Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

And I'm still beating this horse because it isn't dead yet

I'm sure some of you out there are a bit taken aback by my evident hostility toward liberal icon and Upper Class Twit of the Year Robert Kennedy Jr. Newbies can get the story from these posts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

The really bad news is that some trial lawyers have Kennedy's visions of class action sugar plums dancing in their heads and there is indeed going to be a class action suit starting on June 11 against vaccine makers on the grounds that childhood vaccination caused autism in 4,800 children. If this suit is successful, it will be a disaster for children in the United States and the world. And I can assure you, it is utterly without merit. Dr. Paul Offit, who unlike the airhead RFK Jr. did not achieve his prominence because of his parentage, and who actually knows what he is talking about, lays out the potentially very bad news here. Let me give you the money quote, at least as far as the despicable Mr. Kennedy is concerned:

Certainly there is plenty of evidence to refute the notion that vaccines cause autism. Fourteen epidemiological studies have shown that the risk of autism is the same whether children received the MMR vaccine or not, and five have shown that thimerosal-containing vaccines also do not cause autism. Further, although large quantities of mercury are clearly toxic to the brain, autism isn't a consequence of mercury poisoning; large, single-source mercury exposures in Minamata Bay and Iraq have caused seizures, mental retardation, and speech delay, but not autism.

Finally, vaccine makers removed thimerosal from vaccines routinely given to young infants about six years ago; if thimerosal were a cause, the incidence of autism should have declined. Instead, the numbers have continued to increase. All of this evidence should have caused a quick dismissal of these cases. But it didn't, and now the court has turned into a circus. The federal and civil litigation will likely take years to sort out.

RFK Jr. should retire from public life and do something he is qualified for, like work behind the counter at Dunkin' Donuts. If he does that, he'll hurt some children by feeding them empty calories, but that will be far less harm than he's doing now. And, he won't be in over his head, or at least not very far.

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