McCain Reinforces Unfounded Autism Claims

By March 4, 2008Briefly Legal, Health Care

Remarks by Sen. John McCain about the potential that autism can be caused by thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines, are gradually drawing more attention. First reported by ABC News, McCain’s remarks came last week in town-hall meeting in Texas.

It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.

No, there is NOT strong evidence that autism has anything to do with thimerosal. It is a claim made by some parents of autistic children, trial lawyers — of course — and demagogue activists like Bobby Kennedy Jr.

Walter Olson at has a good collection of commentary, links and resources about the false claims against thimerosal. He quotes Mark Kleiman, certainly no industry apologist, who has also written on the controversy:

[The] thimerosal-autism theory is as dead as phlogiston in respectable company. I’m not surprised that “respectable company” excludes a few ambulance-chasing lawyers looking for deep pockets and a some emotionally devastated parents looking for someone to blame.

But it’s distressing — to use no stronger term — that the presumptive Republican nominee for President, rather than looking at the evidence, has chosen to side with the panic-spreaders and pander to the emotions of the panic victims.

Yes. The fact is autism has continued to exist after the mercury-containing preservative was removed from vaccines, so…

Most discouraging about a presidential candidate lending credence to these claims is that it may prompt some parents to forego vaccinations for their children. So we get more illness, more long-term damage to children’s health, because the plaintiff’s bar has ginned up a medical controversy. Awful.

UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): More from The New York Times. And a very clear, point-by-point assessment of the claims by Arthur Allen at Slate, from 2005.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Francisco says:

    To those who insist that vaccines have not, are not and will no be linked in any way to ASD. That hundreds upon hundreds of stories about children regressing into autism, or developing other autoinmune disorders shortly after a round of vaccination are just the product of fertile imaginations. That thimerosal was taken out of the vaccines in 2001. That the CDC, AAP and FDA have no other interest than the health of our kids. That they are and always will be transparent. That they are not financially supported by vaccine makers. That they have no ties whatsoever with the pharmaceutical industry. That every study ever published discrediting the link between thimerosal or the MMR jab with autism has been unbiased, not manipulated, flawless, definitive, and that the researchers and authors of these studies never had or have any special interests, never received any funding or had any link with the CDC or pharmaceutical companies, and that they were never related in any way shape or form with the pharmaceutical industry.
    To those who think that the media is fair and balanced in reporting both sides of the story. That they do their homework before they report anything, and that they do not respond to any special interests. That every parent who tries to do “unproven” alternative therapies is an irresponsible whacko even if the kids get better, and If they do so is because that is just the natural progression of their autism, or the alternative. that they were never in the spectrum in the first place. That every parent should only try ST, OT or ABA with their kids as if these therapies were free, affordable, or even accesible to everyone.
    I cannot force everyone to be objective and really do their homework, as I’m sure I don’t have the time to do it for them.
    As Kim Staglano puts it “you cannot expect 100% of the vaccines to be 100% safe, 100% of the time to 100% of the children” Yet the CDC thinks so.
    My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS last a year ago, and he is the only peer reviewed double blind placebo controlled study that I need.
    No developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychologist or therapists have been able to explain to me why his metabolism is so messed up, or why he suffers frequent episodes of unexplained diarrhea, or why he has yeast and atypical bacteria overgrowth in his GI tract, or why he suffers from colitis, or why he is proven mercury and lead toxic. Furthermore, they have not been able to explain why so many kids in the spectrum have similar clinical problems as my son does, or why my son’s behaviors and symptoms have markedly improved with “voodoo” therapies, and treating his clinical issues.
    If thimerosal was removed in 2001, then why in feb. 2007 we found thimerosal in 3 out of 4 vaccines that my then 4 months old daughter was going to receive just to have her ears pierced (I still have the vaccine inserts, and by the way this happened in Houston, TX and not in Uganda or wherever).
    I read somewhere that you “don’t need a study to know that sh.. stinks”, I guess if enough people can agree on that, then thousands of anecdotal stories cannot or should not be ignored and considered worthless.
    Also, I don’t want to say that the CDC or the AAP are corrupted and are profoundly interested in protecting their contributors and sources of funding (If I’m just making this up, just go their web pages and find out for yourselves), yet no one who has in all honesty reviewed the famous Denmark studies (form the statistical flaws to the researchers involved, as well as to the funding sources and vested interests), or the manipulation given to the original Verstraten data presented at Simpsonwood could in their right mind say that institutions like the above mentioned are transparent, and that they only have our children best interests in mind. The IOM, and the FDA are also just eating from the same plate.
    The ignorance, or better said, lack of information that the mainstream medical community has is due in large part to their trust of the official federal institutions mentioned. Your son/daughter’s pediatrician cannot be directly blamed for not knowing, but for not researching.
    A study is published today (reputable or not)that allegedly destroys the thimerosal or MMR theories as causes of autism, and for the next three weeks you will find it on the web, in newspapers, television news, radio, magazines, and every form of media ever created. If such study (reputable or not) supported the idea that thimerosal or the MMR is related to autism causation you will be lucky if you get to read about it in the classifieds section of a God forsaken newspaper.
    The scientific evidence that supports a connection is vast. For starters it is universally known that if I was mass murderer I would inject my victims with mercury. It wouldn’t take much to kill them, and only very minimal dosis would cause serious neurological damage. It is toxic and that is just a fact.
    Apparently everybody has an agenda, and the parents are left to find answers on their own. Unfortunatelly the answers that thousands of parents have found on their own are against everything that is oficially being fed to the masses. Therefore, we can only swim against the current, and work relentlessly with our kids and to see them improve day in and day out with forbidden therapies and traditional therapies as well. In some cases these kids even recover. And parents do it all on their own.

  • kim says:

    well, vaccines caused my child’s autism. after 25 mcg of thimerosal in 4 (yes, one extra for good luck) HepB shots, his porphyrin tests showed him remarkably mercury toxic. As we chelate him, his levels have gone down to mildly mercury toxic and low and behold he can behave in a regular 1st grade class this year.

  • Curt says:

    Good for McCain! Ask yourselves, why is the New York Times is willing to go out and conduct a study of mercury in tuna if affluent Manhattanites could be harmed, but the Gray Lady is unwilling to report on a court case about mercury in vaccines when the Federal Government ADMITS a girl was harmed. Do you honestly think the U.S. Gov’t would admit vaccines caused a child’s autism if there was NO scientific evidence to support it? If you don’t believe it, you can read the actual court opinion here:

    And yeah, I’m a lawyer, but I don’t want anybody’s legal business related to autism. -Curt

  • Erik says:

    Tom, yes, autistics have neuroinflammation… in the gut and brain. And YES, mercury toxicity can help make that happen… usually with the aid of a live virus, such as measles. But viral stuff aside… ethyl mercury is considered toxic waste in concentrations of 200 ppb or more… ask the EPA if you like. Wanna guess what concentration is in the influenza vaccine? about 40,000 to 50,000 parts per billion! This stuff is neurotoxic in NANO-Molar concentrations. It’s horrible stuff. I know many children whose autism improved as a result of chelating heavy metals from their systems. I talk to their parents all the time.

  • Tom says:

    Your’re right. Mercury does not cause autism, a psychiatric disorder. There are now 11 published, peer-reviewed papers that identify the underlying medical conditions of autism as neuroinflammatory disease. Does mercury, a known neurotoxin, cause neuroinflammatory disease? Does neuroinflammatory disease express itself as an autism like disorder?

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