I have been hesitant to touch this topic. The internet is teaming with people who believe vaccines cause autism, and for these people every claim that vaccines are safe strengthens their conviction that they are dangerous. Those who promote the safety that science has proven are either misguided or even deceitful. For some, a conspiracy of monumental proportions exists. Any argument to the counter is simply part of the conspiracy. It is difficult to argue against the conspiracy theory, when those who believe immunizations are safe can easily be filed into the section labeled "Part of the Conspiracy". The internet has become a powerful tool to spread information.... and misinformation.
With that being said, I think those who have the science to back their claims need to be vocal. People go to the internet to get information and the information that is there can be misleading. The scientific data is simply swept away by a brisk current of parental case reports and YouTube videos. How is the open-minded, concerned parent supposed to find the truth in this sea of static? People like me need to be more vocal.
So what do we know? After close to ten years of looking at the subject of vaccines and autism there is not one credible scientific study showing a link between the two. Not one. Large epidemiological studies from different countries by different researchers show the same results: Immunizations are not associated with autism.
What about thimerosal (the mercury based preservative formerly in vaccines)? There is no scientific data that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism or neurological problems in children. None. Except for multi-dose flu vaccine vials, thimerosal has been removed from vaccines in the US. Despite this the rate of autism has not decreased.
What about giving children all these vaccines when they are so young? There is no scientific evidence that vaccinating at an early age leads to autism or neurological problems. None. In fact a recently published study looked at this very fact. What they found was that, in terms of neurological testing, children who received vaccines as recommended by the CDC were no different from those who did not receive vaccines at an early age.
But these illnesses are not around anymore, right? Wrong. Each year there are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness in the US, including measles, the whooping cough, chickenpox, etc. These outbreaks typically happen in communities with low immunization rates.
I am a minimalist at heart. I think modern medicine often tries to do too much. However, I think immunizing children is the most important thing I do. It prevents disease and changes outcomes. Many illnesses that once cause pain, suffering, and death in children are now rare thanks to immunizations.
At some point, those on the immunization fence are going to have to decide whether they will trust the science that exists or put their faith in vocal celebrities, the lady down the street, or the internet persona that will invariably flame me for this post. I know which one I have trusted when making decisions about my children. That was easy.
A great link for more on this topic: The Vaccine Song