A dear friend sent me a heartfelt message: “My news feed is packed with people I know slamming anti-vaxers. Can we write a blog post explaining what it is like from the other side?” (used with permission). I had to say no, because from what research I have read there is no link to vaccines and autism. I believe research money is being wasted on this argument that would be better spent on therapies (past the age of 21 PLEASE) and to discover the root causes of autism. I am not from that “other side”.
I have said many (too many) times that I do not possess a medical degree. The editors at the New Yorker do not either. Neither do Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton or any other individual running for public office.
While I do not believe vaccines cause autism, many do regardless of the research. Just a few years ago autism was listed as a possible side affect on the labeling insert. What I do believe is that insulting one another over our belief does not serve any purpose.
I also believe, to some extent, of the greater good. That having a friend who lost her mom to polio sheds light on what horrific events that vaccine saved others from suffering. Having a measles outbreak at the Happiest Place on Earth is concerning when you have a child with health issues that leave them more susceptible to illness. That those illnesses are preventable and yet not treated is alarming to this mother.
During the Ebola scare there was much outcry for a vaccination. A large scale clinical trial was undertaken immediately. If we would vaccinate against Ebola to prevent a crisis, why decry the use of the current ones in use?
There is no denying that parent’s stories matter. The child who had language, joint attention and was “normal” until getting a vaccine. Parents who did educate themselves because they wanted to understand the risks and trusted their physician to “do no harm”. These children who had high fevers after getting the vaccination (a reaction?) or other adverse affects. At the time maybe no correlation was made, but looking back that mother asks herself is this when I began to lose my son? Yet she cannot say for sure it was the vaccines. Was it genetics, was it a vaccine, was it an alien life form that entered in the night and removed her daughter’s ability to speak?
The problem is we do not know. What is out there (and yes, I admit pharmaceutical companies play/pay a role in the research) says that in no way does a vaccination cause autism. The research was done by both pharma and government agencies. The ONE paper that suggested a correlation was proven to be false. Not wrong, but false with made up data. But what if there is a dormant gene that is awakened and or mutated by the vaccination?
I feel very strongly that instead of repeating current research to get the answer you want, time (and money) should be spent on finding out if there is a genetic component to autism. If that is found, then maybe spend the time (and a whole lot of money) see if there is a link to that genetic component and vaccine.
Should there be a genetic disposition for autism, does that malformation react differently to the vaccination? Maybe that vaccine has to be altered for those with the ‘autism gene’. Could this be why there are so many who believe a vaccination stole their child from them? Why they believe in a cure? Could this be a factor in the dramatic rise in autism diagnoses. This is where I hope research will focus, rather than repeating what has already been done.
In the meantime, I beg all of us to show compassion. No one understands the love and pain involved in loving a child with autism. Really with any medical issue. We always will question what role we played in their disability.
Unable to help ourselves, we stay awake at night and obsess wondering if there was anything we did or did not do that harmed our child. We scour the internet and Google every ailment to see if there is a link or connection to be made. This is how Bridget got diagnosed with PACS1 after all. A shot in the dark that provided an answer.
Until you understand why the questions are asked, do not judge them. When you do understand why instead of judging, help them find the answers.
Instead of spewing hate or calling either side “idiots” for their belief (and questions) I ask all of us to remember that empathy begins with understanding. That while my friend and I might have opposing views regarding vaccinations our journeys were different. Both of our beliefs are valid and worthy. Both of us have the discussion together with respect and compassion.
Let’s stop using the vaccination question for political reasons and start using it to find answers.