Thursday, January 6, 2011

Immunizations and Autism...a closed case?

While I was pumping this morning I turned on the news, and was surprised to see the headlines reporting that the study that linked autism and vaccinations was fraudulent:

Charlie and I were very hesitant to immunize Lydia. I'd never questioned it before moving to Alaska, but along my journey of two years there, I talked to very intelligent and educated people about their decisions not to immunize their children, people whose opinions and beliefs I greatly respected. From one family to another the reasons for not doing so varied, but many were concerned about the amounts of mercury in the vaccines, the rates at which we give vaccines to infants and toddlers, and the actual need for vaccines in modern society. I'm sure there are more qualms as well.

I was amazed to see the vehement defense of non-immunizations from these mothers and fathers. I have yet to find friends who have not eventually vaccinated their children down here in the lower 48. Many families I know have delayed vaccines until they felt their children were old enough, and strong enough, to handle the potency of the vaccinations themselves. Others delayed from an emotional response to vaccines--they couldn't bear to watch their babies being stabbed multiple times with needles (which, from a new mama's perspective, is...well...I'd feel the same about Lydia getting hurt even when she's 30).

The CNN story reported that after Wakefield's study made mainstream media, almost 80% of vaccinations dropped in Britain. The CDC reported similar staggering statistics for the United States. I couldn't find statistics or stories on how far families are delaying vaccines for their children in the amount of time that I wanted to write this blog. Our decision to vaccinate Lydia was not made easily, but in the end I feel we did the right thing for our child. We pushed Lydia's in-hospital vaccine back a couple of days after she was born. I wanted her to remain unscathed and perfect for as long as I could. She received her HepB the day we left, and at two months got her routine vaccinations. I plan on keeping up with a regular immunization schedule throughout her childhood.

Charlie was reamed out by a local health "professional" at the bar where he bartends for immunizing Lydia (I use quotations because I think any sort of shouting or verbal abuse, especially at a bar, isn't "professional"); what good does that do? What good is telling us that our child will suffer mental retardation and various health concerns after the fact? She told him that she could have made Lydia natural vaccines, that we could have done anything but vaccinate our daughter. I applaud her vehemency in what she believes so wholeheartedly in, but verbal attacks are not making her cause stronger. I think that when a person loses their case when they have to resort to screaming or over-heated vocalizing.

So. There you have it, one of the most controversial subjects in parenthood today. I am curious to see how the vaccination statistics will change in the years to come following this study. If the news reported things correctly (ha), I am amazed at the sheer number of professionals and families who put their faith into such a limited case study that could not be replicated. Anecdotal evidence was also key in making a link between autism and vaccines. I remain skeptical of most anything pharmaceutical companies try to tell me, but I will continue to vaccinate Lydia all the same. Thoughts?


  1. I think we are of similar mind that while we may delay or space the vaccines we will give them to our children. Especially because while there aren't as many cases of the diseases these days it is largely do to vaccines! (Also we plan to do international travel) This book was very helpful to me while researching this issue a couple of years ago. I highly recommend it!

    Autism's false prophets : bad science, risky medicine, and the search for a cure / Paul A. Offit.
    New York : Columbia University Press, c2008.

  2. I am currently finishing up an autism specialty teaching license and while going through this process I have done vast amounts of reading and research and have yet to find concrete medical evidence that there is a direct link between autism and vaccinations. There are many studies out there that are trying to link them together BUT there are also plenty of studies trying to link autism to just about everything from the foods we eat to the pollution in the air trying to find answers on why there is such a rise in the diagnosis of autism. If you want my personal opinion the rise in cases comes directly from the ability to better recognize the symptoms and behaviors that can be shown by an autistic child which helps us to better recognize and diagnose these children. Until there is concrete medical evidence that links vaccinations to autism I will continue to vaccinate Eli on a regular schedule without even thinking twice about it causing autism.

  3. We also choose to vaccinate our children, though we do a "semi-delayed" schedule. More accurately, our pediatrician does only one vaccine at a time, and then she has drop-in hours each week where parents can come to do the rest of their children's vaccines. I LOVE this, if only so that I can space out the vaccines one month at a time and know that IF there are any side-effects, we will know which vaccine we can trace it to.

    With that being said, I've never been "brave" enough to blog about vaccines. Don't know if I want to invite the controversy, but the importance of the news about this study might be reason enough to write about it.

    Or maybe not. :-)

  4. Kristen! I'm honored that you visited my blog. I think you are a wonderful writer on current and interesting topics, and I've linked up your blog in the hopes that some of my visitors would boogie on over to Birthing Beautiful Ideas, too.

    I have been interested in how other families delay or separate their children's vaccinations. So far we have given Lydia the routine shots, all at the same time. At her two month visit she got three of them, and I'm wondering how I will choose to space them out when it comes time for her four month boosters. Luckily, after her two-month shots, she suffered no side effects and cried for approximately 30 seconds, whereas I had a meltdown and cried for ten minutes.

    I guess when it comes to controversial subjects like vaccinations, I may not have the audience that would cause an uproar of activity on this blog. : ) One of the reasons that the blog came into being was because I was tired of tiptoeing around subjects that I was passionate about. Facebook didn't seem to be the appropriate place for my musings, so here we are. : )

    Thank you Sarah and Ginger for your comments as well! I think both of you have very valid points. The advent of being able to recognize and diagnose autism has left parents with many questions and hopes in finding a link, a cure, a cause...It's a hard subject, but we as moms can just keep on doing what we think is best for our family in the best way we know, just as we've always done.

  5. I don't think I've congratulated you and Charlie yet, so: "CONGRATS ON THE OFFSPRING". That being said, the MMR vaccine and autism link has been crap from the beginning. I can't offer any wider advice beyond the need for an MMR vaccine. Here is a report of 41 studies that have debunked Wakefield's douchebaggery.