Do you know any parents whoÃ¯Â¿Â½ve made the decision not to vaccinate their children because they are convinced there is a link between vaccines and autism?
Do you know any parents who’ve made the decision not to vaccinate their children because they are convinced there is a link between vaccines and autism?
According to the vast majority of researchers and legitimate studies, there is no proof that early childhood vaccinations cause autism (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/347/19/1477; http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/93/10/832). But of course there are researchers and studies that say otherwise, including this one by father-and-son autism über-quacks Mark and David Geier, and this one that relied on data from an online survey and sports huge confidence intervals. (A response from Anthony R. Cox and Sarah Mcdowell can be found in the January 2009 issue of Autism.)
This topic has led to some nasty arguments between two celebrity spokeswomen and even death threats given to healthcare professionals. “A man from Seattle wrote to me that he would ‘hang me from my neck,’” said University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Offit, MD, an expert on vaccines and a vocal naysayer to claims linking them to increases in autism.
In mid-February a special court of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program announced its ruling on three cases where the parents were seeking compensation based on their belief that their children developed autism as a result of receiving the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination that contained thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury. The court ruled against the parents, noting that they had not presented sufficient evidence to prove that the childhood vaccines caused autism in their children.
“I have no doubt that the families of countless other autistic children, families that cope every day with the tremendous challenges of caring for autistic children, are similarly deserving of sympathy and admiration. However, I must decide this case not on sentiment, but by analyzing the evidence,” Special Master George L. Hastings, Jr. wrote in his ruling. “In this case the evidence advanced by the petitioners has fallen far short of demonstrating such a link.”
Researchers are continuing to study the cause of autistic disorders and working to develop better treatments.
It’s unfortunate that so many parents are taking it upon themselves to deny vaccinating their children. This decision has led to the increase of previously controlled infectious diseases—with vaccination rates decreasing in Great Britain, there were “1,348 measles cases in England and Wales last year,” while in “1998 there were just 56 cases.” The news isn’t as drastic in the US, but the numbers are increasing.