Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vaccines and Autism

Da Goddess analyzed a story on an autism settlement. The article has the title "Vaccine Autism Case Gets US Government Compensation." Here's the first sentence:

The parents of 9 year-old Hannah Poling spoke to the media this week about the US government's landmark decision to pay compensation following their claim that childhood vaccines caused their daughter's autism.

So, based on the headline and the first paragraph, you'd suspect that the article is similar to the anti-fascist declaration Bush Administration Knew Childhood Vaccines Cause Autism.

But dig deeper into the article, and a different story emerges:

While conceding that childhood vaccines contributed to Hannah's autism, government health officials maintain that there is no proof that they cause autism directly. The government decision does not support the parents' claim, they said.

Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Julie Gerberding said:

"The government has made absolutely no statement indicating that vaccines are a cause of autism."

Of course the government is going to say that. But what does the Poling family say:

Jon Poling said Hannah, like her mother, has a rare inherited mitochondrial disorder. Mitochondria are the "power batteries" inside every cell of the body and supply the cell with energy....

Speaking to WebMD, Jon Poling pointed out the difference between proving a link scientifically and proving it legally.

"When you are talking about the courtroom versus science", said Poling, "the burden of proof is different".

"We showed there was a plausible mechanism, we showed that an injury occurred shortly after her vaccination. Her growth curve went flat for months," he told WebMD.

After all their experience with Hannah, the Polings said they are not against vaccines.

As Jon Poling explained to WebMD:

"I want to make it clear I am not anti-vaccine. Vaccines are one of the most important, if not the most important advance, in medicine in at least the past 100 years."

"But I don't think that vaccines should enjoy a sacred cow status, where if you attack them you are out of mainline medicine," he added.

Poling said that as with every medical treatment, risks exist, and to say they do not is not true. They have to be weighed against the benefits, and sometimes people are injured by a vaccine, but for the vast majority of people they are safe.

"But I couldn't say that vaccines are absolutely safe, that they are not linked to brain injury and they are not linked to autism," said Poling.

Hannah's mother, Terry, told the press yesterday:

"We are absolutely pro-vaccine. What we want is safe vaccines."

Da Goddess concluded:

Autism Spectrum Disorders are all very complicated and have many genetic factors which contribute to the onset of the expression of the disorder. Vaccines, a normal part of childhood in the U.S., are not the cause of autism, but can trigger genes to interpret the vaccine components in a way that thereby trigger the expression of the autistic characteristics. If vaccines alone were the cause of autism, all of us would be in the same boat....

Even the parents of the child in this case are pro-vaccine. What they hope to accomplish, as does the Autism Society of America, is to make vaccines safer. I absolutely agree with this. But in order to do so, we need to make the monetary rewards of such cases go toward the research necessary to make safer vaccines, to improve genetic screening, to prevent wide-spread disease.

Here's what Quackwatch says about the issue:

On October 3, 1999, Cable News Network aired a program on which the parents of three-year-old Liam Reynolds stated that he had developed autism two weeks after receiving measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine [1]. The program included the views of Stephanie Cave, M.D., a Louisiana physician who "specializes in treating autism" with diet and nutritional supplements [2]. An American Academy of Pediatrics official and explained why there was no reason to believe that a link exists between autism and vaccination. But the dramatic before-and-after videotapes of the child probably had enough impact to persuade many parents to avoid having their children vaccinated. The program's narrator stated there had been "a puzzling jump in the number of children being diagnosed with autism." However, the number being diagnosed may reflect increased reporting of cases rather than an increase in actual incidence....

Some parents of children with autism believe that there is a link between measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. However, there is no sensible reason to believe that any vaccine can cause autism or any kind of behavioral disorder. Typically, symptoms of autism are first noted by parents as their child begins to have difficulty with delays in speaking after age one. MMR vaccine is first given to children at 12-15 months of age. Since this is also an age when autism commonly becomes apparent, it is not surprising that autism follows MMR immunization in some cases. However, by far the most logical explanation is coincidence, not cause-and-effect.

If measles vaccine or any other vaccine causes autism, it would have to be a very rare occurrence, because millions of children have received vaccines without ill health effects.

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp del.icio.us tags]

Sphere: Related Content