Persistent fears continue about the safety of immunizations and autism. As celebrities weigh in and the internet can be full of misinformation we thought it was important to make our stance clear on vaccines. We respect the rights of all parents to make the best decisions for their children, but in this case the science continues to win this argument.
How did this controversy come to be? In the late 1990’s concerns that children vaccinated with products that contained the preservative Thimerosal™ could receive doses of mercury above those considered acceptable were raised. At the same time, the number of children diagnosed with conditions that fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders was on the rise. But the authors of well-designed and scientifically rigorous research studies demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, that there simply is no association between immunizations and the apparent rise in the incidence of autism.
Vaccines are among the most effective prevention tools available to clinicians. High immunization coverage has resulted in drastic declines in vaccine-preventable diseases. And for those who cannot be immunized because of other illnesses, “herd effect” - the phenomenon by which a disease is squeezed out of a community due to a lack of hosts capable of transmitting it – offers a potentially lifesaving option. Unfortunately, the low incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases has led some to wrongly believe the conditions have been eradicated - we have become victims of our own success.
A new study evaluating parents’ concerns of “too many vaccines too soon” and autism has been published online in the Journal of Pediatrics. It adds to the conclusion of a 2004 comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that there is not a causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism. The results provide relevant data for the current childhood immunization schedule.
Use of immunizations is good medicine and good healthcare policy. It helps protect individuals today. And in the long-run, it will decrease the cost of providing care to those who might be afflicted by preventable conditions. It is the proverbial “win-win” situation. A popular aphorism states that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the case of immunizations, this simple and safe precautionary measure not only prevents illnesses, it saves lives.
Pedro Weisleder, MD, PhD, is an attending pediatric neurologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Neurology Residency Program at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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