There’s been a lot in the news and in the Twittersphere about Trump’s views on vaccines. Although I have never been and probably never will be into politics, when it tries to mess with science I flare up like a measles rash!
Trump claims that vaccines cause autism, a rumour that has been circulating for nearly 20 years, and this has led to a lot of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. Not surprisingly, there has now been an increase in measles cases – fabulous! (meant to be read sarcastically, this disease is far from fabulous!)
But where did Trump get these thoughts about vaccines and autism from? We know he fabricates facts as if they were bedtime stories but even this blonde bombshell knows that you have to back up science claims with facts.
I did a bit of digging on the interweb and after typing in the phrase ‘vaccines cause autism’ I was greeted with various news articles about how 1 in 3 Trump supporters believe that vaccines cause autism and a few that are fruitlessly trying to counteract their views with the headlines ‘Vaccines do NOT cause autism.’ If only everyone believed what they were told!
Worryingly the first website link that came up was called ‘HowDoVaccinesCauseAutism.com’. Cautiously I clicked on the link, ready to be greeted with many paragraphs of made up facts and figures. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with this…
Although the site is a bit in your face with their message, it’s definitely an effective way to get the message across. They even provide a link to a credited document detailing what vaccines have done for us over the years.
I eventually found the original paper that started all this controversy. The research was carried out by a group of scientists including the front runner, Andrew Wakefield. The paper’s title is confusing to say the least: ‘Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children’ but that may just be my lack of education in this field shining through. So far vaccines have not been mentioned.
After reading the summary, a thought springs to mind: he only studied 12 children. Yes, nine of them developed gut inflammation and abnormal cognitive function, but couldn’t this have just been chance to start with? He admits later on that these children were self- referred. The parents say that they were normal before taking a vaccine but normal, as we know, is subject to interpretation. I think that owning a shelf full of giant microbes is normal but my housemates beg to differ.
Another red flag appeared from the results section: ‘In eight children, the onset of behavioural problems had been linked, either by the parents or by the child’s physician, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination.’ This is basically saying that the links with the vaccine are based on suspicions by the parents and maybe a doctor. A suspicion is not a fact, there may have been all manner of things happening at the time these children were vaccinated! This is admitted in the discussion (a small mercy) which mostly goes on about how a particular type of gut inflammation is linked to autism and only implies the link to vaccination.
‘We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described’ – people never seem to quote this and it surprised me when I found it nestled among a sea of science words. I think that people’s imaginations run wild when they are given a suggestion that something will cause harm to humans. It seems people took the suggestion and ran with it so that we’ve ended up with an alarming proportion of the population believing something that has no evidence.
If you want to form your own opinions on the paper then go ahead.
This paper has since been retracted and then discredited more times than I can count on my fingers and toes but Wakefield wrote a book about how governments want to suppress the truth about vaccines and autism. In the prologue he urges parents to trust their instincts about vaccines but while saying this he is putting doubt into their minds about the safety of this trusted procedure. In effect he is trying to obscure reality and worm into their brains like a parasite. I know, such strong language from someone so vertically challenged, but this is my opinion. The book is called ‘Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy’ a strong title that could send the mind whirring audibly with thoughts and haunting images about the dark side of medicine.
I’m not saying that vaccination is without its faults. In the race to make a polio vaccine, a manufacturing disaster meant that 200 000 children were injected with a vaccine containing active polio virus (Fitzpatrick, 2006). This happened in 1955 in the USA and resulted in 40, 000 polio cases with 10 deaths, something that no one would wish to see repeated. The context of this disaster is that it was over 60 years ago and vaccine manufacture has come on so much since then.
Personally, I think vaccines are a miracle, even if you have to take a booster every so often, they still mean that you won’t die from something as horrible as measles, meningitis, small pox and countless other diseases that the world could do without. Even if the MMR vaccine did cause autism, I would rather my child be alive than suffering from a disease that is preventable. I don’t know much about autism but I assume that dealing with this mental condition is easier than dealing with the death of a child.
Denying a child their vaccinations is denying your child their life.