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Autism: Science versus Vaccine Skeptics
May 12th, 2009

What's mysterious, misunderstood, and apparently scarier than a measles pandemic that killed 200 million people?
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by Jacob Hodgen

View a follow up to this article here:

In February, a special court ruled that there was no credible evidence that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccination causes or can be scientifically linked to autism. The MMR is currently given to nearly all children in the Western hemisphere.

Case closed. The end. The coffin is nailed shut. . . or so the scientists thought.

According to the Utah Autism Foundation, autism is a cognitive disorder affecting approximately one out of every 150 children in the United States, and it is something on the minds of many Utahns. On May 2nd, over 2,000 people walked through the rain at Utah Valley University in Orem in the Utah Walk Now for Autism. Participants raised over $145,000 for autism research and treatment.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer from the Children's Hospital in Cleveland testified for the defense in February's landmark court case. "As the scientific community has been saying for a long time, there is no good, credible, reproducible research that supports the hypothesis that MMR vaccine causes autism." This ruling reversed a previous court decision in the 2007 case of Hannah Poling, when the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation found that the girl's autism was "significantly aggravated" by vaccinations she received as an infant.

Outspoken autism crusader Jenny McCarthy and
her autistic son Evan. Note: he does not
have measles and will live a long and happy life

However, a heated debate still rages surrounding the mandatory immunization policy required for admittance by public schools in America. Just a few weeks ago Jim Carrey (yes, that Jim Carrey) wrote an interesting and articulate response to the court ruling for the Huffington Post. Carrey is in a relationship with actress Jenny McCarthy. Her son Evan is diagnosed with autism, and together they have sought to raise awareness for the disorder and draw attention and skepticism to the vaccination industry.

Carrey writes, "Now more than ever, we must resist the urge to close this book before it's been written. The anecdotal evidence of millions of parents who've seen their totally normal kids regress into sickness and mental isolation after a trip to the pediatrician's office must be seriously considered. The legitimate concern they and many in the scientific community have that environmental toxins, including those found in vaccines, may be causing autism and other disorders (Aspergers, ADD, ADHD), cannot be dissuaded by a show of sympathy and a friendly invitation to look for the 'real' cause of autism anywhere but within the lucrative vaccine program."

Carrey has a point. We certainly don't know everything about autism or the human body. However, the lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry the courts shot down was seeking damage awards and was thus also in it for money. But does the desire to make money mean that a drug is necessarily dangerous or a law suit must be is frivolous? Who do you trust?

Science and the courts have spoken, so let's ignore them for a moment and get conspiratorial, shall we? Let us peruse the trendy alternative and assume that future researchers will do an about-face and prove that autism really is caused by MMR vaccinations. Forget all you (should have) learned about Cortez and the Aztecs for a moment, and let us examine a modern scenario. What happens when you say "no" to vaccines or they aren't available?

A child suffering from measles.
Note: though he is suffering great pain,
may die, and could infect everyone
around him, he is not autistic

This is actually an easy question to answer and is very well documented. Both small pox and measles were officially eradicated from the United States at one point, due wholly to the success of vaccinations. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) made this update: "from January through July 2008, CDC received reports of 131 measles cases from 15 states and the District of Columbia -- the highest year-to-date number since 1996. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated, or their vaccination status was unknown. Many of these individuals were children whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated. Fifteen of the patients, including four infants, were hospitalized."

Concerned or skeptical parents might want to ask themselves the following question before declining your kid's shots: what is more dangerous to your child, a vague fear of autism or slow death by measles? What kind of risk are you really taking when you skip vaccines for some of most deadly and contagious diseases the world has ever known?

I should also mention the fact that the Sunday Times has recently discovered that, "the doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism." (read more here)

Yes, it's true: autism diagnoses are on the rise. With increased awareness comes increased diagnoses for any illness--this is why many American hospitals have been overflowing lately with people who think they have the swine flu. But even if the MMR vaccination did carry a risk of autism, would you be willing to consider that it still might be the better option? Whatever well-intentioned statistics Mrs. McCarthy and Mr. Carrey come up with, it's hard to compete for attention with the fact that measles alone has killed 200 million people throughout the last 150 years. How many kids have died from autism? It's hard to compete with this, unless you didn't know about it.

Autism is very real and very tragic, but trading it for the measles is like trading a parking ticket for the gas chamber. Even the worst Vegas gambler wouldn't take on those odds.

Of course we should continue scientific studies to learn as much as can about the causes of autism and all disorders. And you would be crazy to blindly trust the pharmaceutical industry that has billions of dollars invested in its products. With that much cash flowing freely, they are bound to be up to something. But right now, based on the obvious evidence we have, you have to ask yourself Utah, are your personal politics against vaccines really worth that risk?

Besides, science is hopeful that it may hold answers that lead to a cure for autism. Both the University of Utah and Utah State University have world-class research studies for autism, and the Utah Autism Foundation reports that the FDA has recently approved the very first drug to exclusively treat the disorder.

Share your thoughts about autism, it's causes, and the pharmaceutical industry with local readers through the Utah Stories forum.

Further reading:

Utah Autism Foundation

Autism Council of Utah

Generation Rescue (A site that tracks suspected links of autism and vaccines)

A quick refresher course on the scourge of measles

Ginger Taylor--a mother with an autistic son-- wrote a detailed rebuttal to this opinion. (see the other side » _

Reader Comments

Dean Cheesman

Who would you trust with your children... Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthey or scientists? If you choose the actors then you've been watching way too much TV. Start looking for more science based medicine.

re: Jim Johns

There is a stronger statistical correlation between multiple hours of 0 -12 months old exposure to continuous TV watching as a babysitter and over development in the child's brain (the MRI diagnostic for Apsberger's and autism) and it correlates with the male bias in reported cases because female children seem to cross-brain the sti,muli better than males... but you don't hear many actors demanding that infants be restricted from watching TV... wonder if there is correlation or causation there? The other phenom that gets little attention is the high fever / presonality correlation... whether the fever comes from a vaccine or an illness not related to vaccine.

By the way Dean... have you opened your mind to the idea that correlation is the lazy thinker's excuse for failing to put the effort into finding and proving causation? That the heavy metal treatments have killed over 60 kids (that are known) in the last 3 years and have not been able to show results as good as simple therapy in reversing symptoms of Apsbergers / autism? It is easy to criticize a complex but I dare you to forgo all their products...

re:Dean Stan Stanfield

It depends on which scientists, Dean. If you mean the scientists who have used their open minds and researched this matter, and been stunned and worried about what they have found out - or have just practiced good scientific objectivity and called for more and independent research - or have already started to put to use a variety of medical modalities to counter the effects of such as heavy metals, and glutathione-reducing substances in some vaccines (such as the MMR), and have seen results from their efforts - then I would say, Yes, I would trust those scientists.

If you mean scientists who have not researched the matter thoroughly, or are in thrall to the medical-pharmaceutical complex - or are leaders OF that cabal - I wouldn't let them nearer to my or anybody else's children than a 10-foot pole.

This case is NOT closed, Jacob. And judging by the otherwise good sense of your article, you should know better than that. I'm disappointed in your reading of the matter. I suggest you do a little more research in it.

For a start, I would recommend the book by Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D. entitled 'Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality'. Don't be put off by its subtitle: 'The Medical Assault on the American Brain'. You might learn something.

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