The vaccine-autism controversy has been brewing ever since Andrew Wakefield published his infamous 1998 paper in The Lancet. Fourteen years later, the study has been retracted and scientists have had no luck finding a legitimate link between childhood vaccinations and autism. Yet, the debate rages on.
Why does over 20 percent of the population still think that vaccines cause autism? And what happens when parents act on their fears, refusing to inoculate their own children against dangerous diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella?
JENNY MCCARTHY: Evan was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Without a doubt in my mind, I believe vaccinations triggered Evan’s autism.
SETH MNOOKIN: Vaccines do not cause autism.
CARA SANTA MARIA: Hi everyone, Cara Santa Maria here. And that’s Seth Mnookin. He’s a lecturer in MIT’s graduate program in science writing and the author of “The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy.” I asked Seth to chat with me about why this is still a controversial subject, even though there’s not a shred of legitimate evidence linking vaccines with autism. First, we talked about Andrew Wakefield, author of the infamous 1998 paper published in The Lancet, which described 12 children who showed symptoms of autism sometime after receiving a vaccine to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella infection.
SM: It was an atrocious paper, it was called, almost the minute it was published, the worst paper The Lancet has ever published. And we’ve since learned a lot of things that were wrong that we didn’t even know at the time in 1998, like the fact that Wakefield was receiving research money from a law firm that was working with parents who were interested in suing vaccine manufacturers, like the fact that Wakefield had taken out a patent for an alternative measles vaccine several months before the paper was published. But what I think is kind of interesting is, forget all of that, it’s insane to make population-wide conclusions on a 12-person case series. And you know sometimes if I’m talking to a group of people and this comes up, I’ll count off 12 people and say, ‘and based on that case series I’m going to go ahead and conclude that population is 90 percent female or everyone is over the age of 50,’ or whatever.
CSM: The media played a large role in spreading misinformation about vaccines and autism following the publication of Wakefield’s study. Although The Lancet officially retracted the paper in 2010, the controversy still persists to this day. In fact, just last year, 21.4 percent of respondents in the Thomson-Reuters NPR Health Poll said they believe that vaccines can cause autism. It doesn’t help that well-known figures like Jenny McCarthy continue to spread anti-vaccine rhetoric. There’s even a website called JennyMcCarthyBodyCount.com. It claims that even though she’s not directly responsible for the thousands of preventable illnesses and hundreds of preventable deaths since 2007, if her campaign against vaccination caused even one preventable death, that’s one too many.
SM: Once you introduce misinformation into a society, it then lives on its own. And, it’s, as we’ve seen with vaccines, it’s impossible to unscare someone. Once an idea is planted in your mind, especially about your children, you can’t just then sort of wipe the board clean, ‘oh it turns out that actually ignore everything we were saying.’
CSM: But we have to learn to wipe the board clean, because there’s no scientific evidence linking vaccines with autism. None. If I left dinner last night and it started to rain, would I avoid that restaurant in the future, fearing that every time I ate there, it would influence the weather? Of course not! Autism symptoms commonly appear in children soon after they’re old enough to get vaccinated. This doesn’t mean they’re connected. And those who refuse to see this may be less likely to vaccinate their own children, putting them at risk of infection. And if their kids don’t get sick, sometimes they see this as proof positive that vaccines aren’t necessary. But what they don’t know is that the reason their kids aren’t getting sick is because all the kids around them are vaccinated. It’s called herd immunity, but it’s only so effective.
SM: I compared it once to like a herd of buffalo, kind of encircling their weakest members to ensure that they don’t get picked off by predators. So when you have enough members of a population protected or who have immunity against a given disease, that disease can’t get a toehold in the community. So you know take measles, which has a 90 percent infection rate, and if you were in a community where there was 95 percent immunity and then you had a traveler from Africa or Europe come over infected with measles, there would be a good chance that you could contain that because it’s going to be hard for measles to spread from person to person because there just aren’t those vectors.
JM: Take a look around. I believe science was wrong yet again. [cheering]
CSM: Do you know someone who still sees a link between vaccines and autism, even though no link exists? Reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or leave your comments … on The Huffington Post. Come on, Talk Nerdy To Me!
via The Huffington Post
- ABC’s ‘The View’ gives Jenny McCarthy a platform for crackpot autism theories (illuminutti.com)
- The Benefits Of Vaccines (illuminutti.com)
- MIT professor: ABC’s The View legitimatizing dangerous unscientific autism claims (rawstory.com)
- Backlash over Jenny McCarthy’s ‘View’ on vaccines (thelead.blogs.cnn.com)
- Toronto Public Health is right to defend vaccination: Editorial (thestar.com)
- Jenny McCarthy’s disturbing views on autism: Editorial (nj.com)
- Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts (junkscience.com)
- The Price Of The Autism-Measles Panic, 15 Years Later (forbes.com)
via The Soap Box
The anti-vaccination movement is a large group of like minded people whom believe that vaccines cause autism (along with some other stuff, but mostly autism). While there are a lot of things I’ve noticed about this movement, I’ve managed to narrow it down to five.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about the anti-vaccination movement:
5. There’s no need for it to exist.
If you are part of the anti-vaccination movement, then you are in a movement that does not need to exist, and in fact shouldn’t exist.
Every claim made about vaccines being harmful and causing debilitating neurological conditions (most commonly autism) has been proven to be false, and vaccines have been proven to be not only the cheapest method of disease control and prevention, but also the best, and the safest.
Complications from vaccines are rare (around maybe 1 and 1000) and mostly minor. Serious complications are extremely rare (around 1 to 2 per million), and deaths are even rarer than that.
4. It’s biggest supporters are a bunch of cranks.
The biggest supporters (and leaders) of the anti-vaccination are not only people who should not be giving out medical advice, most of them aren’t even doctors (and the ones that are tend to have some questionable credentials).
Andrew Wakefield, the ex-doctor whom’s 1998 research paper that was published in the Lancet that claimed to show a connection between vaccines and autism, was stuck off of the British General Medical Council register (the British equivalent of having your medical license revoked) after the Lancet retracted his paper after it was proven his research was based off of fraud. He still claims his research was not fraudulent, and that there was a conspiracy against him to destroy his research (despite the fact that it took over ten years from the time his paper was published for his paper to be retracted, and for the GMC to strike off his name).
Then there is Alex Jones, who thinks that vaccines are being used to create genetically modified people and causes diseases, not prevent them.
3. The movement is based off of lies.
The whole bases for the anti-vaccine movement is based off of the proven fraudulent 1998 research paper by Andrew Wakefield that claims there is a connection between the MMR vaccines and austim. The paper was highly controversial even when it came out, and the claims made in it had been dis-proven years before it was formally retracted for fraud.
Other lies made by the movement are that vaccines have been made more dangerous over the years (in fact they have been made safer) and that and the rates of autism in children who are un-vaccinated is far lower then those that have been vaccinated, which is false. In fact the rates are the same.
Here is an infographic that shows the rate of incidence of a disease appearing with and without a vaccine. Here is the source of the data.
- Celebrities Endorsing Stupid Things: (like) The Anti-Vaccination Movement (illuminutti.com)
- The vaccine debate (duckduckgrayduck.com)
- Vaccines and Jenny McCarthy: the Oprah mea culpa interview doctors want to see (drjengunter.wordpress.com)
- Anti-vaccination campaigns is a major threat to WHO hopes to eradicate measles (doubtfulnews.com)
- Grieving parents speak out against anti-vaccination extremists (richarddawkins.net)
- Measles in the UK (randi.org)
- The anti-vaccination fraud: Health officials forced to get tough as once-dormant diseases returning (news.nationalpost.com)
- JENNY MCCARTHY, MASS MURDERER: Grieving parents speak out against anti-vaccination extremists. A… (pjmedia.com)