Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Just vaccinate - really!

One year on from my previous post about vaccination, Just Vaccinate, a comment was left by a mother who has an autistic child.  I attempted to reply to her with all my sympathy, as follows. 

I don't know how to express as much empathy as I wish to for every mother and father who find themselves in this situation, where their child appears to develop the symptoms of autism shortly after vaccination.  I can only say why I still feel strongly about vaccination.

First, it is an unfortunate fact that science gets things wrong sometimes.  Andrew Wakefield did get it wrong and his infamous paper has now been withdrawn.  His professional career has not prospered - quite rightly - but his wealth has not suffered.  Unfortunately - and for understandable reasons - he now has a lot of followers.

It is also an unfortunate fact that in a community where more and more people are not vaccinated, babies are much more likely to be exposed to dangerous infections early in life, and so it is important that they are protected as early as possible.  When that is, I do not know, but I think it is very likely to have been found, by science, to be the time when the vaccinations are currently given.  Otherwise they would be given earlier.

Mother's intuitions are often right.  Sadly they are less reliable in other cases, because everybody is different, and the best way to choose the right course of action is by measuring it over the whole population for as long as possible. 

Perhaps it would be good to change the time of vaccinations slightly, and delay them or stagger their timings.  Although it would put a few children at risk for a few months initially, it would at least break the 'observed' but incorrect correlation between vaccinations and autism.  Autistic symptoms would then appear before the vaccination and the evidence would be clear to all.  Everyone would be vaccinated and the least possible harm would result from it in just a few years time.

The only problem is that the evidence would NOT actually be there for ALL to see, because all the people do not wish to look.  You can tell that because the evidence already exists.  Sadly, far too many people still see it as a conspiracy by 'big pharma' or dismiss it for other reasons. 

I'm so sad for everyone affected by autism.  I'm equally sad for those infected by measles when this is a condition that can now be avoided, and has been for decades.

I'm sad for those who catch polio, having known people of my parents' generation who lived with its effects all their lives.  Imagine life in a wheelchair, just because you had not had a simple vaccination.

This is why I say 'Just Vaccinate', but I say it with the greatest sympathy to those who have not had the scientific education to help them to know that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

Just because two things happen together does not mean that one is caused by the other.

Most people who eat a lot of rice have black hair, but rice does not cause black hair.


LadyAtheist said...

The hysteria has gone way beyond the alleged connection to autism. Now the charlatans are claiming that vaccinations actually cause the diseases they're supposed to prevent, and there are people who believe that dogs that have been vaccinated for rabies develop "rabies vaccinosis."

There are occasional adverse effects from vaccines, but why don't they consider dying from a preventable disease an adverse effect of *not* being vaccinated?

I think doctors should tell parents more about how the brain develops. It seems like there are some diseases tied to specific stages of brain development. Like, onset of schizophrenia tends to peak from ca. 16-25 years old, when the prefrontal cortex is maturing.

LadyAtheist said...

p.s. this guy is the source of a lot of baloney regarding pet care. I have encountered MANY pet owners who have been snowed by this crap.

Plasma Engineer said...

I just looked in my spam folder for something else and found three of your comments in there. Thanks for the contributions. Hopefully unmarking them as spam might have helped blogger not to flag your future comments. All the best.

Plasma Engineer said...

I see what you mean about Richard Pitcairn! I had heard that name before, and now I remember why.