Ronald Bailey Explains How Public Health Precaution Helped Fuel the Anti-Vaccine Movement

More sorry than safe


Smallpox boys
Gresham College

In July 1999, the United States Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a joint statement declaring that "thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible." The statement noted that "there are no data or evidence of any harm" stemming from the minuscule amounts of thimerosal in the vaccines, but the authors nonetheless recommended removing the preservative "because any potential risk is of concern." This invocation of the precautionary principle by public health officials and physicians quickly attracted the attention of autism activists who swiftly forged a connection between thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey explains how public health precaution helped fuel the modern anti-vaccine movement.