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Politics infects health information

April 13, 2006

Re "Battle Lines Drawn Over Mercury in Shots," April 10

The subordination of science to politics on everything from global warming to reproductive health has become a hallmark of the present administration. It's particularly unfortunate to see the politicization of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once considered the exemplar of true scientific and independent public health recommendations, the collateral damage of political meddling at the CDC is now manifest in even the journalistic approach framing the debate over mercury in childhood vaccines. The CDC's position on the issue, and its alliance with the American Academy of Pediatrics, are described in the same vein as are "financial ties" that the vaccine manufacturers might have with the academy.

It is as if the CDC is just another special interest that takes sides on controversial issues, rather than being a neutral scientific entity charged with performing the hard work of developing the consensus necessary to preserve and promote the health of the public.

One can only wonder what the consequences will be of this loss of an independent voice should a major public health catastrophe occur.

KEVIN PATRICK MD

Professor of Family and

Preventive Medicine

UC San Diego

Patrick is the editor in chief of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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