When I should have been studying, Curtis decided he wanted to watch Frontline’s report on the war on vaccines. As a future healthcare professional, I’m very concerned about the growing opposition to vaccines. While I encourage you to watch the documentary, I’ll give you a break down of what I learned.
The original study published in 1998 was retracted by the journal that published it. To summarize, Dr. Wakefield, a British GI doctor, tried to study a correlation between young children with ulcerative colitis and the effects of administering a vaccine. His study reported that the children experienced developmental problems after receiving vaccines. This sparked a controversy–with the rise of autism and no known cause, many parents were eager to point fingers and find a concrete cause for their child’s autism.
The problem is, Dr. Wakefield was paid off by lawyers hired by the parents of the kids in the study. The parents were ready to sue pharmaceutical companies for the vaccines that they thought caused autism. Dr. Wakefield was paid to show a correlation between vaccines and autism so the lawyers could win their case. The study itself had some outrageously bad science behind it, so The Lancet retracted the publication in 2003.
But the damage had already been done. Measles outbreaks are occurring right here in the states. Despite the reassurance that vaccines are safe, despite the fact that the producers of vaccines were ordered to remove the mercurial content from the adjuvants (which was not shown to cause any large scale side effects, mind you), parents are still afraid to vaccinate their kids.
I’m going to digress for a moment and quickly discuss the difference between the scientific findings of “correlation” and “causation.” A correlation may mean nothing at all. When people say “there is a correlation between vaccines and autism,” this does not mean “vaccines cause autism.” There are many other circumstances that cause autism–possibly genetics, environmental factors, and a number of other things. A correlation can be used in this way to: “When I drive to work, the sun comes up.” These two events are related due to the circumstance that I drive to work in the morning around the time the sun comes up. The sun does not come up AS A RESULT (causation) of my driving to work. That is, if I didn’t drive to work, the sun will not come up.
Moving on. Danish researchers crunched all of the health data they have to find numbers that falsified the idea that autism is caused by vaccines. Turns out, it doesn’t matter if a child is vaccinated or not–the frequency of autism is the same. Opponents still argued, however, and one of their arguments is that the MMR vaccine (preventing against measles, mumps, and rubella) was “too much at once,” leading to marked regression in their children’s behavior and development. Japan decided to ban the MMR vaccine and instead administer those immunities as separate shots. Nothing changed.
The facts are there. No one wants to listen, and unfortunately, I don’t think American could swing mandatory vaccinations because it would be seen as too Orwellian. At any rate, I leave you with this clip from the Frontline special–a public health worker talking with anti-vaccine mothers, whose selfishness for themselves and their children will put other children at risk for infection and, possibly, death.
Barf, misinformed and blind mothers.