This week, San Antonio’s top law enforcement official, the man voters have tasked with prosecuting anyone accused of a crime or securing justice for victims, stated, unequivocally, that vaccines cause autism.
In a short video produced by the people behind Vaxxed: From Coverup to Catastrophe, a recent documentary that builds on the work of the disgraced scientist who’s been instrumental in propagating the long-debunked tie between vaccines and the developmental disorder, Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood explained in detail why he believes “vaccines can and do cause autism.” It’s not just because of his own children’s health problems, which LaHood and his wife now believe were caused by childhood vaccines. Rather, LaHood insists it's his background as a lawyer, prosecutor and truth-seeker that led him to embrace a theory that countless public health experts say is not only misguided but dangerous.
“What I do is follow evidence,” LaHood told the Vaxxed filmmakers. “I’m an empirical data guy. ...Give me objective evidence, I’m gonna do what’s right with that information.” The segment, titled “Vaxxed Stories: The Prosecutor,” repeatedly stressed LaHood’s status as an authority, a government official and an arbiter of truth, with part of it filmed in and around the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office headquarters downtown. “I seek truth,” LaHood declared. “I mean, I’m a prosecutor for a living. So I look for truth wherever it leads me.”
LaHood’s role as a top public official turned anti-vaccine prophet is precisely what troubles experts like Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, who in a phone interview with the Current Tuesday called the Vaxxed documentary “a bunch of pseudo-scientific crap.” Hotez repeated what most established medical experts say about the supposed link between autism and childhood vaccines—that two decades worth of research and investigation has roundly debunked it. “His (LaHood’s) word holds weight as a public official,” Hotez told us. “And what he’s doing is he’s putting children in harm’s way through these pseudo-scientific views.”
After we sent Hotez the Vaxxed video featuring LaHood, this was his response, via email: “Scary stuff...”
In 2004, Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer reported serious ethical violations by the 1998 paper’s lead author, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Deer accused Wakefield of having been paid by a law firm that had been planning to sue vaccine manufacturers and of subjecting some of the children to unnecessary, invasive procedures for the study. After the revelations, most of the researchers named as co-authors in the study disavowed the findings and withdrew their names from the paper. In 2010, the Lancet’s editors retracted the paper. Three months later, Britain’s General Medical Council revoked Wakefield’s medical license.Wakefield has been credited as the director of the Vaxxed documentary, which LaHood in turn credits with helping push him into the anti-vaccine camp. But research conducted in the wake of the now-retracted Lancet paper has found no such tie between vaccines and autism, like this 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found “no harmful association between MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine receipt and [autism spectrum disorder] even among children already at higher risk.”