Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Autism-Vaccine Link: Evidence Doesn't Dispel Doubts

Here is yet another article I found which speaks of the mythical autism-vaccine link. It seems the more you read about this subject, the more evidence keeps stacking up against any link between vaccines and autism whatsoever. Granted the lack of scientific evidence to support such a link is sufficient for most able-minded individuals, but for the anti-vaxxers out there walking around unsupervised, it is likely they will ignore this evidence just as they always do. After all, what good is a conspiracy theory if there is evidence debunking it? 

One of the statements in this article caught my eye. It reads as follows:
"In the absence of any answers from the scientific community, any scintilla of suggestion is going to get magnified by the social process of talking it out," Sanders says. "All you need is one individual's story and it will expand."
 That is a good summary of what happens when Google educated "experts" such as Mr. Hubbs read something on the Internet and start to accept it is scientific fact even though it cannot be validated. These self-proclaimed anti-vaccination pundits hear a story about some random child or listen to preachings of a anti-vaccination pitchman and they drink it all in without ever taking a few minutes to ask objective questions.

The important factor to remember here is absence of scientific fact does not in any way add credibility to a theory. If someone claims dinosaurs were able to communicate verbally but cannot prove it with scientific fact, it does not in any way suggest all dinosaurs communicated telepathically. As always, when someone makes a claim or forms a hypothesis, it is their duty to support that opinion with real science which the anti-vaxxers are never able to do.

The article goes on to state the following:
"The MMR scare started 10 years ago with a report published in The Lancet that described the cases of eight children who, as their parents recalled, developed autistic symptoms and digestive ailments shortly after getting their first MMR dose. The researchers proposed that the vaccine might trigger a previously unknown form of regressive autism. They suggested that maybe the measles virus in the vaccine lodged in the intestine, causing some kind of reaction that then affected the brain.
After that, experts studied whether the MMR vaccine could cause autism. To do that, they looked for clues among kids who did and didn't get the vaccine.
Since that initial finding, 14 studies including millions of children in several countries consistently show no significant difference in autism rates between children who got the MMR vaccine those who didn't.
The bottom line: It's very unlikely that the MMR causes autism, researchers say."
I should note the report published in The Lancet that is referenced above is the now-discredited study by Andrew Wakefield which The Lancet has actually retracted due to it being based upon flawed methodology and unsupported scientific methods. Nevertheless it shows how time after time, study after study, country after country, group after group, the science consistently proves there is no increase in autism rates in vaccinated children when compared to their unvaccinated peers.

Rest assured the anti-vaxxers don't accept science however, and they are quick to point out how some of these studies must have been financed by "big pharma" or how they information is corrupt because of the association with the FDA, CDC, AMA, or some other agency with a three letter acronym.

However try as they might, even if they stretch far enough to eliminate several of the existing studies to what they feel is bias or potential conflict of interest, a logical person still has to acknowledge the growing body of evidence that clearly dispels the autism-vaccine link. Notice I said "logical person", which tells us that someone like Mr. Hubbs is most likely convinced that vaccines do cause autism, and no amount of research or science will tell him otherwise.

It is in situations like this that we need to review the first quote above - because this is a prime example of where absence of science is often used to push forth an unsupported opinion. Even if we were to discredit or eliminate every single one of the studies referenced in this article, and even if we eliminate the dozens of such studies that have been done elsewhere around the globe that overwhelmingly prove that vaccines do not have any link to autism whatsoever, that still does not in any way prove that vaccines DO cause autism!

The concept is clear - an absence of scientific evidence does not prove a hypothesis, and that is a simple fact that continually trips up even the most ardent anti-vaxxer alive (including Mr. Hubbs). Then again, if we continue reading the article we find even more good news for science:
"The 2004 IOM review included five large-scale studies that compared autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. These and other recent studies, including one published in The New England Journal of Medicine in September 2007, have shown that children who received vaccines with thimerosal are not more likely to have been diagnosed with autism than those that weren't vaccinated or received less thimerosal from vaccines."
Once again, we have large studies which discredit the supposed vaccine-autism link including specific research about the dreaded thimerosal, but yet even this is not enough to convince the anti-vaxxers than vaccines aren't the root cause of autism. When pressed with this evidence or when asked questions about why the rates of autism haven't decreased since the phase-out of thimerosal in the late 90s and early 2000s, the anti-vaxxers don't have a legitimate answer. Instead of admitting that they were wrong, they continue to move the goal line and now claim instead of thimerosal or the MMR vaccine, autism might be "triggered" by vaccines rather than actually "caused" by it.

Yes I know - the difference really doesn't matter to those who have autistic children, and no matter the excuse it doesn't change the facts that study after study has found no difference in autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. If there was any shred of merit to the anti-vaxxer claims, we should witness a huge disparity where unvaccinated children rarely are diagnosed with autism while vaccinated children are diagnosed at a much higher rate -but that just isn't the case.

So does it really matter? What is the big issue with someone choosing to not vaccinate their children or why should we care? Well the simple truth is, unvaccinated children are at a much greater risk to contract and spread these diseases, and that has a significant and detrimental health to our populace.

Case in point:
“Every year, 2.5 million unvaccinated children worldwide die of diseases that vaccines could have prevented, and vaccines prevent the deaths of an additional 2 million children, according to the World Health Organization.”
So according to the WHO, 4.5 million children would die each and every year if it were not for life saving vaccines, and yet the anti-vaxxers out there spreading unfounded fear about some mythical link to autism don't seem to care. Not only do they put the lives and safety of these children in danger, but they have the audacity to proclaim they actually care about children when they promote their extremely dangerous anti-vaccination views.

Obviously each parent needs to decide for him or herself what is best for their child, but this decision should be based upon sound science and proven fact rather than hysteria, unsupported opinion, or random conspiracy theories. If anti-vaxxers such as Mr. Hubbs really cared about children, they would easily recognize the benefits of vaccinations (and the 4.5 million lives they save each year) far outweigh any known or perceived risks, but that viewpoint requires compassion rather than cynicism which suggests we won't be seeing it from Mr. Hubbs anytime soon.

Additional Reading Material: No link found between vaccine mercury and autism.

1 comment:

  1. Use this for your fodder...they are advertising this in the AL too.

    This guy is a bumbling idiot.

    Love the site by the way!



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