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  • Writer's pictureLaurel DeFoggi

Not just a matter of opinion -

Do you love stories? Stories to humor you, teach you, bend your mind or introduce you to new friends and places. Stories are an integrated part of the human experience. Then there are the horror stories. The ones based on history. The stories that go bump in the shadows. The

stories that are pieces of fiction that pretends it's not fiction. Say, the stories for desperate families looking to explain why their child is different. How about a story for skeptics who are steered to the historical fiction aisle and believe it to be true? What about the stories for first time parents who love their child and want to keep them safe, raise them right and be good parents; like the one about the poisons in vaccines causing autism or worse.

It’s stunning that the conversation regarding vaccinations and autism is not a foregone conclusion. Even nearly 12 years since Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license for fraudulently creating a study that linked autism to vaccines, there are still those that believe vaccines are not safe. There has been 12 years of fully vetted studies published in peer reviewed journals honored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Epidemiology, and the CDC that say there is no relationship between autism and childhood vaccinations.

Apparently, science is not done. Apparently, we are not all on the same page regarding the importance for vaccinating children against diseases even in the face of possible autism outcomes. However, the Church of Aversion still embraces new generations of disbelievers who get their information from equally concerned citizens who question the very state of the state.

There is so much more education to do. In urban hospitals, families refusing vaccines are invariably white, educated, and privileged. They accepted the science of global warming and the reason to drive hybrid -all be it very expensive hybrid – cars, but rejected the science of vaccinations because of suspicions about science manipulation by “big pharm.” In a more rural settings where wealth is displayed by driving ginormous trucks even though you don't have a farm, families refuse to vaccinate their children based on non-medical advice by friends and acquaintances with similar political leanings or in church gatherings.

Here's the rub: these families are bringing their children to the physician to be cared for. These physicians based their entire career on medical science. Medical science is what creates pharmacological treatments for diseases. Medical science is how we prevent diseases. Medical science is how we know there is are diseases called measles, mumps, or rubella. Medical science is how we prevent those diseases from continuing to kill children. Medical science is the same exact scientific principle that made corn crops resistant to drought, put cars on our roads and refined CPR to save lives. At this time there is no peer-reviewed, journal-published study that has shown a link between MMR vaccines and autism. There are an outstanding number of legitimate looking websites linking to journal articles that, at first glance, would seem to prove a link between vaccinations and autism.

A favorite tactic of expelling misinformation is by giving half-truths. Is it true that there is Mercury in vaccines? Yes, it's true. However, did you know that there are different kinds of Mercury and the kind used then vaccinations is ethylmercury, which is excreted in the body through the urine? Can you have a bad reaction to the HPV vaccine? Yes, you can. However, the likelihood of an individual having an anaphylactic reaction to the HPV vaccine is 2 times less likely than the chance of the average person being struck by lightning. Are there some studies that have shown a possible link between immunizations and autism? There are two studies that have been done in the last 10 years that conclude a possible link between autism and vaccine scheduling. However, the authors of both studies cite multiple variables that could also contribute to autism and there are more than 150 studies that disprove any link.

But how do you get through to groups of people who prefer their information from institutions skeptical of what is considered governmental medicine or science paid for by people with an agenda? There’s the million-dollar question. To be honest, skepticism is healthy. When it blossoms to full-blown paranoia based on fictionalized conspiracy theories, no matter how well intended, harm happens. What parents are so privileged to believe is based on a detachment to history. Why were vaccines created? Because. People. Died. Lots of people. Lots and lots of children. As a nurse, I’ve had the unfortunate experience to code babies dying from pertussis exposure they got from family because nobody in the house was vaccinated, so my personal radar is skewed.

The difference between faith and science is the question “why.” Faith answers the question with a flourish, a bow and a ray of sunshine from the heavens. Science answers the question with earth-sun distance that day, solar flares, the color you are wearing to absorb or reflect light waves, and the possibility there is another variable (or many). Science isn’t reassuring, but it keeps trying to find an answer even if it doesn’t align with expectations. And really science is better than allowing your child to get chickenpox at a pox party, so when they are old and you are dead they can curse your name while they writhe in pain with shingles.

If you are willing to ask the question why, willing to be wrong about preconceived notions, then you might see that vaccinating your child is important. I cringed and prayed every time I vaccinated my child, hoping there was no bad outcome. I get it. I also get that I am a part of a larger society (my son certainly is) and to make sure we are all healthy, I vaccinated him.



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