The research linking autism to childhood vaccines continues to do harm, long after it was proven to be a fraud. That’s clear to me because I keep hearing of moms not vaccinating their children due to concerns about autism, and also because people who believe it are still making headlines. Most recently, actor Aidan Quinn blamed his daughter’s autism on her vaccine. As he said in his interview with The Irish Independent, “So we had a normal child that was walking, talking, doing everything way faster than she was supposed to. Then, after an MMR, she got a 106 degree fever and turned blue and woke up the next day with dark circles and not knowing who she was. And uncoordinated.” His daughter, Aida, now 19, has autism and is nonverbal.
By now most people know that the so-called “research” was disproven. Back in 1998, British doc Andrew Wakefield published a paper claiming a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. He based it on twelve case studies. By 2004, he’d been widely discredited. Finally, in January 2010, a UK General Medical Council found that he’d acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in his published research, and he was prohibited from practicing medicine. The esteemed medical journal that had originally published his research, The Lancet, retracted it. By then, the research had already had a resounding impact on public health, as parents stopped getting their child the vaccine and reported cases of measles went up.
In January 2011, the British Medical Journal deemed Wakefield’s work an "elaborate fraud." As an accompanying editorial noted, “Perhaps as important as the scare’s effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it.”
Fear is a hard thing to repress, especially when it concerns the well-being of our children. “I know that there’s no connection between the vaccine and autism, but I can’t get past it,” a mom recently said to me. “I understand,” I said, “and I’m no doctor but I think it’s more harmful for your kid not to get the vaccine.” Of course, concerns should be discussed with a pediatrician; many doctors work with parents to space out vaccines.