Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vaccines and Autism

WARNING - WARNING - WARNING: This post is about a controversial subject (vaccines) and it contains strong language with some profanity. If you are offended by any of this, you should stop reading now.

I'm not terribly crunchy, but I do have some granola tendencies.

I breastfed my son for over a year. The only reason I stopped is because my husband patiently waited long enough to have my boobies back and my son seemed willing to wean. I cloth diaper part-time. I still use 'sposies part-time because my son rashes up if left in cloth overnight and I'm not willing to hassle with a wet bag containing piss- and/or shit-filled diapers when we're out & about. I haven't used a single paper towel since the new year began because I use little microfiber towels to wipe up messes and throw them in with the laundry that I wash each night. I even stopped using my Swiffer Wet because I bought a (reusable) steam mop.

I'm not some sort of antiperspirant eschewing, furry legged, organic eating hippie either. I will only use antiperspirant containing aluminum because it's the only kind that actually stops the sweat. I shave my legs because, well, because I think my husband prefers it. Otherwise, I might be furry legged. I do not go out of my way to purchase organic food, but I am happy to grow my own veggies in my own garden. If necessary, yes, I will use pesticides and I don't worry about them in the least.

There is one area in which I am decidedly in favor of modern invention: vaccinations.

Prior to Dr. Salk's miraculous invention in 1954, the only way we were able to create immunity was through suffering a bout with a dangerous illness. Those who survived the illness gained an immunity to the disease. Thanks to modern medicine, we no longer have to suffer through potentially deadly illnesses to gain our immunity.

I realize that a certain former Playmate has been intently planting seeds of doubt in the minds of parents across the country in recent years. Dr. McCarthy asserts that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) caused her son's autism. . .which she then cured with a wheat-free and dairy-free diet. Um, okay. Assuming for just a moment that any of this is true, who cares if a kid has autism since it can apparently be easily cured, or at least managed, by diet alone? Of course, science does not back up her anecdotal claims.

The medical journal, The Lancet, first published a study suggesting a link (Note: this does not mean a causal relationship exists!) between autism and the MMR vaccine back in 1998. The Lancet has since issued a full retraction of the paper, noting that claims made by the researchers were "false." Ten of the thirteen authors of that study have also formally issued retractions.

It is well-known to anyone who will take a little time to conduct some research that this study relied on incredibly flawed methodology. They cherry-picked their subjects, they outright falsified data, and, most disturbingly, they subjected children to invasive procedures simply to experience the joy of experimentation rather than for clinical purposes. Words truly can not convey the contempt I have for these individuals.

The British physician who was the lead researcher in that study, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, has subsequently been stripped of his medical license. But don't worry, he's since emigrated from the UK and he now lives and works in the US. Thankfully, the sadist is not licensed to practice medicine in the US.

Typically, the biggest risks from getting a vaccine is fever, soreness at the injection site (duh!), and an occasional rash. The biggest risks from not getting vaccines? Suffering through a serious illness, being responsible for spreading contagious illnesses throughout society, possible disfigurement, and possible death. Autism has not been scientifically proven to be a risk associated with vaccination. Sure, anecdotal evidence abounds. But anecdotes are not science.

The benefits outweigh the risks, but people are always going to be afraid of that which they do not understand. Many people have an adversarial attitude toward modern medicine, preferring to rely upon the old-ways or on outright placebos. And that's fine by me. But choosing not to vaccinate puts the herd at risk, potentially putting my own family at risk, and that's not fine by me.

I'm open minded and always willing to change my opinion if I'm proven wrong. I respectfully challenge anyone who believes that there is a relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism to produce a link to a study that demonstrates the relationship. I'll happily research it and create another post.


  1. I'm with you! I am so in favor of vaccines that when I found out a woman in my other playgroup wasn't vaccinating, I stopped socializing with her until my kids had the ones the needed (so I'll see her again in about 4 years.) The one thing I do is an adjusted schedule -- my kids don't get more than 2 shots a visit, because otherwise they are uncomfortable and cranky. That just means that from month 4 to month 9 I'm in the doctor's once a month, which I am fine with and they are current and happy. I wish celebrities would just mind their own business... Brad Pitt once said "Why would I comment? I'm paid to read lines." I love that.

  2. I don't blame you, mama! I wouldn't be willing to allow my kiddo the potential exposure either. And you can always choose to socialize with our group instead! hehe

    Adjusted vax absolutely do not bring my ire because the children are being vaccinated. That's really my beef. And I wholeheartedly agree that celebs should stick to what they do best instead of acting like health professionals.

  3. Have you seen this site: I would be interested to know your thoughts. "Personal stories" and "emotional responses" are pretty interesting.

  4. Lisa B - Thank you for reading my blog and thanks for directing me to the thinktwice site. It will be a couple of days before I have the time to check it out, but I will post my thoughts after I've had a chance to read the content. Thanks again!

  5. I love your blog! :)