DESPITE overwhelming evidence to the contrary, roughly one in five Americans believes that vaccines cause autism — a disturbing fact that will probably hold true even after the publication this month, in a British medical journal, of a report thoroughly debunking the 1998 paper that began the vaccine-autism scare.
That’s because the public’s underlying fear of vaccines goes much deeper than a single paper. Until officials realize that, and learn how to counter such deep-seated concerns, the paranoia — and the public-health risk it poses — will remain.
Vaccines have always carried with them an underlying fear…what if you get the disease from the vaccine is a question I hear very often when the flu shot is offered every fall. ” Oh, the only time I got the flu is right after a flu shot…so I don’t want to get it again.”
For those of us in medicine and who work in hospitals the flu shot has become mandatory in recent years otherwise you cannot work. Only those with an allergy to eggs or who have had a reaction to the flu shot in the past are exempt from getting the vaccine. With so many adults fearful of a flu shot, why is it that we are surprised when parents do not want their children vaccinated?
I am not quite sure.
As for my own history with vaccines…I can remember when the polio vaccine trials came out in the 1950’s. It was being offered in public schools in New York. Many parents allowed their children to receive the vaccine at school.
My mother however, did not go along with mass inoculation trials at school. I personally remember the chatter among family in our living room. Most of it centered around whether or not the vaccine was safe. “What if you could actually get polio from the vaccine?” Polio could be deadly or severely crippling. My mother wanted to wait and see for herself.
“The report”, wrote the New York Times, “was a medical classic.” Dr. Francis reported that the vaccinations had been 80 to 90 percent effective on the basis of results in eleven states. Overall, the vaccine was administered to over 440,000 children in forty-four states, three Canadian provinces and in Helsinki, Finland, and the final report required the evaluation of 144,000,000 separate items of information. After the announcement, when asked whether the effectiveness of the vaccine could be improved, Salk said, “Theoretically, the new 1955 vaccines and vaccination procedures may lead to 100 percent protection from paralysis of all those vaccinated.”
When it seemed that all was safe…I received the polio vaccine at my pediatrician’s office.
So with a history of fear surrounding vaccines there is no wonder that parents are nervous when it comes to the relationship of autism and vaccines. This fear will not easily be put to rest…but parents must be judicious and not expose their children to other deadly diseases if there is not a valid connection between vaccines and autism.
With the new findings concerning the study of MMR vaccine and autism it seems that this fear should be put to rest…however it may be very difficult for that to happen since the public has been duped once by medical researchers in this case and now they may be fearful for another reason, unethical behavior on the part of researchers.
So who are parents supposed to believe?
It is my feeling that because there has been a long time with out an outbreak of some of these very serious and deadly illnesses parents have become somewhat cavalier about the actual need for all children to receive immunizations. Healthcare professionals need to do their homework and talk to parents about childhood immunizations before we do succumb to another epidemic of one of these horrible diseases.