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Milwaukee Interim Health Commissioner clarifies vaccine comments

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Milwaukee's newly appointed Interim Health Commissioner, Dr. Patricia McManus, is receiving backlash over comments she made on a radio show earlier this week.

During an appearance on “The Forum 860,” a caller asked McManus about whether or not she thought there is a link between vaccines and Autism.

McManus responded in part saying:

“Depending on what you want to know it’s still out there. You’re correct that there’s been a lot of controversy about it. The information that’s out there, especially from CDC, they basically say there’s been no way of knowing that there’s been a linkage between Autism and MMR, but there are some people that believe that, not necessarily just African American children. There’s a growing drum beat among white parents as well that feel as well that MMR has some tie to Autism. I don’t think the answer is yet there. There’s still people who believe it, so I don’t know. I think the science is still out. I think that’s a decision that these families will have to make on their own.”

On Friday, McManus walked back her comments. She released a statement saying:

“My daughter received all of her immunizations as a child, and all of my grandchildren continue to do so as well. I do not question the science. I, as most public health professionals and doctors, believe that the best thing to do is to get immunized.”

McManus did not elaborate on why she made the original comments earlier this week.

A spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Health Department says they are not commenting on her remarks.

Dr. Margaret Hennessy says thousands of studies show that there is no link between vaccines and Autism.

She says she does not understand why this debate continues.

"There are still folks who think this is a controversy," Dr. Hennessy said. "In the medical field, there is no controversy. We all know it's not an issue. Most of my families know that too. I don't see people refusing vaccines out of fear of Autism."

Alderman Mike Murphy abstained from voting during McManus' appointment hearing. He said he wanted her to be vetted at a public hearing.

In a statement, Murphy said:

“On a local radio show this week, newly appointed interim Health Department commissioner Dr. Patricia McManus stated “the science is still out” on a link between vaccines and autism. This is not true and it is a very troubling view from someone who has just been entrusted with the public health of our city and the future lives of untold thousands of children. Our top public health official should be an advocate for the best public health practices and with the goal of ensuring the good health of all of Milwaukee’s children.

This is the very reason why I asked for her nomination to be taken up in a public confirmation hearing before the Common Council could take final action on her appointment. Anyone who watched Tuesday’s Council meeting knows that I feel strongly on this issue and it’s why I pushed for a public process for this important appointment."

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