Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders

A critical review of fact, fiction, and speculation in the field of autism

015 Whom to trust

There is no such thing as a risk-free procedure.

Before reading the balance of this post, take a look at these links (you may need to copy & paste them into your web browser):

http://www.videosurf.com/video/pertussis-77805812

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19baBw3WGsE&feature=related

 The young adult provides a good example of the terminal “whoop” that gives this disorder its common name, “whooping cough.” There’s no way to treat the disease with antibiotics; it’s just got to run its course, which may last for months. Pertussis can be fatal, especially in infants. Not only are infants the most vulnerable to the lethal effects of pertussis; infants are unable to mount an immune response. The only way to protect them is to surround them with older children and adults who are immune.

I’m old enough to remember pertussis, and most of the other afflictions that were grouped under the heading “UCDs”: the Usual Childhood Diseases, including diphtheria (another potentially fatal respiratory infection), tetanus (which causes death by rigid muscle paralysis, hence its slang name, “lockjaw”), rubella (German Measles) as well as congenital rubella syndrome (mental retardation, heart disease, hearing loss, and visual impairment, due to infection with German measles by expectant mothers, early during pregnancy), mumps (capable of causing testicular atrophy in boys), measles (can result in brain damage), and last but not least, polio. 

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The following link will take an hour to view: http://video.pbs.org/video/1174115155/

It’s an interesting story, and it doesn’t whitewash the untidy details, such as defective lots of vaccine, mass trials without informed consent (there was no such thing in those days), and the jousting among ambitious scientists. But the larger reason for asking you to view this segment is because it conveys a time and place that are unimaginable to most of you – a time before immunizations and antibiotics.  (Full disclosure: I was one of the original “polio pioneers" mentioned in the story. Linda, the girl next door, who was a year older than me and not a participant in the vaccine trial, contracted paralytic polio the same year.)

These diseases have been held at bay, but they always waiting to stage a comeback.Right now California is in the midst of a pertussis epidemic, with approximately 1,500 known cases since January 1, and at least 5 infant deaths. This particular epidemic appears to be on the way to set a record, as the worst since immunization for pertussis was introduced 50 years ago. (The concern among public health officials is that immunization refusal, and the use of “designer schedules” with delayed immunization, may be part of the reason for the size of the present epidemic.) Polio has been eradicated in North America, but an international traveler could step off an airplane at any time and re-introduce it. (If you think that sounds far-fetched, Google the term “airport malaria,” to read about hot spots of malaria near international airports in this country. Or read Laurie Garrett’s terrifying book, “The Coming Plague”) Congenital Rubella Syndrome is vanishingly rare these days – because of mass immunization. Ditto for all the rest. But any one of them could come roaring right back, spreading through a non-immune population like wildfire.

There is no such thing as a risk-free procedure, not even drinking a glass of water. Your job is to balance the risks, and go for the least risky path for your child. Here’s what we’ve covered in the last few posts: 

At this time, there are no credible scientific data to incriminate immunizations as a cause of ASD.  

At this time, there are no credible scientific data to support the claim that we are in an epidemic of autism.

Therefore, the claim that “immunizations are causing an epidemic of autism” is a fiction inside of fallacy.

On the other hand, the devastation caused by the “usual childhood diseases” is incontestable.

Can I absolutely guarantee that immunizations are 100% risk free? Of course not.

But can I say that the known benefits of immunization outweigh the known risks? Absolutely.

Now let us move on to other matters, that are less contentious, but no less important.

 

Dr. James Coplan is a developmental pediatrician, with four decades of experience caring for children with special needs and their families.

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