My last post brought about a very important comment from Sarah about some mothers she has met. I was just simply going to comment on what she said, but then I saw the front page of the Chicago Tribune today and saw this and my blood began to boil and I decided that I had to post about vaccines, autism, and pseudoscience.
First, let me say that while I’m somewhat knowledgeable about the subject I am far from an expert. However, there are plenty of excellent resources for science-based autism and vaccine research right here on the interwebz. I’ll give a very quick overview of what lead to all of this craziness.
-Vaccines have effectively eradicated (at least in the first world) smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, and many other diseases. The development of vaccines is easily one of the greatest medical advances in human history. Seriously, it’s right up there with cleanliness and antibiotics.
-Some vaccines contained a mercury-containing preservative (thermiosal). When autism started getting huge about a decade ago people started blaming vaccines because a few quacks were being very vocal about their hypothesis that it is the mercury in the vaccines that is causing all these cases of autism.
-Looking for any explanation as to why their children were sick, parents all over England and the US began making the false connection between their child’s autism and vaccinations.
-To stem fears the mercury-containing preservative (which is harmless in the dosage received during vaccination) was removed from the majority of vaccines and is now only found in trace amounts in a small number of them such as the flu vaccine. Lo and behold, autism numbers didn’t drop. INSTEAD, THEY HAVE BEEN CLIMBING!
-Anti-vaxers (as we call them) refuse to believe the evidence before them and still believe vaccines to be the root cause of the autism epidemic.
So, with that said here’s my take on this whole debacle. It’s human nature to want answers. Unfortunately, science takes a long time and hasn’t come up with an answer to autism yet, so people whose worlds have been turned upside down because of the disorder look to people who say they know the answer and, due to a lack of other options, listen to them and believe what they say (also, because many times the very same people have “cures” for autism)
What makes this problem all the more difficult is autism itself. What we call autism is in fact a sort of catch-all group of early onset developmental delays. Though we don’t like to admit it diagnoses can become “trendy” (remember ADHD?) and it seems now that if a child shows any signs of a developmental delay s/he is automatically labeled as autistic. This is not a new disorder, it is a new label. There have been and always will be kids with such delays, but while they simply may have been called “slow,” “retarded,” “weird,” or whatever back in the day we have an actual medical diagnosis for them now. And just like any other disease, the more people who know about it, the more people will see it.
The most important thing to know is this: autism is not developmental stasis, it is a developmental delay. Unfortunately, these delays become apparent around the time children should be getting their first shots. See the problem here? People have a very very hard time distinguishing between correlation and causation. Just because something two things happen around the same time does not mean one caused the other, but for some reason a lot of people can’t seem to wrap their head around that fact. All they know is that little Jimmy got his vaccines and then developed autism.
What they don’t know is the damage they are doing. First, they are weakening the herd immunity and becoming serious threats to the overall health of our nation by refusing to vaccinate their children and spreading their ridiculous health claims. Second, they are pulling funding away from real autism research by focusing on stuff that has already been studied time and time again and found to be false. Lastly, they are further eroding confidence in our medical system. Our fucking incredible medical system. God I’m pissed.
Oh, and Oprah can go fuck herself for getting Jenny McCarthy a pedestal to spew her ridiculous and dangerous nonsense. Fuck them both.
Alright, now I’m pissed, so I’m going to stop writing.