Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Vaccine Debate - MMR

This is something my husband and I have been struggling with for a long time now.  Probably one of the hardest decisions we've had to make as parents revolves around this very topic.  Do we continue to vaccinate our children?  The concern over vaccine safety puts parents in a squeeze.  If you vacccinate your child and they develop autism, then you feel like a jerk.  And if you don't vaccinate your child and they end up really sick, damaged, or God forbid, dead because of an illness, then you feel like a jerk.  Either way, unless you vaccinate and your kiddo doesn't end up autistic, you're gonna be a jerk.

So to all my fellow "jerks" out there that are struggling with this, I've been doing some heavy research.  Take it for what you will, as I'm not yet convinced of one side or another, but it is helpful to have both sides of the story before you make a knee "jerk" reaction.  (Sorry, had to put another jerk in there... HA!  Just did it again!)

I can tell you, it wasn't easy telling our pediatrician we were planning on not vaccinating.  Mostly because she has been absolutely amazing with our kids in times of trouble and I adore her.  And of course she asked "Why?" and when I told her she reacted in a way I'd never quite seen from her before.  Usually she's smiley, optimistic, calm but proactive when something is concerning, this time I saw major frustration.  I totally understood why.  She loves our kids, and it was more than obvious to me she was both scared and angry at the anti vaccine campaign that's currently running through the autism community.  And I was welling up as we were discussing it... well, maybe not so much discussing, as she was vigorously pleading her pro vaccination case.  And of course I told her of my "jerk vs. jerk" concerns along with some other studies I had been looking into.  It was then when she recommended this book.

"Autism's False Prophets" by Paul A. Offit MD.  Dr. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center, Chief of Infectious Diseases, and the Henle Professor of Immunologic and Infectious Diseases for Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania.

It's a good book so far.  I'm only about a third of the way through it.  I still have a hard time reading a pro vaccine book written by the man that developed a popular vaccine.  But, if I'm willing to read Jenny McCarthy, who isn't a scientist and is an activist mostly because of circumstantial evidence, then I'd better at least give this man my time.

So far, he's discussed the shady and unethical work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who in 1998 published an article in the Lancet papers claiming he found conclusive evidence of a link between the MMR and autism. (As many of you know, Dr. Wakefield lost his license to practice yesterday.)  He was the man that started the MMR scare, and consequently, a wave unvaccinated children worldwide.  The initial evidence he posted seemed to be concerning, but when you look at how the data was gathered, what wasn't considered, how the controls that should have been there weren't, and how much he was paid by a personal injury lawyer to prove MMR caused autism, you can't conclusively buy into his theory.  I'm not saying I totally believe the MMR is safe, it's just that the research he did was not all inclusive and therefore doesn't warrant proof.

This website basically sums up what I've read so far, and includes some studies that claim to prove the MMR is not related.  It's an interesting read.

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