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Several groups with varying degrees of education, some with limited medical experience, have expressed concern related

to a growing surge of cases of autism, especially in children, for unspecified reasons. A general consensus is that there is no sound scientific evidence that indicates that the increase of diagnosed cases is caused from anything other than advances in broadened diagnostic criteria. These lay groups hypothesized that there might be a link between vaccinations and autism. Kelley King Heyworth, author of the article Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism, writes that there is a strong likelihood that the connection of vaccines and autism is only due to the fact that the disease is typically discovered and identified simultaneous to the time when children are vaccinated. For example, children typically get their first dose of the MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age, which coincidentally is believed to be the time that symptoms of autism are detected according to Paul Offit, M.D., and director of the vaccine education center at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit also authored Autisms False Profits: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. He also touches on the extensive research that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts on tens of thousands of children prior to approving a new vaccine. Parents are warned that previously suppressed diseases, specifically measles and whooping cough, are resurfacing in communities that have increased numbers of unvaccinated children. Mary Glod, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado in Denver, advised, immunizations are simply one of the greatest public-health achievements. (Heyworth). The governments target is approximately 80 percent of the population to be current on immunization; however, statistics provided in 2008 reflect that their goal has fallen just short of that, with 76 percent of children 19 to 35 months being up to date on all of their shots. The ramifications of parents either skipping or delaying vaccination for their children result in outbreaks of previously controlled serious diseases, specifically measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), and bacterial meningitis. These illnesses were at one time all but wiped out in the United States but have reemerged due to these same parents utilizing loopholes in state law, like religious or philosophical exemptions, to circumvent the requirement that children be vaccinated prior to attending school. Lance Rodewald, M.D., director of Immunization Services Division of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cites that this is due to a breakdown of what he calls herd immunity, in which for a community to be completely safeguarded from a disease, 80 to 90 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated. Failure to do so exponentially increases the likelihood of a school, church, or neighborhood being vulnerable to disease.

As early as 1998, there has been speculation of the link between vaccination and autism, so much so that various groups and medical professionals conducted multiple studies. Andrew Wakefield, M.D., a British gastroenterologist, most notably made headlines when The Lancelet, the worlds largest leading general medical journal that includes infectious disease studies, published his study of 12 children determined, in his opinion, that the measles, mumps, and rubella combination vaccine caused intestinal complications that he believed led to autism. Recently, The Lancelet retracted Dr. Wakefields article, citing a conflict of interest for his failure to disclose his connections to lawyers involved in vaccine litigation (Hayworth). Further supporting the cause, in 2007 well-known actress and television personality Jenny McCarthy, in front of a nationally televised audience, expressed her beliefs on The Oprah Show that vaccines cause autism as she described her first hand experience with her own son in which she recalls witnessing the effects of the vaccination, stating the soul left his eyes. Hayworth notes there was found to be no link between vaccination and autism as a result of at least seven extensive studies in major medical journals. A group of judges appointed to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters, echoed these findings upon their handling of cases involving families who believed their childs autism was caused by vaccinations. Ultimately, they ruled that there was not a preponderance of evidence that vaccines lead to autism. With the furtherance of a multitude of studies debunking the vaccinationautism myth, conversely, statistics reflect that there is still risk of serious side effects in children as a result of vaccinations. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program reported that it has paid out nearly $2 billion as a result of 2,398 claims of families who reported these complications. Overall, parents must weigh the risk of the possible vaccination side effects against the risk of their child contracting a serious disease by not being properly vaccinated. Hayworths article uses the measles vaccination as an example in which the vaccination itself could cause a reduction in platelets (control bleeding after an injury) in 1 in 30,000 children; however, if they are not given the measles vaccination and end up contracting measles itself, their chance of dying is 1 in 2,000. These types of statistics are commonly linked to the everyday risks we experience in our day-to-day lives, for example, natural disasters. It is said that the possibility of experiencing an adverse reaction to MMR and Hep B vaccines is about 1 in 1,000,000. Conversely, Tulane University Professor Stephen A. Nelson reports that the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 90, dying in a flood is 1 in 30,000, and dying from an asteroid/comet impact is 1 in 250,000. These statistics, at face value, seem to indicate strongly that it is certainly worth the risk involved to keep children up to date on their vaccinations. Ultimately, it is naturally the decision of the parents on which path they choose. Even with uncertainty present, parents often ask their respective doctor what they

chose to do for their own children, and in more cases than not, concur with their decision. References Heyworth, K.K. (2011). Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism. Ed. Haugen, D., & Musser, S. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. Retrieved from the Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center database. Meteorites, Impacts, and Mass Extinction (2012). Retrieved from http://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/Natural_Disasters/impacts.htm