Monday, March 1, 2010

Arrogance or Courage? Doctors Draw a Line in the Sand Over Vaccines

New research from the University of Michigan reveals that about 25% of parents in the United States believe that there is some connection between vaccines and autism. This high percentage has disturbed doctors because it may threaten the efficacy of the vaccination program if enough parents do not vaccinate their young children. The research also revealed, however, that even though many parents feel that there is some danger in giving their child the vaccines, they still feel that vaccines are the best way to avoid illness.

I am disappointed that this news article, like most recent reports, simply recounts that there is no evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism. While this is a true statement, the reporters never explore the fact that almost all of the studies regarding the MMR vaccine and possible links to autism have flaws in methodology or were perpetrated by special interest groups with specific policy agendas. The media also never seems to initiate the discussion about vaccines being a trigger for an autoimmune response that leads to behaviors and symptoms in children who are eventually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Much of the latest research regards problems in the gut and intestines that are connected with the brain.

In my experience, I have not been impressed by the majority of pediatricians' efforts to keep up with the results of the latest research. I have found that most doctors rely on bulletins and statements sent out by their professional associations, the AMA or the Department of Health about the safety of vaccines. There seem to be very few doctors who actually take a look at the research themselves. This news report from Fox news said that some doctors are creating a "manifesto" to their patients insisting that they have their children vaccinated or else find another doctor. It is usually time consuming and very inconvenient to change doctors, but I would change from these doctors as fast as I could! Personally, I find their attitude toward parents to be offensive. Many parents have studied the issue of vaccines and autism much more than most doctors and they certainly have the best interest of their own children in mind!

I am afraid that we will continue to have this confusing state of information about autism and vaccines as long as the public is only able to digest news in sound bites and thirty second interviews. The variables to consider regarding autism and vaccines are complex and the literature suspect. Parents and doctors alike should devote considerable time to understanding the issue without "grandstanding" or holding steadfastly to one opinion or another.

The Fox news article can be read here:

1 in 4 U.S. Parents Buys Unproven Vaccine-Autism Link - Neurology | Alzheimer's Disease | Stroke -

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