Vax Maine Kids wants to help build communities across Maine that care about the health and wellbeing of our children. While our efforts mainly focus on vaccinations as one of the best ways to keep our communities free of diseases, we also support a lot of other children’s health issues so that every child can lead a full, healthy and meaningful life.
That is why on World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd), we want to highlight the various resources dedicated to supporting children with autism here in Maine.
It has been said, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.”
Children with autism have different strengths and weaknesses, abilities and limitations; and struggles and achievements. Some are nonverbal and may never speak, many are highly intelligent and learn to read and write early on, and some have unbelievable gifts for math, music, or art. As we work to generate greater awareness of what autism is, we must understand that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex set of neurological disorders that can impair social, communicative and cognitive functions. While no two children with autism are exactly alike, all are special.
The need for research and support.
Unfortunately, when it comes to autism there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Parents often ask, “What causes autism? Can it be prevented? How do I know if my child has autism? How can we help our children who may be on the spectrum?”
While years of scientific study haven’t been able to tell us a specific “cause”, science has helped us learn a great deal about autism spectrum disorders and the possible genetic factors that appear to contribute to them.
Ongoing research continues to help with diagnoses and treatment, but there is still such a great need to support the autistic community in ways that extend beyond those living with autism. There is also a need to offer resources and support for parents, siblings, educators, therapists, and caregivers.
One such resource is a collection of autism toolkits compiled by the NIH Office of Autism Research Coordination. This collection covers topics such as health, safety, employment, housing, education, and daily living for children and adults.
Research has proven that vaccines do not cause autism. Continue reading
Celebrities who speak out against vaccines get a lot of attention, even though they are not scientists, nor doctors, nor public health professionals. In the wake of recent measles outbreaks, that attention has turned negative as the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases become more apparent. Now, at least one celebrity may have decided that all publicity isn’t good publicity after all. In a recent opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jenny McCarthy, the most active and influential celebrity anti-vaxxer of them all, seems to be trying to deny her past comments against vaccines. Jenny asks, “What happened to critical thinking?” but when you take a critical look at Jenny McCarthy’s current claims about vaccines, they still don’t make any sense.
Like many parents of children with autism, former Playboy model and current co-host of The View, Jenny McCarthy was devastated by her son Evan’s autism diagnosis in 2005. That’s easy to understand—we know she wanted something, anything to blame for her son’s diagnosis. What we don’t understand is why she chose to blame vaccines despite all of the overwhelming scientific evidence showing there is no connection and never has been a connection between vaccines and autism.
That said, we have a couple of ideas about why she may be changing her tune: the attention she has received for her anti-vaccine statements may have helped her career in the past, keeping her in the headlines, but now, it’s hurting it. Jenny McCarthy’s ill-informed crusade against vaccines helped her career make a comeback, but this crusade may have also contributed to lower vaccination rates. Now that dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a comeback of their own, people are, with good reason, blaming her. That Jenny McCarthy would act like she was never anti-vax isn’t quite out of character—she used to be a comedic actress. But this act is getting old, and it isn’t very funny.
Jenny McCarthy’s still not telling the truth about her anti-vaccine statements. “For years, I have wrongly been branded as ‘anti-vaccine,’” she complains in her opinion piece. And, in a recent interview with Good Morning America, McCarthy states: “I think people should read exactly what I have said instead of reading headlines, and that’s why I wanted to write that piece. Everything that I have said and everything that I believe in is in that piece, so I hope people will go and refer to that so they know exactly what I’ve been saying.”
But no matter what she is trying to say now, she did blame vaccines:
- “Vaccines play the largest role [in causes of autism] right now and something needs to be done.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2008 interview with Larry King
- “I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe…We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f***ing measles.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2009 interview with Time magazine
And that’s just the first few Google hits! There are many, many more instances of Jenny McCarthy wrongfully placing blame on vaccines. Jenny McCarthy wrote five books claiming vaccines gave her son autism. She appeared on a number of news broadcasts and talk shows, from CNN, to Oprah, to Frontline, claiming that vaccines are filled with toxins, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and that the recommended vaccination schedule is dangerous for kids.
Jenny McCarthy wasn’t “wrongly branded” about her attitudes towards vaccines! Everything Jenny McCarthy said about vaccines was wrong. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. There is no mercury in children’s vaccines. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids.
Jenny McCarthy may have changed her tune, but she’s still not telling the truth about vaccines.
- “I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit,” Jenny McCarthy writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
We know that vaccine programs are important and yes, parents do have the choice to modify their children’s vaccination schedule, but there are no benefits to delaying the vaccination schedule. There is no such thing as too many vaccines, too soon. Delaying safe and effective vaccines leaves children with developing immune systems unprotected from dangerous diseases.
Now that parents are getting a closer look at the harsh reality of measles, it turns out they don’t want to “stand in line for the measles” at all; they want to stand in line for the measles vaccine—and stand up for all the recommended vaccines.
Jenny McCarthy’s opinion piece may not show a real change in her unproven anti-vaccine beliefs, but it does show that the majority of parents know that vaccinating their children on time is safe and protects them over the long-term. These parents will no longer stand for Jenny McCarthy’s lies and fear mongering when it comes to vaccines. Just like the recent public outcry when Chili’s announced it would donate a percentage of its sales to an anti-vaccine autism group, it shows that standing up for what we believe in can change minds. Parents and healthcare professionals that stood up against anti-vaccination myths and propaganda convinced Chili’s to cancel its fundraiser. People telling Jenny the truth on Twitter, protests against hiring Jenny McCarthy on The View, and a lot of negative press may have convinced Jenny McCarthy she needed to change her tune.
By listening to our healthcare providers instead of celebrities and sharing real scientific facts and research with our friends, we can also change the minds of the people we know—and change the tone of the national debate.
FACT: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Autism is a very hard diagnosis for doctors to make and an even harder diagnosis for parents to hear. Autism can devastate families, and let feelings overwhelm facts. Parents with autistic children have so many questions, and there is still so much about autism we don’t know.
We do know this: vaccines protect children from dangerous diseases without increasing their risk for autism.
Children do not begin to show signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) until they are six to eighteen months old. This is about the same age that children receive many of their recommended vaccines. Some Maine parents may have seen a medical study claiming this timing isn’t a coincidence. They might not know this study has been completely discredited, and many other scientific studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.
- THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM
In 1998, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a study of 12 children in the medical journal Lancet. Wakefield claimed these children experienced developmental regression after they received their MMR vaccine. Wakefield did not find a scientific connection between MMR and autism, but he said the vaccine should stop being used anyway.
Andrew Wakefield’s study got a lot of press and it frightened a lot of parents. This study also had a lot of problems. The research did not stand up to scrutiny, and by 2004 it was clear that the study was a fraud. By 2009, London’s Sunday Times found evidence Wakefield had falsified his data and in 2010 the Lancet agreed, declaring the study false. In 2010 the British Medical Council revoked his medical license and found him guilty of 30 counts of professional misconduct. The British Medical Journal published a three-part investigative series reporting that Wakefield lied in his study as part of a scam to make a million dollars.
No other medical study anywhere in the world has ever found a link between vaccines and autism. Not one.
- THERE IS OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM
This fraudulent study did a tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time, but it did have one silver lining. It prompted many other scientists to study the connection between vaccines and autism. This avalanche of careful, thorough and ongoing scientific research all came to the same conclusion: there is no link between vaccines and autism.
When we say “no link”, we mean:
- There is no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
- There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
- There is no link between too many vaccines too soon and autism.
(To see just how much recent research has been done proving that there is no connection between vaccines and autism, take a look at the Autism Science Foundation’s Read the Science page. Get ready to scroll – it’s a lot!)
Maine parents don’t need to worry that vaccinating their children on the recommended schedule will increase their risk of autism. We can stop wasting valuable research dollars and focus on finding the real causes of autism.
The truth is, we still don’t know what causes autism. We do know that it isn’t vaccines.
Vax Maine Kids and Kohl’s Vax Kids want Maine parents to keep their kids on the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule. Is your family up-to-date? Visit our Vaccine Schedules page to find out.
Photo Credit: by Beverly & Pack
This interactive vaccine-preventable disease outbreak map created by the Council on Foreign Relations has gone viral, showing the impact this topic has on the entire world. The Los Angeles Times recently referred to the graphic as a visual representation of “The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic.”
This map (screenshot below) shows the different vaccine-preventable outbreaks that have occurred around the world since 2008 by using different colored dots for each disease.
Some outbreaks are less surprising than others. Sadly, it is expected that, in underdeveloped countries, where vaccines are much more difficult to get, there are more vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. That said, the number of red and brown colored dots (red for measles and brown for mumps) in the United States and Europe (largely Great Britain) is startling since these are developed areas where vaccines are much more accessible.
In countries like the US and Great Britain, it is clear that these outbreaks are not a result of access to vaccines, but likely a result of the anti-vaccine movement; more directly, the completely false claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism. This claim is not new and has shown to be untrue over and over again, year after year, but the fear the claim put into parents’ minds persists.
While there are side effects to vaccines, largely limited to redness, pain, and sometimes a fever, autism is not one of them and never has been. Study after study, with millions of children, has shown absolutely no correlation between vaccines and autism.
Aaron Carroll, MD, MS, a pediatrician and health services researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains why it is so difficult to dispel this myth:
Humans try to make sense of the world by seeing patterns. When they see a disease or condition that tends to appear around the time a child is a year or so old, as autism does, and that is also the age that kids get particular shots, they want to put those things together. Parents watch kids more carefully after they get their shots; sometimes they pick up on symptoms then. But, just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other.
Dr. Carroll provides an incredibly thorough and clear history of the incorrect MMR-autism link that came from what we now know was a totally falsified study that was later removed from the Lancet Journal, one of the world’s premiere medical journals, and whose lead author’s medical license was revoked for dishonesty and irresponsibility. Dr. Carroll explains this disgrace to science:
This was not a randomized, controlled trial, nor even a scientific study; it was merely a description of a small group of children. To be honest, it’s difficult to imagine that this study could get published in the Lancet today. But, based on the beliefs of the parents of those eight children, a frenzy of fear about vaccines and autism has ensued for more than a decade.
Here at VaxMaineKids, we understand that your child is your most precious possession—you want to do what’s best for them and always keep them healthy. Autism can be scary, and it is natural to be wary of something that someone says could cause it. But since vaccines don’t, you could be putting your child’s health at risk if you buy into the myth that they do.
What will it take for this myth to be squashed once and for all? Graphics like these can show the potential effects of myths like this one on the numbers of life-threatening disease outbreaks worldwide.
We encourage you to check out and share Aaron Carroll’s video—it’s well worth the eight minutes.
And, take a look at this and let us know what you think.
We also recommend you visit our vaccination safety page at www.vaxmainekids.org/vaccination-safety to learn more.
http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/healthcare-triage-vaccines-and-autism/ (Dr. Carroll offers his own references here, too)