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November 28, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

A recent story in the Lansing State Journal reports that vaccination of children in mid-Michigan is down, but that overall more teenagers are getting vaccinated (“Vaccinations down in mid-Michigan, but trends are improving“).

I’ve done a lot of research on vaccination because of the rise of the anti-science anti-vaccination movement, which was led for a time by former Playboy Bunny Jenny McCarthy. The website Anti-Vaccine Body Count may sound a little crass, but it has up-to-date and reliable numbers on the toll that the movement has taken so far. If you’re shocked by the number of preventable illnesses (124757) as a result of people not vaccinating their children, you haven’t been paying attention.

The CDC monitored the trends in the pertussis outbreaks in 2012 (it’s declined this year) and found that the number of cases increased in forty-nine states. In Dallas, 329 cases had been reported as of November 14 (that’s 329 more cases than should be reported if people vaccinated as they should). The pertussis vaccine can wane over time, and with a breakdown of herd immunity as a result of the anti-vaccination movement giving people misinformation about how vaccinations work and bad information about their side effects outbreaks like is are all but inevitable.

Here’s the information you need to know: the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine for that matter, has never been tied to autism.  The papers published by Andrew Wakefield in the medical journal The Lancet that first reported the link between MMR and autism were completely retracted, as reported by the Guardian.

Sarah Boseley writes:

The medical journal’s editor, Richard Horton, told the Guardian today that he realised as soon as he read the GMC findings that the paper, published in February 1998, had to be retracted. “It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false,” he said. “I feel I was deceived.”

Despite repeated attempts to find a connection by people who support Wakefield or are generally paranoid about the pharmaceutical industry (and trust me when I say I have my own problems with them), no connection has been found in legitimate peer-reviewed studies. In fact, there has recently been some rumbling about a series of court cases that have “proven” that there is a link, but for some reason it’s being kept quiet. It’s all very hush-hush, you see, but the link is there.

Except it isn’t. Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine (a blog I very highly recommend for any news on the latest medical research and knowledge) notes that:

They did not even rule that the MMR causes Ryan’s injury, only that compensation is appropriate under their rules. Further, Ryan did not have autism. He had encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which caused brain injury. This can cause symptoms which superficially might resemble autism (to a non-expert), but it’s not autism.

Natural News is further reporting this as a vindication of Andrew Wakefield, when it is nothing of the sort. Wakefield’s faked science remains utterly discredited.

After addressing the facts of childhood encephalitis, Novella further states:

There is no clear evidence that vaccines increase the risk of encephalitis. In fact, they clearly decrease the risk of encephalitis caused by the infections they prevent. There is a net and very large advantage to being vaccinated in terms of encephalitis risk, even if we assume that cases of encephalitis occurring after vaccination were caused by the vaccination. We know statistically this cannot be true in all cases, and it is possible that it is true in no cases.

There is also sufficient evidence to show that vaccines do not cause autism. Further, encephalitis, while possibly causing brain injury, does not cause autism.

So, the question naturally arises: with all of this conflicting information, who can you trust? My advice would be to trust medical professionals and trained individuals. What’s a medical professional or trained individual? A doctor is a good start (and your best source), and anyone with an advanced degree in microbiology or immunology. This sounds like an appeal to authority, but based on my own scientific background and knowledge, I can say that this is a highly specialized topic that requires years of training to fully understand.

(Here’s another article from Forbes about the court rulings.)

Getting back to the article from the Lansing State Journal, under Michigan State Law it is required for children to be immunized before attending public or private schools. This is an extremely good policy as it maintains herd immunity and keeps children relatively safe from most of the worst kinds of infectious diseases.

I think the best thing we can do is to correct the misinformation about vaccines and push to make the public aware of the kinds of diseases that vaccines prevent. I’ll do my part:

Clinical Examples of Pertussis (warning: the video shows very young children suffering from whooping cough)

Rotavirus: A Family’s Story

Short story: get your children vaccinated and keep up with your own! It saves lives.

Simple as that.

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