MMR Vaccine and Autism Questions

October 7, 2007

Many parents are asking if there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The questions are out there so I am going to try to help people find the answers.

Does or can the MMR vaccine cause autism?

The Answer: NO

Then why are we hearing about them together so much recently?

The Answer: The short answer is irresponsible journalism. The long answer includes multiple factors, the news loves to pick up stories that will draw big reactions, more people are speaking publically about their children’s autism, many parents of autistic children have a hard time comprehending how this happened to their child and try to think back to what happened near the onset of the disease, MMR vaccines are given at the same age that many children begin expressing symptoms, and the most recent thing to draw attention to this theory is a couple celebrity moms of autistic children have come forward in support. While I cannot understand the plight of a child with autism’s mother, I can understand their desire to blame something. The problem is this theory holds no scientific weight and gives mothers a scapegoat. The theory of a link between autism and MMR vaccination is widely held, the problem is it is held mainly by parents not doctors, and parents make better news stories.

Do some researchers believe there is a link?

A researcher Dr. Wakfield is the only person to suggest a link. So all this hoopla is over a paper he published in 1998. He believes that the vaccine leads to gut inflammation which leads to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that might cause developmental disorders including autism. It was only based on 25 kids and large based on what their parents not doctors thought. Of the 12 researchers on his team, 10 have come forward to denounce the research.

Is there any proof of a link between autism and MMR vaccines?

Here is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s official explanation:

Autism is a developmental disorder. Children with autism usually have trouble communicating verbally and non-verbally and experience difficulty interacting socially. The media reported that there was a link between MMR and autism following the publication of a paper by Dr Wakefield, in The Lancet (a medical journal) in 1998.

Dr Wakefield’s theory was that the MMR vaccine might lead to gut inflammation, which decreases the amount of vitamins and nutrients that children can absorb. As a result, he suggested, this might cause developmental disorders such as autism. This theory was based on two studies involving 25 children. Dr Wakefield’s study was of poor quality because it included only vaccinated children and was based primarily on what parents could remember. Parents understandably are more likely to link changes in behaviour with memorable events like vaccination.

A number of much better designed studies, involving large numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, have tested this theory. These studies have concluded that there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism. The best study looked at autism and MMR vaccination in all children born in Denmark over a number of years. No link was found.

In March 2004, 10 of the 12 researchers who worked with Dr Wakefield published a retraction in the Lancet stating that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.12

Here are some links that I think will clarify even more for you the importance of MMR vaccination in children and the infeasibility of a link between the vaccine and autism.

            Quack Watch: A site the debunks medical myths in lay terms

Statistical Research in Japan: The rate of autism continues to rise after Japan stops giving the MMR vaccine and switches to administering each of the single dose vaccines separately (due to a problem with one of the components that they were fixing).

Global Research: This is a more technical explanation, it links out to papers from all around the world showing there is no link.

National Institute of Health: A counter point to the feeling “aren’t the diseases protected by MMR mild compared to the lifelong problem of autism”

Take Home Message?

There is no reason to believe there is any link between autism and the MMR vaccine. In countries where the rate of people getting the MMR vaccine has declined, autism rates have either stayed the same or increase, and the incident of mumps, measles and rubella have increased, particularly measles which can be fatal. The diseases have the potential to be eradicated worldwide if there is concerted effort and global immunization. But like all vaccines, allergies and immune problems can alter the effects (not to cause autism or any other developmental disorder). So you should always talk to your doctor for his or her opinion specifically related to your child’s medical health. Just remember no matter how emotionally convincing, you should be taking doctor’s not upset mother’s advice when it comes to your child’s health.

5 Commonly Misdiagnosed Disease

September 27, 2007

Just thought this was interesting. It is 5 of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases. Some seem understandably hard to detect while others seem hard to miss. It just goes to show why it is important to ask questions and take your health seriously. Being proactive about health is the best way to avoid misdiagnoses for you and your family. I know a lot of you out there have aging parents (myself included) and it is important to be there as they get older and doctors tend to push them aside. I worked in the geriatric portion of a hospital and saw it first hand, doctors sometimes make quick assumptions/decisions and don’t think it is worth their time to discuss it with the patient or the family in sufficient detail. It also points to the need for doctors to be more thorough when examining patients. The 5 specifically mentioned in the article are:

1. Aortic dissection

2. Cancer

3. Clogged arteries

4. Heart attack

5. Infection:

Check Out CNN for the full story

The Integral Immigrants

September 26, 2007

They’ve lived among us. Sold us goods, provided us with services, patronized our business, and boosted the economy in the process. While there is a negative association with immigrants in a lot of communities, some are finding out just how important immigrant populations can be. Although people are outwardly only talking about illegal immigrants (that way xenophobia can be justified since it is “not their foreignness, but rather that they are criminals”) a lot of the same resentments are echoed privately about legal immigrants.

I’ve never understood the reasoning. I believe that they should try to find more legal ways into the country, but I also think the US should provide more legal ways into the country. I agree there needs to be some way for them to contribute more in taxes to support the services they use like the schools and hospitals. But I also understand how important to our economy they have become. Many of the salons, restaurants, and other places I go, employ illegal immigrants in some way. Whether they are pumping my gas, planting flowers outside an apartment building, cleaning the movie theatre at night, or taking my dishes away at a restaurant, they are doing something. They are working, and working hard. And in my book that is what should make an American. Strong desires to work hard and get ahead in life are or should be core American values. But there are millions of Americans citizens in the United States who don’t work and don’t see a problem with that. In fact some of them probably are against immigrants who are willing to come here under dangerous circumstances and work in terrible conditions just to have the opportunity to see some American money. People will argue they steal jobs, long after sociologist proved for the millionth time that they aren’t taking the jobs you or I would work. And so what if they get educated and move up in the world or their children do? Isn’t that what America is about.

According to a NY Times article, people in a New Jersey town are finding out just how integral the immigrants have become. A little more than a year ago Riverside, NJ because the first town in Jersey to enact laws to penalize anyone who rents to or employs illegal immigrants. Hundreds of immigrants left the small town. People were initially happy as the noise, crowding and traffic decreased. But then the real consequences of such legislation began. The businesses that had large immigrant customer bases were destroyed. Hair salons, restaurants, and local shops started losing business so fast, many had to close. The economy is shriveling, and now the already strained budget needs to accommodate multiple lawsuits that arose in response the ordinance. Seeing what the ordinance was doing to the town, they were forced to rescind it. They were the first town in New Jersey to enact such legislation, but they are not the first whose economy forced them to rescind it.

I’ll leave you with a quote from their Mayor, “I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden. A lot of people did not look three years out.”

Article: Think Twice Xenaphobes