Health and Science

Case closed on vaccine-autism debate: Doctor

Picking apart vaccine safety net: Expert
Picking apart vaccine safety net: Expert

The scientific community has thoroughly debunked any association behind autism and the measles vaccine, and public statements that cast doubt on that make Americans less safe, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday.

"I think for too long a lot of people's public statements allowed these myths to propagate because they've said things like, 'Well, we don't think there's any correlation, but we need more research.' We don't need more research. At some point, enough is enough," the resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute said in a "Squawk Box" interview.

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On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., issued a statement clarifying earlier comments he made on CNBC's "Closing Bell" that suggested the case was not closed on the link between the vaccine and autism.

"I did not say vaccines cause disorders, just that they were temporarily related—I did not allege causation," Paul said.

Defensive? Sen. Rand Paul on voluntary vaccines
Defensive? Sen. Rand Paul on voluntary vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 102 cases of measles in 14 states in January, most of which are linked to an outbreak at Disneyland.

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Last year, measles cases soared to 644, the highest number of infections since the United States declared the country measles-free in 2000.

The numbers raise concern and suggest the country will see more cases this year, Gottlieb said. The United States must change its standards and consider whether adults should get booster shots.

He noted that vaccine rates in some states have fallen below the "magic number" of 90 percent, a level that prevents the virus from propagating.

The outbreak has been widely blamed on anti-vaccination advocates, some of whom claim vaccinations can lead to the onset of autism.

Studies from the CDC and National Institutes of Health demonstrate there is no link between vaccinations and autism, as did a widely cited study of 540,000 children in Denmark, Gottlieb said.

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He pointed out that the theory of the purported link between autism and vaccines has shifted over the years. It was at first ascribed to a reaction in the intestinal track, and was then linked to a preservative in vaccines called thimerosal, he said. Excluding some flu vaccines, thimerosal is not used in childhood vaccines, according to the CDC.

"Now the theory is it's the vaccine schedule itself. It's hard to argue when the argument keeps changing," he said.

The federal government does not necessarily need to mandate vaccination because states typically already do so, Gottlieb added. "A federal mandate I think would make more people concerned around the intrusion to decision making," he said.

However, exclusions that allow people to opt out in 20 states are inappropriate and should be reconsidered, he said.

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