Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thank you, Congressman Van Hollen

I'm not usually a political person - I'm registered independent, and I vote on issues rather than party lines. But, in the last few months, I've really been drawn into the issue of the vaccine-autism controversy. Like many parents, I watched my son slip away after a series of shots, culminating with the flu shot. I thought I had done my research, that mercury was out of all childhood vaccines. And, I listened to the advice of our pediatrician. Now, I know a lot more and my son hasn't had any shots since his diagnosis.

I was happy to see the announcement on Age of Autism that there would be a Congressional Briefing with updates and new information. I had naively assumed that my representatives would be eager to send staff to the briefing; that they wanted to know all the issues - not just the propaganda put out by big pharma. I sent an email to Congressman Van Hollen and Senators Cardin and Mikulski. The only response I got was a form letter from Senator Cardin saying that he supported the Combating Autism Act. Not quite what I had expected.

I decided that if emails weren't answered, that they would respond better to a phone call. I was pleasantly surprised when my first call, to Congressman Van Hollen's office, was received warmly with assurances that a staffer was already scheduled to attend. I was less impressed when my call to Senator Mikulski's office only responded by saying that a health staffer would 'try' to attend. But, at least I got an answer on my first call. It took me at least 4 calls to Senator Cardin's office before a scheduler finally called me back. She told me that a staffer would attend the briefing.

The day of the briefing I was hopeful that all my elected officials would be represented. When the list of attendees was published, I was disappointed to see that only Congressman Van Hollen had actually been represented at the briefing. Neither Senator had actually sent anyone, despite the phone calls and email.

So, I want to say thank you to Congressman Van Hollen for responding, and for getting both sides of the issue. I'd also like to thank Representative Maloney for hosting the briefing. Finally, I'd challenge Senators Cardin and Mikulski at least read the transcripts of the briefing.

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