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Autism and vaccines, Chapter 10,000

October 1, 2008 |  3:30 pm

Haven't read enough about autism lately? Even if you have -- and we're betting that you have -- you might nonetheless head on over to Scienceblogs.com for their ScienceBlogs Book Club, which right now is a multi-blogger review of a new book on the vaccine-autism brouhaha.

"Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure" by Dr. Paul A. Offit (Columbia University Press, 2008) examines the rise of the autism-vaccine theory after the (later-debunked) research of the British surgeon Dr. Andrew Wakefield (you can read a summary of that research here) and a second assertion, by parent advocacy groups, that use of the mercury preservative thimerosal in vaccines was to blame for a rise in autism cases. 

Offit, who is chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says that he was driven to write the book after study upon study failed to find an autism-vaccine link -- and yet, as a result of those studies, the press took the matter up and continues to present the issue as if it were a controversy. It's not, he says -- at least not a scientific one. And, he writes:

"My hope for this book is that people confused about this subject will see the sand on which the notion that vaccines cause autism is built. And also get a better look at the motivations of the fringe scientists, lawyers, journalists, and parent advocates who continue to flak for the irresponsible notion that vaccines cause autism."

At the ScienceBlogs Book Club, you'll read what bloggers and commenters have to say about the book. Many of the comments are thoughtful, some are -- hold onto your hats! -- angry, even rude. I've not read the book yet, but plan to.

-- Rosie Mestel

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