Would You Rather Have an Autistic Child or a Dead Child?

Yes, I know, it’s a little OTT, but that is essentially what it all boils down to, doesn’t it?

Autism or Death?

Image credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / freedigitalphotos.net

Vaccines prevent diseases that can kill. These diseases are deadly. If they don’t kill you, they can certainly cause a lot of suffering – for your child and for you as the parent watching your child suffer. So here’s the hypothetical question: what would you choose – autistic child or dead child?

If it were me, I would take the autistic child any day because there is a lot you can do for an autistic child. Not so much for a dead one, though.

If you’re not convinced that the risk of remaining unvaccinated is really that dire, perhaps these articles will put things into perspective:

Anti-Vaccination Movement Causes a Deadly Year in the U.S.

“Earlier this year, researchers confirmed that a 2010 whooping cough outbreak in California, the nation’s worst in over 50 years, was spread by children whose parents applied for non-medical exemptions to school vaccination requirements, many for religious reasons.

The study showed that more cases of whooping cough occurred in the clusters of unvaccinated children than not, resulting in 9,120 instances of the disease and 10 deaths. In San Diego county alone, there were 5,100 exemptions and 980 whooping cough cases. “

Map of preventable disease outbreaks shows the influence of anti-vaccination movements

“The Council of Foreign Relations Global Health Program started tracking news reports about vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks late in 2008. It has now produced an interactive map that shows that data, tracking the number of recorded cases of diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough across the world between 2008 and 2014. The results show a surprising number of vaccine-preventable diseases in developed countries (US, Europe and Australasia) with access to vaccinations.

The Council of Foreign Relations’ map may be an imperfect study of preventable diseases worldwide, but it is packed with evidence — both empirical and anecdotal — that illnesses humanity worked out how to halt fifty years ago are again a threat in the west.”

But this is all making the assumption that vaccines do cause autism. Do they, though? Because it would seem incredibly misguided to put a child at risk against deadly diseases in order to protect that child from the very rare likelihood that the child might develop autism. So let’s examine this contentious question…

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

Based on the current evidence that we have, it seems to be unlikely that there is a link. The full explanation can be read on WebMD – Autism-Vaccine Link: Evidence Doesn’t Dispel Doubts. These are the excerpts:

MMR Vaccine and Autism

The MMR scare started [in 1998] with a report published in The Lancet that described the cases of eight children who, as their parents recalled, developed autistic symptoms and digestive ailments shortly after getting their first MMR dose. (It should be noted that this study has since been retracted for fraudulent claims)

Since that initial finding, 14 studies including millions of children in several countries consistently show no significant difference in autism rates between children who got the MMR vaccine those who didn’t.

The bottom line: It’s very unlikely that the MMR causes autism, researchers say.

What about Mark Geier, MD, PhD, a former researcher at the National Institutes of Health, and his son, David Geier, whose studies did show a strong link between autism and vaccines? An Institute of Medicine panel reviewed all of the evidence on vaccines and autism in 2004. But the reviewers excluded the Geier studies, finding them “uninterpretable.” The AAP issued a statement explaining how the Geiers were probably wrong, listing 15 critical errors or omissions in just one of their studies. Some of the errors in the studies made by the Geiers have been explained by Marie McCormick, MD, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Thimerosal and Autism

Thimerosal is a chemical preservative used in some vaccines. It contains mercury in a form that is suspected to cause autism. Thimerosal use has been significantly reduced since 2001 and current routine childhood vaccines are available thimerosal-free. 

The 2004 IOM review included five large-scale studies that compared autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. These and other recent studies, including one published in TheNew England Journal of Medicine in September 2007, have shown that children who received vaccines with thimerosal are not more likely to have been diagnosed with autism than those that weren’t vaccinated or received less thimerosal from vaccines. – WebMD

Risk versus Benefits

A large body of research indicates that vaccination is unlikely to cause autism. Even so, experts have not completely ruled out the possibility of rare cases where uncommon scenarios may be at play. The final consideration has to be the question: do the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks?

“Two hundred years after the discovery of vaccine by the English physician Edward Jenner, immunization can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. A further 16 million deaths a year could be prevented if effective vaccines were deployed against all potentially vaccine-preventable diseases.” – Unicef

More:  Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide – WHO

The Information Age

We are in an age where information is readily available everywhere. These days everyone is an expert on anything. But just because it’s printed doesn’t mean it’s reliable. Just because a good friend told you, doesn’t make it a fact. If we want to use this information wisely, we need to be critical and analytical, especially when it involves serious issues, like life and death. Weigh in the information and search for the evidence before you accept the “facts”, because I’ve seen numerous times how misleading headlines lead busy readers onto the garden path when the actual body of the article provides no evidence supporting it.

Don’t believe everything you read. Certainly don’t believe me. Just do your own research – real research.

Further Reading:

Update 24/7/2014

While we’re on the subject of what actually has been linked to autism, studies show that Common Mutations Account for Bulk of Autism Risk. In other words, family ties and genetic inheritance are more likely to lead to your child developing autism. Maybe we should also start screening partners or choose not to procreate with them?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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