Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Autism Controversy: Vaccines
As promised I want to talk about the vaccine issue and autism. You can't talk about that issue without talking about Andrew Wakefield, so he's right at the heart of it.
Despite what one might think, Andrew Wakefield is not the end all source of lawsuits or complaints about reactions to vaccines. Those have been around for a long time. Every time a doctor's office administers a vaccine there's a healthy little speech given about the possibility of reactions. There are cases of judges finding in favor of the complainant family for vaccine damage. What happened with the reports of Andrew Wakefield, was an explosion of those complaints and massive increase in families refusing to vaccinate their children at all. It's also created another wide divide in the autism community to the point that it's not safe to have too much of an open opinion on the matter. I'm taking my chances just saying what I've said so far.
I don't really want to get into the whole argument on if Wakefield was right or wrong. Wakefield maintains himself as innocent while his own government says otherwise. I will say that you don't just lose your medical license without any corroborative evidence, but that's a lot of info to put here. Instead, try these links; Wikipedia, BBC News, Sunday Times, Science-Based Medicine, and if you google him it goes on and on and on. Wakefield has a near celebrity status that earned him a book deal and currently has about 4900 friends on his facebook page. Yes, I have him on my associations too, but not because I believe or disbelieve him, rather because Andrew Wakefield (one way or another) is part of autism.
I do believe that the reports put out did trigger a massive scare that caused the reported rise in Measles and quite possibly other diseases as well. Just so we're clear, measles (without vaccine)can be a FATAL disease. It can and will KILL. So the decision to avoid vaccines is not one to be taken lightly. Sadly, it has been taken all too lightly and an entire anti-vaccine movement with multiple fanatical splinter groups has been in full swing for a good couple years now. Why do I say fanatical? Because they don't want to stop at the measles vaccine, they want to abolish all of them.
LINK. And for another view check out the Skeptic's Dictionary, great article there.
In that article of the Skeptic's Dictionary, Robert Carroll notes that the AVM is at least "two-pronged". One side dismisses vaccines having any connection with reduction of disease. The other blames vaccines directly for disease or disorders (autism). The claims they use often come under fire as noted in Popular Science.
Now I did go searching for websites of AVM activists, but they are actually not easy to find with exception of Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield. Rather than mainstream magazine articles or websites, you find scattered blogs and some local groups. Many are on facebook or myspace and don't appear to operate too much in the public eye. That's not to say there isn't literature by AVM activists and books, they are named in the links I provided above.
So, autism, is it caused by vaccines? If autism is triggered by vaccine, and there is currently no accepted evidence that it is, but if it is... it's not responsible for all forms of autism. It can't be. Scientists are still struggling to find any definite cause of autism. The only solid factor found so far is that autism in some forms is hereditary. Even that is not a "cause" it's just a lasting continuity that bridges parent to child genetically. It doesn't say where it came from or why it's there in the first place. Are damages from vaccines possible? Sure they are. But note that risks are there with all medical procedures, even if minimal.
My kids are vaccinated as am I. I do not believe that caused my autism. I happen to know of older relatives in my family with Asperger's which is believed to be hereditary.
If you are trying to avoid autism or any other non-lethal condition by not vaccinating your children, you should weigh this carefully with the possibility of the consequences that can be lethal. Autism has not killed anyone. Measles, polio, and others that vaccines are made against have.
Instead of fighting over vaccines and possibly endangering lives, we should work on enriching lives and getting support for children who have autism.