On the ongoing debate on the causes of autism, Cara Santa Maria wrote an article published by the Huffington Post: “Vaccines & Autism: Controversy Persists, But Why.”
I asked her via email whether the fact that vaccines are actually a severely weakened version of the virus being vaccinated against, could be the reason why the vaccine-autism controversy persists. Carla mentions Jenny McCarthy of such error as well as Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, who published an infamous paper in 1998 with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism.
Although great effort has been made to document scientifically that there is no such a link between childhood vaccines and autism, McCarthy has no doubt in her mind that vaccinations triggered Evan's autism. Evan was diagnosed with autism in 2005. I know that Jenny is not regarded with any scientific authority on the subject (experts make a joke of herself, sadly), and I don’t think that Evan is really autistic. I’ve read Jenny’s books. Evan seems to be a terrific and very smart normal kid.
But, maybe Jenny has a point. A vaccine is actually a severely weakened version of the virus being vaccinated against. The body recognizes this weak virus as a threat and builds antibodies to deal with that specific threat. Indeed, vaccines are the poison needed.
What if not all the immune systems respond in the expected way? There could be immune systems which do not recognize the vaccine as a weak-virus and instead of creating a mechanism to destroy future infections of this virus (so that this virus will not have a chance to make you sick) the virus is thus allowed to freely navigate the system, causing an intoxication that ends up later in neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
When Jenny described Evan’s “autism”, she said that it began with seizures. Having seizures repeatedly during infancy not only can alter the chemistry of the brain, but also cause severe damage and delays in the cognitive process, confronting the infant with epilepsy with problems similar to the autistic ones. At such an early age, doctors cannot distinguish between autism and epilepsy because the consequences for the patient are virtually the same.
This is quite unfortunate, not merely because such a distinction may help us toward a better understanding of autism and epilepsy within its proper neurological environment, but also because the similar-symptoms lead to a misdiagnosis of autism in children who would be suffering from a chemical intoxication produced perhaps by vaccination.
As an aside, I saw pictures of Evan lately. That boy is not autistic, trust me.
The controversy still exists because there were celebrities involved in spreading misinformation, and people trust celebrities. A lot of pseudoscience is spread that way, unfortunately.
It's not surprising that the controversy persists, given that 46% of Americans do not believe in evolution, which is absolutely uncontroversial from a scientific point of view.
As an aside, not all vaccines are weakened versions of viruses; some are simply viral proteins; other vaccines are against bacterial proteins. Vaccines can cause some adverse reactions, the same as medications. But overwhelmingly, the safety record for vaccines in general is impressive.
I have no idea if the McCarthy boy is autistic or not, but I thought autism needs to be diagnosed by professional, not by looking at a picture of a kid. There are many different types of being autistic, after all, it's called "autism spectrum disorder." Consequently, the disorder may have different causes in different people. It seems to be biologically very complicated. It makes me think of cancer (only because that's my field, not because autism and cancer are related), in that two tumors may look absolutely identical even under the microscope, yet have two completely different molecular mechanisms. This of course, complicates the panorama of finding treatments.
Keely, you're too kind! But it's not intelligence, it's training. It's my job.
sounds about right.
Those who can make it will be philosophers and/or scientists. Those who cannot will receive a diagnosis in the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
That is about the size of it.
I’ve read three books written by Jenny McCarthy. The first, Baby Laughs is funny, easy reading, I couldn’t stop laughing. Jenny presents the lighter side of parenthood’s first year, from postpartum embarrassment and baby diapers to sleep deprivation and grandparent eccentricity. In the back flap, there is a picture of Evan when he was 1 year old. Baby Evan had a “brightness” in his eyes that speak of a very energetic, attentive and smart baby. No signs of a neurological disorder until sadly the seizures started. Harvard Psychologists, Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons suggested that Evan could have been misdiagnosed with autism.
The point is: vaccines could have intoxicated Evan’s body, causing a chemical change in his brain.
Hans Asperger was a Viennese child psychologist who published the first definition of Asperger Syndrome in 1944. With the advent of psychology Dr. Asperger singled out children with the ability to talk about their favorite subject in great detail. He called them “Little Professors.” His conclusion was that these children were intensely absorbed in a special interest; they avoid having friends or make one-sided conversation. He elaborated the notion that self-absorption could lead to lack of empathy.
Today, Asperger’s name is used to categorize any child who-does-not-follow-the-norm, or fit their parents’ criteria of what is it like to have a normal child. Does a child have a speech-delay-development? They put him into the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Does the child doesn’t know how to play American Football? He must me autistic. Or perhaps bestseller author Stuart Woods ought to be considered “autistic” because through one of his characters, Stone Barrington, Woods makes too evident that he doesn’t understand anything about cricket? And How about all those extraordinarily strange or eccentric people who have given themselves a diagnosis of Asperger in adulthood?
The life of the greatest Western philosophers and not a few artists and scientists teaches us almost every one of them had the potential to be in the Spectrum, including Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, Thomas Jefferson, and Pablo Picasso. Is it not obvious that something is quite simple wrong in the criteria?
There must be a sharp line to be drawn between early eccentricity and autism.
Many people are in fact, discussing whether the sharp increase in autism cases is real or is caused by over-diagnoses due to lax or soft criteria. This is often an issue with psychiatric disorders where it's not easy to measure a variable, say, like blood sugar levels in diabetes. However, the fact that criteria are not well established for diagnosis does not mean that it's not a spectrum of disorders and that they all can have different causes.
The fact that the McCarthy baby was perfectly normal until a certain point in his development does not mean he was born with it! Many diseases are not immediate onset! If you want to feel depressed, read about Batten's disease. I have had the misfortune of seeing a couple of cases first hand. You have a perfect child until age 2, sometimes 3, sometimes a bit later, then the neurodegeneration starts. Before this was diagnosed and the gene was known, the parents could have assumed anything, that it was a vaccine they got, that a neighbor gave them the evil eye, etc., etc. My point is that yes, the vaccines could have hurt the kid, as I said before any drug or treatment or vaccine could cause something strange, but one needs to consider the likelihood, if it's ever been observed before, etc., etc. Otherwise it's just an anecdote. And no more valid than saying that, say, the food coloring in an ice cream pop the kid was fed, gave him seizures. Given the safety record of vaccines, it's just not justified to deduce that the vaccine caused the epilepsy.
It is much more risky NOT to vaccine your child, than to vaccinate him/her.
I would agree that the likelihood needs to be considered. From what we know of vaccinations, anatomy and the immune system, it is not very likely that a vaccination would be able to cause neurological damage. Vaccinations usually contain inactivated proteins which would normally be expressed on the surface of the infectious agent (a bacterium or virus). Our immune systems recognise this and respond to it. A pool of memory cells remain, so the next time we're exposed to the same protein, there will be a rapid immune response. If that protein resembled a human protein, it may be possible for some individuals to develop an autoimmune disorder, but I don't think that's what autism is (correct me if I'm wrong). Also, from an anatomical perspective, an agent must be capable both of passing through the blood-brain barrier, and of catalysing a detrimental reaction to do any neurological damage. Since most proteins able to pass through the BBB have specific transport mechanisms (and since it's certainly not human protein in the vaccine), and the protein used is inactive, neither of these events is very likely.
Of course, anything is possible, but I feel quite safe receiving injections until evidence other than anecdotal presents itself.