According to a recent poll from Health Day, half of the American population believes that there is, or there may be a connection between autism and the current vaccine schedule. The poll also found that parents who have doubts about vaccines are less likely to have their children fully vaccinated, while other parents refused to vaccinate their children at all. This is a very dangerous decision that exposes children to tons of sicknesses. This is still happening in America despite the fact that the relationship between vaccines and autism has been pronounced as non-existent several times by the scientific community.
There is no denying the fact that the rates of autism among children in America has been on an incline for several years. However the blame has been put in the wrong place. There is clearly no single clear-cut cause of autism, but after a speculative article was published in a fringe medical journal that mentioned that autism may result from mercury poisoning from vaccines, the media went crazy. They took something that was published as a theoretical article, and reported it as fact. The media also overlooked and ignored the most logical and real reason for the increase in autism rates. That being that the diagnostic criteria for the disorder has changed drastically over the years. Many of the children diagnosed with autism today would not have received that diagnosis fifty years ago. Only the most severe of today’s cases would have been deemed autistic fifty years ago.
The American public needs to realize that the answer is not to stop vaccinating their children. that will just lead to the spread of disease and suffering amongst the next generations, while doing to nothing to help with the soaring autism rates.
The question I cannot help but ask myself, is why would half of the American population, including educated individuals such as teachers and lawyers, continue to believe something the scientific and medical communities have stated is not true several times?
The answer to this question is more complicated than you may think. First, you must understand that once people learn of a possibility of harm, it is extremely difficult for them to get that out of their head. Second, in today’s society, the population relies on experts to protect them from serious risks.
The original source saying that there may be a connection between vaccines and autism was a medical journal, so naturally people were going to take it seriously. However once a controversy such as this breaks out, people begin to see experts going against each other, and it gets confusing on who to believe. When people see this, their faith in the experts erodes, and everything is seen as opinion. It really doesn’t matter how many facts scientists present, the public still just sees them as the opinion of that particular side.
The third reason why so many Americans continue to believe this rumor or not be sure about it, has to do with how the media handled it. For years, the media covered the topic as a controversy with two sides, excluding the fact the science only backed up one of the sides. News sources placed ratings and controversy above public health, providing the public with misinformation.
The fourth and maybe most important reason the public has believed this is that the scientific community has done a poor job of communicating theoretical risk, and the difference between coincidence and causation. If they had done a better job at explaining this, parents might not have treated this theoretical risk as if it was a sure fire fact. Parents might have been more willing to believe scientists when they rejected to possibility of vaccines causing autism. And parents would not have been forced to do their own research on the topic, which for most probably consisted of looking up news articles on Google, where they would find mostly articles talking about the controversy, not the facts.
- Why the next CDC autism rates spells bad news for the mercury hypothesis (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)
- Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, Please Vaccinate Your Children [Science] (gizmodo.com)
- Autism – Thimerosol and Politics (jlue.wordpress.com)
- Autism: The Neural Bloom (inimese.wordpress.com)
- Vaccines and autism: Same as it ever was [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com)
- California Bill AB 2109: The Antivaccine Movement Attacks School Vaccine Mandates Again (sciencebasedmedicine.org)