A recent chat with a long-time friend who did not vaccinate her children led me to wonder, "Why are some people ignoring all evidence and hanging onto dated and disproven ideas about vaccines and autism?" Even she couldn’t give me a straight answer. Her judgment was too clouded by emotion.
I have some pretty solid opinions about vaccinating children too. I think most parents probably do. I know a parent or two that has a problem with vaccines, but after all of the research and almost 20 studies showing that there are no links to vaccines and autism, I just don’t get it.
In fact, in 2010 the first study that linked vaccines and autism, which was conducted 13 years ago, was retracted by the journal The Lancet. The British doctor who published the study was banned from practicing medicine.
When it comes to their kids, otherwise intelligent and rational people often fall into the trap of the fear-mongers.
This is an emotional topic. People only want the best for their kids, and it’s hard to argue with that. But that is what, in the end, makes so little sense when people choose not to vaccinate.
Here’s the thing - when you are a part of a community, choosing not to vaccinate your children is irresponsible. It’s a public health issue.
A decision not to vaccinate does NOT affect only your family. It can also affect the health of others. Just one single exposure to an outbreak could lead to various complications for the family and friends of an unvaccinated person, as well as others in the community.
The California Immunization Coalition puts it well, explaining that
“A child who is not immunized is automatically more susceptible to dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. Fighting these diseases can take a great deal of time, mandatory isolation, money, and pain. Vaccines were developed to prevent these diseases. Vaccines are very safe, and the threat of these diseases is very real.
“Children who are not immunized pose a threat of transmission when there is disease in the community. They can pass the disease on to babies who are too young for immunizations. They also pose a threat to children with medical exemptions, including children with leukemia, who cannot be immunized because of their medical condition…Children with exemptions can spread disease to such children who are unaware that they are not protected. Recent outbreaks of pertussis mostly involved children with exemptions. In the measles epidemic, students with personal beliefs exemptions were many times more likely to catch measles than those who were immunized. Once infected, an otherwise healthy child could die of certain diseases or have serious complications.”
Why is there even still a discussion about vaccines?
Simply because, as noted on WebMd, “Cases of autism continue to rise throughout the world. The CDC now estimates that as many as one in 110 children in the U.S. develop ASD, which includes a range of developmental disorders from Asperger’s syndrome to severe retardation and almost total social isolation. CDC Director of Immunization Safety and study researcher Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH…[notes that] the reason some children develop ASD remains a mystery.”
And that’s scary. But it’s time to focus less on the issue of vaccines and onto other causes.
“I don’t think there is much worthwhile to study anymore with regard to thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism,” DeStefano says on WebMd.
So here’s to hoping my friend and others like her can move forward in their thought processes, which should hopefully include protecting the health of their children and others by keeping vaccinated, and educating themselves fully before making a decision that is emotional, but perhaps not as complicated as we were led to believe a decade ago.