Youíve all heard the rumors — that childhood vaccines may cause autism and might actually cause more harm than good. This kind of rumor didnít exist back when I was a kid. People were so grateful to actually HAVE vaccines, since my motherís generation lost loved ones or witnessed devastating disability because of diseases like polio, tetanus, and small pox. But things have changed. When I went to vaccinate my baby, other Mommy & Me mothers raised eyebrows. Youíd have thought I was needling my daughter with poison.
Who Started the Autism/Vaccine Rumors?
Where did these rumors come from? Well, they got ignited by an article by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in the well-respected British medical journal Lancet in 1998, which linked the MMR vaccine and autism. Since this article was published, vaccination rates have fallen sharply — in Great Britain they were down to 80 percent in 2004, as reported by CNN.† As a result, measles cases have been on the rise for the first time in many years.
Because of this, many people have taken the leap to think that if one vaccine could cause autism, maybe all of them do. Since then, many have speculated that thimerosal, an additive in many vaccines, may be responsible.
Next: What should parents do?
In Marin County, where I live, choosing not to vaccinate your kids is so common that those of us who do choose to vaccinate may be viewed with skepticism — even derision, even by doctors. (Donít get me started on the lecture I got from an integrative pediatrician about how crazy I am for advocating vaccination and putting own daughter “at risk.” I swear. It’s like I was giving my daughter crack.)
So whatís a mother to do? Well, ignore the rumors, ladies.
It’s All A Hoax
The British Medical Journal just reported that Dr. Andrew Wakefield basically fictionalized the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases informed the 1998 study — and that he did it on purpose. Apparently, the dude was in cahoots with a lawyer who was going to file a high dollar class action suit against vaccine manufacturers, if only he could get some medical proof that they were harmful.
Shame on you, doc.
Shining a light on his dirty laundry may help clear up the controversy, but the crime is that it will probably take decades to undo the damage. Even though Lancet has since retracted the article, and the study co-authors have taken their names off it — the damage is done. There are many who firmly believe that the MMR vaccine caused their childís autism — or that the MMR might harm their child if they got it.
What Does The CDC Say?
Hereís what the Center For Disease Controlís website summarizes:
Recent estimates from the CDCís Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network found that about 1 in 150 children have ASD. This estimate is higher than estimates from the early 1990s. Some people believe increased exposure to thimerosal (from the addition of important new vaccines recommended for children) explains the higher prevalence in recent years. However, evidence from several studies examining trends in vaccine use and changes in autism frequency does not support such an association. Furthermore, a scientific review (LINK to http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2004/Immunization-Safety-Review-Vaccines-and-Autism.aspx ) by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines an autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion.
What I Believe
Personally, I vaccinate my daughter. God forbid she was ever to be hospitalized — or even worse, disabled or killed — by an infectious disease that would likely have been prevented by vaccination. I could never live with myself if that happened. This comes as a surprise to many because I spent the past two years practicing as an integrative medicine physician, emphasizing natural and preventative solutions to whole health. When people found out I vaccinated my daughter, many were shocked because itís ďunnatural.Ē Well, getting infectious diseases is natural. Dying is natural. But I sure as hell donít want to watch my daughter go through that natural process.
Do You Vaccinate Your Kids?
What about you? What do you believe? Do you keep your kids on the schedule the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends? Or are you choosing to skip certain vaccines or avoid them altogether? What are your concerns? What are your thoughts about this? Iíd love to hear them!