There has been a lot of uproar in the anti-vaccine community over the last couple of months. It all stems from a supposed CDC whistle-blower coming forward with allegations that the CDC hid some of the results of a study they conducted years ago.
There was no cover-up, as the data has been available to the public the entire time. The current uproar is quite similar to the last one: it’s basically skewed data and financially-motivated people taking advantage of the emotionally-driven parents of autistic children.
I will not go into detail about what is wrong with the anti-vaccine community’s current argument, because I couldn’t explain it any better than it has already been explained here. I would like to point out however, that the CDC study is not the only study that proved there was no link between vaccines and autism. There have been studies conducted across the globe proving vaccines to be safe.
Anti-vaccine activists claim the mercury levels in vaccines are higher than the EPA’s recommended safe limits, but they are referring to the thimerosol content. Thimerosol is a mercury COMPOUND. Just like table salt (NaCl) is a compound that contains chlorine (a poisonous gas), Thimerosol (ethylmercury) is a compound that contains mercury. The toxic form of mercury found in seafood is METHYLMERCURY. Ethylmercury (C2H5Hg) does not accumulate in the body the same way methyl mercury (CH3Hg) does, therefore it does not have the same toxic effects. Yes, ethylmercury can be toxic to humans as well, but it is broken down much more efficiently than methylmercury which enables it to be cleared out of the bloodstream much quicker, minimizing any chance of neurotoxic effects1. Anti-vaccine activists need to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.
The vaccine in question is the MMR vaccine, but “Most vaccines licensed in Canada do not even contain thimerosal. Only influenza vaccine and most hepatitis B vaccines contain thimerosal” (Public Health Agency of Canada). In the U.S., thimerosol was removed from routine child vaccines in 2001 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Yet plenty of parents still refuse to give their children any vaccines for fear of autism.
Yes, vaccine injury is possible, in extremely rare cases. But the chances of having an adverse reaction to a vaccine is lower than the chances of contracting the disease you are being vaccinated against. It is also lower than your chance of getting into a car accident. Yet most people still drive in cars on a regular basis. Parents still drive their kids to school and activities every day without a second thought. So why do so many parents hesitate to give their children potentially life-saving vaccines? It is mind boggling that so much fear has been created surrounding vaccines given the overwhelming evidence supporting their safety and efficiency.
I used to work with children with autism. I saw first-hand the confusion and heartbreak that their parents had to deal with, wondering why their kid wouldn’t look them in the eye, or play “appropriately” for their age, or in some cases simply speak. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those parents to come to terms with the fact that their kids may not ever be just like all the other kids their age, or as they had imagined them to be. I cannot say that I know how they feel, but I can still empathize with them.
That is why I do not blame those parents who look for someone or something to blame for their child’s autism.
That is why I can understand how so many parents of autistic children misguidedly blame vaccines.
But I do blame the people who fear monger those parents into making illogical decisions.
Vaccination rates have gone down, but autism rates have failed to decline and now we’re dealing with outbreaks of whooping cough and measles to boot.
A few rotten apples with ulterior motives have used the strong emotions of parents of kids with autism to fuel a dangerous anti-vaccine movement. Misinformed yet very vocal parents have spread false information which has led to a drop in vaccination rates, leading to outbreaks of diseases that were preventable. Some have died from these diseases.
People don’t seem to get the severe consequences of the anti-vaccine movement. Not vaccinating your child against preventable illnesses doesn’t just threaten your child’s health, it threatens the general public’s health. The people it harms the most are those that are immunocompromised.
An older child who contracts whooping cough has a good chance of survival with treatment, but a 1 month old baby who’s immune system has not yet developed is in danger if exposed.
Newborns are not old enough to get vaccinated, but if everyone around them has been vaccinated they are protected by “herd immunity”. The same goes for immunocompromised children and adults.
If you or your child are eligible for vaccinations, it is your responsibility to get those vaccinations. In my opinion, parents who choose not to vaccinate their otherwise healthy children are no different than parents who drive their kids around with no seat belts or car seats.
I do believe that the rise in autism and other childhood neurological disorders is caused by a rise in the amount of toxic chemicals we use. But I do not believe that one chemical alone is the cause; rather an accumulation of multiple chemicals, coupled with the absence of proper nutrition that would allow the body to break these chemicals down efficiently. The best way to keep your kids healthy is to feed them real, nutritious food and keep them away from unnecessary chemical exposure.
Giving your child Tylenol every time you see a runny nose is NOT necessary.
Feeding your child highly processed food filled with synthetic ingredients is NOT necessary.
Slathering toxic products on your children is NOT necessary.
Vaccinating your kids IS necessary.
*Note: while I lean towards the pro-vaccine side, I do acknowledge that there are more vaccines prescribed than necessary these days (ex. Chickenpox isn’t exactly a crippling or fatal disease) and immunocompromised babies and kids should not get vaccinated until their immune systems can handle the load. That being said, I still think vaccines are necessary for public health and I’m grateful to live in a world where I don’t have to worry about my child contracting smallpox or polio.
1. Dórea JG, Farina M, Rocha JB. Toxicity of Ethylmercury (Thimerosol): a comparison with Methylmercury. J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Aug;33(8):700-11. doi: 10.1002/jat.2855. Epub 2013 Feb 11.