Amy Carson went to Washington last week on a mission. She joined hundreds of parents who believe their children were injured by thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in childhood vaccines until 1999, to protest a rider in the Homeland Security Bill.
The rider protected vaccine makers from litigation over thimerosal, which Carson and others believe caused an autism- like condition in their children. Two days after the Wednesday rally, Congress voted to remove the rider.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels,” said Carson. “We still have a long road of fighting ahead of us, but we made history.”
After the rider was repealed, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he’ll visit the issue again in more comprehensive legislation later this year.
Parents of children with autism have filed lawsuits claiming that thimerosal caused their children to develop the disease, and they strongly protested the limitations on their legal options.
The Institute of Medicine has released a report saying studies done so far have neither confirmed nor disproved their theory and the theory is biologically possible.
“All we’re asking for is our day in court and this rider would have prevented that,” said Carson. “I’m sure that’s what Frist’s legislation will do, too, so we have to keep up the fight for our children.”
Carson and others met with a number of legislators, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who promised to help.
“I promised those parents I would fight to remove this provision, and I will fight to ensure the legislation announced today does that job,” Stabenow said before the agreement was reached to remove the rider.
Lilly, the maker of thimerosal, released a statement saying it was “disappointed” with the deal to repeal the vaccine provision. “However, Lilly agrees that the process by which this legislation was enacted was not desirable,” the statement read.
Families who pressed for the change were pleased with the repeal of the rider, Lori McIlwain, the mother of an autistic child and the head the North Carolina chapter of the Autism Autoimmunity Project, told Reuters News Service.
“We’re just being really leery about all of this,” she said. “We’re not likely to have a whole lot of trust here.”