The relationship between autism and vaccines has been a major issue for the past 12 years. Actress Jenny McCarthy and politicians such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) have tragically convinced thousands of parents not get their children vaccinated. The link is completely untrue, and many of the leading people who perpetuated this myth were cruel profit seekers. The parents of over 5,000 autistic kids are now requesting compensation for vaccine injury. Of more importance, childhood diseases almost unknown in the U.S. have come back and children have needlessly died.
The controversy began on February 28, 1998 when a study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield was published in the UK journal “The Lancet”. He claimed his research demonstrated a link between the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccines to autism.
Wakefield received huge attention and major additional studies were immediately conducted. None of them found any link but vaccination rates never recovered. There have now been 25 studies which have found no link between MMR and autism. Japan withdrew the MMR vaccine in 1993 but cases of autism increased.
It has now been revealed that Wakefield and his colleagues faked their research. A British journal describes their work as “an elaborate fraud,” and “The Lancet” retracted Wakefield’s study. All of the docotrs who co-signed Wakefield’s work have withdrawn their names.
Britain’s General Medical Council says Wakefield demonstrated a ”callous disregard” for the children used in his study and said he acted unethically, dishonestly and irresponsibly. Wakefield has lost his license to practice medicine and had a monetary relationship with lawyers who were suing vaccine makers.
Celebrity Jenny McCarthy continues to defend him. The result of all of this fear is that Britain’s immunization rates dropped to a low of 80%, and has recovered only slightly. Measles is now epidemic in the UK.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of U.S. parents have delayed or declined at least one of their children’s shots. This has led to the needless re-emergence of once-conquered diseases.
California recently suffered a whooping cough outbreak that sickened 7,800 people and killed 10 babies. Medical professionals say whooping cough has increased significantly because of parents who will not allow their children to be vaccinated.
Too many parents have forgotten that vaccines are the reason why huge numbers of children aren’t suffering from diseases like polio, measles and pertussis every day. Dr. Paul Offit is the author of Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. He is the chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and his previous book was Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.
Offit says outbreaks of measles and pertussis in recent years speak to the very real dangers which come from the campaign not to vaccinate: “You don’t get a sense of greater social responsibility. That notion that we’re all in it together is gone.”
He says parents are wrong in worrying that children are getting too many shots too soon. He says a baby’s immune system could handle as many as 10,000 vaccines. Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and vaccine researcher at George Washington University, says claiming vaccines cause autism is like saying the world is flat.
Jenny McCarthy never graduated from college but she attacks Dr. Offit’s credentials because he is not autism expert. Offit responded:
I would argue that Jenny McCarthy is also not an autism expert. Nor are any of these other celebrities you see on TV. But I have read the research on the subject since 1940; I’d say that I’ve read as much if not more than anyone else who is also ‘not an expert.’ And as a scientist and clinician, I can form opinions that are reasoned and well-informed.
I’m never going to be an autism expert. I am a vaccine expert. I don’t represent myself as an autism expert, and I think people like Jenny McCarthy need to be upfront about that as well. They’re experts with their own children, they’re not experts in autism.