Stephen Colbert recently interviewed Dr. Paul Offit of The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP), author of, “Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.”
Why do so many educated, successful parents still believe that the current vaccine schedule can hurt a small percentage of susceptible kids, and that some of those injuries might result in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Despite all of the population studies showing no link, high-profile court cases that went against parents, insistence of omniscience by health officials and the public mauling of Andrew Wakefield, I don't think that many people around here have changed their minds.
That's because evidence of a vaccine-autism link did not come to them via a 12-year-old study published in a British medical journal, nor from Hollywood celebrities: Not very many had heard of Wakefield until recently.
Some of these parents actually keep up with the science, including a new review of autism studies in the Journal of Immunotoxicology which concludes: "Documented causes of autism include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis following vaccination."
Some of their evidence also comes from life -- from friends, family and business associates whose children had an adverse vaccine reaction, got sick, stopped talking and never recovered.
Why is it, he asks, that "so many educated, successful parents still believe that the current vaccine schedule can hurt a small percentage of susceptible kids, and that some of those injuries might result in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?"
One reason, of course, is that they keep reading stories that don’t acknowledge that the conclusions of hundreds of scientists who have studied data from millions of children is that there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Another is, as Kirby says, that many of these parents hear "evidence…from friends, family and business associates whose children had an adverse vaccine reaction, got sick, stopped talking and never recovered. It's a fact that many children with ASD regressed following normal development just as they were receiving multiple vaccines at regular doctor visits."
To state as fact that the children of these "friends, family and business associates" had "an adverse vaccine reaction" is irresponsible and untrue. What is true is that there are many parents who believe that their children had an adverse reaction. What is also true is that in many cases in which there is actual evidence—contemporaneous medical records, videotapes, etc.—as opposed to the anecdotes that Kirby is referring to, what parents remember occurring and what actually occurred are two different things.
Yesterday, my colleague David Whelan asked if AOL’s $315 million purchase of the Huffington Post meant that the internet giant would start believing, as some HuffPo writers have asserted, that vaccination is linked to autism.
As a result, the Huffington Post’s Senior Health Editor, Alana B. Elias Kornfeld, called Whelan to say that her health articles are vetted by a Medical Review Board. She said:
“This has been true since HuffPost Health launched in Fall 2010 as a vertical separate from HuffPost Living where wellness coverage appeared in the past. As such, the acupuncturist referenced in Mr. Parikh’s 2009 Salon article is not the Health editor. Myself and Associate Health Editor, Meghan Neal, are both trained journalists.”
I’ve asked Kornfeld for a response, and will post it here should she reply. Update: Here is Kornfeld’s response: “Kirby’s piece doesn’t say that there is an autism link for sure, but rather that the jury’s still out. His opinion on the matter is clear: ‘I know that many people will say the vaccine issue has been thoroughly investigated and debunked. I honestly wish that were the case, but it simply is not true.’”
Update two: Kornfeld confirms this piece went through Huffington Post’s vetting process for medical articles.