My older son was born in 2003 and diagnosed with autism in 2007, when proponents of the vaccine/autism link were at their loudest. Since my son had displayed autism-like tendencies from birth, I never bought into this theory, and both he and his younger brother are up-to-date with their vaccines.
I find myself constantly having to defend my parenting choices where vaccinations are concerned. I get accused of not doing my research (I have), of supporting the interests of Big Pharma (I really have no feelings about Big Pharma one way or the other), and of pumping my children full of toxins (most of the ingredients in vaccines are present at higher doses in what we eat, drink and breathe).
The whole debate mystifies me a little, not only because of the overwhelming scientific evidence refuting the autism/vaccine link, but because there are those who believe that autism is such a bad thing that they are willing to force bleach enemas into their kids to “flush out the vaccines”. I hate to break it to you, but if you do that, your kid will be seriously ill, and he or she will still have autism.
A growing number of parents are basing their decisions not to vaccinate their children on myths instead of science. Some of these myths include the following:
1. Courts have confirmed the link between autism and the MMR vaccine. This myth is based on one Italian court case featuring a child who was diagnosed with autism a year after being vaccinated. The court found in favour of the child’s parents, and its ruling was based on a flawed, fraudulent report that has been discredited. And let’s face it, how much should we trust a court system that stated that a man cannot be convicted of rape if his victim was wearing jeans?
2. Vaccine shedding has resulted in more measles cases than unvaccinated kids. In one of the books in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, Douglas Adams likened the chances of something with the odds of dropping a ball bearing from a moving 747 and hitting an egg sandwich. The odds of vaccine shedding – the phenomenon of someone catching a disease from someone who has recently been given a live vaccine – are similar. There has been the one-in-a-gazillion case of the rubella portion of the MMR vaccine shedding into breast milk, and in over 55 million doses, there have been five reported cases of shedding in the Varicella chicken pox vaccine.
3. There is almost no autism in the Amish community, which does not vaccinate. Both parts of this statement are incorrect. Most Amish parents do vaccinate, and autism does exist in the Amish community, although at a lower rate than in the general population.
4. Diseases like measles and polio have been reduced not because of vaccines, but because of better living conditions. Substandard living conditions, including poor sanitation and lack of access to a safe water supply, exist in many poverty-stricken places in Africa. While some diseases, like bilharzia and cholera, spread very quickly in places like this, the incidence of measles and similar illnesses has dropped dramatically in places that have had vaccination programs.
5. People who vaccinate their kids have nothing to worry about. A common argument of those who choose not to vaccinate is, “If your kids are vaccinated, what are you so worried about?” That is true – I’m not too worried about my kids, whose shots are up to date. On the other hand, I am worried about the elderly person who lives in the same house as me. I worry about one of my loved ones, who is immune compromised because of the chemotherapy she is currently enduring. I worry about a friend’s two sons, who are transplant recipients and cannot receive vaccines. I worry about the pregnant women I know, and about the newborns who are too young to be vaccinated.
6. Measles, chicken pox and whooping cough are normal childhood illnesses. Anytime you put the words “normal” and “illness” into the same sentence, there is a problem. Illness, by its nature, is not normal. It’s a state of imbalance, of the body not functioning the way it’s supposed to. When these illnesses were common, it is true that many people got through them without serious consequences. But there were those who didn’t. There were the babies who died of pneumonia, the pregnant women who lost their babies, the kids who died of encephalitis, the people who suffered irreversible loss of sight.
7. The risk of vaccine injury means that no-one should vaccinate their kids. To play devil’s advocate for a moment, vaccine injury may exist. In a small percentage of the population, vaccines are alleged to cause serious illness and even death. But that is not the fault of the vaccine. It is simply a tragic result of the genetic makeup of some individuals. People who are at significant risk of vaccine injury have a very valid medical reason not to vaccinate – in fact, they are among the people we need to protect via herd immunity. But to say that no-one should vaccinate because of the few who are genuinely at risk is as ridiculous as saying that no-one should wear seatbelts because of the handful of people who have been harmed or killed by seatbelts in vehicle accidents.
When making the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate, parents need to be driven more by the facts and less by emotion and media-generated fear.
Where do you stand on the vaccine debate? Do you believe that vaccines should be mandatory with an allowance for medical exemptions?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle (Running For Autism) of Toronto, Canada. Photo credit: PATH Global Health. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
This post is a continuation of the interview with Dr. V.R. Purushotham that ran on Tuesday, April 23rd.
In an effort to better understand health care services in India and help expand public awareness, World Moms Blog Senior Editor, Purnima, has interviewed several physicians. The first in this series is an interview with Dr. V. R. Purushotham, a pediatrician in Bangalore, India, and is being run during World Immunization Week. He is consulting in St.John’s Medical College, Bangalore.
Purnima Ramakrishnan: What are some of the most pressing health concerns for children where you work?
Dr. V.R. Purushotham: The primary concerns are anemia, malnutrition and infections as these are major causes of poor growth and mortality in the community.
PR: What is the socioeconomic level of the area you work in? Are the families of the children rich, poor, middle class, etc.?
Dr. P: Being a referral hospital we see children from a varied strata but a majority are from a weaker socioeconomic level.
PR: What is your opinion on the alleged link between vaccines and autism, and how do you answer parents who come to you with those concerns?
Dr. P: There have been enough scientific studies to confirm that MMR vaccine is not associated with autism. The timing of the vaccine was a major reason as to why it was implicated. Previous scientific papers stating their association have been refuted. My view is that the damage caused by measles, mumps and rubella is far more than an unlikely association which is unproven.
PR: What is the biggest obstacle in India for all children to receive routine vaccinations? – Government policy? Financial resources? Supply of vaccines? Access to healthcare facilities? Trained practitioners? Geographical barriers/lack of infrastructure to reach rural areas? Cultural beliefs about vaccines?
Dr. P: The obstacles are multifactorial, but financial constraints and infrastructure would be the major ones. Community education initiatives have helped in this regard too and we are gradually seeing a positive change towards improved healthcare.
PR: And what could help overcome those obstacles the most? Political influence? Foreign resources? Medical staff training? Communication/Awareness campaign?
Dr. P: Better awareness and door to door coverage services would help us overcome these barriers .
PR: As far as you have followed World Moms Blog, do you think WMB has been making an impact in improving the vaccination and immunisation awareness in India? Or do you think blogs and internet do not reach those socio economic echelons where people do not adhere to vaccinations? And if so, how do you think WMB can help bridge the gap?
Dr. P: Any forum which discusses and promotes health from the grassroots in a positive manner is playing a constructive part in the society and WMB is one of them. Having said that, it is the personal and community based initiatives which tend to have a larger impact. I concur that the population with access to blogs would be well aware of the basic requirements of vaccination .
The fact is that you are and will make a difference to the people who do read WMB and I would urge you to keep up the good work.
This post is the first in a series of interactions with physicians and health care workers in India by Purnima Ramakrishnan on behalf of the World Moms Blog.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The Alchemist, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
The photograph in this post is credited to Jennifer Burden and was taken at a UNICEF Family Health Day in Kampala, Uganda, where children were being immunized in October 2012.
(l to r) WMB editors Jennifer Burden, Nicole Melancon and Kyla P’an interviewing Shot@Life Executive Director, Peg Willingham
On January 29th, three members of the World Moms Blog editorial team—Nicole Melancon, Kyla P’an and WMB Founder, Jennifer Burden—traveled to Washington, DC to attend a summit focusing on the Shot@Life campaign, hosted by the United Nations Foundation. The following is excerpts from an interview we conducted with the campaign’s Executive Director, Peg Willingham, about Shot@Life, the UN Foundation’s new global vaccination initiative:
World Moms Blog: Peg, can you share some background with us about the UN Foundation and how the Shot@Life campaign evolved?
Peg Willingham: Sure, The UN Foundation was established in 1998, when the founder of CNN (Cable News Network), Ted Turner, who has a deep interest in foreign affairs,wanted a way to support the work of the United Nations. He made a US$1 billion grant, establishing the Foundation to serve as a (more…)
Pneumonia is the biggest most solvable global health problem affecting children. And every 20 seconds a child in the world dies from pneumonia, according to Dr. Orin Levine of the International Vaccine Access Center of Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Levine also says that the most cost effective way to prevent death by pneumonia for the world’s children is by vaccination programs such as the ones that the GAVI Alliance administers in developing countries.
So, in honor of World Pneumonia Day today, the World Moms Blog writers are discussing their personal experiences with vaccinations in today’s Saturday Sidebar.
How do you feel about vaccinating your children?
Twin Mom in Pennsylvania, USA says:
“At 8 weeks old, my daughter spent 10 days in the hospital because of Rotavirus (Rotavirus along with pneumonia is a leading cause of death of children under 5 years old in the world according to the GAVI Alliance)…I am also curious if any efforts are spent educating parents that truly feel vaccinations cause more harm than good – I was approached by a mom when my kids were very little … She was attempting to convince me not to vaccinate my girls…. Didn’t go over well!”
Kirsten Kolb in Switzerland explains:
“My blood pressure rises each time the topic of vaccinations comes up, (more…)