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Don't buy the vaccines-autism myth
Posted By Phil Elmore On 10/30/2008 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
You will find very few rational, reasonable individuals who deny the proven technology of modern electrical appliances, or who think they are qualified to repair them without training. It is common knowledge and accepted practice that such devices are the purview of skilled professionals. Any citizen who takes a little time can become a reasonably educated amateur, of course. The technology is complicated, but not impossible to understand, especially at a general level. We may know that we are out of our depth when it comes to the specifics of how these devices operate, but we also know to whom we can go for assistance when something malfunctions.
For some reason, however, otherwise rational human beings seem to suspend their better judgment where medical technology is concerned. I refer specifically to the growing movement whose members are today spreading the false notion that getting your children vaccinated will somehow give them autism. Some frightened parents are reacting by applying lengthened vaccination schedules – or skipping certain vaccinations completely.
This hysteria would not be nearly so widespread if not for the fact that it is propagated within popular culture by celebrities, most notably Jenny McCarthy. This sometime actress, television “personality” and former Playboy model is a vocal activist within the anti-vaccination movement. It wouldn’t be quite so frustrating that people listen to what celebrities like McCarthy have to say, except that to fight the mindless propaganda repeated by these individuals, rational people must enlist celebrities of their own. They can’t rely solely on facts, research, or the testimony of professionals thoroughly familiar with the technology in question.
Fox News reported in late September that actress Amanda Peet had caused some controversy. It seems Peet was enlisted by the vaccination advocacy group Every Child By Two to exhort parents to adhere to contemporary vaccination schedules. Peet said something negative about parents who refuse to vaccinate their children (or who fail to vaccinate them in a timely manner), and one or more autism groups called for a boycott of her movies.
Much more disturbingly, McCarthy attacked Peet for daring to disagree with her. “She has a lot of [nerve] to come forward and be on that side,” Fox quoted McCarthy as saying, “because there is an angry mob on my side, and I like the fact that I can say she’s completely wrong.”
Let’s analyze that for a moment. McCarthy delights in the fact that the force of her opinion comes, not from copious amounts of research, not from firm and reproducible medical and technological evidence, and not even from reasonable and logical speculation, but from legions of irrational and rabidly superstitious parents who simply know that they’re right, regardless of what may be true. Question them, and they will shout you down, insult you and condemn you … all because you dared to oppose their ridiculous and dangerous campaign on the grounds that medical science proves exactly the opposite of what they claim.
More disturbingly, McCarthy now claims that her son, whom she has claimed had autism, is now cured. This is unutterably cruel to parents of autistic children desperate for hope. It also calls into question McCarthy’s credibility in claiming her son had autism in the first place.
The truth is that the vaccines in question protect against illnesses that will kill your child. The mythical and completely unsubstantiated link to autism promulgated by activists like McCarthy is far less a danger than the very real, very immediate threat of diseases like polio. Yet another study on this issue was produced in September of this year:
Connection Between Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine And Autism,
(Sep. 5, 2008) – In a case-control study, the presence of
measles virus RNA was no more likely in children with autism and GI
disturbances than in children with only GI disturbances. Furthermore,
GI symptom and autism onset were unrelated to MMR vaccine timing.
That’s a formal way of saying that getting vaccinated against measles doesn’t increase your risk of autism as a child. A companion story run that same day cited this study, but also pointed out that we as a society are seeing a dramatic rise in the incidence of measles cases – because children aren’t being vaccinated against the measles. It isn’t just measles, either; other childhood diseases are on the rise, all because some parents are so concerned with unsubstantiated propaganda that they are shunning vitally important medical technology and proven medical science.
As Ned Calogne wrote in the Denver Post:
There now have been 16 separate, independent studies
undertaken in five countries, involving millions of children,
that have found no link between vaccination, vaccines or vaccine
preservatives (namely, the mercury-based thimerosal) and autism. We
have more data supporting this lack of association than for most other
“known facts” in medicine. The sheer number of children
these studies precludes the theory that there may be even some small
but significant number of children for whom vaccination was at fault
for, or contributed to, any measurable degree of autism. [emphasis
Modern medical technology is not the critical threat in this case. Modern medical science and modern household technology are developed in order to lengthen and preserve human life, if not simply to make it easier or more convenient. You may choose either to embrace technological innovation and change, or you may choose to be ignorant. If you play games with your child’s vaccination schedule because of superstition that has been discredited repeatedly, you and, more importantly, your children will suffer the consequences. The damage, however, isn’t limited to just your family. You are endangering the children of everyone with whom your kids come into contact.
Technology must never be accepted blindly. It must always be examined critically. In the case of the medical technology and research behind vaccinations, however, only the most willfully ignorant American citizen could choose to believe the myth of vaccination-caused autism when so much credible evidence exists to the contrary.
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