16 May 2019
Strange how history repeats itself
In 1998, a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent research paper in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, suggesting that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was increasing autism in British children. Because a number of parents believed this now-discredited theory and chose not to immunize their children, an outbreak of measles occurred and many British children died, similar in many ways to the current measles outbreak with over 830 cases reported in 23 states, as of May 10, 2019.
Wakefield’s paper has since been completely discredited due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. In addition, Wakefield lost his medical license and the paper was retracted from The Lancet.
In spite of all this, Wakefield’s false hypothesis was taken seriously by medical professionals at the time, and several other major studies were conducted. None of them found a link between any vaccine and the likelihood of developing autism.
It can also be argued that equally as damaging as the spreading of anti-vaccination attitudes brought about by Wakefield’s paper has been the energy, time, focus and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to functionally help children and families who live with it.
A more recent study of more than 600,000 children also found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism
As further proof that Wakefield’s claims were false, a recently-published study of more than 600,000 children who were tracked for more than 10 years found no association between the measles vaccine and autism. The researchers stated in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “The study strongly supports that the MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.” Read details about the study here.
Neither is there a link between Thimerosal and autism
Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in multi-dose vials of vaccines, has not been linked to autism either. According to the CDC, MMR vaccines do not and never did contain thimerosal; varicella (chickenpox), inactivated polio and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines also have never contained thimerosal; and influenza (flu) vaccines are currently available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions.
The true causes of autism remain a mystery but there are new theories
To further discredit the autism-vaccination link theory, several studies have now identified symptoms of autism in children well before they receive the MMR vaccine. Even more recent research provides evidence that autism develops in utero, well before a baby is born or receives vaccinations.
According to MedicalNewsToday, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, WA examined 25 genes in the postmortem brain tissue of children with and without autism. Explaining their findings, the researchers state that “building a baby’s brain during pregnancy involves creating a cortex that contains six layers. We discovered focal patches of disrupted development of these cortical layers in the majority of children with autism. This defect indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells—something that begins in prenatal life— had been disrupted.”
Equally important, the team believes, is that these defects appeared in “focal patches,” particularly around the frontal and temporal cortex. “This suggests that this defect does not apply equally to all areas of the brain and may explain why different functional systems are affected in people who have autism.”
The research team hopes that “further understanding of these patches could allow scientists an insight into how that rewiring occurs, opening doors to potential new treatments and therapies” for autism.
Herd immunity benefits the whole community, which is why everyone should get vaccinated, every year
Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person. When someone has been vaccinated for a particular disease, he/she is then immune to that disease and cannot infect others. The greater the number of people who are vaccinated, the fewer opportunities there are for a disease to spread, with the result that the community surrounding that person is less likely to get the disease. This is known as herd immunity.
When enough people are vaccinated, everyone—including those who are too young or too sick to be immunized—receives some protection from the spread of diseases, even those who are unvaccinated. This means that even people who don’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick.
Because of herd immunity, a disease can become rarer and rarer and sometimes, disappear altogether. For a list of CDC recommended vaccines by age, click here.
As well as information about vaccinations, count on us for all kinds of tips and advice to help you raise your kids.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re raising teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours. Please come in and see us.
What we’ve written about the importance of vaccinating
- Is There a Reason NOT to Vaccinate Your Child?
- Why Immunizations Are Important
- How To Make Sure Your Child’s Vaccinations Are Up To Date
- Why Robert DeNiro Was Right to Pull Anti-Vaccine Documentary From Tribeca Film Festival
- Three Vaccines You Need to Know About
- Yes, Your Child Should Still Get A Flu Shot
- White paper: Immunization: The Incredible Intervention That Continues to Save Millions of Lives
Websites we recommend
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Immunization
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Vaccines
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vaccines and Immunizations
- National Network for Immunization Information
- Vaccines Protect Your Community
Want to know more about vaccines, autism and how best to protect your child? Come in and see us.
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we understand that the whole issue of vaccines and whether they do or don’t cause autism is on the minds of many parents right now, and we urge you to come in and talk with us about it. We’d like to explain our viewpoint on the importance of vaccinating your child, as well as the reasons why disease prevention is so crucial, not just to your family but to entire communities. And, this is not a one-sided discussion—we welcome all of your questions and input. Our #1 goal is to help you as a parent make the best possible decisions for the health and well-being of your child. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.