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How McCain Jumped on Anti-Vaccine Wagon

Yesterday we noted that John McCain had become the first candidate to speak out in favor of the anti-vaccine lobby. It turns out that McCain’s involvement began last year when he met Lin Wessels, an Iowa mom with an autistic child, on the campaign trail. Wessels’ son was born premature in 2002 and diagnosed with autism two years later. She joined A-CHAMP, one of various activist mom groups that believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal caused their child to become autistic. Thimerosal was removed from nearly all shots given to babies six years ago but autism rates in the “un-thimerosaled” group continue to rise (a story that’s been told in exhaustive detail; here’s a good place to start). The story of Wessels’ afflicted child and her effort to get politicians interested is told here and here. You can’t help feeling sorry for her. That doesn’t mean she’s right, although she’s become the momentary darling of the anti-vaxers, funded by a wealthy Portland investment banker named J.B. Handley.

Mindful of Obama’s comments about judgement v. experience in regard to the Iraq war, let’s hope that McCain doesn’t drive us into another ditch. We don’t need more misinformed parents failing to vaccinate their kids because of irresponsible politicians. (For those of you who read my piece on the CDC on March 3, this is also a reminder of why we need a solid vaccine safety branch — to look into real safety issues, and thereby reassure the public).

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