Preface: As often happens lately, it’s the podcasters at The Skeptics Guide to the Universe that get me off my butt and finally writing about something I’ve been meaning to get to. This entry is such a case. Their recent guest, Paul Offit, had a great Op-Ed piece in the NY Times regarding the controversial Hannah Poling case and also has a new book out called Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure which discusses a lot of the quackery and nuttery that surrounds Autism.
The truth about vaccination is hard to hear
Vaccines don’t cause autism. This is not in dispute by science, only by people looking for simple answers to a question for which there are none. The most troublesome aspect of this sort of grasping at straws is that it’s easy to sympathize. Many of us can, if we’re honest, probably imagine ourselves fumbling for magic bullets or miracle cures if the child in question were our own. As a result, it’s hard sometimes to be brutally frank and say to someone, “You’re looking for someone to blame and there is no one. Stop. You’re just going to end up hurting someone or being hurt.”
* – MMR does not cause autism. There is no Thimerosal in vaccines any more (not that it ever caused autism either, it did not*). Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines do not cause autism. Independent studies carried out all around the world have shown this to be the case.
* – Not vaccinating your children causes disease to thrive and spread. If your child contracts Rubella, it probably won’t kill them. But if they expose a pregnant mother to the disease… her unborn child could contract CRS as a result and die. And measles? There is no treatment for measles, only vaccination. Maybe around 1-in-5000 of children hospitalised due to a serious case of measles will die (from influenza or encephalitis, etc.), if those odds are OK with you… But for the rest of the world, a world we freely mix with, the World Health Organization labels measles as a top childhood killer that is easily and effectively countered simply by vaccination. Many in the wider world would steal the vaccine if they could to inoculate their children from this disease. They have the clarity of perspective on death. But here in the West, many have lost that perspective (ironically, due to things like vaccines which protect us from diseases which would otherwise conspire to thin our herd). Willfully ignorant, believing like a teenager, shielded from danger, that no true harm will befall them, they risk their childrens’ lives over their own foolishness.
Their concern seems to be ‘why is my child imperfect – who is to blame?’. And because the root cause of Autism is unknown, they feel free to place blame where there most likely is none to be found. It may sound callous to say, but it’s quite likely that many of these parents simply don’t want to believe that they could produce an imperfect child, the child they’d dreamed they’d have, and seek to blame someone else. Parents of children with Downs Syndrome have to confront this head on; recognize that their child has drawn an unlucky genetic hand. But without a clear cause for Austism, the ‘Mercury Militia’ feels free to blame anyone they want for their child’s condition. Even when the blame may lie with no one. It is well-established that autism has a strong genetic component (if not cause).
But most importantly!
And by choosing vaccines as their Fall Guy, they risk the health of everyone who comes into contact with their children and the children of those they influence. Sympathize if you must, but we cannot let these people bring harm to the greater population. Especially our children.
Vaccines work. They work because of something called ‘herd immunity’. But toss in enough misinformed willful denialists to the mix, and our cooperatively built and maintained immunity breaks down. And people will die. Period.
I just hope that, if it occurs, the outbreak is named ‘The Jenny McCarthy Outbreak’ (See: http://stopjenny.com) or ‘The Andrew Wakefield Outbreak’ so that we lay blame squarely with those who are most fervently and ignorantly hastening such an epidemic.
Read for yourself. The evidence is laid bare for you to see and assess for yourself. And so I ask that you demand just as rigorous presentation of evidence from those who believe otherwise. Not just gut feelings or pseudo-scientific buzzwords.
CDC – Austism Information Center
CDC – Mercury and Vaccines (Thimerosal)
NHS Immunisation Information site
NHS MMR Catch-Up
IOM report: Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism
PubMed – MMR-vaccine and regression in autism spectrum disorders: negative results presented from Japan.
PHLS-UK: Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the development of autism
AMA – relationship between thimerosal vaccines and autism (re: IOM report)
CSICOP Article by Dr. Steve Novella (2007)
Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism (2008)
* – Update – I just ran across this quote from the Justice Dept.’s Lynn Ricciardella in regards to the whole Thimerosal issue where she affirms to a federal court that the CDC and IM have said there is no link: Ricciardella put it quite succinctly when she said, “There is no scientific debate. The debate is over.”Listen to this post
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