The Puzzle Pieces Don't Fit

The "vaccines cause autism" bullshit is, once again, being purveyed, this time by the cornucopia of popular bullshit, Newsweek. The article discusses Dr. Paul Offit, a relatively well-known pediatrician and author of the 2008 book Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. In his book, Offit takes on the bullshit about which Jenny McCarthy likes to prattle. His arguments are driven by assertions like her's that early childhood vaccinations cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD):
We think our health authorities don't want to open this can of worms, so they don't even look or listen. While there is strong debate on this topic, many parents of recovered children will tell you they didn't treat their child for autism; they treated them for vaccine injury.

Many people aren't aware that in the 1980s our children received only 10 vaccines by age 5, whereas today they are given 36 immunizations, most of them by age 2. With billions of pharmaceutical dollars, could it be possible that the vaccine program is becoming more of a profit engine then a means of prevention?
Other individuals who have exploited parental anxieties by positing causation include:
If mishandled, ASD can be tragic. I work with a few gentlemen who are diagnosed with Autistic Disorder. At any given moment, they can be aggressive, frightened, silly, or friendly. Though they are very impulsive and lack the ability to communicate effectively, they are capable of learning new tasks through modeling and interacting appropriately with others.

McCarthy speaks of "recovery" and "healing." Although she does not, in this article, specify the indicators of recovery, creating an appropriate diet and increasing an ASD individual's independent living and communication skills can decrease observable symptoms. Unfortunately, she chooses to expound upon "prevention" as though the science is on her side:
We believe autism is an environmental illness. Vaccines are not the only environmental trigger, but we do think they play a major role. If we are going to solve this problem and finally start to reverse the rate of autism, we need to consider changing the vaccine schedule, reducing the number of shots given and removing certain ingredients that could be toxic to some children.
Sounds reasonable? Perhaps. However, there's no need to enact any of her recommendations. She's wrong on all four points. Need proof? Here's a quick rundown of a few major studies:

In April 1993, the MMR vaccine was replaced with single vaccines in Japan. This enabled Japanese researchers to examine"cumulative incidence of ASD up to age seven for [31,426] children born from 1988 to 1996 in...Yokohama, Japan. ASD cases included all cases of pervasive developmental disorders according to ICD-10 guidelines." The researchers found that:
  • [While] the MMR vaccination rate in the city of Yokohama declined significantly in the birth cohorts of years 1988 through 1992, and not a single vaccination was administered in 1993 or thereafter....cumulative incidence of ASD up to age seven increased significantly in the birth cohorts of years 1988 through 1996 and most notably rose dramatically beginning with the birth cohort of 1993 [emphasis mine].
  • MMR vaccination is most unlikely to be a main cause of ASD, that it cannot explain the rise over time in the incidence of ASD, and that withdrawal of MMR in countries where it is still being used cannot be expected to lead to a reduction in the incidence of ASD.
In 2005, an international team of researchers reviewed 31 MMR-related studies from around the world and found that:
  • MMR was associated with a lower incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, a higher incidence of irritability, and similar incidence of other adverse effects compared to placebo.
  • Exposure to MMR was unlikely to be associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, autism or [mumps].
In 2006, researchers in Quebec "surveyed 27,749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools from the largest [English-speaking] school board. Children with pervasive developmental disorders [which included ASD] were identified by a special needs team." The researchers found that:
  • [T]himerosal exposure was unrelated to the increasing trend in pervasive developmental disorder prevalence.
  • [P]ervasive developmental disorder rates significantly increased when MMR vaccination uptake rates significantly decreased.
  • [P]ervasive developmental disorder prevalence increased at the same rate before and after the introduction in 1996 of the second MMR dose, suggesting no increased risk of pervasive developmental disorder associated with a 2–measles-mumps-rubella dosing schedule before age 2 years.
  • [N]o relationship was found between pervasive developmental disorder rates and 1- or 2-dose MMR immunization schedule.
But, why risk it anyway? Science fumbles all the time, amiright? From the New York Times:
Death rates for 13 diseases that can be prevented by childhood vaccinations are at all-time lows in the United States, according to a study released yesterday.

In nine of the diseases, rates of death or hospitalization declined more than 90 percent since vaccines against them were approved, and in the cases of smallpox, diphtheria and polio, by 100 percent.

In only four diseases — hepatitis A and B, invasive pneumococcal diseases and varicella (the cause of chickenpox and shingles) — did deaths and hospitalizations fall less than 90 percent. Those vaccines are all relatively new — the one for chickenpox, for example, was adopted nationally only in 1995. Also, some diseases like hepatitis typically strike adults, who are less likely to be immunized.

The study showed total or near-total declines in cases of diphtheria, measles, polio, rubella, smallpox and invasive Hib disease, a type of pneumonia for which children are now normally vaccinated at as early as 2 months.
Although it's not autism, you would think that parents would want to at least save their children the horrible experience of communicable disease infection. Unfortunately, that's not the case:
Measles has become endemic in Britain, 14 years after its spread was halted in the resident population, the country's public health watchdog says.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned that the number of unvaccinated children was now large enough to sustain the "continuous spread" of the potentially lethal virus in the community. It blamed a failure by parents over the past 10 years to give their children the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

This has resulted in vaccine rates falling below the level necessary to prevent the disease becoming established in the general population....In the last quarter of 2007, the rate stood at 71 per cent for children at age two (first dose) and 50 per cent at age five (second dose) compared with the 95 per cent coverage needed to maintain herd immunity and prevent endemic spread.
So, if you're a parent, get your loved one vaccinated and remember that rates of autism spectrum disorder are increasing because of three encouraging developments:
  1. At one time, an individual with Autistic Disorder may have received a sole diagnosis of Mental Retardation. Doctors can now provide sharper diagnostics and earlier screenings.
  2. The government recognizes the existence of autism spectrum disorders and is now providing more funding.
  3. And, though we have a long way to go, the public attaches less shame and stigma to autism spectrum disorders and many more advocates have appeared.


Maria said…
Thanks for telling the truth about the MMR vaccine. I've added it to my bookmarks though I'm dismayed that my list of sites that talk sense on this particular subject is dwarfed by the list of sites that are platforms for ignorant and hysterical scaremongering.

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