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A Case for Vaccination
By Joe Schwarcz, PhD.
Excerpt from Science, Sense and Nonsense (09/08)
AVOID! One of the most common words of advice heard these days. Avoid tap water. Avoid bottled water. Avoid butter. Avoid margarine. Avoid the sun. Avoid sweeteners. Avoid genetically modified foods. Avoid plastic bags. Avoid paper bags. Avoid preservatives. Avoid dairy. Avoid meat. Avoid soy. Avoid— ah, never mind. I could go on and on with a litany of such “avoids.” There are some valid points to be made with some of these, but there is one avoid that I cannot stomach. Advising parents to avoid childhood vaccination is scientifically unjustified and dangerous.
Vaccination just may be the most significant medical advance in history. It is difficult to estimate the number of lives saved, but it is in the many millions, to say nothing of the countless number of people who have been spared the misery of mumps, measles, whooping cough and polio. I can vouch for the agony of whooping cough myself. Feeling as if you are going to cough your lungs out is a memory that doesn’t leave you easily. I survived, but one of my classmates in grade two did not. And how often can one say that a disease has been completely wiped off the face of the Earth by a medical intervention? The last case of smallpox was recorded in 1978. The World Health Organization estimates that smallpox killed as many as 500 million people in the twentieth century and that as recently as 1967 it was responsible for two million annual deaths.
Other vaccines may not have eradicated diseases, but they have curbed their incidence very significantly. Cases of whooping cough in North America have declined from a pre-vaccination peak rate of about 300,000 per year to 10,000. Measles from a million cases a year to a hundred. Diphtheria and polio are almost nonexistent today in developed countries. The incidence of hepatitis B and tetanus have been reduced by a factor of forty, rubella by two hundred and mumps by four hundred. The effectiveness of immunization is simply beyond argument. How can there be an issue here? How can some parents choose not to vaccinate their children?
It really is a conundrum. But the answer likely lies in a growing distrust of the “medical establishment,” a discredited but widely publicized scientific study, inaccurate information being spread on the Internet, and a lack of understanding of the difference between an association and a cause-and-effect relationship. Although we may not think of it in such terms, the decisions we make in life often come down to a risk-benefit analysis. Whether it is flying in airplanes, eating smoked meat, taking cholesterol lowering medication, or vaccination, there are always pluses and minuses to consider. There is no denying that immunization does come with some risk. Rashes, joint pain and fever are well documented, as are occasional lapses in the speed with which safety issues concerning vaccines have been addressed. Oral polio vaccines, which were more convenient to administer than the injected form, were responsible for actually causing the disease in rare cases. Yet some twenty years were allowed to pass before switching back to the safer, injectable form. An infant vaccine against an intestinal infection that struck roughly four million babies a year in North America was found to cause an increase in life-threatening cases of bowel collapse and had to be abandoned. Although there is no scientific evidence linking the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal to any disease, it probably should have been removed from vaccines more speedily when ill effects attributed to mercury in other contexts became apparent.
Vaccines, in a sense, are becoming victims of their own success. As memories fade of the horrors of the original diseases that they prevent, more attention is being focused on possible harmful side effects. Indeed, one can judge the progress of society by looking at its worries. Instead of having to be concerned about millions dying from smallpox or coming down with measles or whooping cough, we worry about the possibility of vaccination being linked with some cases of autism. That suggestion was raised in 1998 by a paper published in the British medical journal The Lancet. Andrew Wakefield and twelve colleagues claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) caused a bowel disease that then caused autism.
The report received extensive publicity and triggered public demonstrations against mandatory vaccination. Most scientists were skeptical of the Wakefield study, and their skepticism was borne out by the results of an investigation published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Danish researchers had examined immunization records and autism diagnoses for all children born between 1991 and 1998 and found that unvaccinated children were just as likely to be diagnosed with autism as those who had received immunizations. The Lancet study was further discredited when it was revealed that Wakefield had failed to disclose he had received a large grant from a group of lawyers who were looking for ammunition in a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers. In the end, ten of Wakefield’s co-authors retracted their support for the original research, saying that in retrospect the results as reported were not valid.
Other studies around the world also refuted the link between vaccines and autism, but a vocal group of anti-vaccine advocates maintains that a witch hunt has been organized against Wakefield to protect vaccination interests. Humbug. The fact is that autism commonly shows up at roughly the same age that vaccines are given, and an association can readily be mistaken for a cause-and effect relationship. But even if there really were a link between autism and vaccination, the anti-vaccine movement would still not be justified. The benefits overwhelm the risks.
In Britain, the consequences of the vaccine scare are already being seen in rising rates of mumps, rubella and measles. And Britain faces another problem: homeopaths are recommending that tourists travelling to malaria-stricken destinations use homeopathic remedies instead of well-tested prescription prophylaxis. This is ludicrous. Homeopathic products contain no active ingredient of any kind, so it comes as no surprise that a number of travellers have already paid for their folly with their health. Many homeopaths also advise their patients to avoid vaccines in lieu of a cacophony of implausible homeopathic medications. If indeed you are looking for something to avoid, how about this silly and dangerous advice?
Excerpted from Science, Sense and Nonsense Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Joe Schwarcz.
Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.
Picking up the pieces and moving on, once again.
My son Kyle has been a sports fan, I would say since way back in the womb. I think he wanted to play soccer for all the kicks I had to endure! One of Kyle's first words in his very limited vocabulary as a child was- wait for it- hockey! It was the first word he learned to spell. His Dad had to cut down a hockey stick to fit his short stature and we lost a few vases but c'est la vie.
Flash forward to when Kyle was in his last year of a life skills program in high school. He was being prepared for the real world. They call it mainstreaming or transitioning into society. We all knew his graduation was going to be bitter sweet. It's a sad thing for some special needs students when their whole world is school staff, classmates and a safe environment. There isn't too many possibilities to look forward to in their post high school future. The fortunate can fit into an adult life skills or work training program but not all services and classes are available for all abilities. There's lots of fear, uncertainty and worst of all alienation.
Kyle is one of the lucky ones. He is very verbal and enjoys socializing. He loves physical activities, likes to be busy and he can be trained to do jobs with some supervision. Did I mention he loves sports? In preparation for Kyle's transition from high school to the real world we signed him up for a Support Worker with the VON. It was touch and go with a few candidates. Some didn't want to commit and some just didn't fit. Then there was Ian. Our VON coordinator said he was perfect for Kyle and guess what, he was all that and a bag of chips, as Kyle would say! Ian was in teacher's college and looking forward to coaching and teaching phys. ed. plus he was interested in the field of special needs. Well, as you can imagine the two guys got on like a house on fire! The one thing we all noticed was there was no communication gap between the two guys. Ian and Kyle participated in typical stuff like hanging out with Ian's friends, going to the movies, Tim Hortons, ball games, bowling, tennis, mini golf, horse racing, and billiards - just to name a few. Ian was a regular part of Kyle's life for the better part of two years but then Ian had to go and get a job, (bleep)! Actually, we were all very proud to hear that he started teaching high school in his home town. Unfortunately, it's an hour and a bit away but the guys still keep in touch through Facebook. I think the students in Ian's classes are a very privileged bunch to have him for a teacher even if they don't know it yet. Ian is also a sports writer for the Chatham-Kent Daily Post. He's written an awesome article about Kyle and how he was influenced by his unique view of sports. Kyle rarely keeps score, he's been known to root for both teams and it's high fives all around when a bowling buddy gets a strike! For Kyle it's all about the love of the game. That old adage, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" really does apply here. Kyle would tell you that word for word and actually believe it too.
To see Ian's article click the blog title or go here:
See the story below.
So, if there's things you need to know then check the link below for more info.
If you know of any other great autism sites then add them by way of a comment below this post.
Yesterday I reported that Yoko Ono's artwork mural called "Promise Piece" is being auctioned off, (ahem) peace by peace so to speak, in support of Autism Speaks. I had to check around to confirm the spelling because I thought Yoko might have spelled it peace in homage to her late husband's famous song "Give Peace a Chance". Puzzles, pieces, peace, whatever, it's all good if it's support of autism right? See the link below for more information on the auction and to view the mural in it's completed form.
The first day of school proved to be too scary an ordeal for an autistic student in Bangkok, Thailand. The teacher from a special needs class alerted the local fire department that a boy was on the third floor balcony and could not be coaxed back inside. After a few failed attempts to coerce him off the balcony, his mother mentioned her son's superhero- Spider-Man. A quick witted fireman rushed back to the firehouse for an outfit change and returned as Spider-Man to rescue! To much relief, the boy succumbed to the safety of Spidey's arms. Kudos to the fireman for using his ingenuity and his costume collection to save the day!
See the story and video links below.
Visit Loren John Presley's web page links here:
For more information about the research see the CTV news health article at the link below.
Fantasy and Mystery in a Sea of Self- Discovery
The Anastasia Project by Loren John Presley is a science fiction fantasy that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. The author takes us on a fantastic journey told through the eyes of a dolphin named Anastasia. The reader is introduced to Anastasia as a lost, lonely, and confused dolphin who awakens from a strange sleep. She can’t retrieve her memories or recall her name and doesn’t recognize her surroundings.
On the surface the story is presented as a dolphin’s mysterious adventure but there is a deeper meaning to be found in this dolphin’s tale. The author is also giving the reader a glimpse into his struggles with Clinical Depression. The dolphin travels deep into the ocean in search of her home, which is a metaphor for the author’s experience dealing with depression that sent him descending into the depths of despair “…all the way down to the dimly lit ocean floor.” Anastasia and Presley draw upon their strengths and courage to persevere and navigate through their strange new worlds. Both the dolphin and the author are on personal quests. As Anastasia searches for her lost memories and the safety of home, Presley is on his own mission of self-discovery and on his way to self-acceptance.
Presley portrays Anastasia feelings of hopelessness with her futile exploration of the ocean, “She almost would have liked to give up, not thinking of what she would do with herself if she did, but she felt inside she had to keep going. She must see herself through. Her innate determination would not let her give in so easily.”
Presley’s rare insights can be attributed to his unique personal perspective living on the autism spectrum with the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. The author describes a common autistic trait through the dolphin’s experience with auditory sensitivities, “The shrill ring pierced her sound-sensitive brain and throbbed sorely in her head.”
The author expresses Anastasia’s loneliness and her desire for a sense of belonging, “Although a sense of serenity and beauty suffused the water and the reef, a disquieting sense of fear began to rise in her core; she found that she was alone.”
The Anastasia Project is written for young readers but I would recommend it to any adult who feels young at heart. The book is well written and eloquently descriptive. A delightful attention to detail can be seen with the bonus of wonderful illustrations sketched by the talented artists, Loren John Presley and Robyn Olague.
If you have an appreciation for science fiction or you have a particular affinity for dolphins then this read will keep you riveted. If you are interested to learn from the author’s mixture of creative interpretation and personal experience dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome and Clinical Depression then this book is a definite must read. Loren John Presley is a unique author and artist with a brilliant mind, a creative spirit, an artistic flair, and so many insights to share! Fans of Presley’s writing will be looking forward to more stories from him in the near future.
Vist Loren John Presley's web page here:
See the link below for the Joey Travolta story.
See comments from Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete in the links below.
See the dumb ass' quote in the story links below.
I was doing some crunches this afternoon when I heard that Jenny McCarthy was going to be a guest on Ellen. I've been a supporter of her autism crusade efforts and I'm eager to read and review her new book. The only thing I've taken issue with in the past was Jenny's use of the word cure when referring to her son's autism. It was interesting to note that right at the top of the interview Ellen states something like " you're not claiming your son has been cured are you?" It seems as if Jenny's prior use of the word cure has given her some flack and a reason to backtrack on her previous claims of a cure. I'm glad to hear that she is now using the word recovery instead. Some may say I'm just arguing about semantics but I think it's important to use the correct terms so we don't give false hope. I'm all for recovery and wish all people with autism could be given the opportunity to do so!
See my earlier blog story here:
See the links below for the Ellen show and Jenny's website.
See the review here: http://wandalynnesbooknook.blogspot.com/
For details on the Oprah show see the link below:
On a more positive note, Jay Serdula has challenged himself and the world to take notice of his learning disability and his athletic ability by swimming across Lake Ontario. A brave undertaking to say the least and certainly a more welcome positive light to shine on autism for a change!
See the links below.
Go to the link to read the full story.
To see video of the boy's mother click below.
Article to be seen below.
See the link to the story below:
Labels: autistic boy banned church
See Stefan's story covered by the Toronto Sun at the link below.