Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When More Is Less

“Real difficulties can be overcome. It’s the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” -Theodore Vail

There's a trend now for parents NOT to immunize children because some famous celebrity decided, that some shady research proved, that vaccines cause autism.
Immunizations happen to be one of the numerous, scientific innovations we are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of in this country. Many in the 3rd world are not so lucky. Thanks to a former Playboy bunny, some biased “research” and the general public’s willingness to believe in the most far-fetched conspiracy theories…somehow life saving vaccines have become modern society's new bogeymen.  

 The fact that there is NO scientific data that establishes a cause and effect relationship between immunization and autism doesn't seem to faze anyone.  In fact, what comprises an autism diagnosis itself, has undergone wildly shifting parameters.  What is and isn't considered autism has become a moving target.    It is particularly interesting to note, that not only has the bar for an autism diagnosis been lowered, but once it qualified a child for "disability status" the diagnosis rate skyrocketed.  What was once thought of as rude and obnoxious behavior is now excused away with a diagnosis and medicated.  There’s been a big run on getting kids that cherished “disability” status now, because there are so many advantages to being disadvantaged.  In addition to the financial subsidies, parents push family physicians hard for autism and A.D.D. diagnoses just so their children may partake in all of the perks a diagnosis provides. 

Those perks include things like more time allotted to take the S.A.T. and other college entrance exams.  Parents ferret out any nugget that might give their kid an edge when it comes to the collegiate acceptance Olympics, without considering the long term side effects of a drugged childhood.   Bestowing a diagnosis on kids because they may occasionally exhibit unacceptable or anti-social behavior is not doing anyone any favors.  Perhaps a dose of discipline would provide healthier long term results?

So back to the original premise... parents are no longer immunizing children against diseases that the industrialized world worked so hard to conquer.  They think their kids are safe because "We don't have those diseases in this country anymore".  That is until they travel to or bump into someone from one of those 3rd world nations that do not have the immunizations in place to keep those "old" diseases in check.

 There are still places in the world where diseases like polio exist.  We take for granted that measles (rubella and rubeola) diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) are no longer around.  They are.  Thanks to air travel no country can ever be completely isolated anymore.  

 In fact, children in this country are once again dying of diseases that could easily be avoided by a simple vaccination.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  It’s a terrible shame that people are more willing to believe a celebrity’s opinion about science than the actual scientists themselves.  People apparently are under the impression that these diseases no longer exist because they are relatively rare.  The reason they are rare in this country is... 

Wait for it... 


 Currently the percentage of immunized children is still high enough to provide what is known as "herd immunity" so the non-vaccinated still benefit from the high percentage of those around them that are disease free. This is “the herd”, so to speak, that helps keep diseases in check.  When the percentages of the non-immunized begin to outweigh the immunized, there is a significant shift and the herd immunity greatly diminishes.  This puts all of the non-vaccinated children, including those too young for certain vaccinations, at much greater risk. 

Why on earth would a parent subject their child to the very real consequences of not being immunized against very serious diseases because some airhead celebrity, who doesn't even play a doctor on TV, got it in her head that somehow vaccinations were bad?  Children IN THIS COUNTRY are once again dying of diseases that are completely preventable.  Children are dying, because the fear of something imaginary, is overriding what should be a healthy respect for what is real.  

While I am not a physician, I do believe strongly in the scientific method. 
I will not claim to know the actual reasons why the autism rate has gone up so much, even when filtering the diagnosis roster for the more severe cases.

 If I had to venture a wild guess as to why we have more "real" cases of autism in the past 20 years I wouldn't blame it on immunization.  I could make a correlational case for prenatal vitamins... crazy right?
It is also something found predominantly in industrialized nations, so why not look there? Their increased use has paralleled the dramatic rise in the incidence of autism much more closely than the use of vaccines. 

Here's the thought process: We know that a lack of folic acid in the diet of pregnant women can cause spina bifida, a nasty neurological defect… Folic acid is one of the big ticket items found in prenatal vitamins to support the prevention of spina bifida.  Maybe, just maybe, it might be possible... and I'm making a leap here but I think it is possible that too much folic acid, particularly in the highly concentrated doses found in the vitamins, particularly in the bloodstream of some moms that think if some is good, more is better, contributes to other neurological issues such as autism.

 In this world where the law of unintended consequences abounds, I think it could be quite possible that our "more is better" approach to having perfect babies is creating more problems than it solves.

I fully admit I do not have any hard evidence, just a gut feeling. I'd like to the see unbiased research done so we could figure it out with some degree of certainty.

Therein also illustrates the danger of publishing findings based on conjecture and correlation again. What if someone reads my wild guess and "decides" that I'm right.  It even has the potentially popular undercurrent of "evil pharmaceutical companies create vitamins that cause birth defects".  Pretty soon there will be some celebrity somewhere that picks up on the idea, likes it, hypes it and poof... another cause célèbre' is born.   I wonder if it too, will have autism.

Supporting documentation:


Anonymous said...

Well done. Very interesting. I'd bet you are right. But then I've always been a big fan.

Ashley said...

I agree 100%!!!
I'm nursing student, and you would be surprised how many young adults that are coming in to the program haven't had their required vaccinations.
In fact, the school I'm going too will not let you in if you can't prove you've had all of them.

A lot of people aren't getting their children the HPV shot either. It isn't a "required vaccine". However, It can save your son or daughter from getting cancer. My step mother has HPV and was just diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the premise of your article. First, you have correlated a play bunny and other media hype as the reason parents are making a choice not to vaccinate their child(ren). I earned a Master's in Public Health, and I spent a considerable amount of time researching the content of vaccines and the reaction(s) it causes. The demographics of parents choosing not to vaccinate are academically educated. The higher the education, the less likely to vaccinate.

I care not what others think, or is main stream, or is popular. I choose to educate myself on risks, understanding fully the significance between possibility and probability.

I need not provide the lists of medications once approved and recommended by the CDC/FDA that were later pulled from the market when it was discovered it posed a serious health risk. It is public information.

This is the USA. In the USA we still have freedom of choice. We may not agree with others, but it is still a choice. And we have the freedom to hold and espouse an apposing opinion. Thank you for letting me share mine.

23 Skidoo said...

I would never equate education with intelligence.
You may want to check the statistics of preventable deaths due to lack of vaccinations. Many drugs are pulled from the market once they are found to be harmful. You can't study long term effects of a drug in the lab, unfortunately while also trying to bring lifesaving medicines to the public as quickly as possible. You can have one or the other...not both.