In 1998, the medical journal The Lancet published one of the most damaging articles in modern history — a study supposedly linking the MMR vaccine with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. By 2010, the medical journal retracted the paper in its entirety. But the damage had been done.
In 2010 Andrew Wakefield, the English author of the Lancet published study, lost his medical license for falsifying data. It was also shown that Wakefield had a serious financial conflict of interest with his study, namely a venture that on the back of an MMR scare would generate profits from new medical tests that Wakefield was to develop. This would put Wakefield in the position to take financial advantage of litigation driven testing demanded by desperate and frightened parents.
Literally dozens of studies and reports have been published since Wakefield’s original claims, none of which have been able to replicate his original “findings” and none of which have found any link between vaccines and ASD.
Sadly, many misinformed parents across the country continue to cling to homeopathic evangelists like Jenny McCarthy who only exacerbate the problem by using their celebrity status as a platform to promote their unsubstantiated claims that vaccines are harmful and can cause ASD.
With no formal medical education whatsoever, they are claiming an equal foothold in a clearly scientific area of study. Worse, via the internet, talk shows and multiple books, McCarthy and others like her are professing their dangerous and irresponsible theories as medical fact, the consequences of which can be dire.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from this country. Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported the highest number of cases in 20 years — 288 confirmed cases in the first five months of this year alone.
Pertussis, aka Whooping Cough, is also on the rise. Cases of the disease took a nosedive after the discovery of a vaccine in the mid 1940s, but instances have since been increasing at a steady rate — up 72 percent since 1990. One CDC report estimated over 11,000 confirmed cases of whooping cough in 2012, the highest count recorded in over 30 years. Even with medical intervention, the disease often proves fatal for infants.
A 2012 CDC report revealed that about 10 percent of U.S. parents have refused or delayed required immunizations for their children for fear of side effects, including ASD. While there is no known single cause for ASD, evidence strongly suggests that genetic factors play a large part in the disorder.
The Autism Society writes on its website: “It is generally accepted in the scientific community that it (ASD) is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neuro-typical children. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.”
There are legitimate reasons for not vaccinating. Some allergies such as to latex or eggs can prevent children from receiving immunizations. Illness can also delay a child’s vaccination schedule. Such children rely on the so called “herd immunity.” But when healthy children, who for no more of a reason other than the parents’ fear, are not vaccinated, it reduces the immunity of the community at large and increases the danger for all unvaccinated children.
Despite the numbers, facts, and completely preventable deaths, for some reason the topic of whether to vaccinate remains almost taboo in today’s society. It is one of the most controversial subjects in health and medicine.
Other than for legitimate medical reasons, vaccinations should be mandatory for all children in this country. Non compliance based on certain religious beliefs should not be exempted as this is a public health issue. Parents who refuse to vaccinate for non-medical reasons should have their children excluded from public school systems, as well as licensed day care facilities so to contain the possible spread of disease.
If you don’t want to vaccinate your kids, there is a simple solution: home school. Because the reality is that every year 3 million children’s lives are saved worldwide by vaccination. On the flip side of that coin, 2 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.