Don’t hate me. I’m going to write about vaccinations.
I dread the vaccination issue and squirm every time it comes up. And it comes up a lot these days, of course – my Facebook page – likely yours, too – is cluttered with links to articles on the awful, outrageous, selfish people who don’t vaccinate their children, posted by people who add comments like, “Get the facts, people” – of course without offering any facts at all. At times it can feel like a modern-day witch hunt.
As of right now, Logan has received every vaccination doctors and the CDC suggested. We hadn’t even hesitated.
And I don’t believe that Logan’s vaccinations caused his autism.
The issue isn’t as simple as a Facebook post (“Duh, people, don’t be stupid”) would imply. Dr. Wakefield, who apparently set the world on fire with his study, is not some evil villain out to bring us back to the medical Dark Ages. I do think there are evil villains in this story—but we’ll get to them in a minute.
Dr. Wakefield’s study showed patients with autism had measles, and it happened to be the same strain that was given in the measles vaccination. His study didn’t conclude that vaccinations caused measles but suggested a link might be possible and that further research would be appropriate. Of course, drug companies don’t want to hear this. And drug companies have incredible political power.
So Wakefield was tarred and feathered and striped of his medical license – a chronology often overlooked in Facebook posts claiming things like, “Why do stupid people not vaccinate because of this guy? He’s not even a doctor!”
And while everyone zeroes in on the vaccination link, another important piece of that study often goes unnoticed: the possibility it raised of an underlying medical condition (in this case, measles) related to autism. So many parents are told, sorry, there’s nothing you can do and no real reason – when perhaps there might be. But a huge opportunity to study the medical side of autism has been missed, thanks the drug companies in their panic to protect their product and profits.
I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor. I don’t claim to be an expert on vaccinations, or even autism. I’m just a mom. And a writer. And a teacher. And a former journalist. And all of these things make me kind of inquisitive. And the astonishing, unexplained leap in autism rates makes me wonder. The even more astonishing prediction that 1 in 2 babies will be born with autism by 2025 makes me wonder. The countless parents insisting there is something medically wrong with their autistic child makes me wonder. And the mob of people suddenly raising their pitchforks, crying, “How dare you not vaccinate!” makes me wonder.
I understand vaccinations have helped society. But haven’t we gone a little overboard? Do we really need all these vaccinations?
Take the HPV vaccination Gardasil, for instance. This one has always confused me. Preventing cervical cancer would be a great thing—but what happened to safe sex or abstinence? If those were practiced, why would there be a need for a vaccination against an STD? The extent to which advertisements ran promoting that vaccination (and their pathetic, over-the-top play on emotions – “I’m telling my daughter-my mother-my best friend…” uggh…) made me leery even well before I had children. Learning about the extent its owner, Merck, has lobbied for it to be a legal requirement makes me even more suspicious. Are we being told what to vaccinate against based on what is most healthful for individuals and society or what is most profitable for drug companies?
I’d like to see a study of how much more money drug companies have made in the past decade from the increased vaccinations. I wonder if I’d be tarred, feathered, and stripped of respect, too.
The trouble with the vaccination debate is most people fall into the logical fallacy of “either/or.” Either you take all the vaccinations that the drug companies want, or you’re evil.
Of course, nothing in real life is that starkly black and white. And this is my main concern with the vaccination debate: It assumes everyone is the same, and we vaccinate according to the “happy” medium (which, remembering MFK Fisher, is another way of saying whatever kills the least number with greatest ease).
For example. Right now, Logan needs booster shots—“needs” being a misnomer, actually. Legally, he does not need them. And it is very possible that his own body might not need them – a booster is designed to give a “boost” to the body’s immune system, to raise the levels of antibodies against the disease. The trouble is, no one knows what levels of antibodies he currently has. It is entirely possible his body is continuing to produce immunity to the disease from his last round. It is entirely possible that he already has the same level of antibodies as someone who’s had the booster shot. It’s even possible he has more. This is because everyone’s body is different, and everyone reacts differently to the shot—everyone will produce different levels of immunity from vaccinations.
I’ve read that 95 percent of children are immune to measles, mumps and ruebella from the MMR vaccination – but just to catch that last 5 percent, everyone is given a booster (though I’ll be admit I’m not sure how accurate that statistic is, given the author’s credentials are listed as “infectious disease expert.”)
Because every body is different, my husband and I plan to have a titer test done on Logan, a test that checks his blood for levels of antibodies. If they’re high enough, we will not give him a booster shot. This is because, again, I do not think vaccinations cause autism, but I do suspect anything his body doesn’t need contributes to his autism by putting an extra burden on his bodily systems.
Pitchforks down, please.
On the other hand, when Sadie heads off to kindergarten, I doubt we’ll check her levels—we’ll probably just let her have the booster shot. This is because (so far, at least), her body appears more adjustable. But Logan’s body appears to be more sensitive. Therefore what is right for Sadie is not necessarily right for Logan. You cannot blindly scream to “Vaccinate!” no more than you can turn your back to benefits vaccinations have brought. We are all individuals, and we should be treated as such – not as a massive herd to be injected with whatever a drug company has determined will maximize their profits and kill the least with greatest ease.