Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 2 News List

CDC officials deny vaccine story

MEDIA WAR The Centers for Disease Control had previously issued a complaint to the `United Evening News' over its coverage of thimerosal-containing flu vaccines

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials and doctors continued to rebut coverage in the United Evening News linking vaccines that contain mercury with an increased likelihood of autism as dishonest and irresponsible.

On Friday, the paper published its latest story about vaccines that contain thimerosal, a mercury compound that acts as a preservative. One of the stories' headlines ran "Top pediatricians push for mercury-free vaccines for infants and toddlers."

However, all four pediatricians interviewed by the newspaper said their words had been twisted by the paper to make them appear to be advocates of mercury-free vaccines, which they are not.

In a joint statement issued through the Department of Health, the doctors said they repeatedly emphasized the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines during the course of interviews.

"The subsequent coverage seriously distorted our views," the release said.

"There is no need to replace thimerosal-containing vaccines at this point in time," it said.

All four doctors will no longer be accepting interviews from the newspapers' reporters, the release said.

The CDC had issued a complaint to the paper over its coverage of the flu vaccines last October, an unusual move prompted by fears that the reports would scare parents away from vaccinating their children.

In a telephone interview with the Taipei Times, CDC deputy chief Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) characterized the paper's coverage as "utter nonsense."

"What they wrote had no bearing on reality," Shih said. "However, some parents choose to believe the papers rather than the experts."

Shih himself was quoted in the United Evening News on Friday as saying that the CDC would be "happy to see the universal application of mercury-free vaccines," a quote taken out of context that seriously misrepresent his position, Shih said.

The same piece also claimed that the CDC had plans to replace its current three-in-one vaccine with a thimerosal-free version next year. There are no such plans, Shih said.

"Thimerosal was patented almost eighty years ago. Its safety has been demonstrated in study after study," Shih said.

Asked by the Taipei Times whether the CDC would consider switching to a mercury-free vaccine to reassure anxious parents, Shih said "No."

"We will choose the vaccines that are the safest and most effective. A change to mercury-free vaccines will benefit nobody but the pharmaceutical companies," he added.

"The government cannot be threatened or bullied into changing course to placate the beliefs of a minority," Shih said.

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