Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A View of the Thimerosal Debate From Four Angles

This is my last post on Thimerosal for awhile. The goal today is to briefly view the issue from four different angles and to try to figure out why President Bush is against the ban of thimersol in the FY 2008 bill.

The first angle is the most obvious one. There are parents, scientists and other advocates who believe that the mercury in thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccinations, are to blame for the apparent rise of autism. In June, a group of parents testified to Congress that they saw a direct link between the vaccinations and their children's autism.

The second angle is the opposite of the first. There are people who think the notion of mercury causing autism is silly. One such person is a close friend of mine who is a parent of a child with autism. Another person against the idea is an anonymous blogger who has taken the pseudonym NM or Not Mercury. A year ago NM wrote, "It's Over. The thimerosal hypothesis was examined and rejected by the majority of researchers many times and many years ago but it's still managed to hang on for a few more years, supported by a small group of parents and fringe scientists." NM does provide research to support this claim, but some of it is hard to follow. Further, other people falling into this category are people who are in the business of putting mercury into vaccines are also (obviously) in this group. It would be unprofitable for the latter to think otherwise.

The media, in part, also seems to fall into the second category. Apparently some major reporters on television (I do not watch the evening news as I generally keep up with the news by reading) have reported that thimerosal is safe to use and that the mercury in it is not linked to autism. To see criticism of various television reports supporting the view that thimerosal is harmless see the Counterpunch website. In an article titled "Same Old Story, Same Old Song and Dance: The CDC, Vaccines and Autism", Ann Dachel has taken issue the major networks.

The third angle is from the rest of us who are concerned, but who also believe there is a lack of proof in terms of thimerosal being directly related to autism. This is generally the view that I've seen some doctors and educators take. Further there are two subgroups within this group.

The first subgroup may want to wait for further proof before taking action to remove the debated substance from vaccines. The second subgroup (to which I belong) may think that if there is a possibility that thimerosal causes harm and that there are plenty safer, lowcost alternatives to preserving vaccines then why take a risk? I say use the safer methods and then take long-term notes to see wheter the rates of autism increase or decrease. I also support of doing a large-scale study of vaccinated populations of children versus unvaccinated ones. However, there is a voice in my head that that believes that there is no real answer to this debate right now.

Finally, there is the fourth angle, the view of the Chief Executive Officer of the United States. He has to look at all these viewpoints of a debate in which evidence does not seem to support either side (the two sides covered in the first two angles). When you look at the two sides, you take a group of parents and pit them against media who influences a great deal of the population. Whose view would sway you if you were president? But perhaps, more importantly, whose view would sway you if you were a justice in the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court? President Bush may be thinking (yes, he can think at times) about the possible lawsuit that companies who produce thimerosal may put into action if mercury is banned from vaccines. This company may have a case if there is not sufficient proof that thimerosal causes harm. As to what is sufficient proof--that is up to the justices and also the support of the media.

This latter view is just me trying to think like a CEO. I don't know for sure what President Bush is thinking--and right now I definitely do not have the proof. I'm guessing that the reason President Bush is planning to veto the ban on thimerosal is because he is trying to avoid potential lawsuit brought forth by companies manufacturing the substance.

In the meantime, I am in the difficult position of having to decide what to do now that flu season is approaching. Should I have my child with autism vaccinated to prevent the flu virus from potentially causing damage to my son's already single damaged kidney? Or should I try to protect his brain from something that is not proven to do damage by not getting vaccinated for the flu? Using this logic I might end up getting him vaccinated.

Where do you stand in the debate of thimerosal? Please comment.

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