Recently in class we discussed the topic of doctors making claims off of intuition rather than having science based evidence to support their claims. Some examples of this were sudden infant death syndrome, Thalidomide, and brain stents. An example similar to these cases is the question of whether vaccines lead to autism? This question was brought about in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield published a study following eight children who received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine as well as several other types of vaccines. He found that all eight of the children had symptoms of autism appear shortly after receiving the vaccinations. He then went on to conclude that there was a link between vaccines and autism. Shortly after the paper was published, vaccination rates, particularly rubella vaccines, began to drop due to the concerns of parents that were brought about by the content in Wakefield’s paper. Although the publication had parents worried, scientist doubted the credibility of the paper as several studies had been conducted that contracted its data. In addition, further investigation determined that the publication suffered from the Texas Sharp Shooter Problem as Wakefield only published the data that specifically suited his hypothesis. Finally, it was established that Wakefield had failed to provide a causal link that showed that vaccines have any contribution to autism in children. After further research, it was determined that Wakefield’s finding were false and misleading, as vaccines do NOT cause autism or increase a person’s chances of having autism. Since 1998, multiple studies have been conducted to provide evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Recently in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC) conducted a study that analyzed numerous different substances, or antigens, used in vaccines from birth to age two. The results found that those children who had autism and those who did not have autism received the same amount of antigens over the first two years of life, thus providing evidence to the claim that vaccines do not cause autism.
Although there is a strong consensus among scientists that vaccines do not cause or increase one’s risk of having autism, many parents still are not convinced. Since the publication of Wakefield’s study, the idea that autism and vaccines are linked has never gone away. A survey conducted by the National Consumers League (NCL) in 2014 found that every one in three parents believe that vaccines and autism are linked. In addition, the survey also found that nearly half of parents are aware of Wakefield’s paper, and of those parents only half of them have been informed that Wakefield’s paper was not credible and the findings have been found false. Since 1998, as a result of Wakefield’s study, many children have not received vaccines, some of which are our classmates. The case of Wakefield’s false claim of vaccines causing autism is a prime example of how doctors make claims without science based evidence, which in return has lasting affects for years to come.
“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html >
“Survey: One Third of American Parents Mistakenly Link Vaccines to Autism.” National Consumers League. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.nclnet.org/survey_one_third_of_american_parents_mistakenly_link_vaccines_to_autism>
Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. “The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Medknow Publications, 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/>