The city of Milwaukee has a lead problem with its drinking water. This was made worse when it was discovered that the Health Department failed to notify, much less provide help to, the families of thousands of children who tested positive for lead in their systems. This rightfully led to the top health department being separated from his job.
Milwaukee's Common Council appointed Patricia McManus, head of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, as the interim Health Commissioner in a hurried-up process. It looks like, in their rush, they went from the frying pan and into the fire, based on McManus waffling on a question about anti-vaxxers:
The city's newly picked top health official told a radio audience that "the science is still out" on whether there's a link between some vaccines and autism.
Patricia McManus, who was chosen by the Common Council this week to lead the troubled Milwaukee Health Department, was asked during a radio show Wednesday about whether the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause autism in children.
“I don’t think the answer is yet there. I mean, there’s still people who believe it," McManus said on "The Forum" talk show on WNOV-AM (860). "And so I don’t know. I think the science is still out. I think that’s a decision that these families are going to have to make on their own at this point.”
This drew and immediate and scorching backlash from community health leaders:
"Unfortunately, she couldn't be more incorrect," said James H. Conway, a pediatrics professor at University of Wisconsin-School of Medicine and Public Health. "The science is clear and has been reviewed over and over not just by the CDC, but by NIH and numerous studies. The information is clear that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine does not cause autism."
Maureen S. Durkin, a professor of public health and chairman of the department of population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said, "The scientific evidence is very clear at this point in showing no association between childhood vaccines and the risk of autism."
And officials at the National Institutes of Health referred to a statement on the institute's web page: "No link between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury-based compound, have been found."
Unbelievably, McManus tried to clarify matters with further waffling:
In a Friday interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McManus insisted that she doesn't personally believe vaccines cause autism.
"I wasn't questioning the science," she said. "I think clearly most public health people, and most doctors in general, believe that even if you have issues with it, the best thing to do is to still get the immunization."
McManus added that she "is not going anywhere telling people not to get immunized." The city Health Department plays a leading role in promoting immunizations and investigates outbreaks of infectious diseases.
"I would like to have more research done on the whole issue in the first place, rather than just tying it to one thing, because I'm not sure that's it," she said. "It usually isn't. And I think that's what happens when you try to nail it directly to one thing, such as the vaccine."
McManus, a registered nurse with a doctorate in urban studies, said she has learned from decades as a health professional that "you give people information, but you don't just drill it in and just tell them that you're wrong and this is what you have to do."
"I just don't tell people what they have to do because they're going to make those decisions anyway," she said.
I just wonder if this woman and Dr. Sleepyhead Carson went to the same medical college.