For a while now a great wave of discussion has been going on about two things that apparently should not have any links with each other: Vaccines and Autism.
This discussion has been ongoing for more than a decade now and every now and then it keeps resurfacing in the media. The story of the connection originates in the weekly medical publication The Lancet, in 1998.
A research article had confidently suggested that Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as Colitis, was connected to the MMR vaccine. The MMR or the Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine is a childhood immunization procedure that has, for ages prevented life-threatening disease in babies and children. The paper was published by Andrew Wakefield.
Following the publication of the article in The Lancet, a number of studies, analyzing the epidemiology were conducted to validate the initial research. Institutes such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, US National Academy Science (Institute of Medicine), National Health Service (United Kingdom) and Centers for disease Control and Prevention took part in validating the research.
Following the publication of the research, immunization rates dropped drastically in the US as well as the UK while many parents filed for compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
Reportedly, it was found that this famous research paper was fraudulent and British researcher and surgeon Andrew Wakefield had manipulated evidence, violated the ethical codes and had conflicting interests in the matter.
Andrew Wakefield’s license to practice has since then been terminated. Even so, Mr. Wakefield keeps on insisting his research to be a credible and important one.
Unfortunately, even though that paper has been long discredited, the link between vaccine and autism refuse to die down. Medical authorities have, time and again, claimed that vaccinations are useful and important measures to save lives. However, there are people, parents, especially who believe that immunizing their child will lead to the Autism.
Parents all over the world fear the impact of Autism, and on the face of it, they are justified in doing so. Not only does bringing up a child with Autism is a challenging job, but also there is just not enough resources, insurances available for families dealing with Autism. As children with autism grow up, they have to face the harsh reality that there are not enough employment opportunities available for them.
Under such scenarios, parents are ready to do whatever it takes to protect their little ones, even if it may be at the risk of their lives. Through a number studies and analysis papers, several scientists have assured the mass that there is absolutely no causal relationship between autism and MMR vaccine, there have been a few causes that kept the discussion alive even today!
The blame for this misconception partially lies with the media. Like any story that allows controversy, debates and repeated discussion that never reach a conclusion, this Autism vs. Vaccine argument too had it’s fair share of controversy.
From court cases, heated debates to snide remarks, this controversy has seen it all. Therefore it has been dug out over and over again, and each time the arguments on both sides have evolved to be stronger than ever.
A major reason is, however, is the rise of autism and related disorders in the US, causing large-scale suspicion that there is a definite ‘missing link’ between vaccines and autism.
A number of websites during the 1990s managed to convince the parents that Wakefield’s study did have valid point, along with suggesting various method via which the effect of the vaccine can be diluted to prevent children from being affected by the disorder.
Even though many people believe autism to be caused by external factors, it has been repeatedly proven that MMR vaccines have nothing to do with it. Not immunizing children within the first few years of their birth could make them vulnerable to potentially life threatening disease – a fact more alarming than Autism itself.
While it does seem that autism is on the rise, one should keep in mind that with each passing day, more and more research and non profit organizations are trying to assist families with autism using early intervention strategies and developmental and assessment tools. Also, over the last decade or so, autism has evolved from being ‘a disorder’ to a spectrum disorder involving multiple types of autism.
Till date, no link has been scientifically found between the MMR vaccines and autism. Extensive research has shown various factors that could affect the behavioral pattern including stem cell research, but the vaccine remains innocent of all charges. Even major authoritative organizations like Autism Speaks, etc have come out in the open and have reported that vaccines don’t cause Autism.
Another non profit organization, IAC (Immunization Action Coalition) have also recently published a paper falsifying any allegations that vaccines cause autism. You can Read the full report here.