What parent hasn’t considered the possibility of postponing or rejecting routine vaccinations out of fear of a link between vaccines and Autism
Over a year ago, and with little fanfare, Dr. Wakefield’s 1998 study indicating a link between the Measels, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and Autism was exposed as a fake. At that time, medical personnel worried that calling attention to the inaccuracy of the study could lead to a resurgence of vaccination avoidance and stir up the debate again.
The false link has been widely publicized recently, now that the Lancet Journal in Britain retracted the research results after it surfaced that the study’s author had published deceptive results. According to the New York Times report, “Part of the costs of Dr. Wakefield?s research were paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers for damages. Dr. Wakefield was also found to have patented in 1997 a measles vaccine that would succeed if the combined vaccine were withdrawn or discredited.
As a new mother in 1998, I recall hesitating, researching the web, polling my family and friends and seriously weighing my parental responsibility to do what I had to do to keep my child healthy. I wrestled with the question constantly: Do I vaccinate or not?
Usually, when parents are presented with solid information and choices, we are able to make decisions on behalf of our children that work best for our family. I vaccinated. I worried, but I asked questions, and I forged ahead trusting our family doctor and my own judgment.
Some families in my circle of mother-friends decided not to vaccinate their children against MMR primarily because Wakefield’s research suggested the bundling of the three was unsafe.
Some parents of toddlers in our playgroup decided the onset of Autism indicators and the scheduled vaccinations seemed too coincidental to ignore and not only did they refuse MMR vaccines, but refused all vaccinations, in an effort to eliminate the risk of Autism claiming another toddler.
I know moms who went to great lengths to avoid vaccines, repeatedly filling out the necessary paperwork at school, rejecting the vaccinations for personal reasons, even when their hesitancy was met with looks of skepticism or a solid dose of patronizing head patting.
Then came the public push to promote what was thought to be Wakefield’s honest research. Movie stars began trumpeting an anti-vaccine message and Internet chat rooms filled with debates and arguments for and against vaccinations, against thimerasol, additives, preservatives, etc.
Sadly, those vaccine-avoiders neither hurt nor helped their children prevent the onset of Autism and Wakefield’s cautions and the debate that followed, actually had little affect on the rate of Autism, a diagnosis showing steady increases for children today. Autism now affects one in every 111 children and each year 1 % of children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder.
Wakefield’s study did affect children’s well-being, but in a different way than expected; over the last 12 years, thousands of toddlers were not given routine vaccinations for old childhood illnesses like measles and mumps. The very serious illnesses that our grandparents prayed would spare their own children, our now-aging parents, have returned, and are affecting today’s school-age children.
In just one generation’s time, some parts of the United States are now seeing a resurgence in these diseases and the serious complications associated with them. The only thing worse than learning the Wakefield study was faked in 1998 for the researcher’s personal gain, is the shameful fact that 12 years have been wasted investigating false leads and distracting medical researchers from identifying the true causes or triggers of Autism.
About Annita Wozniak
Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com