Author: Emily Ashworth, RN, BSN
With: Bertrand J. Foch, MD, Region 5 (Lake Charles) Medical Director, Office of Public Health
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of the Voice of Southwest Louisiana. OPH’s Dr. Foch was the key contributor. The publication also included a counterpoint article that suggested vaccines caused autism. This is a myth that never seems to go away even in the face of numerous studies have found no evidence to support this belief. This has resulted in a growing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children. Visit publichealth.org for more information about the myths that have potential to cast doubt on vaccines as one of the pillars of modern medicine.
As we gear up to send our children back to school, one of the items to check off the list is making sure the shot record is up-to-date. Have you ever asked yourself, “Should I vaccinate my child? Will they get sick? Will they develop autism?” Take a few minutes and explore these questions with me.
Over a thousand of years ago, healers and mothers were some of the few that exposed adults and children to people who were sick with illnesses such as small pox. Healers placed scabs from those who had small pox and survived in the openings of the skin of those who were never infected by the illness. Mothers would expose their children to other kids who had the illness but recovered with the understanding that, building up immunity by exposure was one way to ensure the child would not acquire the disease later in life.
Why did the child or adult recover and not acquire the disease again? In 2016, the United States National Library of Medicine addressed the question, “How does the immune system work?” It stated the following:
The immune system (from the Latin word immunis, meaning: “free” or “untouched”) protects the body like a guardian from harmful influences from the environment and is essential for survival. It is made up of different organs, cells and proteins and aside from the nervous system, it is the most complex system that the human body has.
As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before (para. 1 &2).
The last line of that quote is the line that is ever so vital in our continued survival and overall health as we live amongst one another. Fast forward a thousand years, our vaccines come in the form of shots. Mothers have attempted to have chickenpox, measles and other “parties” in hopes to naturally building up the immunity of their children resulting in the hospitalization in a few that participated.
Many parents fear the child will become ill when vaccinated. Live viruses are rarely used in the vaccination process. When the body is building up an immunity, we sometimes experience an elevation in the temperature and in rare cases other symptoms which can be found for each specific immunization on the Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) (CDC, 2017). This handout is given to the parent or adult after the vaccine has been administered explaining the shot received, facts about the vaccine and the possible side effects (CDC, 2017).
There is also fear that the child will develop autism from receiving a vaccine, in particular, the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and those containing thimerosal, “a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).
Dr. Foch from the Office of Public Health states, “Millions of children are vaccinated each year. Without vaccines, the child is at risk for contracting diseases that could cause them to be very sick and even cause death. Vaccines are very safe and there is no link to autism.”
Autism Speaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Autism Science Foundation and many other governing bodies concur that vaccines do not cause autism. Here is an excerpt from the Autism Science Foundation in the “Autism and Vaccines” section:
A decade ago most researchers agreed that we needed to study vaccines in relation to autism. We had to reconcile the fact that the number of vaccines children were receiving was increasing, and at the same time, the number of children who were being diagnosed with autism also was on the rise. Fortunately this was a question that could be studied – and answered – by science. We looked at children who received vaccines and those who didn’t, or who received them on a different, slower schedule. There was no difference in their neurological outcomes. Multiple studies have been completed which investigated the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination in relation to autism. Researchers have also studied thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, to see if it had any relation to autism. The results of studies are very clear; the data show no relationship between vaccines and autism (Autism Speaks, 2017, para 8).
Though many conspiracy theories exist one thing is for sure, it is a parent’s duty to be vigilant, read, research and study for ourselves information that is given about caring for our children. Always remember to consider the source and seek expert for guidance as we raise the next generation.