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A bureaucrat says study vaccines and mercury so panic

There is a big distance between funding science and creating policy or law. We all need to respect that distance. Even after we've been burned by it.

A career researcher's acknowledgement that more study is needed concerning mercury and childrens' heath is no reason to panic.

Yet that's just what David Kirby, who has spent a decade now debunking claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and is finally seeing some light at the end of that tunnel, did yesterday.

Kirby went ballistic after Duane Alexander (right, from his NIH biography), who has been running a small research bureaucracy in Bethesda since 1986, suggested some people might be genetically vulnerable to vaccines, or have trouble metabolizing mercury. Alexander called it a valid field for study.

This contradicts the legal trend of recent years, and Kirby's own debunking of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose study, trumpeted on 1,000 Web sites, claimed the preservative in MMR (Mumps, Measles and Rubella) vaccines given to infants contains mercury which causes autism.

This has led to a large, growing, anti-vaccine movement that leaves kids at risk. Cases of measles are rising. Kids are dieing needlessly.

A vaccine court recently ruled that the standard MMR vaccine is not proven to cause autism, which contradicted the decision last year in a Georgia case where a mitochondrial condition was said to have been aggravated by mercury in the vaccine, thus possibly resulting in a fever that left a girl autistic.

Frankly, Mr. Kirby, I'd like to square those results myself. They appear to be contradictory.

It's possible that the vaccine is not the cause for the mercury getting into kids' systems. There are many sources of environmental mercury. The Administration wants to reduce them. Meanwhile growth in autism has  leveled off in recent years, so maybe there's nothing to this mercury business.

Would it really hurt to take a look?

There is a big distance between funding science and creating policy or law. We all need to respect that distance. Even after we've been burned by it.