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House Studies Possible Link Between Autism, Vaccines

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Prober suggested that Burton's interest in autism is clouding his judgment. "His degree of objectivity is a little marred by the concern that he has, appropriately so, for his family members. Science is meant to be as objective as possible."

Burton, for his part, sought to cast doubts on the objectivity of some of those who asserted that there was no vaccine-autism link. Paul Offit, MD, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, testified that there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. But Burton pointed out that Offit is paid by the drug firm Merck to educate physicians about vaccines. Merck manufactures the MMR vaccine.

"There is nobody I know that does vaccine work that would want to hide or deny an association that has some plausibility," Prober tells WebMD. "The process of vaccine development, testing, licensure, and follow-up is an extremely complicated process that has probably more checks and balances than the government." For example, Prober said, the infant rotavirus vaccine was pulled swiftly from the market last year after safety problems were found.

On the other hand, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group with serious concerns about current vaccine standards, maintains that the federal government may have ignored or concealed early data that could have kept that vaccine off the market.

The CDC and the National Institutes of Health are now conducting several studies looking at both autism and vaccines. Lawmakers at the hearing called for further funding and initiatives.

 

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