Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper in 1998 that supposedly showed a connection between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism. The sample size was ridiculously small for a scientific study: 12 patients and no control group at all. Not only that, but the causation it was reported to show is a weak correlation at best and an outright lie at worst. The conclusions it drew about the connection to autism were as far as I understand it largely based on parents claiming to observe autistic behaviours in their children just after the vaccination — never mind the possibility that those might’ve existed prior to vaccination and not been observed until afterward! In 2009, the study was retracted from the journal it was published in and dismissed as bad science.

It turns out that it wasn’t just bad science. It was actually a deliberate fraud. It has come to light that Wakefield was being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to conduct this study, which was to become fuel in a law suit against pharmaceutical companies. If these allegations are true, then the absolutely unthinkable has happened: I have found a reason to hate him and his study even more than I already do.

Even after the 2009 dismissal of the research and this recent allegation of fraud, there are still those out there who hold strongly to the belief that vaccines cause autism and that therefore parents should not have their children vaccinated. This might seem like a relatively innocent idea but think about it for a moment and you’ll see that there’s a rather nasty implication here.

These parents consider the possibility of their child becoming autistic to be worse than the possibility that they might die from a preventable childhood disease.

Finding out his or her child is autistic can be a rather brutal blow to a parent. The barriers that Autism puts up to communication between parent and child can seem impossible to surpass. At the “low functioning” (for want of better terms) end of the spectrum, it can seem like autistics are condemned to a life of institutionalization, forever a burden to their caretakers and loved ones. But I have never heard of Autism killing anyone. Those childhood diseases? They absolutely kill people. That’s precisely the reason why we vaccinate children against them.

So when you say you won’t vaccinate your child because you’re afraid that he or she might become autistic as a result, what I hear is that you think Autism is a fate worse than death. Would you really rather that your child die of a preventable disease than carry the burden of supporting your child through their struggle with Autism? What kind of parental love is that?

I think it is largely to my mother’s credit that I have turned out the way I have. She didn’t give up on me just because it was difficult for her. She fought tooth and nail so that I would receive the care and support I needed and I wasn’t even her only child! And yes, she had me vaccinated. To me, that’s parental love. Being so worried about having to bear the burden of supporting a child with autism that you’d rather risk your child dying of measles? That’s just incredibly selfish.

So if you’re still clinging to the notion that vaccines cause Autism and that this is a good reason not to have your child protected against preventable but potentially fatal diseases, get a grip.

Autism is most certainly not a fate worse than death.

Advertisements