Zorba Paster: Autism-immunization link is a myth - The Buffalo News
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Zorba Paster: Autism-immunization link is a myth

There is a theory that has simmered for years that immunizations cause autism. The best scientific evidence out there says this is a myth. Period.

Now, I know that sentence will get me in trouble. The anti-immunization lobby will fight tooth and nail to stay in the game. Bring on the emails, I say.

Considering that one out of three parents are concerned about this and one out of 10 don’t get their kids fully immunized, you can see how successful the anti-immunization efforts are. With that, let’s go through the history and data so you, the parent, can decide for yourself what’s best for your child.

First, where did this all start? In 1998, the British Medical Journal published an article that “showed” immunizations and autism were linked. The article was a fraud, a lie, plain and simple. The data was faked. The article was retracted.

The scientist behind it was rebuked by the author’s peers, but he continues to lecture (for money, no less) and continues to write (for notoriety, I bet) that he has been treated wrongly. He did a disservice to moms and dads all over the world.

Because of the misinformation, some parents stopped getting proper immunizations for their children, resulting in outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles all over the globe. And what happened to the autism rate in places where parents stopped having their kids immunized? The rate didn’t drop. In fact, it went up. Autism is on the rise. We know that, but we don’t know why.

We have made great advances in vaccination in the past few decades. We now immunize for meningitis, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and pneumococcus – and these once-common childhood problems have become much less common thanks to the shots. We universally immunize for Hepatitis B, practically wiping it off the map for kids. Folks, this is dynamite medicine.

Now, some parents blame autism on the number of shots a child might receive on a given day. The newest study published in the journal Pediatrics compared the autism rates of children given lots of immunizations on one day versus spreading the shots out over several days. The study found no autism link to immunizations in general and no autism link to the practice of giving more shots at the same time.

The study is very reassuring, again, that the autism-immunization link is a myth. Plain and simple.

So let me tell you about a patient I had when I first started practice. I delivered a wonderful baby who, at the age of 5, came in with a headache and stiff neck. She had meningitis. Quickly treated, she survived, but the bacterial infection had done its dirty work. Her brain was never the same.

This was a bright, intellectually curious child who had clearly lost IQ points because of the disease. At that time, the meningitis vaccine had not been invented yet.

My spin: Vaccines are good for kids – the science shows this. You, as a parent, have to balance the proven worth of modern medicine against the myths that are perpetuated by people with a passion for dubious data.

Look at the information and make a decision with your child in mind. It’s your call; it’s your duty as a parent to give your child the very best.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.

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