So unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re well aware of the measles outbreak that started in Disneyland and has now spread to 121 cases across the U.S. Doctors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, and more are urging parents to get their children vaccinated.
This has created a storm of opposition from the anti-vax parents. Seemingly unconcerned with what they deem a mild or non-serious illness, they are defending their rights not to vaccinate. They feel they are protecting their children from autism which they believe is caused by the MMR vaccine. The study that perpetuated the myth was retracted and deemed junk science. Regardless, they remain steadfast in their decision not to vaccinate despite increased concern of a measles epidemic.
I thought I would research the answers to questions that people have been asking regarding all this debate. So let’s look at what perpetuated the notion that the MMR vaccine was causing Autism?
We need to go back to 1988, when a doctor in the UK by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study with just 12 child subjects. The children were brought to his clinic suffering from diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. These children were said to have a history of normal development but subsequently lost certain skills. When Wakefield was gathering their medical history, he asked the parents when their child received the MMR vaccine and how that correlated to their loss of skills. Based upon this data, Wakefield believed there was a connection between the vaccine and autism.
However, there was no objective scientific data to back his theory up, it was based on the recall of the parents. Given that some of the vaccines were administered as much as 9 years prior, there is reasonable concern about the accuracy. What is even more troubling, is that Wakefield, claimed that the bowel dysfunction was caused by the MMR vaccine which then caused the autism, even though 4 of the 12 children in the study experienced behavioral disorders prior to the bowel issues. This fact alone refutes Wakefield’s theory.
There was also no control group, a critical omission casting more doubt on his findings. A good standard of science, is that the findings can be replicated in a separate setting. After sharing specimens with colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital in London, Wakefield’s findings could not be replicated. His study was later retracted from the Lancet where it was originally published.
The doctor’s troubles did not end there, a paper in the Journal of Molecular Pathology written by Wakefield in 2002, was found to be critically flawed. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found no rise in incidence of autism in children who received MMR as compared to those who did not. The authors also showed that in autistic children (both ASD and classical) the age at which a child received MMR did not affect the age at which the diagnosis of autism was made.
So why then do some parents so vehemently claim that the MMR vaccine caused their child’s Autism? Autism is most often first identified in toddlers aged 18-30 months. Since the MMR vaccine is administered just before this peak age, it causes some parents to link the two together. There is no medical evidence to support this. Extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there is no proven association between MMR vaccine and autism. Dr. Wakefield has since lost his license to practice medicine.
So what does all this mean to the anti-vaxers? Are they changing their stance? No, they are not and they are just as steadfast in their decision not to vaccinate. Many claim that the diseases that the vaccines have eradicated are not that serious. Really? This assumption is based on what? Their opinion? The AAP does not take the stance that the diseases are harmless. In fact they warn parents of the risks and urge them to vaccinate their children. Some pediatricians are refusing to treat the children of parents who refuse to vaccinate. They do not want their patients to be exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases in the waiting rooms. There are also many calling for a ruling that unvaccinated children not be allowed to attend public school.
I wonder what these parents are going to think in 15 or so years from now when their daughters and sons are dating and moving toward marriage. Have they thought that their sons could contract mumps and be sterile? Or that their grandchild may suffer debilitating birth defects or be stillborn because their mother contracted measles during pregnancy? Have they thought that far ahead, or do they plan to rush out and try to get their child exposed to these illnesses so they have natural immunity?
Will their pregnant daughters live in constant fear of contracting Rubella? Will they suffer the grief of losing their baby or caring for a child with severe birth defects stemming from a medical decision based on flawed science? Will their daughters rush out and get immunized to protect themselves after seeing the results of primary Rubella infection in unvaccinated pregnant friends and family members? Who knows what they future will hold for them. It’s scary to think about.
While many are still touting unfounded fears linking vaccines to autism, Autism Speaks chief science officer Rob Ring, has released a statement saying vaccinations cannot cause the disorder — and telling parents to vaccinate their children.
So why do they say the measles is a harmless childhood illness? The majority in the anti-vax movement were born after the vaccine, so they have no first-hand experience. Prior to the vaccine, measles killed 500 people a year in the U.S. Measles infection caused 48,000 people a year to be hospitalized and 4,000 experienced encephalitis, a dangerous condition that causes the brain to swell and caused 400-500 deaths.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases because it’s airborne and lingers in the air causing it to spread quickly. People can spread the disease for four days before they develop any symptoms. Highly contagious, 90% of people not immune will contract the virus if exposed.
So how do you feel on the issue? Let me know, but please keep your comments respectful.