Monday, April 05, 2010

The Lasting Legacy of Irresponsible Autism Claims: The Resurgence of Measles

NPR has run a story about a resurgence of measles tanks to parental fears of vaccines.  It talks about an outbreak of this extremely contagious virus in Vancouver, during the excitement of the Winter Olympic Games.  Foreign travelers carried the virus and infected two Canadians and a visiting American, which has lead to a spread of the virus to 16 people so far.  Of those 16 people, half come from the same family where the parents rejected vaccination for their children.  That's 8 people who were infected because they were not protected.  And why where they not protected?  Because a friend of the family convinced them not to get vaccinated. 

And more families are choosing to leave their children vulnerable every year, according to the article.  In San Diego County alone there are at least one thousand families who have opted not to let their kindergartners get vaccinated, which is 100 more families more than the last time San Diego had a measles outbreak, where 75 children had to be quarantined to keep them from infecting other children in the same school. 

And the number one reason why these parents don't want to have their children be vaccinated?  Because they think the Government is in a major conspiracy to poison their children into getting Autism through the vaccines.  They may not say it outright, but they fear that the Government is covering up facts that connect Autism and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines, thanks to the misinformation published by "Doctor" Wakefield and perpetuated by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy. 

The problem is, this misinformation has been spread so tightly and interwoven to completely into our culture that parents don't believe the scientific evidence that has refuted such claims.  Instead they take their children's lives into their own hands and opt not to become vaccinated.  As a result, when our vaccinated population reaches below 95% (which it is in many Western cultures amongst the school-age children), outbreaks occur and spread.

While I can understand that parents want to do everything possible to protect their children, I don't agree that not protecting them from a preventable disease in order to "protect" them from a disorder that is genetic in origin is a smart thing to do.  I vaccinated both my sons, even though my oldest is Autistic.  That's because the evidence pointed to genetics for Autism, and not as a result of being vaccinated. 

To those who continue to perpetuate the fear, uncertainty and distrust of vaccines by invoking the Autism card, I would like you to behold your legacy.  Whole families of children who could potentially die or receive permanent brain damage from the measles. 

Let us hope families quickly realize the Genetic causes of Autism and start protecting their children again.

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