I found this article today while doing some research. I thought it was a good read. I’m not sure who wrote it.
The article can be found here: (or read below)
A reality check on autism and vaccines
February 07, 2010
Many worried and angry parents of an autistic child believe that vaccines may cause the disease. But it’s pure myth – disproved by numerous studies and now a final slap from a British journal disowning a report that started the dangerous nonsense.
Will these parents accept reality – and allow their children to receive shots against a dozen or more illnesses? And will fringe groups that play to fears of autism give up their indefensible claims?
The answers can’t come soon enough for public health experts. Vaccination rates, while generally high, have shown dips partly because parents are citing the notion of vaccine dangers in skipping shots for their children.
Smallpox and polio have been virtually eradicated thanks to vaccines. But whooping cough, pertussis and measles – all but stamped out years ago – can reappear via unvaccinated patients.
A law that allows parents to opt out of school-required shots has raised the worry level. This so-called exemption rate statewide is 2 percent, but it was 6.3 percent in Marin County and 5.8 percent in Sonoma County in 2008, according to the state Department of Health Services. Vaccine “denialism” has become a public health issue.
In the case of autism, a sketchy study by British physician Andrew Wakefield in 1998 set the vaccine blame game in motion. He claimed that a combined measles, mumps and rubella inoculation given to infants was linked to the disease, and his findings were published by a prominent British medical journal the Lancet.
But follow-up research by other teams failed to match his results. In recent years, his study fell apart amid charges of dishonesty, violations of research ethics and a “callous disregard” for the 12 children involved in the research. The Lancet disavowal this past week capped the collapse. How does he feel about the wholesale discrediting of his work? The findings are “unfounded and unjust,” he said.
The damage will be hard to undo. Autism, a range of conditions that disrupts communication skills and social interaction, has grown in reported numbers as parents and doctors learned to recognize its symptoms. Nearly 1 in 100 American children is diagnosed with autism or a related condition.
Without any effective treatment – or even a clear understanding of the causes of the disease – parents are primed to be impatient with slow research results and look for villains.
The Wakefield study provided an easy and dramatic message: Shots cause autism. Avoid vaccines and save your child from the troubling condition. It’s a scientific fact confirmed by a doctor. His findings expanded on other, equally ungrounded fears about other contaminants in vaccines.
But it was pure quackery. Public health experts fought the message but were savaged by anti-vaccine forces as flunkies of drug companies. Fringe medical figures had a field day, stoking the fears of worried parents desperate for an answer. Hollywood celebrity Jenny McCarthy, the mother of an autistic child, pushed the claims on talk shows and through a foundation she founded. This past week she continued to defend the discredited vaccine study.
The rejection of Wakefield’s published work is way overdue. Also overdue are similar rejections from anti-vaccine groups and leaders like McCarthy who are deluding desperate parents with autistic children and leading others to disregard vaccines. Too much money and time has gone into countering these ill-founded claims instead being directed toward research and reliable treatments for autism.
Disposing of a flawed theory on autism is one issue. But there’s another that may be harder to end: a disregard for science. That may be the ultimate casualty of a misguided hunt for an answer to autism.