December 13, 2018

An incoming congressman just suggested vaccines may cause autism. (And he's a physician.)

Daily Briefing

    Rep.-elect Mark Green (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday questioned CDC research discrediting the theory that vaccines cause autism and told constituents at a town hall meeting that "there is some concern" that the rise in autism rates is linked to vaccines—though he later said his comments were "misconstrued."

    Q&A: Learn how one organization achieved 98% employee flu vaccination levels

    Research shows no link between vaccines, autism

    The idea that vaccines are linked with autism largely stems from a 1998 study in The Lancet that was retracted in 2010. The study's author later had his medical license revoked based on alleged ethical violations and his failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

    Since then, various studies have shown there is no link between vaccines and autism. CDC on its website states, "Many studies … have looked at whether there is a relationship between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder [ASD]," and, "[t]o date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD."

    Last year, two American Academy of Pediatricians physicians wrote, "Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature." They continued, "Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease."

    Green 'committed' to getting 'real data on vaccines' and autism

    But Green, who is a physician, during a town hall meeting on Tuesday questioned CDC's stance on the topic, and claimed the agency has "fraudulently managed" data pertaining to vaccines and autism, The Tennessean reports.

    Green said, "Let me say this about autism. I have committed to people in my community … to stand on the CDC's desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines." He added, "As a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it."

    Green says comments were 'misconstrued'

    According to the Washington Post, Green in a statement on Wednesday said his comments were "misconstrued."

    He said, "I want to reiterate my wife and I vaccinated our children, and we believe, and advise others they should have their children vaccinated."

    The Tennessean reports that Green on Wednesday told USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee that his comments stemmed from a concern raised by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) in 2015 that CDC had covered up a potential link between vaccines and autism. "It has been suggested on the floor of the House that the CDC may have not been transparent with data," Green said.

    He continued, "There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase. We need better research, and we need it fast. We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation."

    But based on the current data, Green said he "would encourage families to get vaccinated at this time" (Sonmez, Washington Post, 12/12; Allison, The Tennessean, 12/12; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 12/13; Hellmann, The Hill, 12/12; Diamond, "Pulse," Politico, 12/13).

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