The Plank

Three's Company On The Vaccine Controversy

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Like Jason, I was not happy to learn that Barack Obama, like John McCain, had given credence to the supposed link between autism and vaccines. Well, it turns out that opinion is unanimous among the presidential candidates. Here is how Hillary Clinton's campaign answered a questionnaire from the group A_Champ:

Q: Do you think vaccines should be investigated as a possible cause of autism? 

A: I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines. I have long been a supporter of increased research to determine the links between environmental factors and diseases, and I
believe we should increase the NIH’s ability to engage in this type of
research. My administration will be committed to improving research to
support fact-based solutions, and I will ensure that the NIH has the
staff and funding to fully explore all possible causes of autism.

...

Q: Would you support a large-scale federal study of the differences in health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups? 

A: Yes. We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between
vaccines and autism - but we should find out. The lack of research on
treatments, interventions, and services for children and adults with
autism is a major impediment to the development of delivery of quality
care. We need evidence-based research on what works and what doesn’t in
order to provide the most effective services for people with autism. In
addition to a large-scale federal study, I will create a task force
that would include significant representation from the autism community
and would be charged with identifying gaps in evidence-based biomedical
research, behavioral treatments, and services for children and adults
with autism. The task force would present these findings to Congress
and the Executive Branch and would make recommendations on how to make
evidence-based treatments, interventions, and services available at the
state and local levels. Once the task force has completed its work, I
will provide funding to establish state-based demonstration grants to
provide these evidence-based autism treatments, interventions, and
services.

For more background on the whole autism-vaccine controversy, here's Harold Pollack at the Huffington Post. And here's occasional TNR contributor Arthur Allen, who's also the author of a terrific book called Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver.

--Jonathan Cohn 

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