Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vaccine and Autism

Thimerasol is the mercury-based component once used as the preservative in MMR vaccine, as well as most other human vaccines prior to 2002. Thimerasol is the part of the MMR vaccine associated with the suspected link to autism. In 1999, the FDA ordered all U.S. vaccine manufacturers to find an alternate preservative (not based on mercury or aluminum) and to phase out all use of thimerasol. By early 2002, thimerasol was gone and vaccines were mercury and aluminum-free. Since 2002, autism rates diagnosed in young children have risen, in some cases nearly doubling. Additionally, autism is being frequently diagnosed now in children who are "vaccine naive" (this is the medical term for "un-vaccinated"). So much for the MMR vaccine link to autism. The scientific principle of "cause and effect" dictates that the effect should disappear when the cause disappears. That has not happened. Therefore, there is no "cause and effect" link. End of story.

Well, not quite. There may never be an end to this story. Like the controversy over global warming, and like the eternal tug-of-war between evolution and creation, the debate about MMR vaccine and autism has now degenerated into another case of logic versus belief. And in this struggle, logic always loses because believers don't need logic to support their belief. Many people are throwing gasoline on this fire, and one of them is a woman named Katie Wright. Her father, Bob Wright, is the past chairman of NBC/Universal, and the Wright family runs the organization, Autism Speaks. This is a family with considerable influence, certainly more influence than the typical scientific investigator has. This influence could be used to help settle the debate, but sadly, the focus there is now shifting away from the science.

This would all seem like academic nonsense were it not for the fact that there are sincere people who need and deserve factual answers to the question, "Why does my loved-one suffer from autism?" They deserve better than what this debate is providing. Placing blame will never cure a case of autism, but placing blame on the wrong cause is doubly counter-productive.

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