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San Diego, CA, October 28, 2008 – Parents, scientists and clinicians met last weekend under the auspices of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego to discuss the state of autism research. Organizations representing many thousands of voters are calling for Senator McCain to state his policy position on vaccine safety, and for Senator Obama to clarify his comments made earlier this fall, by noon October 30, 2008, in order that voters can make an informed choice of candidate.
The autism community gratefully acknowledges the commitment at the last debate by both candidates to aggressively research the causes of and treatments for autism, a national health crisis affecting at least one in 150 children. However, some segments of the community are specifically concerned about vaccine safety reforms; issues include the removal of neurotoxic ingredients in vaccines, and alteration of the present vaccination schedule for children who might be at risk due to mitochondrial or some other predisposing disorder. Emerging evidence in the scientific literature suggests that environmental factors, including vaccines, may contribute to autism. The nation is facing a crisis of confidence in the safety of the vaccine program. The Centers for Disease Control admitted last April that “simultaneous vaccination is incompletely studied at the time of licensure.” (page 33: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/00_pdf/draft_agenda_recommendations_080404.pdf)
In May, Rebecca Estepp of San Diego, who has a vaccine-injured child with autism, contacted both presidential campaigns for clarification on their positions with regard to vaccine-safety reform. She made a plea for two Executive Orders to be issued within the first one hundred days of entering office: the removal of all mercury from all vaccines, and a moratorium on the addition of new vaccines to the recommended list for children, until the current vaccine schedule can be proven safe.
On October 20th, Estepp received a detailed response from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, senior policy advisor to the McCain campaign, stating that if elected, McCain “will work with all agencies to take all necessary steps in an expedient manner to ensure safe vaccines for every American family.” Further, McCain endorsed parental vaccination choice stating, “The key to health care reform is to restore control to the patients themselves.”
In contrast, Senator Obama never responded to Estepp’s requests for improved vaccine safety, responding to her only with regard to his position on autism. Estepp is disappointed: “I truly wanted responses from both parties, and while the concerns of vaccine safety and autism overlap, they are in fact separate issues. I didn’t ask either candidate for his position on autism. I asked for vaccine safety improvements on behalf of all children.”
Earlier this fall, New Jersey parent Claudine Liss attended an Obama fundraiser with the express intent to get answers similar to those sought by Estepp. Liss explains, “He looked right at me and said, ‘I am not for selective vaccination. I believe it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.'”
Estepp extends a final plea to Senator Obama to clarify his position: “This is a party-neutral issue, and many of our parents are waiting to make up their minds on whom to elect. Senator McCain believes parents have a choice in how they vaccinate their children. I sincerely hope that Senator Obama misspoke that night in New Jersey.”