My Turn: Don’t immunize children on blind trust
In his guest column (Why vaccines are still important Dec. 10 Sierra Sun), Dr. Chris Arth wishes to challenge us who choose not to immunize, because we distrust. Unfortunately, history of the medical community has time and again created this distrust.For more than twenty years-until they were banned in 1971, cigarette commercials were a staple of American television. During this period, tobacco companies spent millions of dollars producing and airing elaborate ads designed to convince viewers that cigarettes were enjoyable, sophisticated, and harmless. As public awareness of smoking’s serious health consequences grew, tobacco companies responded with new ads containing misleading assertions and confusing claims. When cigarette sales began to decline, advertisers embarked on fiercely competitive campaigns to promote new filter brands. Yet television commercials continued to skirt health issues and left consumers in the dark about the real risks of smoking. (So Rich, Mild, and Fresh: A Critical Look at TV Cigarette Commercials, 1948-1971 Craigandamp;Moellinger 2001)I am a father of a five-year-old autistic boy, who has strong doubts on the safety of vaccinations. Although, I agree, as of today, there is no scientific tie between vaccinations and autism, there was no scientific tie between smoking and cancer in the 1950s. Dr. Arth states that that the linking of MMR and autism was thoroughly discredited. This is misleading. It was not discredited on the basis of proving that MMR does not cause autism, but on the fact that parents of autistic children cannot prove at this time that it does.Much like the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act establishing that dietary supplements are considered safe unless proved otherwise and are not required to be clinically tested before they reach the market, it is up to FDA to determine whether a particular substance on the market is harmful based upon information available in the public domain. If this information is not available, then links are discredited.And why is this? Well, for starters, autism is one of the most confusing diseases that currently exist on this planet. Scientists and doctors alike either dispute the cause, or lack thereof, of autism, as well as the biological reasons of why autism occurs. Without a known cause or even a basic understanding of the occurrence of autism, it is next near to impossible to determine whether or not immunization plays any part of its incredible numbers today. Currently 1:150 children are born on the autism spectrum, a number so great it eclipses the amount of children who have cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, yet has not been classified as an epidemic by the Center for Disease Control, and receives only a fraction of the funding other diseases currently get.Like any good rumor, there is substance to its beginnings. The connection between vaccination and autistic behavior, first reported in DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Coulter andamp; Fisher, 1985) twenty-two years ago and now being discussed in the medical literature, has finally entered the U.S. public arena after simmering for more than two decades. This enhanced public awareness has been fueled by persistent reports by parents in the U.S., Canada and Europe that their children were healthy, bright and happy until they received one or more vaccines and then descended into the isolated, painful world of autism marked by chronic immune and neurological dysfunction, including repetitive and uncontrollable behavior. (Fisher, 2000)Mainstream medical opinion is that the benefits of preventing suffering and death from serious infectious diseases greatly outweigh the risks of rare adverse effects following immunization. The medical community states clearly, risks do occur. Vaccination is not 100 percent foolproof. Tests are performed on only a fraction of the human population, and we are not all made equally. What one body may be able to endure, another may regress to its affects. Injecting multiple forms of vaccines into a fragile, developing body simultaneously could very well put undue stress on some of these children.I am not advocating stopping all vaccinations, but I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to ask questions, do your research and do not blindly believe our medical community. In the last 50 years tobacco was considered safe, drinking and driving was acceptable and asbestos was embedded into our workplaces. We all know how those opinions have changed. Until the medical community truly pinpoints the cause of autism, flagrantly dismissing any potential link is reckless in its approach.Dr. Arth gives us his witness accounts of some terrible diseases, but until you have a child that develops autism, you cannot fathom how terrible this disease affects not only your child, but you, your family, your friends and your finances in attempting to find a cure.Travel your life’s journeys with knowledge at your side, not blind faith.Ian Fitzgerald is the father of Tyler, an autistic 5-year-old.