Recently there has been a lot of publicity surrounding researcher Andrew Wakefield and his 1998 publication in The Lancet, a reputable British medical journal. The Wakefield study suggested that there was a correlation between childhood Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination and the onset of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It is still hard to believe that the publication ever graced the pages of such a reputable medical journal given the questionable manner in which the original data was obtained and the very small sample size used, even before it was discovered that the results were fraudulent.
Beyond the impact that the publication had on the scientific community, it caused global panic among parents who were concerned that they were exposing their young children to a potentially toxic compound in these vaccines. Many parents subsequently, have become advocates against childhood vaccinations because they continue to believe that there is a link between vaccination and the increased rate of ASD diagnoses, even with the recent revelation that the Wakefield study was an elaborate hoax.
However, it is not fair to simply dismiss the concerns of parents whose children have been diagnosed with ASD around the time that they would have also begun to receive an ever increasing number of childhood vaccinations. Some parents who are refusing to vaccinate their young children aren’t necessarily opposed to the idea of vaccinations themselves, but to the schedule and number of the vaccinations, which has increased dramatically in recent years. Since 1995 the number of childhood vaccinations recommended for children 0 yrs to 6 yrs has increased from about 10 to almost 30. Some parents are concerned that chemicals added to the vaccines are having a greater, negative impact on their children’s health because of the increased exposure to those chemicals when so many vaccines are administered in such a short period of time.
While the focus for many parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated is in an effort to prevent disorders such as ASD, parents might in fact be unintentionally putting their children at great risk to become susceptible to other devastating and sometimes fatal childhood diseases such as Measles, Diphtheria, and Whooping Cough. Vaccines that are usually administered in infancy help children to develop immunity against such infectious diseases. Therefore, when a parent refuses to have a child vaccinated that child is more susceptible to these diseases.
Not only will the unvaccinated child be more susceptible to these types of infections, but that child could potentially put his/her other family members and classmates and at risk of a disease outbreak. Recently there was an outbreak of Whooping Cough in the state of California which resulted in the death of at least 10 infants. It is believed that this outbreak was due to the resistance of parents to having their children vaccinated due to fears that the vaccine would lead to autism.
A recent study in Japan indicates that there was no observable correlation between the MMR vaccination schedule and autism. The study compared rates of ASD in regions where the MMR vaccinations had been spread out over a longer period, to regions where the vaccine was administered over a shorter period. However, such studies have not yet convinced many parents that vaccines are not making their children sick and until there is more definitive evidence as to why the autism rate is increasing so dramatically, parents will no doubt continue to search for answers about whether it has anything to do with vaccinations.