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Debate Flares Over Vaccines and Autism

Activist Groups Spar With CDC Over Claims of Link Between Autism and Thimerosal

CDC Perspective

Parents groups alleged that CDC officials had worked to dissuade agency scientists from looking more deeply into links between thimerosal and autism.

The groups also alleged that CDC officials narrowed the scope of the IOM's report to include a handful of studies, most of which the agency had a role in funding or planning. Those studies generally showed little evidence of a link between vaccination and autism.

Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman, said the agency has been "very transparent" about its ongoing studies of autism and vaccines and that the emails have been taken "out of context." He said the agency closely guards its scientific credibility and "in no way" tried to influence IOM experts.

"We stand behind our science that's been done to this date and we will certainly do more in the future," he said.

Louis Z. Cooper, MD, an emeritus professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and a founder of the National Network for Immunization Information, said in an interview that some of the emails and transcripts "cause some anxiety" because they may help fuel fear among parents about the safety of vaccines and the motivations of health officials.

Still, Cooper, who noted he's known McCormick professionally for at least 20 years, called accusations of bias against her or other members of IOM's committee "rubbish, scurrilous, and awful."

"If I wanted a group who were committed to objectivity and were committed to science, I couldn't have asked for a better group of people," said Cooper, a former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Manning said her group and others would continue to push for congressional investigations into how the IOM conducted the studies and whether they were influenced by the CDC. "We believe that this is a serious issue that needs to be examined," she said.

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