Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The time has PAST to let sleeping dogs lie...

Yesterday, I got ANGRY. Not about what I blogged about -- in fact much of that post was written several days ago and I just finished it off yesterday -- but about the latest story in the whole "Vaccine Conspiracy" fiasco with the settlement offered to families from the vaccine injury court. I'm already seeing fallout from this announcement from people who I know. They're claiming that they always KNEW that there was a link and here's the proof. And, of course, who's behind this latest insanity? -- Andrew Wakefield's worshipers who are trying to deplete the world's autism financial resources to support liars and those who commit fraud. A group who really doesn't understand medical research, or research of any kind. A group who believes in the sensationalism of the media and seems to like to see their cause in print, and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way.

Well, I have news for them and for all of you. NOTHING has changed. This is NOT proof.

Don't get me wrong. I too was concerned that vaccines and autism were linked. When we first learned that Rachel and Simon were on the spectrum, after taking a little while to pretend that it never happened (while on a previously planned family vacation), I jumped in with both feet. I started doing my research. I tried to figure out what happened and what I did wrong. Just like almost every family I know who learns that their kids have autism. Vaccine theories were everywhere. So I read about them. And they made sense. The most visible signs of autism become apparent between the ages of 15 and 18 months, just in time to coincide with the administration of the MMR vaccine. In some cases there are sudden changes and regressions. In other cases, just a failure to develop. In almost all cases, there's a failure to reach certain milestones, in my family's case language based milestones. Since the MMR vaccine in particular tends to have worse side effects than many of the other childhood vaccines, there's a reasonable chance to believe that the vaccine is to blame. Good and well-thought-out theory.

I talked to our family pediatrician about this time. What did SHE think? Did she think there was a link between vaccines and autism? She didn't believe so, but still had the conversation with me. Afterwards, she gave me more literature to read (arguing both sides of the issue) and left me to draw my own conclusions.

If there was a link, answers would be easy. But, unfortunately, facts say otherwise. When the vaccine itself didn't show the link, they looked at the preservative thimerosal which is mercury based (thinking perhaps it was heavy metal poisoning which can in cases have similar attributes). Again, no link was found.

Finally, earlier this year, the fraud committed by Andrew Wakefield became public knowledge. His article in The Lancet was retracted and this nightmare appeared to be over. We would finally start to see resources poured into other areas to see if a real cause and link could be found. Since then I've been reading or hearing stories about links between ultrasounds during pregnancy potentially causing autism (study that I found is currently ongoing) and last week an article came out about the month of conception seeming to have a predictive effect (perhaps due to viral agents in the air during pregnancy). But, long story short, we still have NO CLUE what causes autism. We need to look at more causes.

Now THIS happens. I read the press release put out (note was dated May 10, 2011 12PM EST) saying that the findings from the report printed in the Pace Environmental Law Review showed that there were 83 cases of autism in the 1300 families awarded compensation by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The letter claims that this is considerably higher than what would be seen if the 1:110 published autism rate were accurate, especially those who are considered "Vaccine Injured".

I also love how a report in a LAW journal is igniting this thing all over again. The LAW isn't concerned with scientific fact. The LAW isn't concerned with research and supporting conclusions. The LAW is about turning any and all situations to suit one's own personal agenda. But even Ms. Holland states, "This assessment of compensated cases showing an association between vaccines and autism is not, and does not purport to be, science. In no way does it explain scientific causation or even necessarily undermine the reasoning of the decisions in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding based on the scientific theories and medical evidence before the VICP. Nor does this article have anything to say about state childhood immunization mandates in general." (page 482 of the article)

A couple of real life, grown up things that I'd like to point out. Life is unpredictable. Life isn't always fair. We all do thing to make things work and make sense. We (typically) don't take unnecessary risks. But there is still "life". If you are allergic to peanuts, a peanut butter sandwich can KILL you! And how did you learn you were allergic to peanuts? Chances are you ate some or had physical contact with a peanut product and had a (hopefully) mild reaction. You investigated and now know to avoid all peanut products. I'm sorry that there are so many that can't experience peanut butter (which is a favorite food of mine, especially when combined with chocolate ice cream), but it's just LIFE.

There is also such a thing as chance. That's why all scientific studies depend on statistics to provide the answers. Statistics allow you to look past chance and see if causality really does exist. If you have a balanced coin, you can flip it 100 times. A good estimate as to how many times the coin would land on "Heads" is 50 because there is a 50/50 chance each time you toss the coin for it to land on "Heads". However, it can land on "Tails" 3 times in a row. That doesn't make it an unbalanced coin. As you continue to toss it over and over and over again, these anomalies balance out. Having the coin land on "Tails" those three consecutive tosses is "chance". This is why we need to look at the larger studies. There are approximately 5 large scale studies looking at vaccines and 3 looking at thimerosal that all show there is no link between these exposures and autism.

These 83 children, if vaccines really did cause their autism, fall under the "chance" category. But I don't believe that to be the case. I think that something else CAUSED the autism. Vaccines may have caused other things to happen to them and over time, autism has been found. There may have been a mitochondrial disorder (as was the case in the parent interviewed on FoxNews on May 9) and vaccines may have triggered something.

But we can't afford to back away from vaccinating our children because of a fear of them developing autism. If as a parent, you have concerns, I URGE you to talk with your doctor about ways to minimize the risk, including potentially changing the vaccination schedules. Speaking as a parent, I can live with a child having autism. I can live with children having autism. What I CAN'T live with is the guilt of having to bury a child because I refused to vaccinate them out of fear. I CAN'T live with the guilt of having to watch a friend of my child be buried because they were exposed to something via my own child, because of a fear of vaccinations. Our decisions have consequences. We always need to remember that.

1. Press Release from Safeminds.or; for release May 10, 2011 12PM EST
2. Mary Holland, Louis Conte, Robert Krakow, and Lisa Colin, Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury, 28 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 480 (2011)
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  1. I agree. I see a lot of word twisting going on and even in those 83 cases the parents were paid for alleged brain damage. The companies are going to settle out of court it's not because they are admitting guilt (quite the opposite) but it is cheaper to settle than go through the courts.
    As you said maybe the 83 were chance and life sucks that doesn't mean we stop vaccinating.

  2. Absolutely on point! Love the peanut butter reference because it is so true. It is all chance until they prove the true cause or causes. We know the ratio is much higher for disease resulting in death without the vaccines! Great job...diplomatic and fact-ful.

  3. Indeed, when you go beyond how they chose to parse the numbers, and you look at the total cases paind out: 2,500 and the total cases that Holland et al. proclaim have autism confirmed beyond a parental report, you have 1.56% (what I rounded to 1% in my piece about it) of the total cases having autism (at least beyond a parental report).

    You would expect this population to be, if there's no link between autism and vaccines, to be about the same rate as the general population, and it appears it is.

  4. Yes, I agree. I understand the emotion behind it- I, too, once thought "Something happened to my baby" and his regression was RIGHT at the time of his 15 month vaccines... but the evidence just doesn't pan out. It's also very clear that even very smart , rational people are influenced by their own personal experiences with infectious disease- I know moms who didn't vaccinate EXCEPT for polio, since they had actually known kids from the block to be incapacitated by it. I hemmed and hawed about some of Wylie's shots even before he was diagnosed, but then quickly got him the H1N1, egg allergy risk and all, when it was all over the media.

    It's nonsense. We owe it to our kids to make very informed decisions, and it isn't like the information isn't out there.