What if someone came to you and told you that the sky was green or that
up was down--that everything you believed in was based off of a lie, that
what you believed in was wrong?This is what many parents of children with
autism are dealing with in light of Brian Deer's Sunday Times
investigation that led to the decision by the Lancet medical journal to
retract Dr. Andrew Wakefield's research linking the MMR vaccine with
autism. People like Jenny McCarthy and Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson who are
very vocal autism advocates are fighting the news of this revelation.
They are holding to their beliefs unmoved by the recent information
released over the last few days.Drastic change in beliefs occurs only
when there is sufficient evidence or a desire to see things in a new
light because what was once believed has ceased to provide answers.
Imagine Galileo telling others that earth was not the center of the
universe, that because of the evidence he found with his telescope that
he knew for a fact that we rotated around the sun. The people of his time
were forced to reassess their beliefs and put in perspective what that
meant. Some were able to change their minds others condemned him for it.
Since 1998, a common belief held by parents of children with autism was
that the MMR vaccine caused autism in children who already had an immune
deficiency. This information was finally something tangible to shed light
on the causes of autism. It answered the how and why.While I believe that
Dr. Wakefield findings were fraudulent, it does not necessarily take away
proof that there is a correlation between autism and vaccines. It only
takes away which specific vaccine is linked with autism. The specificity
empowered parents--instead of being afraid of all vaccines one was
singled out. It illustrated concrete proof, not vague connection. Dr.
Wakefields research has been discredited but it has not ended the autism
vaccine debate. Recently, the US government conceded a court case in
which vaccination contributed to the onset of autism for a nine year-old
girl who had a predisposition to mitochondrial disorder. This provided
evidence that some children are more at risk than others in getting
autism from vaccines.If we can agree that vaccination might cause autism
in some children than we need a new approach to how we take care the
health of our children. Keep them safe from both disease and autism. Its
not one or the other.We need to stop the blanket approach in how we deal
with vaccination. Its not unreasonable to screen children who may have
compromised immune systems before they're vaccinated, or to space out
vaccinations so children are receiving fewer at a time. What we can't do
is completely stop all vaccination-- that would create an epidemic of
diseases.What should be taken from Deers and Dr. Wakefield is that ideas
change. There is no absolute truth but we need to believe in something.
With out that there isn't hope.We must also recognize however that the
unwillingness to change beliefs is detrimental to progress. We rotate
around the sun.