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Vaccines and Autism, Much to Consider, What is Your Viewpoint

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:06pm
Contributed by Ellen
ELLEN: This is in regard to vaccines, which, by the way, will be featured on the upcoming show on Dateline this Sunday. Yesterday, I was sent a post by a woman (Ms.M) who sought to encourage parents to "educate before they vaccinate". It was an attempt to discourage parents from following the current vaccine schedule for their children. The response I wish to share to this is below. It was written by a friend and parent of a child with autism. This parent has been a great help to me with my son and his numerous issues. She has read and studied the subject more than I, and lives daily with autism. She also teaches on autistic spectrum disorders. She has fought fearlessly for her son and helped numerous other parents of autistics in their struggle. She gave me permission to post her comments here. (See below under vaccinate)

NOTE FROM CHERI: Ms. M's post did not go into the serious health risks from not vaccinating children nor did it go into detail about research and how true evidence based research is conducted in this country, both good and bad. These are references listed below from Ms. M to be fair. I will tell you as a therapist who has worked in this field for 22 years, that I do not agree that vaccines are the cause of autistic spectrum disorder. I believe, like many who have studied this subject, that there is a cascade of variable events (not the same for everyone) that have led to an incredible increase in the number of children with autism. It is also true that we still do not know what autism is. I do not believe in simple answers to a complex problem. I feel that we need to keep our eyes open and keep looking. Sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees. When I graduated from college, I was given a handout on autism and told that maybe I would work with a few children who had autism. That was in 1986. Do we need answers? Yes, the right answers. What I do believe and know to be true is that there is a health crisis coming in this country, unlike anything we have ever seen. Swine flu will be nothing compared to what may happen, if children are not vaccinated from deadly diseases with the ability to rapidly mutate to pandemic levels. This is a health issue that impacts us all.
Resources from Ms. M post:

Vaccines: Are They Really Safe & Effective?
by Neil Miller

What Every Parent Should Know About Childhood Immunization
by Jamie Murphy

The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults
by Randall Neustaedter


I want you to know that I'm right there with you on this. When I was in the history department (yep the history dept) most of my research was in the history of science and medicine / disease. One of my graduate papers was on polio epidemics in the United States and I learned two things through that experience: vaccines work very very well and there's still much of the fear-mongering puritanical pursuit of witches in the US--they've just chosen to move from the female witch persona to the invisible hand of death. While I didn't see first-hand, reading the accounts of the epidemic from parents and families put a healthy respect for vaccines in my mind and in my soul. Parents today have NO idea what a real epidemic is like. Many have no idea what it is like to lose a child, a young child to polio, typhus, or any other awful disease process. They have NO idea just how powerful the public health department becomes in a time of epidemic. I'll never forget accounts of the polio epidemics where affected children were removed from the homes and the parents clutching arms and taken to a hospital where they died, alone. Parents never had the ability to get closure, to see the body through a funeral--he or she just never came back. Parents forget about these things, or never knew about them to begin with. It saddens me that we have come so far in this respect, only to go right back.

The funny thing about this 'article' is that she constantly pushes the term 'research' and that parents should do their own research before vaccinating. I venture to guess her research is predicated upon Wakefield's flawed assumptions and poorly designed study that has sent parents running in droves away from the MMR due to the autism fears. So my question is this: does Ms. M know that Wakefield's research has been disproven time and time and time and time and time again? Does she know that his study cannot be replicated using his methodology and getting the same result? Does she know that he contaminated samples (whether knowingly or unknowingly, the effect is still contamination) in the study, thereby invalidating any result? Does she know that every study done since then has never seen a connection between autism and MMR? Does she know that thimerasol has been removed from vaccines in other countries long before the US did and their rates of ASD continue on the same trajectory as before? It changed nothing. Nothing.

People like Ms. M do not truly understand immunology. She has a popular science grasp on the concept and does not get how 'research' really works. I venture to guess she has not read much about immunology. I venture to guess she has not read much about virus mutation and how those who are unvaccinated are spreading a more virulent, mutated form of some of these diseases--look to the Carribbean to see how a brother was vaccinated against polio, sister wasn't and she became infected with polio where it then mutated and devastated the entire community. I venture to guess Ms. M doesn't fully understand that someone does a study and then someone tries to replicate it and get the same results. Then after so many such studies, we are looking at something that really takes hold and changes our belief in a process or issue. For Ms. M, one study on vaccines and autism was enough apparently.

My other thought is just exactly what kind of research is Ms. M reading? There's the kind that gets published in a journal that is peer reviewed by people who are independent and impartial and then there are journals that we created by an organization to 'push' their own research and agenda that is not peer-reviewed and if it is reviewed at all, it's reviewed by a bunch of like minded yes men who do not look at the study objectively--they don't look for flawed methodology, flawed assumptions, flawed data collection or analysis, or a series of poor references.

For me, and for those I continue to advocate for--this is a non-issue. A complete non-issue. They waste their time on a dead end street in the quest for knowledge about autism. They bang their head on an issue that will have no affect on the outcome of a autistic child's life. They spend all their time and energy yelling from the top of their lungs, 'vaccines, vaccines' and yet they do nothing about to push the quality of life for those with autism. They do nothing to push research in ways to help them communicate, learn, be social, or understand sensory aspects. They do nothing to help those with autism be more accepted by the community at large--they community now fears or pities the child because of this whipped up frenzy about vaccines and toxicity. They do nothing to help the self-esteem of a child with autism--to know that he or she is truly a gift and that we have far more to learn about him or her then they will ever learn from us.

I love her sentence about Jenny McCarthy and the fact that her son is autistic. It's ironic because Jenny McCarthy is for greening vaccines and not getting rid of them altogether. It's ironic because Jenny McCarthy believes that a gluten free diet has cured her child. There are many who say her child is clearly still autistic. Scare mongering is scare mongering. It does nothing, nothing at all constructive. Ms. M offers no other 'research' in her article that allows her readers to come to their own conclusion--she merely scares them into believing her belief. Well I for one don't believe her and what she predicates her knowledge on. So when she encourages her readers to do some research, I agree wholeheartedly. But one must understand that all research is not created equally, all studies are not created equally, and all conclusions reached from data are not created equally. So I would encourage her readers to not accept everything as fact before doing some reading of their own--including reading things that they might not always agree with. I read books from the 'biomedical' groups just as much as I try to read from the others. Too often, such extremists will not read anything but from those that agree with them--I can assure you this is not the way to go about forming an opinion, or at least not an educated one. My advice to Ms. M's readers: read them all, listen to all sides, learn for yourself and make your own opinion.

Those out there who blame parents for 'giving their child autism' because they chose to vaccinate have incredibly poor taste. Again, we have gone so far only to go right back. This is no different the 'refrigerator mother' hypothesis that we have fought to free these children and their parents from. Blame, it's a difficult cycle of grief to claw out of. For those that seek blatantly blame a mother for her child's autism can only be described as an insensitive wretch. It's not productive, it doesn't change that child's outcome in life. They make the sign of the witch as they walk by and pass judgment where judgment should not come. They pass judgment but forego compassion.

It wears on my soul that we come so far but step so far back. It wears on my soul that we have the power to be compassionate but are not. It wears on my soul that we have the power to see but do not.

Feel free to post this--someone should...
MORE FROM ELLEN: I most strenuously disagree with the current trend towards not vaccinating children. As many of you know, I was employed as a nurse and staff educator at LaRabida Children's Hospital for a number of years before choosing to raise my family as a stay-at-home mother. I also have a Master's Degree in Science from DePaul University. LaRabida is located on the South side of Chicago.

Three years there were spent working in outpatient clinic. Part of my job was to administer vaccines. I gave between 10 and 100 a day, depending on the clinic. I cannot recall even one serious reaction to any vaccine that was administered there. Not one. I do, however, recall the very serious measles outbreak that occurred in the early 1990's. Over 500 children died of the measles in Chicago alone, and it was serious enough that we began giving measles vaccines to younger children. We were all incredibly relieved when the varicella vaccine became available. As I am sitting here, I am tearing up as I recall several beloved patients who died from the chicken pox.

My grandmother and mother feared polio during their lifetimes. Polio is not gone, it is simply less prevalent. The man who invented the polio vaccine was a hero in his time. Dr. Paul Offit, author of the book Autism's False Prophets, helped developed the rotovirus vaccine. He has received death threats for his efforts.

Polio, tetanus, diptheria, pertussis, Hepatitis A and B, rotovirus, bacterial meningitis, chicken pox, are all real diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. I praised God when the meningitis vaccines were developed, as I saw that illness kill children and devastate families. The writer of the post put the word "diseases" in quotes. I assumed she meant they were not real; indeed they are real. Because she has not experienced them does not make them a fantasy.

So yes, I vaccinate my children, and encourage others to do so. Why? Because unvaccinated children are a risk to public health. We are losing herd immunity to illnesses that have become more-or-less dormant. The writer of the post I referenced asked why pro-vaccine parents would worry about kids spreading illness if their kids have been vaccinated. This suggests a lack of true research in this area. The varicella vaccine has does not guarantee a person will not get the disease. Varicella is known for having strains of varying virulence (ability to cause disease). A vaccinated person may still become ill from a highly virulent strain. It may be a milder form of the illness. There are still nasty strains of varicella out there, making the rounds because people are refusing the vaccination. A respondent to the thread said "we are not responsible for anyone else's family". Well, when you spread illness, and someone else's child becomes a victim, that makes YOU responsible for what happened to them. If you talk your friend out of vaccinating, and their baby dies from pertussis, well, you're responsible again. Maybe not legally, but morally. I say we should make people responsible for these actions civilly and legally.

When I posted something similar to this on my home school message board, I actually had people respond to say they prefer their child get the chicken pox "naturally". There is no natural form of an infectious disease. Its akin to playing Russian Roulette with your precious children.

When I say I firmly believe in vaccines, I say so as the mother 3, 2 of whom suffer from autism. Regarding that issue, I have done my research, and over a dozen studies have not found a link between autism and vaccines. Even researchers who hoped to find one did not. The British doctor who started the "vaccines cause autism" controversy has not only recanted, but his studies were flawed and could never be replicated by any credible researcher. Autism rates are the same in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children. My son Joey was quiet and immobile as a fetus, long before he received any vaccines. Thimerisol, the vaccine component most associated with a link to autism, was removed from vaccines in 2000, simply to quash concerns, not because anyone found a connection. It took about a year to clear the shelves of thimerisol-containing vials. Autism rates have continued to skyrocket despite the change.

Anyone who tells you vaccines cause autism is deceiving you or has been deceived. Anyone who tells you they can sell you a more purified form of vaccines is either deceiving you or has been deceived.

I have come to believe that this fabricated autism-vaccine link gives parents some kind of hedge that makes them feel protected against the autism epidemic. But by playing into the fear-mongering, you become part of the problem that plagues us; less children will be vaccinated, more will get sick, innocents will suffer because their parents cater to the fashionable trends or bow to peer pressure. I'm excluding from that analysis a few mothers who I know really hold firm to their beliefs and actually have some basis for it; moms whom I've agreed to disagree with and still love and who still love me.

I'd also like to affirm and validate the other mothers who support my beliefs in this area but fear the repercussions if they speak out publicly.
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