Debunking the Belief in Vaccination as a Cause of Autism
John MacDonald, courant staff writer, stated that today one point five million Americans believe to have some sort of autism. These numbers have been climbing throughout the years and people are starting to want answers as to why. Scientists and researchers have been investigating the causes of autism and while the answers are still unclear, people have started to believe that vaccines are the issue. Many researchers have proven a number of times that vaccines such as MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) and the ingredient thimerosal, do not cause autism.
The first reason that people believe this, is because a rumor was started based on a poorly conducted experiment that was published which stated that vaccines caused autism. Smitha Bhandari who is certified in adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, stated, “The paper’s findings led other doctors to do their own research into the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. At least 12 follow-up studies were done. None found any evidence the vaccine caused autism. An investigation into the 1998 study also uncovered a number of problems with how it was conducted. The journal that published it eventually retracted it. That meant the publication no longer stood by the results.” Still, parents refusing to have their children follow the traditional vaccination schedules started to become more popular. Then the attention of the link transferred to another substance that is found in some children’s vaccines called thimerosal which contains mercury. Doctors use it to restrict the growth of bacteria and fungi in vaccines. There has been no reportings or evidence that the limited amount used, caused any harm. Still, it was taken out from vaccines in 2001. A study was done on children who had acquired vaccines that contained thimerosal. Nine different studies were completed which also looked at thimerosal and autism (Bhandari). None of these studies found any links between autism and vaccines and the initial rumor was proved false.
Many different scientists and doctors began to do their own research out of curiosity. “Dr. Louis Z. Cooper, a Columbia University professor of pediatrics and past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, added his voice to those who urge parents to have their children vaccinated. Cooper, who has practiced medicine for forty-three years, said vaccines prevent children from getting diseases that once might have killed them” (MacDonald). Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) stated that more than one billion dollars is provided by congress annually to federal health agencies to develop, buy, and promote the use of vaccines. None of that money is used to fund independent, non-governmental researchers to investigate why and how some children develop serious health issues after obtaining vaccinations. Even though non-governmental research organizations are not being funded, there are still doing the research needed. Cure Autism Now (CAN) Foundation has fifteen thousand supporters nationwide and is currently the largest non-governmental funding agency for biomedical research into autism (Fisher). The Autism Research Institute conducts research, spreads scientific information on autism, and has the world’s largest database on autistic children with more than thirty thousand cases in sixty countries (Fisher). All of these organizations are trying to find the ultimate reasoning for why autism is becoming more and more common. One thing that they for sure can conclude is that vaccines are not the answer.
The rates for autism are not falling. Even after eliminating factors, such as vaccines and the ingredients in them, the rates are actually growing. One in a thousand children are now diagnosed as autistic and this makes autism more common among children than cancer, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis (Fisher). Steven Novella, an American clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, stated that five years after thimerosal was removed, autism diagnosis rates have continued to increase. In “Do Vaccines Cause Autism”, it says that there have been many other factors that have been questioned for the cause of ASD, such as genetic predisposition, advanced parental age, and other environmental factors. Whether the high rates of autism today are due to increased diagnosis and reporting, changing definitions of autism or an actual increase in the development of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is unknown. Autism is a complex neurological disorder that typically manifests in the first few years of life and primarily involves a deficiency of typical social skills and behavior (Novella). Autism rates grew from ten percent to seventeen percent a year through the 1990s before thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccines (MacDonald). This proves that thimerosal was never the issue and that the rates are not growing due to vaccines.
People should vaccinate, not only for their own health but for others around them. Lary Lynam, biotechnology consultant and principal, stated that “The rise of global vaccine hesitation poses a dire threat to the health and lives of communities everywhere”. Vaccines do more than just prevent diseases. Comprehensive vaccination programs have proven to make communities healthier, strengthen public health, and reduce inequities and poverty (Lynam). The World Health Organization declared that, next to clean water, vaccines are the single most important public health advancement in modern history (Lynam). Vaccines are one of the most successful programs in modern health care, reducing, and in some cases even eliminating, serious infectious diseases (Novella). For this reason, vaccines play an important role in our culture and should be utilized by everyone.
Even after all of the evidence produced, people still think that vaccines are the cause of autism. American activist, environmental attorney, and author, Robert Kennedy Jr. dodges the issue altogether by asking for more studies, despite the fact that the evidence he asks for already exists. He just does not like the answer (Novella).
Every time a factor has no evidence in support, new factors are being investigated. The next hypothesis is that the number of vaccines that are given to children could cause autism (Vaccines). “Children receive twenty-five shots in the first fifteen months of life (Bhandari).” Since the 1980s, many new vaccines have been added to the childhood immunization schedule. Some critics have concerns that the increase in vaccines results in autism. However, no evidence of an association between increased exposure to vaccines and autism has appeared. Others have focused on the aluminum levels in some vaccines as a potential cause of autism. Yet the amounts of aluminum used in vaccines are small compared to other exposures to aluminum, such as breast milk and infant formula. Aluminum in vaccines has not been involved in any infant or childhood health problems (Vaccines). This is yet another hypothesis that has not demonstrated the link. It is very hard for people to not have an answer for the cause of autism.
It has been confirmed and proven, time and time again that vaccines are not the cause of Autism. There might not be an exact answer for the cause of it, but it has been clinically confirmed that we know vaccines don’t. The great majority of scientists, physicians, and public health researchers have come to the conclusion that there is no association between vaccines and autism (Vaccines). Denying your kids of vaccines is like throwing them in a pool of infectious diseases. It would be bad for them and for others if the obtained one of those diseases. For all of these reasons, everyone should vaccinate, not only for themselves but for everyone else around them.
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