Friday, February 13, 2009

US court dismisses anti-vaccine suits

US scientists and courts have made official what the legitimate scientific community has known for years; there is no concrete link between childhood vaccinations and autism. This absurd and potentially dangerous claim was publicized by a small but very loud group of confused parents looking for something to blame in the face of their ignorance of a child's disorder, and misguided members of the medical fringe. Their argument was based on hearsay and the perceived surge of diagnosed autistic children in recent years. Although responsible doctors and scientists made clear through studies that there was no clear link, this group of the misinformed tried to convince the world of their baseless theory, using the typical "alternative medicine" argument that the medical establishment is purely profit-based, and therefore wants children vaccinated. Children are vaccinated because it works. When I was a kid, I never knew anyone with measles, mumps, rubella or meningitis. In one publicized case, parents of a little girl who died of meningitis revealed that they never had the girl vaccinated because they bought into the anti-vaccine hysteria.
I was skeptical of the supposed vaccine-autism connection from the start, for two reasons. One, while it appears that there are currently more autistic children than ever, most likely there are no more than there have ever been. The reason it appears that way is because of the publicity and increased knowledge of autism in the last five to ten years. Whereas before, if a child had autism or Asperger's Syndrome, there was no name for it, and very little knowledge of what that name would mean for the child. When I was growing up, no one, including me, knew why I didn't fit in with the rest of the world. But now I know what it is, and can recognize the signs if I see them. It's not that there are more cases of autism, it's that now we know what to look for, and when we know what to look for, we can see more clearly. Another possible reason why there may be more cases in recent years could be that, with the advent of autistic-friendly professions like computing and engineering, those with autism spectrum conditions are more likely to marry and have children, and scientists are looking into the possibility that autism may have a genetic component.
The other reason I never bought the vaccines cause autism argument is that it seemed improbable. Millions of children are vaccinated, and only a small percentage show any sign of an autism spectrum disorder. My sister, brother and I were all vaccinated, and only I ended up with Asperger's Syndrome. My brother could even be described as "anti-autistic" since he's highly social and has a comfort around other people that I could never attain or understand. Also, my grandfather, a retired IBM engineer, has all the signs of Asperger's, but he grew up long before the diagnosis existed, therefore was never identified as such. Also, I don't think he was given the now common childhood vaccines. In conclusion, this ruling marks a victory for medicine and a blow to the lunatic fringe who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to attempt a reversal of medical advances and go back to the age of common childhood illnesses.
Tomorrow, I have an interview for a temp job. The hostile environment of gossipy moron coworkers at my current job has me at the breaking point. Job interviews have always been tough for me, because they require eye contact, quick thinking in response to questions, and cloaking the truth in more friendly and palatable language, things I and other with autism spectrum disorders cannot do easily. But this time, Anthony, who regularly conducts interviews, offered help, and now I know what kind of answers are expected and how I can give the interviewer what they want without having to lie. It will still be a hellish 20-30 minutes, but being coached might help me get a job that I desperately need.

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