My friend Alissa is a pediatrician here in Utah. I have known her for about four years and she and I are very close friends. We read the same books, her daughter, Ella is in my Nursery at church and my husband and I adore her, her husband and child. She just did this blog post about the link between vaccinations and autism. It beautifully explains the history of the MMR/Autism confusion and I thought I would pass it along. :
When Ella was 12 months old I took her in for her year 1 year visit. I love going to my Pediatrician. He is wise and kind and funny and sarcastic. He was one of my mentors while in residency and he still has a larger than life aura in my eyes. But for this particular visit I was a little nervous. Because I knew which shots were given at 12 months. MMR, Varicella and Hepatitis A. And while I wasn't really worried about introducing these into my child's system, there was a little tiny part of me that thought, "What if Jenny McCarthy is right?" It didn't help that there was a magazine in the waiting room graced with her beautiful smile and her autistic child.
It got me thinking, though. I tell my vaccines ≠ autism speech one to ten times a week. And I believe it. But I still worried. In the end I felt very good about my decision, and a little silly for my hesitation. But it's different when it's your own kid. You want to do what's 110% right. Never any harm.
Parents everywhere started to worry. Vaccination rates dropped, as low as 50% in some parts of London. Measles rates rose. Children died.
But after the initial hype, doctors started taking a closer look at the Wakefield study. Turns out it was a little messy. There were no controls (normal children to compare t0). Many of the children in the study were involved with anti-vaccine lawyers before the study began, not randomly selected. The methodology was shoddy. And Dr. Wakefield was in the process of creating his own "safer" non-combined MMR vaccine. He stood to significantly benefit from a decline in the use of the combined MMR vaccine.
So there you have it. My autism talk. Now, one small caveat. Although they do not cause autism, I don't think vaccines are 100% safe for every single child. There are some children with underlying disorders who will react poorly to vaccines. My cousin's son, a patient of mine, has a seizure disorder. He had a major seizure after receiving his 6 month vaccines. We are holding off on the rest of immunizations until we can get his seizures under control. But for the vast majority of children, the risk associated with vaccines is much lower than the risk associated with the diseases they prevent. And as more and more children are unvaccinated, the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases increases because the "herd immunity" is less protective.