When it comes to vaccinations, we are square in the “pro-vax” camp. Even after getting an autism diagnosis for my son, we still believe in and advocate for vaccinations.
Let me first move the whole Wakefield debacle out of the way by sharing this article by Brian Deer who has systematically debunked the autism myth that Andrew Wakefield perptuated. As if that weren’t enough, Safeminds, an autism advocacy group, has since funded a study which further demonstrates the lack of connection between vaccines and autism. The details of that study are in this Newsweek article, but this summary says an awful lot.
Halladay commends SafeMinds for financially supporting the study, but she worries that some autism advocates may be asking the wrong questions. “I’m not saying that we need to stop funding research in the environment, because we know the environment does impact neurodevelopment,” she says. Halladay likens the challenge of disputing the claim that vaccines cause autism to “playing whack-a-mole.”
“First, the proposed association was between the MMR vaccines and autism,” she says. “Then that was disproven. Then it was the thimerosal components in vaccines; now that has been further disproven in a carefully designed animal model study that aimed to specifically examine that question. It has also been suggested that the association is because of vaccine timing, but that too has been disproven. The target always seems to be moving, and the expectation is that scientific resources will be diverted to address each new modification of this hypothesized link.”
To be clear, I have no notion that his autism has anything to do with MMR or any other vaccinations. While that leaves my neutral on this issue, another issue has swayed me into the pro-vax camp. That issue is that I realize, very clearly, that without vaccinations my son would die.
I am a fan of modern medicine and the science that makes it possible. If Ben had been born a century sooner he wouldn’t have survived his Hirschsprung’s disease. Had he been born less than a half century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived leukemia. As it is, we have, several times, come face to face with his mortality. I see vaccinations along the same lines as chemotherapy, far from perfect, but, with the help of the scientific method, getting better all the time, and our best shot at giving our kids a long, healthy life.
For us, though, it goes a step further. Ben is immunocompromised. That means that even fully vaccinated, he doesn’t have enough ability to fight off disease. He is that kid. The kid who needs herd immunity. He’s the reason our whole family gets flu shots and Chicken Pox vaccinations. He’s the kid who needs boosters on the Prevnar and Pneumococcal vaccines because his body lost immunity to them. He’s the kid that could suffer from a measles outbreak even though we do everything possible to protect him. And he is the kid whose body is weak enough to succumb to those diseases.
I put this here after weeks of consideration. I realize this could ruffle feathers. So I just ask, if you don’t vaccinate, have you researched the diseases we vaccinate against as well as the side effects of vaccinations? Have you seen who polio and diptheria can do? Do you realize that if measles encephalitis sets it that your child will be isolated in the ICU while you wait to find out if she’s the lucky one who survives with brain damage or doesn’t survive? And last, do you realize that, statistically speaking, the greatest risk in vaccinating is driving your child to the office?
I realize the rhetoric goes round and round, and that I’m about as likely to change your mind as you are mine. But if there’s that tiny chance that you’re really listening, that Ben’s face and plight would make a difference, I have to try.
I have a feeling it will take a true epidemic to turn the tide, and I just hope that I don’t lose my child as a casualty.