The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called for ABC to cancel the premiere episode of Eli Stone, its new TV show, because of claims made on the show about autism being caused by a vaccine. Lester Hartman, MD, who's on the Board of Directors for Children's Hospital Boston's Pediatric Physicians Organization and works as a pediatrician at Westwood-Mansfield Pediatrics, wrote the following letter to his patients to remind them of his firm belief that vaccines remain safe.
Read a Q&A about why it's important to immunize your child.
These two words, together, can conjure up thoughts of conspiracy, mercury, toxins, collusion, fear, alienation, money, lawsuits and loss of control. These words also can split people into what is perceived as two camps: "pro-vaccine" and "anti-vaccine." The reality is that the mass majority of people are fully vaccinating their children (some with trepidation, yet realizing it is in the best interest of their child and society). Fear of the unknown (what causes autism) can generate "disinformation" and speculation. Although this disinformation can, and often does, sound very logical, it is rarely grounded in solid data.
I often reflect on my younger days, 20 years ago as a resident in training. During this period, the pertussis (whooping cough) portion of the DPT shot was implicated by some as causing another complex disease (and one still without a clear cause), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The peak incidence of SIDS was at 2 months of age, and infants received their first DPT shot at 2 months of age. Logical disinformation henceforth would say there must be a simple cause and effect relationship. When the British stopped giving the DPT vaccine at 2 months of age in the 1980s, infants began dying from pertussis and the incidence of SIDS did not change. Unfortunately, the cause of this disease is not a single shot.
This is the case with autism as well. In Finland, a large study monitoring the rates of autism after mercury was removed from vaccines showed that autism continued to rise at a similar rate to that in the United States (prior to the United States removing mercury from vaccines). As a pediatrician who has a special interest in children with autism and their families, I share the anxiety of the unknown, yet I caution that logical disinformation can threaten the health and longevity of all children. I say this from a physician's perspective, one who brings life-saving vaccines to Haiti and opposes drug samples being placed in the office.
The measles issue. An article in the British journal Lancet came out in the 1990s, supposedly showing a relationship between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism. Since then, numerous papers have debunked such conclusions. Amazingly, 10 out of 13 of the paper's authors recanted the conclusion. Yet the myth persists. Measles was the third most common killer of children in the 1930s. It is highly contagious. Let us not forget that it will come back rapidly if we stop our MMR vaccine.
People occasionally request that their child's vaccines be split or spaced out more. Logical disinformation would have you believe that this wouldn't stress the immune system. It is important to remember that every minute the immune system in your skin, mouth and intestines is constantly fighting millions (or perhaps billions) of bacteria; adding a shot to stimulate the immune system is hardly significant.
If the vaccine and medical community is guilty of anything, it is not having a more open dialogue with citizens about the risk and benefits of new vaccines coming to market. This hopefully will change. If you wish to read two books with opposing views of the vaccine issue, I recommend Evidence of Harm and Vaccine (which I feel is well documented and evidence-based).
Lester Hartman, MD