Friday, February 6, 2015

Liberal Rant: Vaccines and Autism

Thank you, Stuart Carlson.
One thing you should know about me is that I am autistic. Specifically, I have a mild case of Asperger's Syndrome. Its nothing serious; it just means my brain is wired differently. For example, I’m able to do the same thing many times without getting bored, but I’m more susceptible to loud noises. There are millions like me; it is estimated that 1 in 68 children born in America have some form of autism.

So what causes autism? Honestly, we have no idea. Autism is a very complex thing, and even though we’re studying it quite intently, there’s still a lot we don’t know. There’s reason to believe that it's genetic, but its not linked to one gene sickle cell or Huntington’s disease. There’s also a good case to be made for environmental causes. However, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that vaccines is a serious cause of autism.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but vaccines don’t cause autism. And believe, every study that has said so has been thoroughly discredited. The most famous example and starter of this nontroversy, the Wakefield paper, has been disproven many, many times. The guy who wrote it actively manipulated his data, and he actually had his license revoked. There exist other papers, like one by Brian Hooker, which features faulty statistics and manipulated data, and one by Mark Geier, which contains very serious mathematical errors and even omissions. So yeah, the case for vaccines causing autism is pretty weak.

Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
Hate to say it (actually, I don’t), but the facts are on the side of vaccination. Its been proven that there’s no link between thimerosal, an ingredient in several vaccines, and autism. There’s no link between mercury and autism either. In fact, the chance of you getting an adverse side effect due to a vaccine is literally one in a million. To put that in perspective, the chances of getting hit by meteor is i in 250,000. Let me repeat: you are four times as likely to be hit by a meteor than to have a negative reaction to a vaccine.

So if the science is so real, how come there is still skepticism surrounding vaccines? Honestly, I blame bad reporting. Modern new outlets give equal attention to both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine cohorts, giving the illusions that a) both groups are equally important and b) that this is a controversy with no clear answer. Of course, this isn’t the case at all, but with journalist giving both sides equal clout, the myth persists. Sorry, but its the journalist job to report what’s right; stopping at just getting both sides is just half the job.

Another question, which is more of a personal one, is why anti-vaccine activists feel the need to vilify autism. Why would your children being autistic seriously worry you. I know some forms of extreme autism can reduce someone’s abilities immensely, but that’s just extreme cases. Autism is a spectrum, and those cases are just one end; there are tons of others that can function in real life. In fact, here’s a short list of people with autism:

  • Dan Harmon- writer on the television show Community
  • Temple Grandin- author and food animal handling system designer
  • Satoshi Tajiri- creator of the Pokemon series
  • Courtney Love- frontwoman of the rock band Hole
  • Dan Aykroyd- actor who starred in movies such as Ghostbusters
  • Tim Burton- director of films such as A Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Stanley Kubrick- director of films such as The Shining

"Ray, if someone asks you if your autistic, you say yes!"
I’m not saying autism is great; far from it. But to treat it as a serious threat is just as wrong.

Bottom line: vaccinate your damn kids. The benefits are huge and the chance of something messy happening is about 100 time less likely than your kid getting hit by lightning (no, seriously, the chances of being hit by lightning is 1 in 10,000).

No comments:

Post a Comment