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Mercury and Autism: The Debate, Part 2

KSMU's Missy Shelton continues her conversation with author David Kirby.

Shelton: David, I've read some of the reviews of your book. Not surprisingly, people either love it or hate it. Some people were extremely critical of the book allege that you are part of an anti-vaccine movement that's afoot now and has been afoot for some time. Is that true?

Kirby: No, quite the opposite. My intention to say let's support immunizations in this country. Let's reassure parents that most of the mercury has come out of vaccines. The government did the right thing. They got it out with trace amounts in some vaccines and of course the flu shot still has it. If I were a parent, I would immunize my child. I live in New York City. There are people arriving everyday from all over the world. They come from countries where infectious diseases are still a big problem. So, I think protecting children against these diseases is absolutely essential. I think parents have been worried and they've been hearing things and there's been a lot of confusion. If one day we can pinpoint mercury in vaccines as at least one of the culprits in this disease and the mercury has come out, I'm hopeful that parents will feel better about vaccinating their children. Nobody in my book is anti-vaccine. That's just a way to divert attention away from the debate. It cheapens the debate and if you can't attack the message, then you attack the messenger. It's not fair and it's not right. I'm not anti-vaccine.

Shelton: Why don't you tell us exactly how you got turned on to this subject and how you first began investigating the possible link between autism and thimerosal.

Kirby: It was in November, 2002 and I was just starting to look into autism as a possible subject for some magazine articles when a mother out in Los Angeles told me that some people thought that mercury in vaccines was contributing to the epidemic. I has never heard of such a thing. I thought she was a little crazy. And about a week later, the House of Representatives passed the Homeland Security bill, in November, 2002 and that's when I found out this rider had been stuck in at the last minute quite secretly that would've dismissed all the lawsuit Eli Lily and the vaccine makers that put thimerosal, this mercury preservative in vaccines. So I put two and two together and thought that's what she was talking about. Looking at the bill, it just seemed very suspicious to me if there was no evidence of harm and if there was nothing to hide, why would members of Congress act in such a secretive fashion? That got my journalistic alarm bills going off and I just took it from there.

Shelton: In the legislative session that just ended in May, Missouri lawmakers approved legislation that bans vaccines containing thimerosal for children under the age of three and pregnant women. Just curious what you thought about the passage of that bill.

Kirby: That is a tremendous credit to a lot of the parents in this area who have been working very hard in this on this issue. I'm here with Kelly Kern, one of the moms who's in my book. Lugene Clark and Rita Shreffler are all Missouri residents who worked very hard on that bill. So, I applaud the people of Missouri and the legislature of Missouri for even taking this up. We need to get to the bottom of this. The American people deserve an answer. We need to find out once and for all if mercury is a contributing factor. If thimerosal was causing these problems, we need to get it out of all vaccines and we need to come up with a compensation plan for these families that have suffered so much. But if it's not mercury, that's actually bad news because then we have to go back to square one and we're just flying blind all over again. We'll have to find out what's in our environment that's causing so many kids to get sick. I'm just shocked that this isn't more of a public health emergency, that people aren't just screaming in the streets.

Shelton: I've been speaking with author David Kirby about the possible link between thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines and autism. Join me tomorrow for a two-part conversation with a local physician who's on the other side of this debate.