My son is a person with Autism spectrum disorder. Not really sure of the cause, but experts think it’s most likely genetics. Someone once suggested to me has it because he was given vaccinations when he a baby. My first thought was ‘that’s total BS’ but I did some research anyway. I discovered that there is an entire anti-vaccination movement that believe that not only do they cause Autism but that they are a dangerous waste of time.
I asked myself some questions:
Do they even work?
I took a look at the numbers before and after vaccinations in Canada:
|Disease||Reported cases before vaccinations||Reported cases after vaccinations|
|Mumps||34,000 cases per year in the 1950s||During the period 2000-2006, an annual average of 79 mumps cases was reported1|
|Measles||300,000-400,000 cases per year||Between 2002 and 2006, the number of measles cases reported annually ranged from 6 (2005) to 16 (2003) with a yearly average of 10.2|
|Rubella||Approximately 5,300 (1971-1982)||Approximately 30 cases per year (1998-2004)3|
|Diphtheria||9,000 cases in 1924||In 1983 fewer than 5 cases were reported and no deaths. 4 “In Canada, there are 0 to 5 isolates reported each year.” 5|
|Tetanus||During the 1920s and 1930s, 40 to 50 deaths from tetanus were reported annually6||Between 1980 and 2004, the number of cases reported annually ranged from 1 to 10, with an average of 4 per year.6|
|Polio||In 1959, with 1,887 paralytic cases were reported.||Canada was certified polio-free in 1994 7|
|Hepatitis A||3,562 cases in 19918||396 cases in 20038|
|Hepatitis B||In 1990 there were 10.8 cases per 100,00 people9||In 2007 there were 3.3 cases per 100,000 people9|
Certification of polio free:
“Certification only occurs when all countries in the area demonstrate the absence of wild poliovirus transmission for at least three consecutive years in the presence of excellent surveillance.” (Global Polio Eradication Initiative)
Seems fairly clear they are, in fact, working and in most cases they are nearly wiping out the disease entirely. Some would argue that the fact the disease and has virtually disappeared is why they are no longer necessary. These diseases still exist, they are just controlled and without regular vaccinations will easily reappear. For example, in the Soviet Union diphtheria was virtually eliminated but anti-vaccination myths caused the immunization to be suspended and from 1993-1997 more than 5,000 people died from the disease. The death rates dropped again after immunization was reestablished.
So what harm can they cause?
Vaccinations are not without their issues, no system is perfect. The shot itself, depending on what you are getting vaccinated for, can cause many things from soreness and redness to a mild fever. Some people have had allergic/severe reactions but it’s very rare (depending one the vaccine it ranges from about one in 100,000 to one in a 1,000,000 or less). Needles hurt; some more than others and in very rare cases a person may end up very sick. It is definitely not a perfect system but it works very well and saves millions of lives.
Does it cause Autism?
The belief amongst the anti-vaccination campaign is that a mercury type preservative called thimerosal causes Autism. (Even though it was taken out of vaccinations in 1995 as a precautionary measure). Turns out there is no connection between Thimerosal and Autism; none, zip, zilch, notta….
The idea got a foothold in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield had an article published in a British medical journal called The Lancet that suggested a link between vaccinations with the ingredient thimerosal and Autism. The article and the author are now discredited and disgraced. Wakefield manipulated the data and misreported the results. Turns out Wakefield was working for a law firm looking to sue the manufacturer of the MMR vaccine. (no bias there!). In May 2010 the General Medical Council (The group that regulates and licenses doctor’s in the United Kingdom) found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct over unethical research and banned from practicing medicine in England after investigating the research into the article. The Lancet retracted the article saying the statements of the article were “utterly false”.
The scientific community has since investigated the matter since and in October 2010 the medical journal Pediatrics published a study showing no connection between vaccinations and autism. In it they concluded “Prenatal and early-life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was not related to increased risk of ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorder). (Price, Thompson 4)
Other researchers have conducted studies and found no connection between vaccinations and Autism. Here is a short list:
You can’t find a credible public health export that doesn’t support vaccinations. The Center for Disease Control’s Immunization safety director Frak Stefano told WebMD “I don’t think there is much worthwhile to study anymore with regard to thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism,”
In conclusion, there are dangers to vaccinations but the benefits far outweigh any risk. Far fetched claims such as the possibility they cause Autism, just aren’t true. Now I only feel bad because my son might have Autism because of the genes I passed on to him, sorry son.
A ‘fun’ look at the issue: (caution: contains strong language).