire neighborhood's population of infants and elderly (those whose immune systems are prone to risk from unvaccinated individuals). Maybe government, and autism organizations who should know better, will only then stop uttering the pandering comment that "more information is needed."
We must understand: The comments of Obama, McCain, Hilary, Trump...etc. are mere reflections of the DC-area's widespread ignorance on this subject. That government can be so unintelligent seems like a painfully easy joke to make, but . . . it must be made! Ever seen the only Congressional Hearings ever held on autism (i.e. got 3-1/2 hours) from 2012? A plethora of Representatives espouse this lunacy. Watch for Rep. Dan Burton's (R-IN) movie "proving" a vaccine-autism connection by virtue of one of the most dogmatic and clumsy videos you'll ever see. Lastly, the meeting was Chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA), an ally of The Canary Party, which pretty much does nothing other than support vaccine-causes-autism theories. If it wasn't so horrifying, you'd be dying of laughter.
I was one of two people on the spectrum who testified later on in those hearings (I got cut off too, partially because I was over time, but partially because I complained about the hearing's emphasis on vaccines), and as such I can promise you that many congressional reps that you'll see screaming at the CDC officials, should you so view these hours, left immediately after screaming/pandering for the crowd (C-Span cameras rarely want you to see how empty those seats are). And as you watch, think of how differently things might have gone--for our country--had the CDC officials being berated shown the slightest dignity or responsibility, and shouted back.
It's a polling game to Washington. Nothing more. So don't get worked up over it. Heck, the National Institute of Health (NIH) allowed this loud minority to bully its way into a $30 million dollar study on Chelation Therapy, when every scientist awarding them so much of our tax money knew perfectly well that they were pissing it away (and if you understand how Chelation works, you'll get that unfunny joke). The funding was later retracted, thankfully.
Even I was once asked to be on an NIH review board, until I disclosed (as I was supposed to) that I had made statements citing my disbelief that autism is caused by vaccines--and thus taking me out of the realm of full impartiality. The response was more polite than I might make it sound herein, but "Sorry," came the answer, "we can't have you reviewing proposals then." My only criticism was that "Wait a minute...if I didn't have an opinion on this subject, I probably don't have the knowledge to review these proposals..." All committees dealing with autism on a government level cover their bases and include representatives from several groups--parents, individuals, educators, clinical professionals, and even vaccine-causes-autism theorists. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee has more than one of these folks serving in our public's interests.
Study after study keeps coming out, denouncing over and over again "vaccines-cause-autism" theories. Yet too many want to believe, and too many journalists want to cover them.
Naysayers like me, along with a gazillion credible scientists, attribute the rising numbers of folks diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions to an overwhelmingly expanded diagnosis, and a better ability to recognize the diagnosis. While autism can certainly contain environmental exacerbators (think of sensory integration reactions to certain sounds, sights, or tastes--experiences that bring out more behavioral differences through discomfort. What are they, but environmental reactions?), the sane world believes that causation for this juice comes from our mommies or daddies, even if mommy or daddy was just a carrier pigeon for the still-unknown genetic combination(s).
The vaccine-causes-autism crowd doesn't believe a genetic connection exists. But there's one interesting characteristic of the autism spectrum that disproves their disbelief; an inability to let go of an idea that an individual thought was so sound--but was shown to be false. In a comic twist, if we ponder this one characteristic . . . no one proves the genetic connection of autism better than these vaccine-hating parents.
Q: What's the secret ingredient of comedy?
Every time we talk about vaccines and autism, it means we're not talking about how many people with autism need housing, how many people with autism are unemployed, or how unfunded autism services are when compared with the needs of families--or how unfunded they are when contrasted alongside other disabilities that have 1/10 of autism's prevalence numbers.
But still, they talk. It gets them media attention; a lot more attention than one spectrum individual calling them morons will ever get. But that's ok because "moron" isn't the right word anyway. The right word, given the damage they do, is worse. But "moron" is funnier, and I've tried to keep this as funny as I could, which, given that those mortality statistics (mentioned above) from outbreaks are so real . . . and that the deaths probably came off the backs of Jenny McCarthy's book sales . . . sheds an unethical light on me.
Enough, please. Let the vaccine talk die by 2020...
Now that's a worthy campaign pledge!
* They are now at 1 in 68.
† No slight intended to ex-Playboy bunnies.
Michael John Carley is the Founder of GRASP, a School Consultant, and the author of "Asperger's From the Inside-Out" (Penguin/Perigee 2008), "Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum," (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2016), "'Why Am I Afraid of Sex?' Building Sexual Confidence in the Autism Spectrum...and Beyond!" (also Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2016), and "The Last Memoir of Asperger's Syndrome" (unsigned). In 2000, he and one of his two sons were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Re-evaluated in 2014, he was diagnosed with ASD. More information can be found at www.michaeljohncarley.com