Autism and Vaccines Research Paper

The age we are living in is characterized by rapid technology development and constant innovation. The health systems of almost all the world countries are developed to the point, when it becomes impossible for us to imagine that some illnesses, except for the apparently fatal ones, can not be cured. What is more, today, it is unattainable for us to picture that couple of centuries ago, people would die from a regular chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, or mumps.

This is because we are so used to the fact that in childhood receive vaccines for all of these illnesses. Vaccine is the administration of antigenic material inserted into the human body to produce immunity to a disease, by preventing or ameliorating the effects of infection by a pathogen. Today, vaccination is considered to be the most effectual and cost-effective method of preventing infectious diseases. Thus, shortly after birth child is vaccinated from various types of diseases.

However, today more and more the question of whether vaccines are safe arises within the public. Moreover, there even those who link the appearance of autism in the child with the vaccination he/she had received earlier. This issue is very divisive and the consensus on this notion has not been reached yet. In my paper I would, first of all, define the concept of autism. Upon that I will present facts that speak for and against the links between vaccination (particularly measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine) and autism. In the conclusion I will analyze the discussed points and propose my personal opinion on the notion.

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Autism is a brain development disorder that influences the social interaction habits of the person and produces restricted and repetitive behavior (Myers S.M., Johnson, C.P., 1162). Children with autism are usually very different from regular children, they are withdrawn, they have troubles communicating their needs, do not show emotion with intonation, and have inability to look at things from other people’s perspective. Such set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD)(Autism – Symptoms). Autism is sometimes firstly noted in infancy as impaired attachment. Though, it is most often first identified in toddlers, mostly boys, from 18 to 30 months of age. Statistically, boys are widely more afflicted with autism than girls, though girls as a group, however, may be more severely affected (Myers S.M., Johnson C.P., 1162–63).

Roughly 75 percent of children with autism are mentally retarded, “while fewer than 5 percent of children with autistic traits have fragile X or another known chromosomal abnormality” (Piven J., 708). Unfortunately, the cure for autism does not exist, though it can be treated. Many children with autism show improvement when they start to acquire language and learn how to communicate their needs (Piven J., 708, Rodier, P.M., 122). Few children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, but some become successful (Rajendran, G., Mitchell, P., 224).

The number of people with autism has increased noticeably since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice (Newschaffer C.J., Croen L.A., Daniels J., 235). Usually, autism has a strong genetic basis. In rare cases, autism is associated with agents that cause birth defects. However, there are other possible causes, one of them is childhood vaccines. This hypothesis is very controversial, and lacks any convincing scientific evidence (Rutter, M., 2-3)

Autism is a dramatic illness, or regarded by some-disorder. There are opinions that autism is caused by the parents who have damaged their children by withholding love and affection that those children withdrew and never came back. Then it was proven that families are susceptible to autism, that the damage is done to the child in the womb and in the genes, not in the pediatrician’s office with a syringe. At the same time, it must be noted that children’s illnesses are tragedies for the family. When a child is sick, severely sick, sick without any hope to ever be fully cured, it is natural for parents to start blaming other parties for what has happened to their children. In my opinion and also according to some publications, the first wave of the assumptions that vaccination causes autism has come from the parents who wanted to shift the blame from the family onto medical science.

The mentioned above issue is notorious and it is very complicated to say anything about it except for the fact that more research has to be done. Lower I will present arguments that speak for the safety of vaccination. To begin with no connection between autism and receiving vaccines has been proven. Moreover, vaccines are an overwhelming public good and decision to raise children without taking them to get vaccinations can be considered simply irresponsible (CDC on its National Immunization Program site). Characteristically, parents note the first symptoms of autism in their children when they begin to have difficulty communication or have a delay in speaking after the age of one (Newschaffer C.J., Croen L.A., Daniels J., 236). Additionally, when children are a little over one year old, around twelve-fifteen months, they are given the MMR vaccine. Given that these two happenings usually happen within a very short period of time, it is not surprising that autism follows MMR immunization in some cases. Nonetheless, the most logical explanation in such a case is coincidence, and not cause-and-effect.

Another point on this subject is that the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia disputes the link between vaccination and autism claiming the genetic connection of the disease. Those of this opinion suggest that a child is born with autism traits and can not possible acquire them after receiving his/her shots. They also consider that spending time and money on researching about the possible links between autism and MMR shots is a poor allocation of resources that should be devoted to other more important unnoticed issues (Offit). Finally, if measles vaccine or any other vaccine had caused autism, it would have been a very uncommon occurrence, for the reason that millions of children have received vaccines without bad health effects.

The arguments that regard vaccination to cause autism are as follows. The Autism Research Institute claims that researching on the topic of the possible link is not a waste of time and money but rather an attempt to save the future generations of children and their parents. The claim that it is widely advertised that there is not link between the two occurrences just for the sake of keeping the people calm. Moreover, they imply that vaccines causing autism would not be prohibited because of the greedy medicine workers who make a fortune in the field. The advocates of such thoughts in Autism Research Institute proclaim that there is evidence supporting a vaccine-autism link. The studies that have proven the link are listed by Bernard Rimland, director of Autism Research Institute. He suggests that «… these studies are consistently ignored in the medical establishment’s publications claiming that there is no evidence for vaccine-caused autism (Rimland).” The scientists working for the National Vaccine Information Center continue by saying that «at the heart of the debate stand a few courageous physicians whose independent, multi-disciplinary approach to investigating the possible biological mechanisms of vaccine-induced autism is serving as a counterweight to the steadfast denials by infectious disease specialists and government health officials defending current mass vaccination policies.» Though, as of September 2008, there is a new study that disproves a link between vaccines and the MMR vaccine.

In conclusion it must be said that there are no proven data to advocate that measles vaccine or any other vaccine will increase the risk of developing autism or any other behavioral disorder. However, what is know and what is proven is that vaccinations helps children avoid the risks of suffering a dangerous sometimes fatal diseases. I believe that it is very irresponsible to advertise the link between autism and vaccination because this may lead to deaths of children whose parents are scared of having their children receive it. At the same time, the views of those parents advocating that their children have developed autism upon receiving the vaccinations should be respected. It should be understand that parents in such situations tend to act emotionally and not rationally. Thus, without a shadow of doubt more research should be done on the subjects and if the link is not proven, more efforts should be devoted to finding ways to improve the state of those children sick with autism.

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