Riley Black, RN
Lincoln County Public Health
A major part of my job is making sure that the community is educated and updated on reliable and evidence-based information. This is the one topic were apparently the CDC, myself, and the entire global medical community including the WHO, NIH, American Academy of Pediatrics, are flat wrong… or so we are being told by very scared and misinformed parents.
Lets explain autism. Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before or around the age of 3 and affects the part of the brain associated with social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Extensive and ongoing medical and genetic research over the last 2 decades has found that there is no one cause of autism just like there is no one type of autism. Only over the last five years, scientist have identified that there are a number of rare genetic changes and mutations that are associated with autism and that most cases involve complex risk factors and maternal influences on early fetal brain development. This means that the clearest evidence and research indicates that these factors involve events that take place before birth.
Prenatal and maternal health are being the most closely researched to evaluate what factors increase fetal exposure to risks that may lead to autism disorders. Those exposures likely include maternal age, maternal infections, and maternal exposure to pesticides and environmental pollution. However, parents still fear that vaccines are unsafe and may be a large factor in the development of autism.
Autism acquired by vaccination was first proposed as a topic of research in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues. The research that Dr. Wakefield conducted was on the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and he hypothesized that this vaccine may predispose children to behavioral regression and pervasive developmental disorders. He published the study, which was conducted on a sample size of only 12 children, in the Lancet, a British medical journal. Despite the lack of statistical, numerical, and evidenced based data, Dr. Wakefield concluded that there was a “definable and evident link” between autism and vaccination. The fall-out of Dr. Wakefield’s publication led to global fear about vaccination which in turn led to a drastic decrease in the rate of childhood immunizations and the resurgence of nearly eradicated diseases like polio and measles.
This publication resulted in a mass response by the medical and scientific communities across the globe that launched extensive professional epidemiological studies that were conducted and published, refuting his claims that there was a link between MMR vaccination and autism. In response, Dr. Wakefield himself published a retraction discrediting his own study by stating that “there was no causal link established between the MMR vaccine and autism and that the data was insufficient to make a scientifically based conclusion.”
In response to the overwhelming scientific evidence against Dr. Wakefields original claims and the unorganized, unsupported data, and uncontrolled design of his study, the Lancet completely retracted Wakefield’s publication in February 2010. During the same time frame, it was released that Wakefield had financial interests that were funding his research and publications that included lawyers that had been engaged in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies. Because of this conflict, unethical conduct and later investigated fraud, Wakefield and his colleagues were all found guilty of gross ethical violations and scientific fraud by the medical professional community.
The Wakefield fraud has gone down as one of the most serious frauds in medical history and as a result Wakefield has been discredited and has lost his medical licensure
Andrew Wakefield is still one of the largest participants and leaders in the anti-vaccine movement and even directed the recently released film Vaxxed, which claims there was a major government cover up and conspiracy on vaccine safety. This film has also been discredited due to lack of evidence based research and sufficient data to support their claims.
In response to all this misinformation and fear, the CDC, the WHO, and the Institute for Vaccine Safety have all created their own divisions dedicated to researching and improving vaccine effectiveness and safety. It is their goal to improve vaccination rates and to reassure parents that children’s safety and wellbeing are their sole motivations.
In addition, a Meta-analysis of 10 studies involving more than 1.2 million children was published in 2006 in a peer-reviewed journal Vaccine that concluded that “there was no relationship between vaccination and autism.” This study was also supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics whose official position is that “vaccines are safe and important and should be emphasized universally.”
Now that we have the evidence and scientific data against the claims linking autism and vaccination, we can really get on to what is important, continuing to routinely vaccinate children and adults from deadly diseases and furthering autism research in the ways of early fetal detection and prenatal health.
If you still have fears and concerns, call me, let’s talk about it.
Otherwise, get vaccinated.