Friday, October 9, 2015

Read Deal #14: Why There is No Correlation Between Vaccination and Autism

"According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism spectrum disorder affects one in 88 children, including about one in 54 boys. The autism spectrum refers to a broad range of symptoms, from the relatively mild social awkwardness of Asperger’s syndrome to profound mental retardation, debilitating repetitive behaviors and an inability to communicate. The reason why fingers are being pointed at vaccines is because of the use of a preservative named thimerosal, which contains mercury. In the recent years the number of vaccines and their frequency have increased. [But] the preservative has been removed in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, and yet the rate of autism continues to climb."

THE INTRODUCTION

CNN:
A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible. According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, The Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper in February 2011. Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May 2011.

The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years. In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

"Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work. "But 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."


THE EVIDENCE

The FDA lists autism as one of the reported adverse events after use of the DTP vaccine:
“Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies or to establish a causal relationship to components of Tripedia vaccine."

Beginning in 2003, SafeMinds, a group that attributes the majority of new cases of autism to "worrisome changes in our environment," spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over 10 years to fund a study that it hoped would demonstrate a conclusive link between childhood vaccines and autism, according to a report in Newsweek.

SafeMinds:
Earlier findings of phase one of this study, which SafeMinds has been funding since 2003, were published in 2010 in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis and the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Researchers then reported that the infant primates exposed to the vaccines displayed a different pattern of maturational changes in the brain and also evidence of greater total brain volume compared to the control group. And in the second publication that a single dose of hepatitis B vaccine routinely administered to human infants at birth resulted in significant delays in the development of root, snout, and suck reflexes compared to unexposed animals.

Upworthy:
The results of the latest phase of the study were finally published last week. And it did not turn out the way SafeMinds expected:
"Between 2003 and 2013, SafeMinds provided scientists from the University ofTexas Southwestern School of Medicine, the University of Washington, the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development and other research institutions with approximately $250,000 to conduct a long-term investigation evaluating behavioral and brain changes of baby rhesus macaques that were administered a standard course of childhood vaccines. (The National Autism Association, another organization that has questioned vaccine safety, also provided financial support for this research.) The latest paper in the multiyear project was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, the researchers concluded that vaccines did not cause any brain or behavioral changes in the primates."

“As you can see, we have done everything possible to ensure the integrity of the data. My co-authors and I stand by our published findings,” says lead researcher Dr. Laura Hewitson, director of research for the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development. “The comprehensive nature of the current study underscores why the findings from the pilot study should be interpreted with an abundance of caution, given the small number of animals included.”

A 2013 study in the Journal of Pediatrics also found no evidence supporting a vaccines-autism link. Neither did this 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nor did this one from 2011. This one also found none.

Wikipedia:
In the U.S., thiomersal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine. Vaccines with trace amounts of thiomersal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose, less than 2.5% of the intake of mercury considered tolerable per day by the World Health Organization.

Following a review of mercury-containing food and drugs mandated in 1999, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics asked vaccine manufacturers to remove thiomersal from vaccines as a purely precautionary measure, and it was rapidly phased out of most U.S. and European vaccines.

Many parents saw the action to remove thiomersal—in the setting of a perceived increasing rate of autism as well as increasing number of vaccines in the childhood vaccination schedule—as indicating that the preservative was the cause of autism. The scientific consensus is that there is no scientific evidence supporting these claims, including the observation that the rate of autism continues to climb despite elimination of thiomersal from routine childhood vaccines.

Major scientific and medical bodies such as the Institute of Medicine and WHO, as well as governmental agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC reject any role for thiomersal in autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. This controversy has caused harm due to parents attempting to treat their autistic children with unproven and possibly dangerous treatments, discouraging parents from vaccinating their children due to fears about thiomersal toxicity, and diverting resources away from research into more promising areas for the cause of autism. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed in a U.S. federal court to seek damages from alleged toxicity from vaccines, including those purportedly caused by thiomersal.

Conceive Easy:
A 2012 study from Denmark, showed a link between maternal influence and autism in the child. It showed that if the mother suffered from influenza while she was pregnant, the risks of her baby having autism increased two-fold. There was no evidence of an increase in autism risk among children born to women who had colds, sinus infections, and urinary and genital tract infections during pregnancy. This is the reason why doctors recommend taking a flu shot during pregnancy or when you are in your childbearing age. You should decide based on the information that the doctor provides to you along with the suggestions he gives you. Think about it and make the right decision.

A more recent study carried out at UC Davis said that there is no firm link between maternal influenza and autism but there is a link between high fever during pregnancy and autism. There is also evidence for a link between mothers who have inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and autism in children, but that link, too, has not been conclusively established, said study author Irva Hertz-Picciotto.

"It is important to bear in mind that when you look at the absolute numbers, we see that around 99 percent of women reporting to have had influenza or fever during pregnancy, do not have children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder)," said Dr. Hjördis Ósk Atladóttir of the University of Aarhus in Denmark. "We do not want pregnant women to worry."

THE VERDICT

USA Today:
Vaccines given to infants and young children over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccines also will have saved $295 billion in direct costs, such as medical expenses, and a total of more than $1.3 trillion in societal costs over that time, because children who were spared from sometimes-devastating illnesses will be able to contribute to society, the report shows. These calculations may underestimate the full impact of vaccines, the study notes, because authors considered only the early 14 routine childhood immunizations typically required for school entry. Authors didn't include flu shots or adolescent vaccines given at ages 11 or 12.


More information:
» Wikipedia: Thiomersal Controversy
» Those Lists of Papers Claiming That Vaccines Cause Autism: They Don't Show What They Claim
» Time: "4 Diseases Making a Comeback Thanks to Anti-Vaxxers"

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