Just Kidding

Elizabeth posted an interesting comment/question on the Mattress Quest II post.  What should we make of The Lancet’s announcement they are retracting the study they published in 1998 linking the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism?

When I heard the news, all I could think was: Giiilllly! (This is probably only funny to Paul because he may, in fact, be the only person who follows this blog and watches Saturday Night Live. For the rest of you, click on the link above to watch a Gilly skit. Then watch it again because it gets funnier.)

Apparently the General Medical Council, which oversees doctors in the UK, found the Wakefield study did not meet their ethical standards. They said “there was a biased selection of patients” and “conduct in this regard was dishonest and irresponsible.”

Gilly, did you throw a milk carton at the black board?

First, let me start by confirming that indeed, I am not a doctor and I have very little experience with or knowledge of Autism. But it is clear, even to me, that the Wakefield study has been thoroughly de-bunked. While I can still find publications that are willing to make the case that vaccines are linked to Autism, I cannot find a publication willing to defend the Wakefield study itself. As of today, there are no proven studies linking the MMR vaccine and Autism.

Does that mean that the vaccine, and for that matter all vaccines, are completely safe? There is a small voice in my head that says: just because there is no evidence proving a vaccine does cause harm does not mean that it doesn’t. Just because something has not been proven does not mean that it does not exist. This is one of my pet-peeves with the medical community. Doctors act as if the information they have today is everything. How long ago was it that we thought the world was flat? That leeches were used as a viable form of medical treatment? That Thalidomide was given to pregnant mothers? This is my general philosophy regarding medicine: there is SO much about the human body and how it works that we do not know and we do not understand. This governs all my decisions. I do my best to minimize exposure, to minimize risk.

Gilly, did you stab three pencils in Cindy’s body?

However, I am not only skeptical of the medical community, I am also quite grateful for it. Western medicine did save my life. Oh yeah. There’s that. Let’s not forget.

And, vaccines are very important. They save lives. Measles killed 160,000 in the developing world last year.

Gilly, did you light Bobby’s tie on fire?

Josie got way more shots starting at a younger age than I did. It’s a scary thought, injecting those tiny bodies with all those foreign substances at once. What can her little liver handle? How can her little immune system make sense of what we’ve given her?   

Shit, I don’t know… The solution is different for every person/kid/family and depends on the individual risk factors and family history. The only recommendation I can make is to buy The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. It lists the pros and cons of every vaccine. It provides a recommended delayed schedule. These are not long delays, these are delays of a few weeks or months that allow a little body to process some of what it has been given before it is given another. It provides a rational foundation to make educated decisions.

I know there are some of you out there who have more knowledge of vaccines and experience with Autism. What do you make of this?

Gilly, did you tell millions of people that MMR causes Autism?

Uh-huh. Sorry.

6 thoughts on “Just Kidding

  1. Patricia

    A few years ago I asked my ob-gyn friend about Hormone Replacement Therapy, since I had been diagnosed with osteopenia. They used to automatically give all of us older women HRT, not only for bone density problems, but for the symptoms of menopause. In fact, they thought it would keep us young–or make us look younger, anyway! Then in 2002 they halted a huge HRT study EARLY due to the health risks, especially the increased incidence of breast cancer. But some doctors insisted that the risk of fracture outweighed the risk of breast cancer. Yikes! I have both breast cancer and osteoporosis in my family! What to do? My friend sighed and said, “When nobody really knows, they take these adamant positions.”
    I had to decide for myself.
    Get the best information you can. That probably means researching more than one source. Thanks, Katherine, for helping us do this!
    p.s. And I’ve now heard that osteopenia is a diagnosis invented by the drug company that developed the drug to slow bone loss. At least, according to one source…

  2. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the thoughtful post! Someone taught me that you have to take responsibility for your own medical care – gather the best information you can and make an informed decision. It saddens me when even the best information that you gather is fundamentally flawed.

    I chuckled a little at the comment at the end of Patricia’s post about the diagnosis of osteopenia being developed by the company that had a drug. I was at a spa a few weeks ago and saw an add for a drug that I’d not heard of – it treats the devastation of fewer and shorter eyelashes. Hmmm… I thought mascara did that…

  3. julie

    I like to listen to moms……moms on the playground, moms in the coffee shop, moms in line at the grocery store and moms in waiting rooms. Especially the ones in waiting rooms, I think you get the most honest comments there.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been in lots of waiting rooms – ones for all the doctors and therapists that we have gone to over the last 3 years since my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS which is on the Autism Spectrum. And in those waiting rooms, I can’t count the number of times I have heard a mother say, I thought my son went deaf because he stopped talking after his MMR shot. Soon after, we got a diagnosis.

    I consider us one of the lucky ones. We got the diagnosis, made many life and financial changes and are now in a wonderful place. My guess is you would not be able to pick out my kid in his neuro-typical 1st grade classroom. Lots of moms can’t say that. We are very lucky.

    So, what do I think about this?

    I think vaccines do save lives. I think there needs to continue to be a better dialogue between parents and pediatricians about vaccines and the health of their child. I think vaccines need to get “green”. I think that 36 vaccines is way too many for our kids and I think the schedule needs to be changed. I don’t know if MMR causes Autism but I am thankful for doctors like Dr. Andrew Wakefield who are willing to put their careers and reputations on the line to ask the question.

    1-110 children are diagnosed with Autism. I’m pretty pissed off that I am part of that statistic. Something has to change and I hope it is in our lifetime. I don’t want to meet any more moms in waiting rooms, just coffee shops.

    Link to statement by Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy:

    Link to CDC website with vaccine additives:

  4. admin Post author

    Oh, this is so great Julie. Thanks for spending the time to write this up. You are so right. I agree that vaccines need to be carefully watched, made more healthful and less harmful. I think more research needs to be done. Thanks for the link to the Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey statement. I read the Jenny McCarthy interview that was in Cookie Magazine a while back and I was pleasantly surprised by how logical her argument was and how much I agreed with her.


    Thanks for this!

    PS – Peggy? Peggy, you out there? Here Peggy Peggy Peggy…

  5. peggy

    Who, me??? Sorry, I’ve been a little distracted lately . . .

    As a pediatrician (who is also a parent) I can say that I understand both sides of this discussion–both sides meaning the medical recommendation of all those vaccines AND the parental side of being cautious about what is given to our kids. On the other hand, the only reason we–in the United States–can even have this discussion is because we have had all these vaccines available to our children for decades. Our children are not dying of measles or paralyzed by polio or having chronic liver failure because mom’s Hepatitis B was passed on in-utero. I realize that no one here has suggested their kids not be immunized at all–and I am thankful for that. Immunizations save lives, there is no doubt about that, and whether you decide to give your kid vaccines on the recommended schedule or to delay and spread them out doesn’t matter much to me. Any time your kid gets them–as long as they get them–works for me.

    There are many issues I could speak to here (the evil of drug companies, sound research and development, the need for vaccines in the developing world, etc.–but I’ll wait for Katherine to post other provocative questions before I tackle all those issues . . . ) but I would like to say that there is no evidence that multiple vaccines overwhelm the human/infant immune system, or that giving a butt-load of vaccines all at once is harmful to a baby. In fact, the evidence points to just the opposite. Part of the reason vaccines are grouped together is because it is known that antibody production against any one pathogen is enhanced by antibody production against another. In other words, for example, a baby’s immune response to polio is enhanced by also inducing an immune response to hepatitis B. Similarly, if you live with pets and livestock and let your kid eat food they’ve dropped on the floor they have a lower incidence of asthma, and of allergies. Stimulation of the immune system is a GOOD thing.

    As for autism–it is a very scary diagnosis prone to all sorts of theories because we don’t know what causes it. But the association of autism with the MMR vaccine (aside from the debunked Wakefield study) has been made largely because of a temporal association. The MMR isn’t given until 15-18 months of age; autism is characterized by a loss of language and social milestones that isn’t easily identified until 18 months-3 years of age. More recent research has shown that characteristics of autism can be identified as early as 4 months–which basically makes any influence by vaccines impossible. Temporal associations can appear to be indicative of really bad juju, but they don’t make it so.

    I would certainly never say that the medical establishment knows everything, or that what we do believe now will hold true into the future. But I will say that vaccines provide way more benefit than they pose risk. And I am a firm believer in getting babies immunized. You only have to watch one infant die from lock-jaw (tetanus,) or one toddler suffocate from measles-induced pneumonia–and I have seen it all–to know that we are very, very fortunate to have vaccines available to our babies.

    Sorry this is so long–perhaps you’ll think twice about ‘calling me out’ the next time 🙂

  6. cheryl brockway

    Thank you for such interesting, informative and entertaining info! I thoroughly enjoyed reading each word. Keep up the great work!

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