End of the Innocence: McCain, Obama and Vaccines. Oh My!

11/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Last week, I purchased a bag of Brach's Autumn Mix for my son Liam. Even thought it was mid-October, I gave in to his sweet tooth's request with the caveat that he would have to make the whole bag of delicious candy corns and pumpkins last until Halloween day.

From time to time, I could hear the kitchen drawer open and the bag rustle. Being the clever boy he is, he found a way to get into the bag and touch the candy but not eat it all himself.

Years of Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy for his autism transformed him into a child constantly seeking positive reinforcement. He craves it almost as much as he craves sweet treats.

Lucky for me he also doles it out.

Over the last week, every time I do something he deems praise worthy, I get a candy corn.

"Mom, you got me to school on time today. You get a candy corn." Or "Mom, you made my pot roast for dinner. You get a candy corn." Or "Mom, you brought us to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua again. You get a candy corn."

I haven't eaten this many candy corns in a long time.

As we were sitting on the couch Friday afternoon, Liam turned to me and said, "Mom, what does innocent mean?"

"It means that you didn't do something bad. It means that you are not guilty. Do you know what guilty means?"

"Yes, that means you did something bad like eat all the candy corns when your mom said don't do it."

"Right. It means you knew something was bad and you did it anyway."


I went to investigate the bag. Sure enough, there were nine candy corns left.

Someone felt guilty.

"Liam, are you the one who is guilty of eating the candy corns?"

"No mom. I am innocent. You have been eating the candy corns because you did a good job. Remember? You are the guilty one."

My child with autism has learned the art of spin -- twisting situations where he is clearly guilty around to blame someone else for his actions while simultaneously declaring his innocence, maybe he is destined to run for office.

Last week, I tuned in to the Presidential Debates with all the enthusiasm I usually reserve for the Superbowl. I even popped a bowl of popcorn. For political junkies like me, historical elections like this make for great entertainment.

Lo and behold, both candidates not only mentioned the word autism but actually debated the health issue. McCain indicated autism issues would be an integral part of his Administration's efforts. Obama almost dismissed McCain's comments as pandering since McCain would be calling for a governmental spending freeze stating the amount of money required to effectively address autism issues would be astronomical. Watching genuine banter for votes on the most important health topic in my personal life on national television was almost too much to bear.

That said, taking on autism is a significant task. Any candidate effectively addressing the issues is tantamount to Kennedy's youthful exuberance declaring that we would have man on the moon in 10 years or Reagan's life experience and wisdom that challenged Communism head on.

Presidential leadership is required to cut through bureaucracy, set goals and direct governmental agencies to accomplish difficult tasks. To plant our flag on the moon. To tear down that wall. With effective leadership, we clearly have the ability to Accomplish The Impossible as American citizens.

One percent of our nation's children -- one child in every 68 families, one in every 94 boys -- are being diagnosed with this lifelong disorder. Will our next Commander in Chief require his administration to turn over every stone, from environmental to genetic, to find both causes and effective treatments to restore our children's health? Will the next Administration set serious goals of reversing the rate of autism diagnosis by the end of their term or just declare autism a national health emergency and let it go at that?

Both candidates are on record acknowledging the autism epidemic. Both are on record stating that something significant must be done to address it. Both recognize that autism was woefully swept under the rug by the last three administrations. Both are aware that there is a huge community out there in America that needs their dedication and direction addressing these issues through the very agencies that they will have the power to control once they inhabit the West Wing -- the CDC, the NIH, the HHS, the EPA and FDA.

Both candidates have gone on record stating that we must do the necessary research to determine what is causing the increase in autism. Out on the campaign trail, Obama has indicated that he believes there should be more environmental research but when pressed with regard to vaccines specifically, he stated that he didn't believe in selective vaccination and would do nothing to alter the existing vaccine program. Conversely, McCain commented earlier this year that he believes that the rise in autism diagnosis might have something to do with vaccines, specifically those that contain Thimerosal, and that it should be addressed. In fact, this is an issue McCain has repeatedly addressed in his role as Senator. Senator Obama has not.

Senator Obama is a man that offers youthful exuberance to set aggressive goals to address the issues of autism.

Senator McCain is a man that offers life experience that would aggressively address the issues of autism.

So, what kind of man does it take to direct governmental agencies and pharmaceutical companies to stop purposefully injecting American children with a neurotoxin?

Four years ago, President George Bush and Senator John Kerry stated that if elected they would support the removal of Thimerosal from vaccines for children and pregnant women. Once re-elected, despite a very vocal request from the American Public that he make good on campaign rhetoric by issuing an Executive Order banning the use of the neurotoxin, President Bush flip-flopped by stating his Administration would continue to knowingly and purposefully inject mercury into children until at least 2009.

Thimerosal is an antiseptic solution whose main ingredient is mercury that must be disposed of as hazardous waste. According to its own Material Safety Data Sheet exposure to the substance by children can lead to neurological damage and mental retardation. The packaging on the label of this ingredient bears a skull and crossbones graphic and yet, it is still routinely used in vaccines that make their way into the bodies of children nationwide on a daily basis -- especially during flu season.

Regardless of whether or not Thimerosal causes autism directly, or contributes to the development of autism in some way, what baffles me is why intelligent human beings inject a known neurotoxin in any amount into a child with a developing brain and body for any reason when there are alternative vaccines on the market without it.

Is our government that desperate to preserve a 50 cent per dose profit margin for the Pharmaceutical companies that they will not order its removal?

Why does the removal of Thimerosal from vaccines demand Presidential leadership?

Because even though the agencies that fall under the Executive Branch recommended that Thimerosal be removed from all vaccines for children and pregnant women nearly a decade ago in 1999, they didn't require it.

President Bush is guilty of allowing this practice to continue with every child or fetus that received a Thimerosal-containing vaccine during his second administration. He had a chance to improve vaccines safety and vehemently refused to do so.

Moving forward -- both candidates are fully aware of the controversy. To date, neither 2008 candidate has been brave enough to specifically committ to err on the side of caution and remove Thimerosal from vaccines for children and pregnant women. Not that people haven't asked, but it has been a while since we heard either candidate address this issue in public.

Jenny McCarthy's article on the front cover of US Weekly this week expresses her disappointment that McCain wouldn't meet with her back in May and has lamented publicly that the Obama Campaign won't call her back on this issue either in the past few weeks. Rebecca Estepp, a mom from San Diego, sent in her vaccine safety requests to both candidates as well. While Obama didn't address her concerns regarding Thimerosal or individualized health choices when it comes to vaccines, McCain did.

Despite repeated requests, calls and emails through every avenue, I, too, have had no response from the Obama campaign on this issue. However, I did have the opportunity to meet personally, face to face, with Senator McCain in my hometown of Baton Rouge last April. I asked him my questions and he answered that he understood these issues well and if elected he promised to clean house, making changes from the top down in those agencies that have ignored this issue for so long.

So who cares?


When it comes down to it whether we pull Thimerosal from vaccines or alter the schedule, if we lose our civil liberties along the way, it doesn't really matter. While Senator McCain didn't directly answer Rebecca Estepp's specific question, he zeroed in on what it comes down to: choice. That focus on informed choice should resonates with members within the vaccine injured community, for the parents of young children and for those living in communities, like New Jersey, where vaccine mandates are taking hold.

Why? Because as humans, as clarified by the United Nations, we have a right to informed consent when it comes to medical procedures.

If a woman has a sovereign right to her body to the point that she can choose abortion, how can our Government remotely believe they have the right to force her to get a flu shot when she is pregnant?

It is the End of the Innocence, gentlemen, and for the last ten years America's children have been unnecessarily poisoned by these fairy tales of safe vaccines.

As you enter the next administration with your eyes wide open, this armchair warrior hopes that my son Liam will have an opportunity to personally reward one of you for a job well done and hand you a candy corn for being brave enough, man enough, to issue the Executive Order requiring pharmaceutical companies to once and for all end the practice of injecting neurotoxic, hazardous materials into America's children and for preserving our choice to exercise our rights for informed consent.