There was just no way I could listen in to the last IACC meeting. I have been keeping up with all the meetings, but yesterday it was not to be.
I knew it was going to be big, but it was way big. David Kirby tipped the hand when he blogged about how the Strategic Plan was going to include vaccine related research. Strange move–why blog about it before it was set in stone? Why not blog about it right after the December meeting when the language was discussed? A suspicious person would think that Mr. Kirby got wind that the vaccine language was in danger.
And, so it was. Here is a press release:
ALISON SINGER ANNOUNCES HER RESIGNATION AS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF AUTISM SPEAKS
Disagreement on Vaccine Research Prompts Departure
NEW YORK, NY (January 15, 2009) – Alison Tepper Singer, executive vice
president of communications and awareness for Autism Speaks, today
announced that she has resigned from her position with the advocacy
organization, effective next month.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to help to build this
organization into the preeminent autism advocacy group — the group
that has, in fact, elevated the word “autism” to the global
vocabulary,” said Singer. “I am grateful to Autism Speaks founders Bob
and Suzanne Wright for their leadership, insight, commitment and for
the tremendous support and love they have shown to my family and me.”
“However, for some time I have had concerns about Autism Speaks’
policy on vaccine research. Dozens of credible scientific studies have
exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism. I believe we must devote
limited funding to more promising areas of autism research.”
Singer resigned prior to the January 14th Interagency Autism
Coordinating Committee (IACC) meeting, at which the discussion of
vaccine research was to be continued from the December meeting, at the
request of one of the public members. Knowing she might cast a vote
with which Autism Speaks might disagree, she resigned from Autism
Speaks prior to the meeting. Singer serves as a public member of the
IACC and will continue to serve until 2011. She was appointed to the
IACC by outgoing HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt in 2007.
The IACC, created via the Combating Autism Act of 2006, is responsible
for coordinating all efforts within the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) concerning autism spectrum disorder, including drafting
a Strategic Plan for autism research with budgetary requirements. At
the January meeing, the IACC voted to seek input on two proposed
studies of vaccines and autism from the National Vaccine Advisory
Committee Safey Working Group (NVAC), an HHS group specifically
charged with undertaking and coordinating scientific review of the
federal vaccine safety system, prior to including the proposals as
specific objectives in the strategic plan. Singer voted in favor of
Singer was the first professional hired by Autism Speaks when it
launched in 2005. She served as interim CEO for three months, then as
senior vice president and later as executive vice president. She also
served as a staff member of the board of directors until her
resignation. Singer has been responsible for directing the
organization’s award-winning awareness and strategic communications
programs, including its work with the Ad Council which was awarded
aprestigious “Effie” award in 2008 in recognition of the 43 percent
increase in overall autism awareness directly attributable to the
campaign. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the YaleChild
Study Center and on the board of directors of Autism Spectrum News, as
well as on numerous state and local autism advocacy committees. She
has appeared on Oprah, The Apprentice, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning
America, CBS Early Show and numerous other news programs discussing
“My work with Autism Speaks and within the advocacy community has been
exceptionally rewarding, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of
my daughter, my brother and the millions of others affected by autism
spectrum disorder,” said Singer.
Autism Speaks has its own press release.
NEW YORK, NY (January 15, 2009) – Autism Speaks today decried a vote by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to reverse a previously voted-on decision to approve objectives relating to vaccine safety research as part of its deliberations for the Strategic Plan for Autism Research. The decision to debate removing these objectives was not posted on the meeting’s agenda, nor were the public members given any forewarning that this section of the plan – which was resolved at the previous IACC meeting in December — would be revisited. As a result, Autism Speaks is withdrawing its support for the Strategic Plan.
IACC met yesterday at the NIMH in Bethesda, MD, to finalize the Strategic Plan. As mandated by the Combating Autism Act of 2006, IACC must develop and annually update a strategic plan for the conduct of, and support for, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, including proposed budgetary requirements.
“We are angered and disappointed by this last-minute deviation in the painstaking process of approving the Strategic Plan. Members of the autism community have worked tirelessly during the last two years to develop a plan that would set the stage for significant progress and discoveries for autism research over the next five years,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “In a matter of minutes, the Federal Members of the IACC destroyed much of the good will that had been established during the course of this process. Because of this surprise tactic, we now have a plan that is tainted and cannot be supported by the autism community.”
Five of the six public members voted against this revision. Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Alison Tepper Singer was the sole public member to cast a vote in support. The evening prior to the vote, Singer submitted her resignation to Autism Speaks – which was accepted – based on her intention to vote on certain Strategic Plan vaccine safety matters in a way that diverged from Autism Speaks’ position on this issue. Thus, in casting votes on January 14, she was acting as an individual public member of IACC and no longer as a representative of Autism Speaks.
“We are hopeful that the new administration will fulfill the intent of the Combating Autism Act and truly value and respect the input of the autism community,” added Wright. “It is imperative that we move forward and ensure that there is a Strategic Plan that meets the needs of the autism community. Autism Speaks is committed to being part of that process.”
I have to point out something rather odd in the Autism Speaks version. Note that they claim
“The decision to debate removing these objectives was not posted on the meeting’s agenda, nor were the public members given any forewarning that this section of the plan – which was resolved at the previous IACC meeting in December — would be revisited”
This is given as the reason why they are withdrawing their support for the Plan, by the way.
Why point this out? How did Alison Singer know the night before to resign if there was no forewarning? How did Autism Speaks accept the resignation if there was no forewarning? And, in the speculation realm, why did David Kirby blog about the vaccine provisions if there was no idea that those provisions were in danger? As I noted above, the natural time to blog it was right after the December IACC meeting, but he delayed for some time. Come on, Autism Speaks. Admit it, you are pulling support because you wanted vaccine language, not because this was a surprise.
It took guts to do what Ms. Singer did. I know I can expect comments pointing back to the Autism Speaks video that Ms. Singer participated in, but I’d like to stress: it took a lot of guts to do what she did.
Oh yeah, Autism Speaks: You don’t speak for the “autism community” any more than Generation Rescue does. You certainly don’t speak for me on this issue.
You can tweet your feelings about this issue at a dedicated debate site.