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IACC Discusses 2008 NIH Strategic Plan for Autism Research

February 06, 2009

Washington, DC (February 6, 2009) - The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) addressed the removal of two objectives on vaccine safety research that were withdrawn from a National Institutes of Health strategic plan at its last meeting. Because of the manner in which the objectives were withdrawn, without adequate notice to the committee and public, Autism Speaks had previously voiced its disappointment and withdrew its support from the strategic plan.
The IACC, which was created under the Combating Autism Act to coordinate all autism-related efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is comprised of federal government officials and appointed public members from the autism advocacy community.
Mark Noble, Ph.D., a scientist from the University of Rochester Medical Center, gave a presentation to the committee, providing his analysis and reinterpretation of published studies on thimerosal in relation to autism prevalence and occurrence rates. Bruce Gellin, M.D., M.P.H., director of the federal government's National Vaccine Program Office, spoke to the committee about the ongoing efforts of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) Vaccine Safety Working Group. It was agreed that NVAC and IACC will begin to work together to share information and expertise as both committees move forward with their respective missions.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Peter Bell, Autism Speaks' Executive Vice President for Programs and Services, read a statement expressing Autism Speaks' dissatisfaction with the process by which objectives addressing questions about vaccine safety were removed from the plan without adequate notice or input from the public.
He stressed the importance of trust, transparency, collaboration, and better communication among families affected by autism, the medical and scientific communities, and the federal government. Bell emphasized that Autism Speaks' position regarding the need for on-going vaccine safety research remains strongly grounded in science. He noted that evidence suggests that there are many causes of autism – involving both genetic and environmental factors, and that there remains a possibility that individuals with underlying medical or genetic conditions might be more susceptible to adverse effects of vaccines.
Bell emphasized Autism Speaks' commitment to funding research exploring the role of a wide range of environmental factors including vaccines, and their interaction with genetic factors, as potential risk factors for autism. Furthermore, Bell explained Autism Speaks' view that addressing parents' questions and concerns will help parents become more confident and trusting in our medical community and the vaccine program, which will result in more children being vaccinated – a better health outcome for all children.
You can read Bell's statement here.