Thank you I Vaccinate for sponsoring this post and helping me spread awareness of the importance of vaccinations for children.
Making decisions as a mom
When I became a mom, I quickly realized that I was going to have to make choices. A lot of choices. Sometimes hard choices. Circumcision or not? Breastfeeding or formula? Co-sleeping or no? Baby-wearing or stroller? Some of these decisions are simply a parenting style choice but there are some choices that can have lasting and important consequences. Vaccination is one of these. Recently I learned that Michigan has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, which really surprised me:
Almost half of Michigan parents with toddlers are choosing to delay vaccinations or are skipping them altogether. Only 56.2 percent of Michigan toddlers are up to date on all of their recommended vaccinations. (Source: Michigan Care Improvement Registry, December 2017)
Do vaccines cause autism?
As an autistic mother of an autistic child, there’s a question that I get asked a lot: do I vaccinate? Do I believe vaccines cause autism?
I vaccinated Charlie. Yes, he’s severely autistic, but I’ve done my research and based on the evidence collected in the scientific community it’s clear to me that there is no link between autism and vaccines. There’s no scientific evidence. The fact that autism symptoms appear after the MRR shot is a coincidence of timing. Early autism signs are most recognizable after about 18 months of age, which happens to coincide with the recommended MMR vaccine. For Charlie, the signs of autism were there before the vaccines. Jude is fully on track with his vaccination schedule too. No regrets!
Where did the vaccine/autism myth come from?
Let’s back up a little bit. In 1998, a doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a study with falsified evidence. He claimed that he found a link between the MRR vaccine and autism, but the study was tiny: only 12 people!
Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination. Almost immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the posited link between MMR vaccination and autism.
The paper was eventually retracted and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. Unfortunately, the idea that these shots cause autism stuck in people’s minds. Since then, there have been more than 20 in-depth studies done on the MRR vaccine and autism that show no link between the two.
Over the years, a few celebrities have come forward sharing their personal views about vaccination, not based on any scientific evidence. One that comes to mind is Jenny McCarthy, who claimed vaccines caused her son’s autism. Recently, Kat Von D also announced that she wouldn’t be vaccinating her baby.
Meanwhile, outbreaks of measles and whooping cough continue to appear in the United States putting thousands of kids at risk of death. Why? Almost entirely as the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of anecdotal horror stories heard from people against immunization.
And what if vaccines did cause autism? Well, I’m autistic and I have a severely autistic child, and I’m happy to be alive. Sure it’s not always easy for him – and for me – to live with autism but we are healthy, and alive! Polio, whooping cough, and other diseases that vaccines protect against are miserable and potentially deadly. People don’t know the nightmarish realities of these diseases because due to vaccines, we’ve been protected from them for years.
Are vaccines safe?
When I’m doing research on a topic, I rely on facts and scientific studies rather than personal experience. The United States requires that all vaccines go through extensive testing on safety and effectiveness before they can be brought to market. Then, vaccines are monitored closely while on the market. All studies have shown that vaccines are safe and effective. The benefits of getting your child immunized by far outweigh the risks.
Sure, just like with any medication side effects are possible, but there are very rare, and usually minor. If you’ve had a bad experience after your child got their shots, I understand it must have been scary and I empathize with that. Remember though, this is an exception and not the norm, and that autism isn’t a side effect. And for people who want to delay shots, that’s not a good idea either. There is no scientific evidence that receiving several shots at once overwhelms your child’s immune system.
There are people who even if they want to, cannot get vaccinated. They are immunosuppressed, the elderly, and pregnant women. They rely on herd immunity to stay healthy. By not vaccinating your children, you are putting other people in danger. These people rely on you vaccinating your children to stay healthy themselves. For most vaccine-preventable diseases, when less than 90 percent of children are vaccinated in a particular community, pockets of low vaccination form and create an environment where diseases take hold and spread. When you vaccinate your children, you protect those people who can’t protect themselves.
Michigan and its low immunization rate
Michigan and its low immunization rate is a good example of what can happen when you don’t vaccinate. From August 1, 2016 to May 16, 2018, there have been over 836 cases of confirmed hepatitis A including 27 deaths reported to public health authorities in Michigan. Also, in November and December 2014, areas reported that more than 151 children and adults in several counties had contracted whooping cough.
If you’re in Michigan, or anywhere else, I encourage you to take a look at the I-Vaccinate website and educate yourself. As moms, we all want what’s best for our children. It’s important that you do your research and trust evidence-based studies. The bottom line is that what you’ll find is that vaccines are safe and effective. They do not cause autism. Vaccines save lives.