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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Autism, Vaccines, and the Media

From KTRK in Houston:

"I think vaccine refusal is finally kind of dying out," Kelsey-Seybold Clinic Immunization Director Dr. Melanie Mouzoon said.

More kids are getting their shots now that the vaccine-autism controversy is dying down. The British researcher who made that claim has been discredited because he allegedly falsified his research.

"They're also beginning to understand that science has shown that autism is not caused by vaccines and so very few people are refusing vaccines now," Dr. Mouzoon said.

And that means fewer outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses, like recent measles epidemics. And the new vaccines and boosters that come out almost every year will also prevent outbreaks.

"The kind of illnesses that we can prevent are increasing and so really, it's good news," Dr. Mouzoon said.

But the Colorado Springs Gazette has this headline: Vaccination Safety: The Debate that Won't Disappear

The percentage of opt-outs is small. In 2009, the national immunization rate for children ages 19 months to 35 months was at or above the 90 percent goal set by public health officials, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Survey.

In the area’s largest school district, Colorado Springs School District 11, 3.6 percent of its 29,400 students — about 1,058 — have received exemptions. In Academy District 20, 9 percent of its 23,119 students received an opt-out based on one or more of the state’s three approved reasons for exemptions: medical, religious and personal.

But underlying the high vaccination rates are indications that a majority of parents have concerns about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and some health officials worry that could lead to a decline in immunizations which, in turn, could cause a rise in the diseases they’re meant to prevent.

The story quotes a vaccination critic:
Barbara Loe Fisher also believes parents need to better educate themselves about vaccinations, but she’s coming from a different perspective than the public health community. Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, said she’s not against vaccinations per se, and her children have received several — but not all — of them. But one of her four kids is learning disabled, which she blames on a diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus shot.

“Everybody knows somebody today who was healthy, got vaccinated and is not healthy,” she said. “People’s real-life experience is becoming disconnected from what health authorities tell them.”

She said immunizations should not be given on a one-size-fits-all schedule, because children have different genetic and biological makeups. She also notes that a national program created in 1986 to compensate families whose children were harmed by vaccines has awarded about $2 billion, indicating that the shots are not 100 percent safe.

And she questions why the number of children diagnosed with chronic diseases or disabilities, as well as the number of infant deaths, has risen along with the number of recommended shots. It begs for more research, she contends.

“We believe the science is not adequate to answer the question, ‘Has the use of multiple vaccines ... had a negative effect on long-term good health?’”

The Respectful Insolence blog says that the argument about the vaccine schedule is "nonsense from a scientific standpoint; there's no compelling evidence that `too many too soon' is a valid complaint against the current vaccine schedule, and the current vaccine schedule contains far fewer antigens than it did 25 years ago, thanks to the use of antigens produced by recombinant DNA technology replacing older, whole cell lysate-based vaccines." The post also criticizes "the classic journalistic trope of `tell both sides,' in which on the one side we have a bunch of doctors and scientists citing research and clinical data, and on the other side we have a complete crank, with the two being presented as though their viewpoints had equal validity and as if there were a real scientific debate rather than a manufactured controversy."