Vaccinations and Autism – Fact or Myth?3 min read
A British doctor, whose research linked autism to common vaccines, was stripped of his license to practice medicine earlier this week. Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose reports in 1998 found an increased incidence of autism in children who received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and whose study influenced millions of parents to forego vaccinations for their children, was found to have conducted “unethical research.” In banning him from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom, Britain’s General Medical Council cited a January ruling that “Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a callous disregard for the children in their study.” Among other indiscretions, Wakefield allegedly paid children for blood samples collected at his son’s birthday party and later joked about the incident. Despite the fact that numerous other studies failed to corroborate Dr. Wakefield’s results, and that the British journal Lancet eventually retracted the original article detailing his findings, vaccination rates in Britain and other rich countries remain lower than before the study was published over a dozen years ago. This has led to a number of measles outbreaks in Europe each year and even sporadic cases in the United States. Dr. Wakefield has appeared as an expert witness in a number of lawsuits against governments and vaccine manufacturers claiming that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines led to autism. Over 5,500 claims have been filed attempting to indict the MMR vaccine, but most have been dismissed for lack of evidence. Two rulings in March of last year by a special branch of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found no link between vaccines and autism. In addition, at least a dozen British medical associations including the Royal College of Physicians, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust have issued statements verifying the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Parents of children who did not receive recommended vaccinations as infants should be aware of the dangers of travelling outside of the United States, and of having close contact with other unvaccinated children who have travelled internationally. In 2008, a 7 year old unvaccinated boy became infected with measles while traveling in Switzerland. He unknowingly exposed over 800 people and infected 11 unvaccinated children when he returned to California. The public health cost for managing the outbreak was almost $200,000! If you have read this far, I hope you have concluded that the answer to this post’s title is: MYTH. Were you swayed in the past by these false claims? How about friends or family members? Let us know if your opinion on this subject has changed over time and why. It is important to spread facts and not fiction, at least that’s what we here at the Healthy Travel Blog think. Photo by firma.