No matter who wins in Pennsylvania today, the next President of the United States will support research into the growing evidence of some link between vaccines and autism.
Senator John McCain has already expressed his belief that vaccines and the mercury containing preservative thimerosal could be implicated in what he has rightly termed an "autism epidemic."
Senator Hillary Clinton, in response to a questionnaire from the autism activist group A-CHAMP, wrote that she was "Committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines." And when asked if she would support a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children, she said: "Yes. We don't know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism - but we should find out."
And now, yesterday, at a rally in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama had this rather surprising thing to say:
"We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it."
(Note: The Washington Post reports that when Obama said "this person," he pointed to someone who had asked an autism question).
So there you have it, our next President will share the views of such radical fringe crazies as, well, me, Democrat Robert Kennedy, Jr., Republican Joe Scarborough, former NIH and Red Cross chief Bernadine Healy, and several researchers at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the Universities of California and Washington and elsewhere.
All of us agree: Current evidence suggests the need for more reseach into whether vaccines could be a contributing factor in some cases of autism.
And yes, now the comments to this piece will come flying in, repeating the tired mantra that "this case is closed," that vaccines and thimerosal have been "completely vindicated," and that people like me are just trying to scare the public and drive them away from vaccines, leaving their children vulnerable and sick.
Of course, none of the above is true. So stay tuned.
To begin with, government researchers are currently looking into a number of factors that may trigger autism, including vaccines, their ingredients and the crowded vaccine schedule itself.
Secondly, on April 11th, I attended a top-level meeting in Washington where vaccine safety officials discussed all of the above issues, and more. Now, included on the CDC's recommended Federal Research Agenda for vaccine safety, are questions such as:
Can vaccines cause neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism?
Can vaccines in children with mitochondrial dysfunction cause significant "neurological deterioration?"
Can the combination live-virus measles, mumps and rubella vaccine cause seizures and long term damage in children?
Can vaccines cause autoimmune disease?
Can thimerosal cause tics or Tourette syndrome?
Can attenuated viruses in vaccines cause asthma in children?
So, no matter who is President next year, top government researchers will be examining the role of vaccines in autism and other childhood illnesses. Thus, the declarations of McCain, Clinton and now Obama, make good scientific sense.
But there is more.
Dozens of autism cases (and perhaps more) currently filed in so-called Vaccine Court will almost certainly be compensated this year. Why? Because a little girl named Hannah Poling with a supposedly rare mitochondrial condition was recently compensated for her own vaccine injuries, including autism and epilepsy.
But I have personally identified at least a dozen (and there are reports of many more) children with cases in the court who meet the exact same medical criteria as Hannah, and whose cases will almost surely be compensated as well -- each time with the attendant media fanfare.
My prediction is that, by Election Day, few Americans will still believe there is absolutely no evidence to link vaccines to at least some cases of regressive autism.
So the remarks by all three candidates not only reflect good science, they reflect good politics as well.