Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Autism and Vaccines

On this subject, I do not have an opinion. I have facts.

Fact: Vaccines do not cause autism.

There was one study eleven years ago that suggested a link between vaccines and autism. Despite countless studies failing to reproduce the results, failing to find any correlation whatsoever, the myth that vaccines cause autism has survived and flourished. Parents, desperate for an explanation and eager to blame something or someone, have attacked pharmaceutical companies and the medical community and campaigned against vaccines ever since. The original study has recently been found to have contained falsified data so we no longer even have to dismiss the initial findings as coincidence. We now know they were produced by a corrupt researcher eager for significant findings.

Fact: Continued research into an autism/vaccine link is an enormous waste of resources.

Many hundreds of studies have been performed trying to corroborate the initial, falsified studied, at a cost of untold millions of dollars, not to mention the cost of the time and effort of the many thousands of people involved. Imagine the potential gain that might have come of other avenues of research, or the assistance that might have been offered to children and adults with autism in the way of social programs.

Fact: The baseless fears of vaccines have led to a decrease in the percentage of children being vaccinated and an upswing in illness and death.

The only thing protecting unvaccinated children, at present, is the fact that the majority of other children are vaccinated. However, if the trend of not vaccinating continues, occurence of illnesses that had been all but eliminated by vaccines will continue to rise and children will die needlessly.

Fact: The cause of autism and the reasons for increases in diagnosed cases is not well understood at present.

This is understandably frustrating for parents, and I understand that. Finding out that a child may not have the potential for a normal life that parents had imagined for him or her is always devestating. However, I am often dismayed by the energy that parents expend being angry about their child's condition and crusading against what they falsely believe to be the cause. That energy can be so much better spent in learning about their child's diagnosis and the best ways to help them learn and live happily as an autistic individual.


  1. It has always frustrated me how people don't think about the consequences of not being vaccinated. Maybe they think that because they never hear of anyone with the disease its okay to not be vaccinated. Don't they realize that its not around BECAUSE of the vaccinations?

  2. From a games theory point of view where the safety of your family is how you keep score, the only perfect win is the situation where your family is the only one in the world that is not vaccinated. There would be no danger of disease (no one to catch it from) and your family, uniquely, would not be subject to any risk of adverse reaction to the vaccine (howsoever small that risk might be). There is a small area around this ideal that is still pretty good; if there were, say, another family in Seattle and one in Hong Kong then your odds would still be favorable. But once you get a statistically noticeable population of families angling for the perfect score the situation deteriorates.

    One could imagine an evil genius who crusaded for vaccination publicly but secretly did not vaccinate her children -- she would be taking her best shot at that perfect score -- but someone who does not vaccinate her children and crusades to stop other people from vaccinating theirs is doing no one any good.