I am not an anti-vaxxer, nor do I religiously bow down at the altar of science.
I understand the societal benefits of herd immunity but I don’t like the idea of government mandates to require it.
I do not think that vaccines directly cause autism or other autism spectrum disorders, but I do find it interesting how the incident rate of these diagnoses are increasing right now. Per the CDC, in 2000 the rate was around 1 in 150 children and in 2010, the rate was 1 in 68 children. The current recommended vaccine schedule calls for 49 doses of 14 vaccines before the age of 6. In the 1990’s there were only 9 recommended vaccines administered in far fewer than 49 doses.
Are our medical professionals better trained and is society more accepting of these historically stigmatized disorders, making the current percentages more of an accurate representation of the population that has always been impacted? Or, is something else going on? Is something causing more and more of our children to have autism than ever before?
I don’t know the answer.
And, neither do the experts.
“This is harder than cancer because in cancer you can biopsy it; you can see it on an X-ray. We don’t have a blood test [for autism]. There is no biomarker, no image, no pathology.”
– Gary Goldstein, MD, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore
“There’s been a lot of progress in the last few years in terms of understanding the causes of autism. We know a lot more than we did. One number you see often is that about 10% of those with autism have a definitive diagnosis, a causative condition.”
– Marvin Natowicz, MD, PhD, a medical geneticist and vice chairman of the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic
Only 10%? That means up to 90% of cases have no known explanation…
I am uncomfortable with coming to any kind of conclusions based on those numbers. And, yet, that is exactly what we constantly do as a society and as individuals for this topic, and most others.
Why? Why do we do that? Why do we judge others and allow ourselves to become so unashamedly arrogant, self-righteous, and combative when even the experts know very little?
I am often outspoken about media’s attempt to spin complex issues into only two views, right or wrong, black or white, conservative or liberal, but I am still just as likely to fall victim to their tactics as anyone else. I understand why they do it. Complex issues are hard sells, people will lose interest and turn the channel or read something else a browser click away, and that lost audience equals lost revenue. You can’t run a business if you don’t make money, and news is business. It is big business. So, they take these complex issues and water them down to easily digestible sound bites that only hint at the true nature of the issues being discussed…
Where am I going with this?
I have a relative who was keeping her daughter, a happy and healthy child who was thriving by all accounts, current on vaccines according to the recommended schedule of doses and timing. And then, after receiving the first dose of the MMR vaccine, her daughter changed. She immediately showed signs that something was wrong. Wasn’t happy and playful anymore. Stopped meeting developmental milestones. Stopped thriving. And, eventually, she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome.
Did the vaccine cause that? Maybe. Maybe not. Would she have eventually developed these problems anyway? Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps the vaccine triggered something that might have remained dormant otherwise. Perhaps the vaccine only hastened the outward symptoms of what was an inevitability. Perhaps the vaccine had nothing at all to do with any of this, and the timing was purely coincidental.
But, as a parent, knowing this story, is it wrong for me to at least pause and consider the risks before I let the same vaccine be injected into my child? My happy, healthy, and thriving child…
I won’t claim to have done all the research I should have done. I won’t claim to be an expert. I won’t even claim to know what is best for my child, though, as his parent, I will claim that I know better than almost everyone else. I won’t claim that my child is more important than anyone he might put at risk if we choose not to vaccinate and therefore disrupt herd immunization rates, but, he is more important to me than the rest.
I will, however, claim that we need to be better about how quick we are to latch on to the sound bites we are fed via media and how quick we are to use those snippets of partial information to judge and blame and bash others…