Monday, September 15, 2014

An Apple A Day

        Kiley just had her nine-month check up. Everything looks good. She only had to get one shot this time, for Hepatitis B. That's good. At six months she got a full round of vaccinations which was unpleasant but it had to be done. Immunization is not something you can skimp on. Vaccinations are too important. That is why I am simply appalled at the whole vaccination "scare" that has wormed its way into the popular culture. (If you don't know what I am talking about, don't even read this. It's best if you never even hear about it.) It seems that "the word" is still going around that vaccinations are, or might be, the cause of what most people see as an increase in the incidence of autism in children.  From what I have heard, there have been, and still are, parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated for fear of this possible link. Wracking my brain to the utmost, I cannot think of a more dangerous development for the welfare of children. I am sure many will agree that one of the greatest advancements in medical history has been the development of vaccines to prevent serious diseases. It would be tragic if any parents decided to forgo this gift to mankind for fear that their children would fall victim to autism, since every credible source insists such fears are unfounded.

From what I have been able to scrape from various sources, it appears that this "scare" probably originates from two facts about vaccines. The first is the large number of vaccinations that children receive these days. As medical science has advanced over the past few decades the number of diseases that can be controlled by vaccines has grown. When I was a kid I think we got three vaccinations (the dreaded "shots") which controlled five different diseases – one for Small Pox, one for Polio, and one for the combination of Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), and Tetanus. Today, the normal schedule of vaccines for children include, not only two of the three that I had to endure (Small Pox has, theoretically, been eradicated), but various others with clinical sounding names like HBV, Hib, IPV, PVC (you can also run your plumbing with that one), Rota, MMR, Chicken Pox, HPV and others. Some of these require booster shots and, therefore, are administered more than once, so that by six months old the typical baby has received fifteen vaccinations. Ouch! Even though some them are combined into one "needle", that's a lot. I suppose it's not too illogical to link an increased incidence of autism with the corresponding increase in the number of childhood vaccinations. I mean, who knows what all of those chemicals are doing to the still forming brains of our little ones, right?

The second issue deals with what some believe to be the most likely culprit in the vaccination/autism theory – the MMR vaccine. This is a combined vaccine that provides protection against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella and has been around since 1971. It appears that the perceived link between autism and the MMR vaccine is probably due to the fact that the symptoms of autism often begin to appear at around the same time as the MMR vaccine is normally administered to babies (12-15 months). This coincidence got some parents of autistic children, who are justifiably upset, to seek legal advice on possible civil action. Uh, oh! Here we go! If you present a lawyer with a problem he is likely to find some reason, and someone, to sue. Enter a charlatan.

A medical researcher by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a research paper in 1996 that suggested there might be a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Other researchers were unable to reproduce the same results but that didn't matter to the media. Stories about Wakefield's so called findings went viral (perhaps we should work on a vaccine to protect us from the media) prompting some parents to refuse certain vaccinations for their children. Eventually, after much drama, Wakfield's research was exposed as a fraud. It seems that not only was he being paid to do the research by lawyers involved in representing families with autistic children, but that he falsified data and misrepresented the results of his research to create the appearance of the link he was looking for (kind of like the more recent global warming scandal). It seems that Wakefield planned to market a diagnostic kit for "autistic entrocolitis" the fictitious condition that he claimed was linked to the MMR vaccine. His plan was to make millions from lawsuit driven testing. The only thing he actually made was a bad name for himself and an increase in the cases of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella in areas where parents were fooled into foregoing the appropriate vaccination of their children. Nice guy, huh?

Despite that sorry tale, and the passage of more than a decade, the myth of vaccine caused autism continues to spread and has loyal converts wherever the gullible reside. Such is the power of the Internet and human folly. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism, but make no mistake, the diseases it prevents can come with deadly complications. Vaccinations, in general, are the best thing you can do to ensure the health of your children. They prevent serious illnesses. Before the advent of vaccines the mortality rate of children was ridiculous. The MMR vaccine and many others were not available when I was a child. I remember the Mumps; I was seven when they got me and it was no fun. I remember the Measles; I was eight and it was even less fun. I remember Rubella. My older sister remembers Polio. Don't mess around with these things. They are monsters, plain and simple, and they are out to get our children. Don't let them!



  1. It makes me nuts when people don't vaccinate their children. Every time one of my grandsons gets sick, I have to worry it's related to idiots not doing their part to keep our society safe from such illnesses that were ONCE eradicated (until dummies dropped the ball and the bugs now rear their heads). Gah! (Yeah, don't even get me started.)

    1. It make me nuts too. We have eliminated small pox, a scourge that killed millions! What a great achievement! That there are those who don't see the importance of maintaining the fight against childhood disease astounds me. It seems like we as a society have to keep learning the same important lessons over and over again. Nan