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November 18, 2002


Dear Colleague:


During the past 24 hours, a number of incorrect statements

have been made about the vaccine provisions in the Homeland

Security Act.   The facts are simple.  These provisions

severely restrict the legal rights of parents who believe

their children have suffered neurological damage due to

vaccines.  The scientific debate remains unresolved.  These

provisions do not belong in the Homeland Security Act.  I hope

the following points will help separate fact from fiction.


FICTION:  Scientists have concluded that there is no causal

connection between mercury-containing thimerosal and

neurological disorders such as autism.


FACT:  In 2001, the respected Institute of Medicine concluded

that a connection between thimerosal and autism, while

unproven, is "biologically plausible."  The IOM called for

further research, stating, "the evidence is inadequate to

accept or reject a causal relationship between exposure to

thimerosal from vaccines and neurological developmental

disorders of autism, ADHD, and speech and language delays."


FACT:  Researchers in the state of California concluded this

year that there is no statistical explanation for the nearly

300% increase in cases of autism in that state.  "It is

astounding to see a threefold increase in autism with no

explanation," said Dr. Robert Byrd, an epidemiologist who led

the study. "There's a number of things that need to be

answered. We need to rethink the possible causes of autism."


FACT:  An internal HHS document produced to the House

Government Reform Committee during its investigation into

vaccine safety described what it referred to as a "weak

signal" in its data linking thimerosal to neurological


"Preliminary screening of ICD-9 codes for possible neurologic

and renal conditions following exposures to vaccines

containing thimerosal before 3 months of age showed a

statistical association for the overall category of

neurological developmental disorders and for two conditions

within the category, speech delay and attention deficit



FACT:  If there were no concerns that scientific research

would demonstrate a connection between thimerosal and autism,

Sections 1714-1717 would not have been tacked onto the

Homeland Security Act in the eleventh hour with no debate.


FICTION:  Sections 1714-1717 do not eliminate the rights of

vaccine-injured individuals to sue manufacturers of vaccines

and their components.  Proponents of these provisions have

stated that once individuals have gone through the Vaccine

Injury Compensation Program they can still choose to file a

civil law suit.


FACT:   For many families who believe their children were

injured by mercury-based thimerosal, these provisions do

eliminate their right to file suits.  The Vaccine Injury

Compensation Program has a narrow 3-year statute of

limitations.  Because many families were unaware of the

program, they were unable to file a petition on time.

Sections 1714-1717 take away their only remaining legal



FICTION:  Thimerosal has now been removed from all childhood

vaccines and is therefore no longer a concern.


FACT:  While thimerosal has recently been removed from most

pediatric vaccines used in the United States, it is still used

in the flu vaccine given every year to millions of Americans,

including children as young as six months old.


FACT:  The argument that thimerosal has been removed from most

pediatric vaccines is beside the point.  Because the FDA was

painfully slow to seek the removal of thimerosal during the

1990's, millions of children across the country were exposed

to this mercury-based preservative at a time when concerns

about its health effects were emerging.  The legal rights of

these children should not be curtailed.


Please vote to strip Sections 1714-1717 from the Homeland

Security Act.  Fifteen years ago, only 1 in 10,000 children

was autistic. Today that number has skyrocketed to 1 in 250.

Let's not be stampeded into cutting off the legal rights of

these children without hearings and a full public debate.



Dan Burton


House Committee on Government Reform

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