Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

As mentioned yesterday, I'm going to be writing several blog posts on "things we know to be true".  This is inspired by the November 2016 issue of Scientific American.  One of the 5 things we know to be true discussed in this article is "Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism."

Where does this idea even come from?  In 1998 Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published an article in Lancet suggesting the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) kids typically receive at 12 to 15 months of age increases the risk of being autistic.  Follow-up studies attempting to replicate the findings were unsuccessful and it was quickly determined the data in the study was fraudulent and financial gain was a motivating factor in the study.  The authors were found guilty of ethical violations and the article was officially retracted from the journal in 2010.

Why even consider a link?  There's a correlation in the age at which the MMR vaccine is received and the age at which autism is often diagnosed in kids.  Correlation, however, does not equal causation and after numerous studies there is NO connection between vaccines and autism.  Vaccines DO NOT cause autism.  The science is very clear on this.  However, once the statement was released stating a possible connection, the misconception/myth exploded and spread quickly.  Once a misconception is spread it is extremely hard to wipe it from society.  According to the article in Scientific American, 85% of parents with autism understand vaccines due not cause autism, but that remaining 15% believes so on a fabricated study designed to provide the authors financial gain.  You can read more on this here:

The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud

In my life I remember hearing that vaccines cause autism well before I considered having kids.  I didn't pay much attention to it as kids were not in my immediate future.  Once my wife and I started talking about having kids, I had to think about this issue.  Fortunately I knew to do my research and very quickly came to the conclusion that vaccines do not cause autism and that vaccines are perfectly safe.  Our kids received and will continue to receive every vaccine on schedule.  They also reciee teh flu vaccine each year in the fall.  Others, however, are not raised to think critically or punished when they think critically, and it is very easy to believe in every conspiracy theory, myth, and/or misconception one comes across.  In some societies and in some areas of society in the U.S., critical thinking is frowned upon.  In my household we do not frown upon critical thinking.  We teach our kids to think critically and question everything.

This single study has led to an increase in portions of the population not vaccinating their children.  This is a huge problem!  Once eradicated diseases are on the verge of returning.  Choosing to not vaccinate your child does not just affect your child.  It effects every child who is unable to be vaccinated due to a weakened immune system.  Those children only have herd immunity to rely on.  As fewer and fewer parents choose to vaccinate, that herd immunity weakens and children unable to receive vaccines are at great risk of contracting a disease and becoming very sick or even dying.  Not vaccinating your children has huge negative ramifications on society.

To conclude vaccines do not cause autism.

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