What a terrible injustice to vaccine makers, and to doctors and nurses who give vaccines. The injustice was that of Wakefield and his associates when they published a report in 1998 that linked MMR vaccines with autism. That created a worldwide furor (yes worldwide through internet scuttlebutt) over the MMR vaccine and autism. Why do I call it an injustice?
The little told story of this incendiary conclusion of Wakefield and friends is that their conclusion was false. In 2006, seven out of ten investigators retracted their support for Wakefield’s conclusions. Furthermore it was revealed that Wakefield was funded by lawyers who brought cases against vaccine companies. This fact has lead Wakefield to court to defend his falsification of his data. So in fact, there has never been a verifiable research study supporting an autism-vaccine link. Yet, the rumors and bad mouthing of vaccines continue. Many medical groups from different countries have looked at vaccine data and have concluded just the opposite – that there is no link between vaccines and autism. There is no link between MMR vaccine and autism and there is no link between mercury in vaccines and autism. So why do people still fear vaccines?
It is easy for a family with an autistic child to conclude that the autism diagnoses coincided with the end of the primary vaccine series. That is a coincidence of timing – but not cause and effect. Yet this makes it easy to perpetuate the vaccine fear that vaccines cause autism. They do not. There is no reason to fear vaccines. In fact, there is good reason to fear not being vaccinated.
In my twenty-five year career in pediatrics I have seen cases of measles, mumps, meningitis, chicken pox and polio – all preventable through vaccines. We see dramatically less of these harmful illnesses through the vaccines we give. Pediatricians use to do spinal taps weekly on babies looking for meningitis. Now spinal taps are a rare medical procedure in pediatrics. Some people think that we don’t need to give these vaccines as often since these diseases are more rare. Nothing can be further from the truth. Last year, measles and mumps swept across part of our country from the Midwest to the Northeast. Other bacteria that cause ear infections, pneumonias, and meningitis are still alive and well. Whooping cough still troubles communities. Even polio is not eliminated worldwide. The risks of vaccines are minimal compared to one death caused by one of these nasty illnesses.
If you are worried about vaccines, you need not be. Nonetheless, talk to your doctor. Bring this article to him or her. See if your doctor can verify the truths in this article. The fact of the matter is this, the worldwide rumor mongering about vaccines has been a great force to battle. We, in medicine, have not been very good at battling the vaccine naysayers. But the evidence is clear and more confident conversations about the great benefits of vaccines have to occur. In reality, there is little fear. Vaccines save lives and your child is safer in this world when he or she is vaccinated.