Let me be clear right off the bat: Vaccines don’t cause autism.
It’s really that simple. We know they don’t. There have been extensive studies comparing groups of children who have been vaccinated with, say, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine versus those who have not, and it’s very clear that there is no elevated rate of autism in the vaccinated children.
This simple truth is denied vigorously and vociferously by antivaxxers (those who oppose, usually rabidly, the use of vaccinations that prevent diseases), but they may as well deny the Earth is round and the sky is blue. It’s rock solid fact. They try to blame mercury in vaccines, but we know that mercury has nothing to do with autism; when thimerosal (a mercury compound) was removed from vaccines there was absolutely no change in the increase in autism rates.
I could go on and on. Virtually every claim made by antivaxxers is wrong. And this is a critically important issue; vaccines have literally saved hundreds of millions of lives. They save infants from potentially fatal but preventable diseases like pertussis and the flu.
So why did Congress hold hearings this week promoting crackpot antivax views?
I’m not exaggerating. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing trying to look into the cause and prevention of autism. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) launched into a several-minute diatribe (beginning at 12:58 in the video above) that starts off in an Orwellian statement: He claims he’s not antivax.
Then he launches into a five-minute speech that promotes long-debunked and clearly incorrect antivax claims, targeting mercury for the most part. Burton has long been an advocate for quackery; for at least a decade he has used Congressional situations like this to promote antiscience.
In the latest hearing, Burton sounds like a crackpot conspiracy theorist, to be honest, saying he knows—better than thousands of scientists who have spent their careers investigating these topics—that thimerosal causes neurological disorders (including autism).
He goes on for some time about mercury (as does Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) starting at 21:44 in the video), making it clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. For example, very few vaccines still use mercury, and the ones that do use it in tiny amounts and in a form that does not accumulate in the body.
Talking about the danger of mercury in vaccines is like talking about the danger of having hydrogen—an explosive element!—in water. It’s nonsense.