The debate began to matter to me when I mentally framed it in terms of how it may affect treatment decisions we would make for our son. As a result, I went off in search of knowledge. To make a long story short, a story that includes stops at EOHarm Yahoo! group, at PubMed, at LeftBrain/RightBrain, and at many points in between, I eventually arrived at my conclusion. And this was a conclusion that was not to be taken lightly, as I had another baby on the way and decisions about vaccination were imminent.
As a result of my evaluation of the available evidence, I unwittingly became a member of one of the autism community's 'camps'. This camp, this school of thought, believes that autism is not resultant from vaccinations, that an autism 'epidemic' has not been convincingly shown to have occurred, that an autistic family member is not a blight upon a family, that many autistic people show significant improvement over the course of their life in the absence of 'miracle cures', that those individuals who are most profoundly affected by autism are to be valued, supported, and are no less able to understand if we are treating them with dignity and respect than their "higher on the spectrum" brethren, and much more.
Much can be said, in fact has already been said, about the (mis)behavior of many people who populate the camp on the other side of the vaccine/mercury debate. Their behaviors have been reprehensible in many cases - read just this one letter for some good examples of what I am referring to in terms of attitude towards autism and autistic people. Anyone has looked in on the EOHarm group in the recent past can vouch for the ongoing spite and malice that pervades their routine communications.
And so we come to the Juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is defined as ... "an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast. " And this happened over the last week or so in the autism community.
Both camps feel vindicated in their views as a result of this juxtaposition.
The "Autism is mercury poisoning" camp (oh, wait, did they already change that message in response to a lack of data to support their position? Or did they commission their own phone survey in an attempt to support their position?) found validation last week and this week in the ongoing book tour of Jenny McCarthy. Jenny, as anyone who is reading this has got to know by now, is promoting a book in which she describes how: she believes that the MMR shot (yes, I know MMR does not contain Thimerosal) caused her son's autism and that various biomedical treatments, including the non-dangerous GFCF diet, have "rescued" her son from autism. 'Nuff said on Jenny, as plenty has been discussed elsewhere on the internet.
The other camp, my camp, the one who feels that the weight of scientific evidence exonerates mercury in childhood vaccines as a factor in Autism Disorder, also received some validation this week. Today, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that
"...Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure
to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits
in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years. "
Don't take my word for it, read the abstract yourself. The most obvious issue that the Mercury Militia will latch onto with this study is that it
"...did not assess autism-spectrum disorders."
And this criticism, as relates to the debate, is valid to a degree. However, the neuropsychological metrics that they assessed clearly fall within the scope of what are recognized to be traits involved in the Autism Disorder diagnosis.
"The outcome measures included speech and language indexes, verbal memory,
achievement, fine motor coordination, visuospatial ability, attention and
executive-functioning tasks, behavior regulation, tics, and general
intellectual functioning (Table C of the Supplementary Appendix). Measures of attention, hyperactivity, and executive functioning were based on reports from parents and teachers."
I'd like to direct you to this article by one Dr. Gilbert Ross. In the article, titled Vaccine Litigation over Mercury and Autism Puts Kids in Jeopardy, Dr. Ross promotes the view that not only have vaccines been exonerated - again! - as a cause of autism and other neurological disorders, but also that the continuing legal debate potentiates the risk of a stoppage in production of vaccines altogether due to legal liability. I think even some fringe anti-vaxxers might agree that this would not be a positive outcome in terms of public health.
The juxtaposition lies in the fact that one side of the debate has been in rapture over the occurrence that a B-list celebrity has taken to the airwaves to promote a book that discusses the author's belief that the MMR vaccine caused her son to become autistic, whilst the other side of the debate has been supported by a well-designed, large scale study that concludes that Thimerosal in childhood vaccines does not correlate with neurological dysfunction by the age range of 7-10. If the Scales of Justice were to weigh both current developments, here's one dad's opinion that the science outweighs the Indigo Mom's specious conclusions.