Editor’s note: I have received a lot of negative comments regarding this post. I anticipated that and is one of the reasons I hesitated to post it. I wanted to share an honest opinion one family has with the issues at hand. I am not making any sort of claim that vaccinations cause autism. I am not qualified to make such a claim. I am not pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. I am somewhere in the middle. Judge as you will. As parents, we love our children and to the best we can to protect them from harm. These are my thoughts.
I have largely avoided the media and commenting on the recent measles epidemic, as I am a hypocrite when it comes to vaccinations. I have seen friends take strong stances on either side, and people are losing friends on Facebook over the issue. I am not a doctor, but I will be open and honest with you on my thoughts.
Measles is an illness not known in my childhood but common in my parents’ and grandparents’ youth. Why? Vaccinations.
When I became pregnant, one of the first tests run by my parallel care provider was to see if my childhood vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) had worn off. It had. Since I was pregnant, I could not be vaccinated. I was informed by my midwives that this was the time when those illnesses were most dangerous…they most negatively affect the unborn fetus.
Many parents choose not to or partially vaccinate. I am one of those parents. I have my fears and reasons. I can find support on both sides. It is because of the large success of vaccinations in positively affecting public health that I am even able to make such a personal decision. I get that.
I have always wondered why the fact MMR vaccine wears off at child-bearing age is not more common knowledge. Many pregnancies are not planned, but mine were. Had I this knowledge, I may have vaccinated myself. Then again, I may have not.
Yes, I am a hypocrite. When I was pregnant, I had a rubella scare. I was working as a preschool teacher, and a child was diagnosed by a retired nurse grandmother as having rubella. I chewed the parent out on the phone, as many are doing now about non-vaccinating folks (this child was vaccinated), and told her she had to go to the doctor. It was a public health issue. He did not have rubella. Ironically, my child was born with a congenital heart defect that may caused by rubella even though it wasn’t so.
This fall a friend’s puppy came down with parvo. We also had puppies, and I was pissed he had not vaccinated his puppy and thus put our puppies at risk. I know it sounds very hypocritical from a partially vaccinating mother. It helped me understand how passionate and angry vaccinating parents can feel toward those that don’t, especially when babies too young to vaccinate are potentially exposed. This is happening now with the measles.
That being said, the current media reaction to the measles outbreak is askew. Just like with whooping cough, there are some vaccinated individuals that are contracted the illness. It’s been reported for several years that the MMR vaccine is not fully effective. Vaccine failure can happen. Statistically it is much rarer than success, but if anyone thinks vaccines are full proof, they are not being entirely realistic. They certainly offer more protection than not vaccinating.
In 2015, there have been 121 cases of measles in the US. Last year, there were 644 cases. One out of 1000 people that contract the illness die. Now let’s compare that statistic to autism.
That’s right, the most reasonable response I have read to the measles outbreak compares it to the astonishing rising numbers of autism. As we reported before, given current trends by 2025, one in two children will be autistic. For 2014, the CDC reports 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism. This is much more concerning than 121 cases of measles. Sure there is no vaccine for autism, but what is going on?
TO BE CLEAR, I AM NOT MAKING ANY ASSOCIATIONS HERE BETWEEN THE ACTUAL MMR VACCINE AND THE RISE IN AUTISM. I AM COMPARING STATISTICS.
Now for a real doctor to weigh in on the subject. According to AIM Integrative Medicine:
As a board certified pediatrician, I took the same oath as all physicians, “to do no harm.”
The latest media presentation of the measles outbreak at Disneyland as a result of unvaccinated children is very upsetting to me. We are being fed information that is essentially inaccurate by media journalists – none of whom have medical degrees – which may actually be promoting medical harm to our children.
The latest reports blaming a failure of the measles vaccine on the unvaccinated population are not accurate, and in some reports, not true at all. In fact, over the past 30 years, there have been similar numbers of measles cases reported in various areas of the United States. Studies published in leading medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Epidemiology, American Journal of Public Health and others around the world have confirmed small numbers, 75-140 cases of measles annually. So why then is the latest statistic of over 90 cases of measles spread over 14 states, representing tens of millions of people being billed as an epidemic?
The media would have us believe that this is a result of the fringe population of anti-vaxers who refuse to have their children vaccinated according the guidelines of the current vaccine schedule. Medical reporting has brought to light the glaring ineffectiveness of the measles vaccines in fulfilling their widely claimed promise of preventing outbreaks in highly vaccine compliant populations. In fact, measles outbreaks have occurred in populations that have been vaccinated on the average of 77%- 99%, not the so-called anti-vaxers.
Last year 1 in every 500,000 Americans came down with the measles. Nearly all recovered in a few days without serious consequences.At the same time 1 in 68 American children were diagnosed with autism or for every case of measles there were 7000 cases of autism. I ask myself which is the real epidemic here?
Frank Bruni in an editorial in the New York Times on February 1, 2015 states that this measles outbreak is a result of “wealthy, educated people who deliberately didn’t vaccinate their children.” He refers to measles as “the scourge once essentially eliminated in this country is back” when, in fact, it never left! He refers to all links between autism and MMR vaccines as having been discredited yet he obviously has not read all the studies from the U.S. and around the world proving his information false. As a recent example, I would ask him to justify the 340% increase in autism in African-American boys in Chicago – a report that was supposedly squelched by the CDC . While he reports that the incidence of measles has increased over the past 10 years, no patients have died.
Scare tactics were used to terrorize those who attended this year’s SuperBowl in Phoenix because of one woman who sat in a clinic without being properly isolated or that every one of the thousands of people passing through Penn Station are at risk because of one man who rode an Amtrak train. It appears that the saturation of the media amplifies the hypotheses to a point that seems misleadingly worthy of consideration. In other words, if enough people say things enough times there must be some truth to it. Does that justify USA Today publishing an article claiming that non-vaccinated parents should be jailed or sued or have their children removed from the home if they chose not to vaccinate their children against the measles? Does that justify the immediate vaccination of every child and adult in this country regardless of their immune status or overall medical health? Will the local pharmacies be hooking pedestrians into their stores for MMR vaccines as they have been doing for the less than effective flu vaccines?
As I write this piece, the director of the CDC states that the overall vaccination rate in this country is 92% !! Yet he is very concerned of a large outbreak because of the trend in not vaccinating certain children. Does this make sense?
I wish these journalists, vaccinologists and infectious disease specialists spent a week in my office. I wish they would actually listen to the testimonials given to me by parents of autistic children who were obviously affected by these vaccines adversely. I wish they would tell parents that the risk of dying from the measles in the United States is around zero. I wish they would admit that they are being told by pharmaceutical companies not to report certain statistics or to cover up factual scientific information. I wish they could be free to report honestly about vaccines rather than being dependent upon drug advertising and internet information.
This is an emotional debate for sure. If we discount emotion and fear, we would realize that a child may have a greater chance of getting struck by lightning, accidental drowning or possibly from adverse side effects of the MMR vaccination itself than from acquiring live measles infection. I wish that my pediatric colleagues would offer parents factual pros and cons of vaccines in general so that a parent can make an informed decision and then give consent to vaccinate rather than being told that if their child isn’t vaccinated they will be thrown out of school and they are guilty of child abuse!
I am not advocating that vaccines be discontinued. I am advocating that doctors and patients become aware of the ingredients of these vaccines, what they can potentially do to affect an adverse outcome in an immunologically compromised child. Adverse reactions to MMR and other vaccines have been reported in numerous clinical trials and studies. I am advocating that medical practitioners and researchers, not journalists, address the real medical epidemics of autism, asthma, GI disease and autoimmune diseases facing our society and people around the world. Stop hyping the safety of MMR vaccines which may actually be more dangerous than live measles and may be ineffective in preventing the illness which they are so anxious to report as a dangerous epidemic itself.
Let’s stop believing that the mainstream media is telling us the truth when all they are doing is shutting down any intelligent and open discussion about vaccine safety and how to improve it.
Dr. Michael Elice, M.D.
Publicly, we are easily scared and swayed by the news. I am concerned that legislation, like that now facing my home state of California to end philosophical objections to vaccinations, misses the point. Instead of becoming paranoid and blaming families that have made alternative health choices for the recent “outbreak” of measles, we should truly exam what the hell is happening with autism! Autism is a lifelong factor. Most children recover from the measles. Autism is for life. Progress can be made. But we really should be concerned with the toxins in our environment and what they are doing to us.
I don’t want my kids to get the measles.
Maybe comparing the measles infection with the rate of autism is a like comparing apples and oranges. One is an infectious disease with a vaccination, the other is still unexplainable as to cause and does not go away.
The point of sharing my own quandaries is not to say I am right or wrong. As parents we do our very best. As humans we do our very best.
The point is the media has given so much attention to the measles compared to autism. We have to ask ourselves why. What is the political motivation?