Disagreement on Vaccine Research Prompts Departure
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to help to build this organization into the preeminent autism advocacy group — the group that has, in fact, elevated the word “autism” to the global vocabulary,” said Singer. “I am grateful to Autism Speaks founders Bob and Suzanne Wright for their leadership, insight, commitment and for the tremendous support and love they have shown to my family and me.”
“However, for some time I have had concerns about Autism Speaks’ policy on vaccine research. Dozens of credible scientific studies have exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism. I believe we must devote limited funding to more promising areas of autism research.”
Singer resigned prior to the January 14th Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) meeting, at which the discussion of vaccine research was to be continued from the December meeting, at the request of one of the public members. Knowing she might cast a vote with which Autism Speaks might disagree, she resigned from Autism Speaks prior to the meeting. Singer serves as a public member of the IACC and will continue to serve until 2011. She was appointed to the IACC by outgoing HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt in 2007.
The IACC, created via the Combating Autism Act of 2006, is responsible for coordinating all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning autism spectrum disorder, including drafting a Strategic Plan for autism research with budgetary requirements. At the January meeting, the IACC voted to seek input on two proposed studies of vaccines and autism from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee Safety Working Group (NVAC), an HHS group specifically charged with undertaking and coordinating scientific review of the federal vaccine safety system, prior to including the proposals as specific objectives in the strategic plan. Singer voted in favor of this motion.
Singer was the first professional hired by Autism Speaks when it launched in 2005. She served as interim CEO for three months, then as senior vice president and later as executive vice president. She also served as a staff member of the board of directors until her resignation. Singer has been responsible for directing the organization’s award-winning awareness and strategic communications programs, including its work with the Ad Council which was awarded a prestigious “Effie” award in 2008 in recognition of the 43 percent increase in overall autism awareness directly attributable to the campaign. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Yale Child Study Center and on the board of directors of Autism Spectrum News, as well as on numerous state and local autism advocacy committees. She has appeared on Oprah, The Apprentice, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America , CBS Early Show and numerous other news programs discussing autism issues.
“My work with Autism Speaks and within the advocacy community has been exceptionally rewarding, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of my daughter, my brother and the millions of others affected by autism spectrum disorder,” said Singer.