Where can someone go to get good quality information about vaccines from a trustworthy source?
I get my information from people who trust and understand science. The best resource for parents nervous about vaccinating would be Dr. Ari Brown’s page on the vaccine controversy. She covers every major question about vaccines, and her answers are an intelligent rebuttal to the antivaccine celebrities. You can also check out the sites Vaccinate Your Baby and Anti-Antivax. Be sure to check out Science-Based Medicine’s overview on vaccines, which is written and edited by professional doctors who understand and appreciate the totality of the evidence.
The Q&A listed below are some of the answers to questions that I’ve investigated and found at reliable science-based sites. I hope that they inspire you to continue researching.
Why does Science-Based Parenting defend vaccines?
I approach this “controversy” from an evidence-based perspective. The antivaccine advocates have failed to produce any legitimate research as proof that vaccines cause autism. Opponents to vaccination rely on anecdotes from parents searching for a reason that their child became autistic, but they completely fail to offer a biological explanation backed by quality science. Instead, the anti-vaccine argument quickly turns to a vast pharmaceutical conspiracy theory.
You and I may not completely trust the profit motivations of pharmaceutical corporations, but that doesn’t mean they are a cabal of evil overlords plotting to purposefully give children autism; the idea is ridiculous and without merit.
Vaccines are closely monitored- new vaccines can take up to ten years to be introduced in the schedule, a web site is set up to document adverse reactions, and all vaccines are kept in check by the CDC. It’s easy to accuse members of the scientific community of being in the pocket of “Big Pharma”, but the best way to challenge research is to replicate the study or identify any systemic flaws.
At least 77% (often more) of children entering kindergarten have been vaccinated, but less than 1% have autism. There is obviously not a direct correlation between vaccines and autism, which means that vaccine opponents must conclude that vaccines are triggering the genes for autism. Doesn’t this take us back to square one – autism is genetic? If antigens (proteins that induce the bodies immune system to produce antibodies) are causing autism (we don’t know that they are, but if…), we must look at the many antigens that are bodies are constantly exposed to on a daily basis and not just at vaccines. We can’t raise our children in hermetically sealed plastic bubbles, and any parent that insists on an absolutely safe environment is falling victim to the ‘perfect solution‘ fallacy.
Who is this Andrew Wakefield guy who claims to have found a link between the MMR, autism, and bowel disorders?
He’s been completely discredited. If you want the longer version, you should check out Harriet Hall’s excellent article detailing the problems with Wakefield’s study.
Which studies disprove a link between thimerosal and autism?
Are vaccines filled with harmful toxins like antifreeze, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and mercury?
No the ingredients in vaccines are not as toxic as Jenny McCarthy would have you think. The dose makes the poison, not the toxin.
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is not an ingredient in vaccines; the actual ingredient is polyethylene glycol, which sounds the same but is completely different. It’s kind of like saying that salt has chlorine in it.
Trace inert amounts of formaldehyde can be found in vaccines, but only a microscopic amount compared to the amount encountered in auto exhaust and the modern environment. We are even exposed to formaldehyde when we digest fruit. It’s not some toxin thrown in for sinister purposes. Formaldehyde insures that vaccines are sterilized so your children don’t get a flesh-eating Strep bacteria. And if all that info isn’t enough, the point is moot because formaldehyde chemically breaks down in aqueous solutions like vaccines.
Hydrochloric Acid is being used on vaccines, but only to balance the PH titrates to neutralize alkaline vaccines. We aren’t talking about vaccines dripping with bubbling acid. Antivaccine activists who latch onto these toxins lack an understanding of chemistry, or they’re using these scary ”toxins” as scare tactics to fool the average person.
The origin of the toxin argument started with thimerosal, a preservative made from ethyl mercury. Thimerosal was removed in 2002 from all mandatory childhood vaccines as a precaution, but doctors were allowed to use their leftover stockpiles after the recall. A 2002 study of pediatric offices showed that no more than 2% of thimerosal vaccines remained in overstock. Despite the 2002 recall and subsequent decrease in mercury-based vaccines, the rates of autism have continued to increase. You can read more about the thimerosal controversy at the Mainstream Parenting blog (Part 1 and Part 2). The same increase in autism rates occured in European countries who eliminated thimerosal decades ago, to the argument that mercury causes autism has been dead for a long time. If you’re worried about mercury, stay away from tuna sandwiches, not vaccines.
The failure of the thimerosal argument has only prompted the anti-vaccine activists to search for another toxin such as aluminum, a common ingredient in breast milk and formula. The mainstream Parenting blog addresses the use of aluminum in vaccines. It acts as an adjuvant to stimulate an adequate immune response.
How do we know whether the reason diseases declined were vaccines and not the advent of modern sanitation and hygiene?
There are no doctors, scientists, or scholars who take this claim seriously. The CDC gives an excellent response to this myth here. If you are interested in more information about this question, visit Orac’s blog post on the subject.
Measles nearly disappeared three years after the introduction of it’s vaccine in the 1950s. We can all agree that America had excellent sanitation and hygiene in the 50s.
There has been a 76-86% decrease in vericella (chicken pox) since the vaccine was introduced in the highly sanitized decade of the 1990s.
Japan, Great Britain, and Sweden relaxed their policies on the pertussis vaccine, and the result was skyrocketing rates of pertussis. The same thing happened in the UK with a huge spike in measles rates after the MMR controversy.
Can’t immunized children still get the diseases for which they were innoculated?
Yes, but that fact can be misleading.
One study pointed out that unvaccinated students were 35 times more likely to contract measles compared to those who were vaccinated. Vaccines work for 85-95% of immunized individuals. Those who are not vaccinated for measles, for instance, have around a 95% chance of contracting the diseases if they are exposed [/source]. The risks are worth it.
Haven’t the rates of autism risen as the number of mandatory vaccines increased?
The increase of autism is real, but part of the skyrocketing rates are a statistical illusion caused by a widening of the autism spectrum and an increase in detection. More vaccines have been added to the schedule, but the number of antigens have decreased in proportion.
What about Robert F. Kennedy’s hit piece in Salon and Rolling Stone that characterized a cabal of doctors and scientists conspiring in seclusion to protect vaccines for “Big Pharma”?
Skeptico and Orac both covered how this article quote mined and misrepresented public transcripts. I encourage you to visit their criticisms or RFK Jr. I also want to add that Rolling Stone was forced to publish several different corrections of the original article. RFK Jr. still accuses the CDC of being in a conspiracy. He has always said that thimerosal in vaccines trigger autism, and he stated to me personally that he still believes this despite the fact that autism rates have risen in the seven years since thimerosal was removed.
What about the legal victory of Hannah Poling?
Hannah Poling’s previous mitochondrial disorder was aggravated by vaccines causing multiple symptoms, two of which are on the autism spectrum. This is a highly complex case of one girl, and is not an appropriate example of vaccines triggering autism.