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LaHood And Medical Community At Odds Over Vaccines

A screen shot from the 11-minute Vaxxed video available on YouTube.

Medical professionals have been quick to counter comments made by Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood about a link between autism and childhood vaccinations.  The medical groups stress there is no scientific link between the two, and vaccinations are an important preventative measure for children. 

The D.A. drew public backlash after he appeared in a documentary produced by an anti-vaccine group.

"I'm Nico LaHood, I'm the criminal district attorney in San Antonio, Texas. I'm here to tell you that vaccines can and do cause Autism," says Bexar County D.A. Nico LaHood in a clip for a documentary series called Vaxxed Stories.

Nico LaHood, Bexar County District Attorney

In the 11 minute video, LaHood, and his wife, Davida, say they believe their two oldest children were harmed by vaccines. The LaHoods say at birth their son was fine.

“The first year he was a very alert baby, he was very talkative. He was happy, he would smile a lot,” Davida LaHood says.

The couple claims that changed after a round of vaccines at 18 months. Their son developed tics and stopped responding to his name.

“And still to this day, he’s almost 6, and he’s not able to verbally communicate.”

Speaking to Texas Public Radio on Tuesday, LaHood says he and his wife decided to not vaccinate the two youngest of their four children.

“My wife and I have made a decision, I was asked my personal opinion I shared my personal opinion and it shouldn’t matter if I am the D.A. or what I am because President Obama is very open about his movement for vaccines, he advocates for them as President of the United States, nobody has a problem with that right? Governor Perry, back when he was governor, advocated for the HPV vaccines on young girls, no one had a problem with that. So I’m going to call BS on people saying you can’t be the D.A. and give an opinion, there’s nothing unethical about that. We checked with the ethics commission.”

LaHood’s comments – coming from a well-known public official- drew swift criticism on his Facebook page, and raised alarm bells among health professionals. They seemed concerned parents would be persuaded to skip immunizations for their own children.

Dr. Melissa Svoboda

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District put out a statement saying vaccines are a public health success story, eradicating diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles. Dr. Melissa Svoboda runs the autism program at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and says the anti-vaccine message can be harmful to children.

“It promotes this idea that 'Oh, you need to be informed, just get yourself informed,' but the problem is it’s a one-sided extremely biased view of what’s going on and it's not an accurate description of the real medical literature. And why would you trust that over scientists and people who have looked at this really really carefully, more than 20 years of medical and scientific studies?”

Svoboda says there is no confirmed link between vaccines and the development of autism.  She says the idea that there is one may stem from the way regressive autism manifests itself.

“Where they start off what seems like pretty normally where they lose their speech about 12 to 18 months of age so they were saying a couple of words and they can’t speak any more. And right around that time, that 12-15 months period we give our first MMR vaccine so I think when a parent sees that regression they want to pin it on something.”

LaHood said Tuesday he’s not opposed to vaccinations for parents who want their children to have them.  He said he and his wife made a different decision and wanted to share their story.

Below, the video featuring Nico LaHood's story, produced by the team behind the documentary film "Vaxxed."

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules