The top prosecutor in San Antonio, Texas, reignited the anti-vaccination debate this week, sharing his personal views that childhood vaccines can and do cause autism.
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood, elected in 2014, spoke his mind following a local screening of the controversial documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, which asserts childhood vaccines are linked to autism.
The film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, claimed to associate the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism spectrum-like symptoms in the late 1990’s, although he was later discredited for faking data in an “elaborate fraud,” Breitbart News reported.
LaHood attributes his five-year-old son’s autism to infant inoculations. On Monday, the D.A. appeared in a 21-second trailer, “Vaxxed Stories: the Prosecutor,” which promoted “Nico’s story” on the Autism Media Channel.
In it, he said: “I’m Nico LaHood. I’m the criminal district attorney in San Antonio, Texas. I’m here to tell you that vaccines can and do cause autism.”
On Tuesday, LaHood posted the entire 11-minute interview on Facebook, sharing why he and wife Davida believed infant inoculations were responsible for son Michael’s autism. LaHood wrote: “There has been a lot of attention, criticism, and support coming locally, nationally and even internationally regarding my opinion that there may be a link between autism and vaccines.”
According to KSAT, LaHood was asked whether he should be voicing his opinion due to his political office. He responded: “My opinions are just my opinions. As a daddy, as a husband, who happens to be the district attorney. People are allowed to have a First Amendment right to an opinion. I know this is not a politically correct opinion.” He commented he was ready for any “backlash” from saying vaccines cause autism.
In response, Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at the Baylor College of Medicine, emphatically tweeted he could not believe he was still having to defend vaccinations.
— Dr. Peter J. Hotez (@PeterHotez) August 30, 2016
The medical expert is also the father of an autistic daughter. He told San Antonio news radio KTSA scientific studies show no link between vaccinations and autism. Hotez has called measles a leading cause of child mortality, killing 100,000 youngsters worldwide every year. He fears Texas will experience a measles outbreak if parents stop vaccinating their children.
In 2014, on World Autism Day, Hotez stated: “From a scientific perspective, there is no scenario where it is even remotely possible that vaccines cause autism. Instead everything I know both as a parent and as a scientist points to autism as a genetic or epigenetic condition.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain vaccines are safe and credit them with taming whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, smallpox, yellow fever, and tetanus in the population. Since 2003, the CDC funded or conducted nine studies on thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multi-dose vials of vaccines. Between 1999 and 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines. Despite allegations by critics the ingredient was an autism-related toxin, no link was found.
A statement by San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials mirrored CDC findings on thimerosal, also alluding to Wakefield when mentioning the “long ago debunked study in the 1998 issue of the journal Lancet was retracted for shoddy and misleading interpretation of scientific findings.” Public health officials reiterated the importance of vaccinating children.
Last year, Breitbart California reported on a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study that supported the MMR vaccine did not cause autism.
Of the estimated 5.5 million Texas children attending K-12 public, charter, and private schools, only 0.84 percent or nearly 45,000 are not vaccinated through the state’s conscientious exemptions, Breitbart Texas reported. Current Texas law requires all school children get immunized but parents can opt-out for personal, philosophical or religious reasons. However, in 2015, the Austin Regional Clinic announced they would no longer retain patients or accept new ones who lack routine childhood vaccinations because of parents or guardians who oppose them.
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