Yep, they did. This angle has some personal resonance. Tomorrow I take my four-month old son Harry to the doctor for his first round of injections, and though I’m more or less satisfied that the relative risks favor immunization, this anecdotal connection is taking on some familiar and disturbing contours…
This piece from the New York Times Magazine a couple weeks ago made for great Sunday morning reading juggling a baby in my lap:
As chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases from 1995 through June 1999, [Neal Halsey] often appeared in the media administering calm reassurance. ”Many of the allegations against vaccines,” Halsey said in one interview, ”are based on unproven hypotheses and causal associations with little evidence.”
And then suddenly in June 1999, during a visit to the Food and Drug Administration, a squall appeared on the horizon of Halsey’s confidence. Halsey attended a meeting to discuss thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that at the time was being used in several vaccines — including the hepatitis B shot that Halsey had fought so hard to have administered to American babies. By the time the dust kicked up in that meeting had settled, Halsey would be forced to reckon with the hypothesis that thimerosal had damaged the brains of immunized infants and may have contributed to the unexplained explosion in the number of cases of autism being diagnosed in children.
That Halsey was willing even to entertain this possibility enraged some of his fellow vaccinologists, who couldn’t fathom how a doctor who had spent so much energy dismantling the arguments of people who attacked vaccines could now be changing sides. But to Halsey’s mind, his actions were perfectly consistent: he was simply working from the data. And the numbers deeply troubled him. ”From the beginning, I saw thimerosal as something different,” he says. ”It was the first strong evidence of a causal association with neurological impairment. I was very concerned.”