Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Autism and vaccines

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Feb. 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm with 1 Comment »
February 16, 2009 8:10 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

One more time: No vaccine-autism link

Parents endanger their children when they don’t allow them to be immunized against dread diseases.

Many parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated aren’t paying attention to scientists, choosing to give more credence to anecdotal “evidence” and Hollywood celebrities. So there’s probably little chance they’ll have any more faith in a U.S. Court of Claims, which last week concluded no link exists between autism and childhood vaccinations.

One of the court’s “special masters” said that the petitioners seeking compensation for their children’s autism “have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding” of the condition.

Indeed, the Sunday Times of London reported last week that the original 1998 study linking autism to the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine – the one that touched off the whole controversy in the first place – had been manipulated for litigation purposes.

It shouldn’t take a court ruling to convince parents that vaccinations don’t increase a child’s chances of being autistic. Science has been saying that for years. Most recently, a study published last September by a team of Columbia University researchers found no link between autism and the measles vaccine.

Still, more and more parents are getting exemptions from laws that require their children to be vaccinated before attending school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that as one reason it’s seeing more measles cases. Expect more uncommon diseases to become less so if the exemptions trend continues.

Parents who don’t allow their children to be vaccinated are relying on “herd immunity” – the idea that if enough other children are vaccinated, then diseases won’t spread. But at what point does that immunity break down? If only a quarter of children aren’t immunized? Half? Researchers have found that some diseases require as much as 90 percent of the population to be immunized in order for herd immunity to take effect.

Also, non-immune children will grow up to be non-immune adults who might come in contact with disease at some point in their lives – especially if they travel to countries where vaccinations aren’t as common as they are here or interact with a foreign visitor to this country. Someone who hasn’t been immunized against such diseases as smallpox, hepatitis, measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus and polio could wind up living a very limited – or dangerous – life.

Vaccinations are the reason so many dread diseases that once claimed thousands of young lives every year are now rare in this country. Parents who don’t allow their children to acquire immunity against those diseases do them a grave disservice.

What's coming
Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. Well–that’s what our education system (the costliest in the world) has wrought. The current crop of parents have absolutely no idea about scientific inquiry and the scientific method of separating truth from fact. They rely, instead, on pretty celebrities, and new age bullpuckey to form their opinions. Trace those attitudes back to the schools’ pre-occupation with feelings, self esteem, and socialization, instead of teaching sound science. We’re lacking the fundamentals of what education is supposed to be: A. Learn how to gather information. B. Learn how to properly organize, interpret, and analyze the information. C. Learn how to present your conclusions clearly. But, hey–why bother with stuff like that, when it’s so much fun to argue about class size and feeding the little darlins during the day!

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0