Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vaccines do not cause autism. Period.

It's in vogue right now to be afraid of vaccines. The UK has been dealing with this issue for a while now, and it has gotten to the point where measels, a horrible disease once essentially wiped from the face of the British Isles, is now considered endemic once again.

There have always been antivaccinationists here in the U.S., but it's only been in the last two years or so that the myth of vaccine-caused autism has really taken root and germinated here. This is in no small part due to Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey, who despite the utter lack of scientific or medical credentials have been given carte blanche to promulgate this falsehood everywhere from Oprah to the Today Show, with hardly any opposing voices heard, despite what the science tells us. This pseudoscientific nonsense goes unchallenged because we Americans like our celebrities. We like a good sob story. We like easily identifiable villians, whether they be Kim Jong Il or MMR. Unfortunately, sometimes the truth gets in the way of a good narrative.

The vaccines => autism story is just such a story, and the truth is that vaccines simply do not cause autism. Period.


David Gorski, one of the writers at the excellent Science-Based Medicine blog, just wrote an epic article debunking the autism/vaccine link. Debunking puts it lightly, actually. What Gorski does is evicerates this myth. Piece by piece, Gorski shows why every argument put forth by the antivax crowd is bankrupt.

If you have a coworker (as I do) or an uncle or a friend who insists that this link exists, or that there is controversy over the question, go read this post. It's a long article... LONG. But it is absolutely worth reading in its entirety. Remember that this antivax setiment is not like believing in fairies: demonstrably wrong, but essentially harmless. No, we vaccinate against diseases like measels because they are deadly. The percentage of unvaccinated children is falling below the levels needed for herd immunity in some communities. And not just in the UK. Here. This puts children at risk; young people unable to make an informed choice for themsleves, or babies too young to recieve the vaccine, but who would otherwise not be exposed to these deadly diseases until after they got the jab.

For the extremely lazy, here's the bullet point version:
- Andrew Wakefield's study that was the flashpoint of the autism/vaccine firestorm was discrected years ago as horribly sloppy. In the last few weeks, it was found that the study wasn't sloppy at all: it was fraudulent.
- Every single replicable trial or study has shown no relationship between vaccination and autism.
- There is no known way that vaccines or their ingredients could cause the symptoms described.
- Vaccine opponents are unable to produce any evidence of their claims.
- Vaccine opponents often admit that there is no evidence to support their clain, but go on perpetualting it anyway.
- Peeps be dying! Get yr kiddies vaccinated!

I know it's a long read, but go get to it!

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