As far as peer-reviewed scientific research is concerned, the autism-vaccine controversy has been put to rest.
New study finds no link between "too many vaccines" and autism
Study: Autism signs show up as early as second month of age
Retracted autism study "an elaborate fraud," British journal finds
As far as the public is concerned, there are still some questions. Autism Speaks, while acknowledging that studies have not found a link between vaccines and autism, says "It remains possible that, in rare cases, immunization may trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic condition."
Do people have adverse reactions to vaccines? Of course they do, and they're tracked by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Some of those reactions, while rare, are very serious. Earlier this year, the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program awarded millions of dollars to two autistic children for "pain and suffering" and lifelong care of their injuries. To be clear: the court did not admit that vaccines caused their autism. Those children were awarded the money because the government agreed that they suffered encephalitis (brain inflammation) within 5 to 15 days after receiving a vaccine.
We also know that children with autism are more likely to have immune system dysfunction, which is why Autism Speaks doesn't entirely rule out the possibility of vaccines being a trigger. For example, this study found that children with autism had "significantly" different T-cell responses than kids without autism. That study was particularly interesting to me since all four of my kids (two of whom have autism spectrum disorders) had food allergies that were T-cell mediated reactions, not the more "typical" IgE-mediated reactions. (T-cell mediated allergies, which are rarer and less studied than IgE-mediated allergies, are identified with an atopy patch test, not a skin prick test.)
There's a lot we don't know about autism.
We do, however, know certain facts about vaccines that are beyond dispute: vaccines save lives. Not vaccinating children puts them at risk for diseases, and puts infants at risk who are too young to be vaccinated. We also know that babies are getting very sick, and even dying, of vaccine-preventable diseases.
In 2012, we had more than 48,000 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in this country, which is more than we've seen in over 50 years. The CDC reports that 20 people died of pertussis in the U.S. in 2012. Of those 20 people, 15 were infants under three months of age. When people talk about herd immunity, that's what it means: the vaccinated herd protects those who are too young to be immunized.
Also in 2012 in the US., three infants were born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), meaning that their mothers contracted rubella (German measles) while pregnant. Although rubella isn't a big deal if you're not pregnant, it can have a devastating result if you are pregnant. Of the three babies born in the U.S. in 2012 with CRS:
- A baby was born in Maryland with congenital heart defects, cataracts, brain swelling, and profound deafness in both ears. The baby underwent surgery for correction of the heart defects and cataracts. During eye surgery, the baby had breathing difficulties and suffered a heart attack, but was stabilized.
- A baby born in Alabama had heart defects and liver dysfunction. The infant died at one month of age in a pediatric hospital.
- The third baby was born in Illinois at 32 weeks' gestation, weighing 1.4 pounds. The infant, born with heart defects, liver dysfunction, cataracts, and a brain malformation, was hospitalized for five months before finally being released.
In 2013, we're seeing more cases of measles than we've seen in more than a decade. Measles is another disease that we thought we had eradicated thanks to vaccines. Because vaccination rates have declined, however, it's crept back. "Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children," says the CDC. Although no deaths have been reported, about 40% of children younger than 5 years old who have measles have to be treated in the hospital. From the CDC: "For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia, a serious lung infection. It can also lead to lifelong brain damage, deafness, and even death. One to three out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from the disease, even with the best of care."
This is what the autism-vaccine controversy boils down to for me:
If your unvaccinated child exposes an infant to pertussis, that infant could die. So, here's the question: which risk weighs on you more heavily: the very slight chance that your kid is going to be autistic, or the very slight chance that your child, or someone else's child, is going to die?
In other words, which is worse: autism, or death?
The entire autism-vaccine controversy makes me feel like people are saying that they would rather that children die than be like my kids. My response to this is a resounding fuck you very much.
I am fine with parents making choices for their children, including the choice not to vaccinate. I get it: you don't trust Big Pharma, you think that kids who aren't vaccinated will end up with better immune systems, you have a religious objection, whatever. Educate yourself, weigh the risks, make your choice.
But if you're making that choice because you think that dead kids are better than autistic kids, fuck you. Fuck you very much.
(Image/Video Credit: Mister Chase on YouTube)
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