IOM Played Politics in Report on Autism and Vaccines

"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."


for immediate release
Tuesday, May 18, 2004



Washington, D.C. - The nation's largest and oldest parent-led vaccine safety organization is charging that today's report on autism and vaccines issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) seriously jeopardizes the credibility of IOM to make an objective scientific analysis of vaccine risks. Calling the report a case of "political immunology," NVIC is also releasing a letter written by NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher to the National Academy of Sciences on December 18, 2000 expressing concern about the ideological and professional conflicts of interest of members of the Committee.

"This report is a case of political immunology masquerading as real science. With it, the Institute of Medicine takes a step toward weakening its reputation as an independent body capable of making an objective scientific analysis of complex medical risk issues which are influenced by government policy and industry profits,'' said Fisher.

In her 2000 letter to IOM, Fisher pointed out that, unlike the 1991 and 1994 reports issued by the Institute under a congressional mandate from the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, the current Immunization Safety Review Committee was assembled at the request of and funded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), specifically the Center's for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). DHHS is responsible for the research, development, regulation, policymaking and promotion of mass use of vaccines. At the time, she questioned whether the Committee could remain objective when assessing vaccine risk issues which affect entrenched public health policy due to the fact that (1) the CDC and NIH were directing and funding the Committee's work; and (2) Committee members had a public health policy background and were receiving NIH research grants or were employed by universities receiving NIH, CDC and vaccine industry research grants.

"For this Committee to reject emerging biological mechanism evidence of a causal relationship between vaccines and brain damage leading to autism in favor of flawed epidemiological studies primarily using old medical records is tragic. For this Committee to basically give the green light to government and industry to eliminate autism from cost benefit analyses of thimerosal risks is beyond belief because it could pave the way for mercury to remain in vaccines here and around the world. Failing to consider the fact that DPT and MMR vaccine induced brain inflammation can lead to brain damage in some children, including autism, is just one example of how simplistic and superficial this analysis of the relationship between vaccines and autism is. When the real science comes out demonstrating that vaccines can cause autism in genetically susceptible children, this Committee's conclusions will be meaningless,'' said Fisher.

NVIC has been calling for independent, non-governmental, non-industry research into the genetic and other biological high risk factors of vaccine associated brain and immune system dysfunction, including autism, for the past two decades. Today's IOM report discouraged further research into vaccine-associated autism. NVIC also supports removing vaccine risk research and monitoring from the CDC and NIH because of conflicts of interest.

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