Rich Tucker

Sometimes even a mistake can have a positive outcome.

 Back in August, the state of New York passed a law that will ban the use of the thimerosal in children’s vaccines. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative added to vaccines so that a vial can be used to store more than one shot. Some parents think thimerosal triggered the outbreak of autism we’ve seen since 1990. The CDC estimates as many as one child in every 166 has some autistic symptoms.

New York’s law doesn’t take effect until 2009, but it’s a mistake from day one. The law is just another example of a government meddling in medical decisions. For far too long, doctors have been outsourcing their decisions to the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends that children get some 20 inoculations in their first 18 months.

Still, New York’s mistake was useful, because it highlights the fact that neither lawmakers in Albany nor bureaucrats in Atlanta should be deciding what medical treatment our children will receive. Medical decisions about what shots to get, and when, should be made by parents and doctors.

Or, maybe, just parents.

In a letter this summer to its members, the New York chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged doctors to “CONTACT GOVERNOR IMMEDIATELY AND URGE HIM TO VETO THE THIMEROSAL BILL.” Why? “Despite the headlines in the media, there is no evidence that thimerosal is harmful,” the letter said.

Well, that’s interesting. In July 2001, the AAP issued a report that found, “In children, significant [mercury] exposure to the central nervous system can result in effects ranging from learning disabilities to devastating neurologic problems including mental retardation, blindness and spasticity.”

Hmm. Those symptoms sound suspiciously like autism. Perhaps that’s why, as the report went on to say, “The AAP has also joined with the Public Health Service to reduce the use of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, from vaccines.”

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for