The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic

Garth Williams. The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse, 1954. Garth Williams. The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse, 1954.

Almost 8,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, have been reported to California's Public Health Department so far this year. More than 250 patients have been hospitalized, nearly all of them infants and young children, and 58 have required intensive care. Why is this preventable respiratory infection making a comeback.

In the 1990s, when new vaccines were introduced, the news media were obsessed with the notion that vaccines might be doing more harm than good. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism, we were told. Thimerosal, an ethyl-mercury containing preservative in some vaccines, might cause developmental delays. Too many vaccines given too soon, the stories went, might overwhelm a child’s immune system.

Then those stories disappeared. One reason was that study after study showed that these concerns were ill-founded. Another was that the famous 1998 report claiming to show a link between vaccinations and autism was retracted by The Lancet, the medical journal that had published it. The study was not only spectacularly wrong, as more than a dozen studies have shown, but also fraudulent. The author, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, has since been stripped of his medical license.

But the damage was done. Countless parents became afraid of vaccines. As a consequence, many parents now choose to delay, withhold, separate or space out vaccines. Some don’t vaccinate their children at all. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that between 1991 and 2004, the percentage of children whose parents had chosen to opt out of vaccines increased by 6% a year, resulting in a more than twofold increase.

Whooping cough, mumps and measles are making an alarming comeback, thanks to seriously misguided parents.

Autism

There are children and adults who have autism spectrum or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).  The spectrum of conditions that fit into this category is quite broad.

First there is no single cause. 

It is a communication, processing disorder.  Individuals may have normal or above normal intelligence.  Some children may have severe cognitive limitations.  Some of the kids have some amazing strengths but suffer with social skills.  They are not sensitive to social cues.

In some cases there is a disconnection with sensory processing.  Some aspects of either receptive or expressive communication is disconnected.  I do not know what the disconnect may be.  In different individuals or cases it could be a different process entirely.

There is a proven chromosomal abnormality is some people with autism spectrum, but the majority have no proven link.

There is no proof that vaccines have caused the increase in autism.  The link between some vaccines and autism is more temporal than causal.  The first year of life is more motor driven whereas the second year is dramatic with cognitive and verbal development.

Thimerosal has been removed from the vaccines for at least 10 years but the incidence of PDD has continued to increase.

Of primary concern is the increasing prevalence of vaccine preventable disease due to parents choosing to not vaccinate their children.  We will see more death and illness that is preventable.

My primary concern is that there is some common environmental link.  Research is being done and all of us need to keep an open mind.  Autism is a devastating condition and requires early diagnosis and intervention.  Early implementation of OT and Speech can have a tremendous impact on our kids.

Immunizations

A lot of press has been given to immunizations.  Over the past 30 years I have had the opportunity to see many of the diseases that we now vaccinate against almost eliminated.  Now those diseases are coming back.  There has been an increase in whooping-cough of 150% over the past few years.  I worry what will happen to the small infants and newborns who are exposed.  I do not want to see the diseases that I routinely treated thirty years ago come back.  Please refer to these two links:

Vaccines for Your Children 

What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?