Vaccines and Autism


DOGMATISM is the tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

What is the greatest scientific achievement of mankind ? One word VACCINES. They are indeed a scientific marvel that end up saving the lives of over 6 million children every year.
1. A child got infected with meningococcemia, ended up with requiring admission in ICU, amputation of all four limbs and a life threatening meningitis that he barely survived.
2. An infant with severe dehydration secondary to diarrhea resulting in acute kidney injury.
3. A young child with life long asymmetric paralysis of his lower limbs. Wheelchair/ crutches bound for the rest of his life.
All 3 diseases easily preventable with a Vaccine. These children were denied a chance to avoid this suffering. I have chosen Vaccine and autism as the topic because this is where the whole discussion about the harmful effects of vaccine ultimately turns its tide to.
In 1998, Dr. Wakefield , who was a surgeon in UK conducted a study on 12 kids that tried to show  a link between MMR vaccine and Autism. He had no background in pediatrics or infectious diseases. Wakefield proposed that these kids develop gut inflammation due to a mystery protein which then subsequently leads to Autism. Due to his background in surgery, he even performed intestinal biopsies for this purpose. After this claim, more than a dozen studies have shown that there is no evidence for such a claim.
Among these studies one was specifically targeted at gut inflammation whereby 473 Autistic kids in UK were screened for possible gut inflammation. Results: There was no link between gut inflammation and Autism.
Moreover, in Finland a study followed 1.8 million kids who were fully vaccinated and not even one case of autism developed / appeared in those children.
With time the autism cases are on the rise. However, the rates of MMR vaccines was calculated during the same period when autism was on the rise. It showed that both UK and USA were showing steady rates of MMR vaccination during that period i.e no significantly increased coverage over the past 6 and 15 years respectively. Interestingly , rates of vaccination significantly declined over a 12 year period in Canada, but despite that Autism was on the rise in Canada. This also nullifies the link that Wakefield was trying to show. He had sown the seed of doubts though and many parents became very much reluctant to the idea of vaccinating their child.
10 of the original authors of the Wakefeild study retracted their findings in 2004. This was quite unprecedented and raised many eyebrows. Brian Deer, an investigative journalist investigated this further and found that in 1996, two years prior to the study, a law company had paid Wakefield 500,000 $ to create this link to facilitate lawsuits. In 1997 Wakefield had placed a patent on another MMR vaccine , so it was in his interest to show the MMR vaccine as inferior or unsafe so that his patented product could thrive in the market. It was conflict of interest and he should never have been allowed to conduct this research in the first place.

His case was extensively investigated by the GMC in 2007-10. Wakefield was found to be dishonest because he did not reveal these payments and due to the conflicting financial interests. He was helped by the lawyers to find and pick these 12 children. They were not part of any randomized sample. He was found to be negligent as he ended up doing 3 lumbar punctures as part of his study on children that did not need them. He also did not have any ethical clearance to conduct these studies from his hospitals. He was ultimately removed from the medical registry.

Subsequently, the Lancet medical journal that published this article retracted his study due to the obvious loopholes in his findings. In 2011 hospital records of the 12 original kids who Wakefield cited in his study, were released. They showed even more discrepancies. Wakefield had tampered with pathologist reports by reporting gut inflammation when they had not reported it in the first place.
Another myth associated with vaccine use is the substances used to stabilize it are termed as toxic metals. Anti vaxers give the example of Alluminium. It is present in vaccines to stabilize it and prevent bacterial and fungal infection. In all the vaccines that a 6 month child is administered a total of 4.4 mg of Alluminium goes into his body. This is less than the total Alluminium that the baby consumes via breast milk or baby formula milk and hence is completely harmless and no way near toxic levels.
Bottom line:
1. Vaccines take a part of a virus or modified/killed version to induce your immune system to mount a response to prevent the disease.
2. They are associated with adverse effects including fever, local injection site erythema/pain etc. It can lead to anaphylaxis in 1 in a million cases which is fully reversible by a healthcare professional.
3. Lets weigh these odds 1600 children die every year in car accidents. You have a 1 in 12000 chance of being struck by lightening. 1 in 1000,000 children experience a severe reaction due to a vaccine. I think I will take my chances with the vaccine.
4. Vaccines (in particular MMR) have nothing to do with autism. Signs and symptoms of Autism are evident in most children by 6 to 9 months whereby they exhibit lack of eye contact and lack of social/emotional connection with caregiver amongst other subtle signs. This precedes the MMR vaccine date by about 5 months.

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