Autism rates are going up with a recent CDC report stated that 2014 records showed 1 in 59 eight-year-old children spanning 11 communities tested were on the autism spectrum. There is much to debate over the increase in autism in the United States. The top of the debate conversation is vaccines. Are vaccines necessary and how can we fight the rise in autism rates?
There are three different people coming to this post: the person who believes vaccines can directly cause autism, the person who believes vaccines are necessary and don’t have a correlation, or the person trying to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.
My Job in This Argument
Full disclosure: I am not here to debate the topic or try to change any person’s mind. Quite frankly, if your mind is already made up, you should probably stop reading – either way. We are parents, all of us. We love our children. We love their friends as if they are our own. My son’s vaccination history has followed the advice of his pediatrician since he was an infant; we searched long and hard for a pediatrician we trusted. My son is not on the spectrum.
It is hard to say if I would feel any different than I do today if he were. Compassion is all I can come to this debate with.
I ask you to do the same.
A Brief History of Vaccines
The purpose of vaccines is to prevent disease, especially the spread of highly contagious or deadly diseases. They are designed and intended to reduce a person’s risk of the intended infection by having the body’s natural defenses develop immunity to them. While they are intended to be safe, some do experience side effects.
Vaccines date back to 1798 when the smallpox vaccine was first developed. Almost 100 years later rabies, typhoid, cholera and the plague vaccines emerged. Another handful were developed in the first half of the 20th Century including tuberculosis, influenza and yellow fever. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th Century that the polio, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis vaccines were developed.
The Vaccination Schedule for Children from Birth to 6 Years Old
That’s a lot of shots for a little kid. I remember my son going through them. When he was a baby and toddler, we could hold him down, tears streaming down his face but it was manageable. As he got older, he begged, “Just give me 60 more seconds to gather myself.” In a way it was cute, but the doctor stepped in to help the nurse, unamused with my son’s interruption of his smooth-flowing schedule. Visits with boosters are hard.
Why Should You Vaccinate Your Child?
People vaccinate their children with the understanding that they are protecting their child, their family and the community. By reducing the incidents of contagious or deadly disease, it protects society as a whole. One of the primary service objectives of Rotary International has been to eradicate people from the risk of polio. Along with world organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, polio cases has been reduced by 99.9%.
Study after study in recent years has refuted the scientific basis that there is a direct correlation between autism and getting vaccinated. Yet, the original feelings spawned from a 1998 scientific paper by Wakefield et al. in Lancet remains among many. It continues even though those involved in the study publicly said it was published in misleading ways, not disclosing financial interests skewing statements.
Why Should You Not Vaccinate Your Child?
Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers are terms widely used among parents and medical professionals to describe those who don’t want to vaccinate their children. There are several core reasons this has become a very vocal parenting movement. It stems from concerns that vaccinations have a correlation to increased autism numbers. There are also religious beliefs and potential allergic reactions feeding into the conversation.
Data comprised from a pilot study comparing 666 homeschool children ages 6-12 years old with 261 unvaccinated children and 405 partially or fully vaccinated children provides insight to concern. It was published in Journal of Translational Sciences and affirms that vaccinated children were less likely to become seriously ill for the disease the vaccination was designed for.
It also showed a significantly higher propensity for Autism Spectrum Disorder, allergies, ADHD, chronic conditions and other learning disabilities. According to this study, vaccinated children were more than 4 times more likely to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
If Studies and Government Disease Centers Around the World Say They Are Safe, Then Why Hesitate?
Personal experience is one of the biggest causes for concern when it comes to parents hesitating and refusing to vaccinate children. I’ve personally heard stories of healthy babies being taken in for a routine “safe” vaccination and within days having a serious and sudden downturn in cognitive function. In many cases, I’ve heard the description is nothing short of getting ill after the vaccines and then regressing without recovery.
Certainly, this is compelling and heartbreaking to anyone who cares about children.
Of course, there are other reasons including religious and health. Most vaccines are cultured in chicken embryos creating concerns about allergies and even personal choices to not use products tested or using animal products. Many also contain amounts of mercury and aluminum causing increased concern over toxicity.
Comparing the Real Risks: To Vaccinate or Not
The schedule of vaccines is extensive and a bit overwhelming at times to parents. It certainly was for me. Not having complete vaccination records can limit enrollment in child care or school. The result: a rise in homeschooling statistics as parents stand strong to their beliefs.
The core of the debate boils down to two perspectives. The first is: do the ingredients, rapid schedule, combinations and preparation of vaccines increase the chance of harming a developing neurological brain? The second is: is the risk of contagious and lethal disease too big to worry about an increase in autism if we don’t know for sure that vaccines are the culprit?
Considerations as You Review Any Study on Autism?
When considering the results of any study, think about a few things:
- How recent is the study?
- What definition of autism is described?
- When did the definition of autism in the DSM-IV change?
- When did rates of autism increase?
- When did vaccinations become standard pediatric practice?
- Are there other potential causations not being studied?
- If there is causation, what can be done to mitigate that?
As I said, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. But I hope to compel you to dig deeper – much deeper than this summary.
Facts to Consider in the Debate
- The MMR vaccine was first developed in 1963 but combined in common practice in 1971.
- A second dose of MMR vaccine was standardized in 1989.
- Based on current diagnostic features, the autism rate in 1970 was approximately 4 out of 1,000.
- Currently, 1 in 59 children are identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
- In 2000, 1 in 150 children were identified as having ADS.
- ASD is currently 4 times more common in boys than girls.
- The American Psychiatric Association has modified the criteria for Autism diagnosis.
- The DSM-II was originally published in 1952 defining autism as a form of childhood schizophrenia marked by a detachment from reality.
- The DSM-III was originally published in 1980 breaking autism from schizophrenia diagnoses.
- The DSM-IV was originally published in 1994 with autism have 3 sub-categories
- The DMS-5 was published in 2013 eliminating sub-categories and establishing Autism Spectrum Disorder
Final Thoughts on Autism and Vaccines
I said from the start that I can only come to this debate with compassion. I know many affected by the struggles of autism and raising children on the spectrum. It hasn’t been my journey and my perspective can only be my own. Quite frankly, more questions come to my mind to find the key to this mystery.
The questions that linger in my mind are broader in scope:
- Does the obsessive use of hand sanitizer and antibacterial everything has robbed the next generation of the ability to avoid allergies or chronic health issues?
- Cancer rates went up when doctors understood how to diagnose it. Are we looking at something similar?
- If mercury and aluminum are concerns, what is the next step to protect the next generation for disease and ASD?
I invite you to join this dialogue. That is what it is intended to be an honest but respectful dialogue on how to come together to fight disease and fight autism along with other learning disabilities. The floor is yours…