How did the myth about vaccines and autism get started? The graphic below looks at the science.
The vaccines and autism myth began with a 1998 study that should never have been published. The study – published in The Lancet – had a number of serious problems, which the graphic below explains in more detail. Since its publication, that vaccines and autism study has convinced many parents to stop vaccinating their kids, and the threat this poses to public health is serious.
As a mom, I totally get the tendency to believe something like this. Who has time to delve into the science behind studies between working and caring for your child? If you read an article telling you that vaccinating your child is going to harm his health, it makes sense to follow the precautionary principle. The trouble is, we are causing more harm by not vaccinating.
The real problem with skipping vaccinations is that you’re not only putting yourself and your family at risk for contracting diseases like measles. In order to be truly effective, we need to have something called “herd immunity.” That is when a critical mass of people are vaccinated, which protects the whole population from a disease. When people opt out of vaccinations, we put that herd immunity at risk, and we’re seeing the impacts of that right now.
We are beginning to see the impacts of the so-called “anti-vax” movement. A good example is a measles outbreak happening right now in central Ohio. One argument I see a lot against vaccines is that measles aren’t that bad. Reading the reports of how measles is impacting children in Knox County makes it clear that this isn’t really true.
My 15-month-old just got his MMR vaccine last week, and reading stories about measles outbreaks while caring for an unvaccinated child was terrifying. It’s babies like my son who are the most risk when parents choose not to vaccinate. People with compromised immune systems also risk of serious complications from measles when an outbreak occurs.
The anti-vaccination movement began because of one piece of bad science, and it’s grown into a public health threat that has the potential to do serious harm, especially to babies. Take a look at the infographic below which looks at a number of studies on vaccines and autism. You can click the image to view a full-sized version: