It wasn’t that long ago that my kid was diagnosed and I started on the search for information about autism. At that time the idea of vaccine causation was dominating the discussion, at least in the online world where autism parents were participating. Even mainstream news outlets seemed to think that getting a “balance” viewpoint from a parent espousing vaccine causation was necessary. Over the past near-decade the discussion landscape has changed a great deal. Sure, a small group of parent-activists (and non-parents using autism as a tool to attack vaccines) still present a vocal minority telling us about how vaccines cause autism. But for the most part the discussion has moved on from vaccines.
To use a simple example: a few years ago Jenny used the idea of vaccines causing autism as a springboard back into the public’s eye. These days, she’s quiet and even trying to distance herself from her previous statements.
As a more detailed example, Consider SafeMinds:
In 2011, the Combating Autism Act was up for reauthorization. >A coalition of vaccine focused autism parent organizations including SafeMinds was formed. They included in their statement “The membership includes advocates of the vaccine theory”. Right out there and public.
This year, 2014, we see a different coalition formed that includes SafeMinds: the Autism Policy Reform Coalition. Many of the groups in the new coalition were part of the 2011 coalition, and all of the APRC’s member organizations have a strong focus on vaccines as causing autism. But here’s the difference: there appears to be no mention of the word “vaccine” on the >APRC’s website. (here’s my Google search).
SafeMinds is still very clear on their position at their own website. A recent article make that clear: Dear Parents, you are being deceived about vaccines and autism.
There’s no mention of the word “vaccine” on the >SafeMinds announcement of the new Coalition.
Consider Generation Rescue. Their original website was all about how mercury in vaccines was the cause of autism. Autism was a “misdiagnosis” for mercury poisoning. That was 2005. A few years later, Jenny McCarthy became a spokesperson for, then president of Generation Rescue. The GR website proudly proclaimed, “Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Autism Organization” and was, again, all about vaccines. Jenny McCarthy led a few hundred people in a march in Washington DC solely focused on vaccines: Green Our Vaccines Rally. She went on talk shows telling the public that we need to get the “sh*t” out of vaccines. Today? The Generation Rescue website hasn’t completely lost the discussion of vaccines, but has toned down a great deal. She wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Sun Times Jenny McCarthy: The gray area on vaccines.
As an aside–I have a hard time being lectured by Jenny McCarthy about “critical thinking” as she tries to do in her Sun-Times op-ed.
Recently the National Autism Association (another member of the coalition opposing the autism research reauthorization) ran into trouble in a fundraiser. When their views on vaccines and autism were made very, very public, Chili’s cancelled a fundraiser with them. The NAA responded:
Though NAA has changed our mission and efforts in recent years to focus on autism safety, namely wandering prevention, controversial views about vaccines remained on our website. Because of guest feedback about these views, Chili’s has opted to cancel tomorrow’s event. We respect their decision and ask everyone to please speak words of love and kindness.
The NAA felt that they needed to distance themselves from their older “controversial views”. At least that’s what they said. It’s worth noting that the NAA has not changed their website on those controversial views.
Three groups. All historically major players in promoting the failed autism/vaccine hypotheses. As a coalition, they avoid mention of the word. As separate entities, they still espouse the ideas to varying degrees. Some have mixed messages–for example telling us that they previously held “controversial” views while not changing those views.
Things have changed. The vaccine debate has shifted and largely dropped in prominence and acceptance. It’s now a liability. A political and public relations liability. Even the groups promoting vaccine-causation appear to understand this. I welcome this shift. Besides being wrong and diverting a great deal of attention into fruitless areas of research, the groups dominating the discussion with vaccine causation caused a lot of harm over the years. I just wish they would truly change their views and admit their mistakes.
By Matt Carey