Obama Cites Link Between Vaccines and Autism

Ugh. It appears that Barack Obama has joined the John McCain bandwagon in suggesting that there may be a link between vaccines and autism, science to the contrary be damned!

“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

Of course, as the article linked to this statement points out, the science is, in fact, quite conclusive on this issue. Given the very real dangers of not vaccinating children, this kind of non-scientific scaremongering goes beyond normal political pandering and into the danger zone. Both Obama and McCain ought to be ashamed about this. Of course, they won’t be, since the surgical removal of one’s sense of shame is part of the orientation training for your first week in the U.S. Senate. But it would be nice if their advisors would advise them to at least appear ashamed.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Health, Science & Technology, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Elly says:

    If this was so, why does autism affect boys at four times the rate of girls?

    I admit, I gave my children their vaccinations at a slower pace than the pediatrician wanted to. But not because of autism, I just didn’t like the idea of so many shots together.

  2. C.Wagener says:

    I believe the only statistical link found has been the age of the father. The older the father the higher the chance a kid will be autistic.

  3. Michael says:

    Like with McCain, I don’t expect Obama to be deeply informed about autism.

    Was this a question asked by someone at random, or is this the official stance Obama’s campaign is taking on the issue?

  4. Monica says:

    Ill-informed “articles” or comments like these are what keep some people in the dark. Not one person should be ashamed of questioning the possibility of a link ….not opening up the dialog leaves many people hurt. Alex Knapp and people like him/her should REALLY be ashamed….and I don’t mean just APPEAR ashamed.

  5. C.Wagener says:


    Should we spend money and the time of researchers studying the link between autism and being born during a full moon; if I, a non scientist suggest there is one, so as to not hurt my feelings?

    Rachel Carson, said, quite incorrectly, that there was a link between DDT and a decline in bald eagles. That farce has cost millions of lives in Africa and India. How many kids should not receive vaccines and potentially die to avoid hurt feelings?

  6. caltechgirl says:

    AUUUGH. Obama is an idiot. There is PLENTY of good research, done by Doctors with NO conflict of interest that shows ZERO link between vaccines and Autism. The science is FAR from inconclusive.

    That’s great. Research funding has been slashed over the last five years and now this jerk wants to use what little we get to reinvent the wheel.

    I guess his people don’t know how to use google.

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Are we surprised science is being misused in the political arena? Are we shocked that superstition and fear are being used to accomplish unsound goals? Is this not worse than some believing in creationism since it impacts public health?

    None of this should surprise us. Science is being killed and we are watching it die. If no one believes in science or trusts science it will not be of use to our society. Rachel Carson may not have been the first to start the assault but she certainly is a key player who has since inspired many environmentalists to abuse science in order to make headway against our modern lifestyle.

  8. teqjack says:

    One of the doctors who started the vaccine=autism thing has admitted to some falsification of evidence, and he and others are “facing a General Medical Council fitness to practise panel, accused of serious professional misconduct”
    The actual story is in the British Medical Journal, but –

    C.Waggener, not to applaud Rachel Carson (I think she was wrong, silly, and a few other things) but that DDT-eagle business was not shown up as faked until long after her book, she was reporting what she thought was valid.

    Faked? Yep. While further sort-of-confirming research has shown a just-discernable blip of association in extreme (improbable but just possible in the world-at-large) circumstances, the original “researcher” deliberately cut down calcium in the food of his subjects, which was fakery to show that DDT caused thinning of egg shells.

  9. David says:

    Obama, Clinton and McCain have been urged tomeeet up with families with autism during this campaign according to Blogger News Network, let’s hope they do and come up with a national US Autism Plan.


    Obama, Clinton & McCain Must Meet Families With Autism

    When Autism News on Blogger News Network requested the candidates for the Presidential Elections – Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton who are going for the Democratic nomination and Senator John McCain the Presidential Candidate for the Republican Party to speak out on autism to mark the first ever United Nations World Autism Awareness Day declared by the UN General Assembly and held on Wednesday 2nd April 2008 – two of the three candidates responded by issuing statements – but these statements were not well publicised in the national and international media.

    Although it was good to see plans for autism from the candidates we now urge Senators Obama, Clinton and McCain to show their committment to parents, carers, children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome by organising meetings with families with autism – on the campaign trail. There is nothing like the connection with voters – one to one connections. Autism is a serious education and health issue in the United States. According to the CDC 1 in 150 children is on autism spectrum and numbers are rising. The next President of the United States must show his or her commitment to parents, carers and people with autism by coming up with detailed and specific plans for autism.

    We now need to see the candidates meeting with children and adults with autism – public perceptions are extremely important – do they really care for children and adults with disabilities? As far as we are aware the candidates have yet to have specifically organised meetings with parents, carers, children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

    So here is the challenge to Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain. Will you have the courage of your convictions to speak out on autism and meet with families with autism, children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome while on the campaign trail?

    We urge Democrats and Republicans to bring this to the attention of all the candidates and the those driving the individual campaigns.

    The campaign organisers to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain must organise this – not behind closed doors, not just though a statement but in the full glare of the media and in front of voters. The candidates must not forget that parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are voters too. Politicians ignore them at their peril.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations have put the issue of autism on the global stage, by declaring the historic World Autism Awareness Day. A future President of the United States going into the White House will have to take this further and come up with sweeping reforms, help and structured support and reach out to all children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in the US. A future US President must also bring hope to the hopeless in Africa and Asia where families with autism are sinking without any help or support.We must look at the issue of poverty and autism.

    It would be tremendous if a future President invites parents, carers, children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome into the White House next year on 2nd April on World Autism Awareness Day 2009. Lets hope this becomes an annual event where the Commander-in-Chief will open the doors of the White House to children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. You heard it first on Blogger News Network.

  10. Mary Brand says:

    To deny an autism/vaccine link is outrageous. And to claim non-vaccination is ‘dangerous’ is totally moronic. Funny– noone feared chicken pox until Big Pharma forced a vaccine on us. Then suddenly a benign childhood disease is the Bubonic Plague. Wake up, America, you are being played for a bunch of fools.

    All the thousands of parents who saw their kid go from normal to not are crazy? There are thousands of them- they’re all crazy?

    Dan Burton, the Polings, Barbara Loe Fisher, Andrew Wakefield, Jenny MccCarthy– all crazy?

    Do your research Mom and Dad– the more you know the more you question and the sooner you’ll turn your back on what will prove to be biggest health crisis of our century.

  11. Michael says:

    All the thousands of parents who saw their kid go from normal to not are crazy? There are thousands of them- they’re all crazy?

    You would rather think that all the millions of parents who saw their kids stay normal after getting vaccinated are the crazy ones? How about all of us parents of ASD kids who did _not_ have vaccines with Thermerasol, are we all crazy too?

    When 1 in 150 kids are diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder, you’re going to find thousands who have something else in common, but that doesn’t mean it caused their Autism.

    Every statistical study that I have ever heard of finds that children who are given vaccines with Termerasol are _not_ statistically more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than kids who were not exposed. That is why we deny the link.

  12. C.Wagener says:


    I agree that Carson thought she was right. The problem is she didn’t possess qualifications that would allow her to make such a determination. While she likely didn’t fake anything, among other things, the nadir of the bald eagle population was in the 1930’s, suggesting her link wasn’t valid.

  13. joe says:

    Why must one size fit all? It is probably the case that some kids have different or weaker immune systems and cannot handle the vaccine load, and have a different and sometimes seriously adverse reactions. There’s nothing “crazy” about it. Some people will die if they eat a peanut, but that doesn’t make them, nor their parents, crazy.

    I will guess that the person who likens the autism/vaccine link to the autism/full moon connection does not have a child with autism and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time looking into it.

  14. Michael says:

    Why must one size fit all? It is probably the case that some kids have different or weaker immune systems and cannot handle the vaccine load, and have a different and sometimes seriously adverse reactions.

    Yes, and a brain injury can also cause Autism-like symptoms. The problem is that Autism-like symptoms != Autism.

    Autism is defined as a collection of symptoms, and there are actually many things that can cause those same symptoms. Suffering a brain injury during a car-accident can potentially cause Autism-like symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that car accidents are a cause of Autism.

  15. al says:

    Madsen et al. (2002) conducted a study of all children born in Denmark from January 1991 through December 1998. There were a total of 537,303 children in the study; 440,655 of the children were vaccinated with MMR and 96,648 were not. The researchers did not find a higher risk of autism in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated group of children. Furthermore, there was no association between the age at time of vaccination, the amount of time that had passed since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of any autistic disorder. Though there were many more vaccinated than unvaccinated children in the study group, the sample was large enough to contain more statistical power than other MMR and autism studies. Therefore, this study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.

  16. Garth says:

    There is a link. One in 58 British children is autistic, new figures reveal. Could injecting children with the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – rather than three separate shots – can cause autism?
    Read the story:

  17. Anna says:

    I am a scientist with a Ph.D. and develop technologies for mercury removal from industrial sources. YES, the science is inconclusive at this point on whether or not there is a link between mercury in vaccines and autism. To say that there MAY be a link is not the same as saying that children should not be vaccinated. Mercury in vaccines is not a necessary ingredient, but rather a cheap preservative which may be substituted by non-toxic preservatives. If there is even a slight chance that some children’s toxin release mechanisms are not 100% effective, and thus a vaccine containing mercury may actually have some negative health effect, should the government not spend money on continuing research efforts in this area? If we can spend money on a senseless war, I would say research for the sake of our childrens’ health is a much better cause.