Stokes 1 Mitchell Stokes Malcolm Campbell English 1103-H December 5, 2012 Vaccines: Harmful or Helpful?

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has found that in just eight years, from 2000-2008, the number of individuals diagnosed with autism has changed from 1 in 150 to 1 in 88. This rapid growth has come as a shock to many and it has left people wanting answers. I have been blessed to work with these wonderful kids and also find myself searching for answers to this problem. Many people now believe that additives in childhood vaccines are harmful to children. Are the vaccines that are given to developing children a reason behind their autism? Autism is a rapidly spreading disability that affects people of all race, gender, and culture. For the general public, the easiest way to define autism is “a developmental disorder, that can cause substantial problems in social interaction and communication” (AutismLibrary). These social problems will continually be an everyday struggle for these children and adults as they attempt to navigate through the world with this disability. Autism's medical name is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and its symptoms are defined by the American Psychological Association. For example, in order to be diagnosed with autism, children under three years old must exhibit multiple behaviors under the following categories that inherently impair the everyday functioning of the child: social communication deficits, social interaction deficits, and repetitive behaviors (“A 05 Autism” 1). The descriptive categories are just the bare bones of what having autism truly means. There are so many different ways that autism manifests in each individual child.

Stokes 2 Though there may be ways to classify autism, not all cases of the disability are the same. In the article “Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” ASD can include but is not limited to; “Learning difficulties, Epilepsy, Speech and Language problems, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD), Developmental coordination Disorder (DCD), Tourette's syndrome, Tics, Feeding and Eating problems, allergy and gastrointestinal issues, seizures, immune impairment, sleep disorders, etc.” (Izuwah 2). Children could have just a few of those symptoms, or they could have many of them. It is for that reason that when ASD is referenced, there is an emphasis on the “S” which stands for spectrum. What makes autism so tricky, is the huge spectrum for ways that the disability can present itself. Leché Kapp, a published author in the Journal of Psychology in Africa, states that each child who has autism is unique in their own special way, which also means that each family has their own individual group of issues and stressors that they need to be able to adapt to in order to best benefit the child (Kapp 1). One thing that works for one child and family may not work for another, and it is a daily struggle to figure out what is going to work and what is not. In relationship to the history of medicine, autism is a recently discovered disability. Even when autism was first considered, it was not fully understood. Autism was originally used to described people with schizophrenic tendencies by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist around 1911 (Alli 1). It took about fifty years for autism to be considered its own disorder, but they still did not know nearly anything about it. Today, one hundred years later, scientists still have been unable to figure out what the direct causes of autism. They only know that autism seems to run in families and could likely be genetic, which some believe it is linked with environmental factors (Alli 2). The fact that there is still no specific known cause has provoked many curious minds. It is from that curiosity that a possible link between childhood vaccines and autism was discovered.

Stokes 3 British gastrointestinal doctor, Andrew Wakefield, was the first to speculate at the possible link between childhood vaccinations and autism. Dr. Wakefield “is credited with being the first to propose a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism in a now-famous Lancet paper” (Kirkland 250). His paper sparked a flurry of research, in which other scientists attempted to either prove or disprove Wakefield's theory. Even though the paper written by Wakefield is now discredited, “After the UK public funding authority for litigation reviewed 60 expert reports on the MMR–autism link, the case was de-funded in 2003 on the grounds that it was not meritorious,” the origin of this link is still traced back to his research (Kirkland 250-251). It was due to his research and curiosity that this link was possibly exposed. It is important to note that this autism vs. vaccines debate would not even be around if his research did not spark a curiosity in other scientists that led them to begin their own search into this possible solution for autism. It was suggested, by Wakefield, that vaccines containing thimerosal were dangerous to young children. This is because thimerosal contains a mercury preservative which has been known to increase the risk of ASD (DeStefano 656). It was found, that in some cases, the amount of thimerosal in vaccines far exceeded the safe amount for adults to receive in a vaccination. These thimerosal containing vaccines (TCV's) were often given to young children right around the time that parents began to notice a regression in their child's level of functioning. This led to the belief in the supposed link, and as a result “a move began in 1999 to eliminate or greatly reduce thimerosal in vaccines [in the United States]” (Hawkness 1). With this effort, by 2003 most TCV's were now thimerosal and mercury free while scientists continued to study the possible link between the two. Scientific research has led many to the conclusion that there is not a link between autism and vaccines. There have been many studies published that have not given sufficient evidence to

Stokes 4 support that mercury in vaccines causes autism (Gorski 24). This conclusion comes from two scientific facts. Firstly, no one has been able recreate Andrew Wakefield's original findings. This is important in science because in order for a study to be accepted, its findings must be able to be duplicated. Secondly, after the removal/decrease of thimerosal from vaccines around the turn of the century, the rates of autism have continued to rise exponentially. Research shows a “continuing increase in autism prevalence without even a blip or decrease in the rate of increase after 2002” (Gorski 25). The removal of TCV's has occurred in other places other than the United States, such as Denmark and Canada. Their findings have been the same as what we have seen in the United States, and it is those findings that scientists have based their opinions on. Scientists still believe in the sanctity of modern medicine. In their opinions, vaccinations are the best inventions for health ever created (Gorski 26). Gorski, specifically, is a scientist who believes in Science-Based Medicine, which is described as the evaluation of medical procedures and treatments in a scientific light in order to educate the general population on the scientific facts. According to Science-Based Medicine, “there should have been a noticeable decrease in new diagnoses of autism... if the thimerosal hypothesis were true,” (Gorski 25). When this did not prove true, in the mind of most scientists, modern day medicine was validated and the possible link between autism and vaccines was disproven. While scientists will admit that not all medicine is one hundred percent risk free, the risk is greatly outweighed by the benefit of vaccination, something that some parents have trouble believing. Many parents of children who have autism believe that a link between autism and vaccines does exist. This is paralleled through the rise in autism-related claims that the government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has received since 2001. Autism cases have outnumbered non-autism cases, such as having an allergic reaction to a vaccine, by about

Stokes 5 four to one (Mooney 7). Many believe this rise in the number of lawsuits is just people trying to get some easy money. This is untrue, as most of the lawsuits are waged by parents who believe the vaccines cause autism, because they have seen it firsthand in their own children. It goes like this; “The story that a child progressed normally until an adverse reaction to a vaccine seemed to tip him or her into a slide into autism is heard again and again” (Cook 1). For many parents, who felt like their child was on a normal growth path, seeing their child regress is a very difficult thing to deal with, and their skepticism about the validity of vaccines is warranted. This is not a new development in vaccination because, the public has always been a bit weary of vaccination. According to Chris Mooney, his 1999 survey concluded that as many as 25 percent of parents believed that their children could be harmed if administered too many vaccines (Mooney 6). A common trend is emerging around the world as people continue to search for alternative answers to explain why or how vaccines may have caused their child's autism. There are some plausible alternative theories that cause questioning minds to doubt modern day medicine. The most promising theory has to do with the infant blood-brain barrier in that, “autistic children have a (probably genetic) problem in excreting mercury” (Cook 1). Essentially, this undeveloped barrier in young children could be susceptible to the trace amounts of thimerosal and/or mercury that are still found in some vaccines today. If true, when mercury were to get past this barrier, it could cause harm to the child and may manifest itself as autism. Scientists believe that those trace amounts are not harmful because “EtHg [ethyl mercury] is thought to be efficiently excreted from the body and therefore the assumption is that it does not represent a risk to the developing child,” (Tomljenovic 35). However, if their assumption is incorrect, ethyl mercury can be harmful to a developing child. This is a theory that even scientists have explored and actually agree that some children may have a susceptibility to

Stokes 6 vaccines that may not show up in epidemiological studies (Mooney 7). Its difficult to tell what that means for parents who are looking for answers. It could be a spark that keeps their hopes alive, that they may find some sort of link between vaccines and autism. For parents of children with autism, this “debate” means more than just finding an answer. Even with the evidence, a parents decision to vaccinate or not continues to be difficult if the parent is worried about health risks (Lehrer 234). It is a common fact that most parents want the best for their children, but the problems come when parents are not sure whether or not something is going to be helpful or harmful to their child. Emotions play a major role in the human decision making process, parents today have to wade through the fear and anxiety that accompanies choosing whether or not to vaccinate their children. More often than not, “parents of children with ASD might be more likely to change vaccination practices than other families,” (Lehrer 234). If a child has been diagnosed with ASD it is quite common for such families to swear off vaccinations in general because of the fear that the vaccinations will further harm their child, future children, or themselves (the parents). Therefore, it is the duty of the parents to become informed about what vaccinations contain and what are the possible side effects are. It is not common knowledge that vaccines contain “thimerosal, formaldehyde, aluminum, antibiotics, and gelatin,” and may be harmful when administered through vaccinations (Offit 1394). Parents must sift through all of the information that is out there, and truly evaluate what the pros and cons are to them and their families. With all of this past research out there, parents are now wondering what is going to happen next. Lucija Tomljenovic, a published author in the Journal On Developmental Disabilities, stated that “Although currently there are no direct human studies on the risks of Hg exposure from thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs), animal studies show that doses relevant

Stokes 7 to human TCV exposure can result in adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes,” (Tomljenovic 34). This statement brings up two important points. First, TCV's are still around in 2012 even though they were supposed to be restricted. It is scary for parents to think that TCV's might be given to their children. Secondly, it seems like research into TCV's is at a standstill, a fact that many people find unsettling. If research on this topic is so important, then why is none being done at the moment? This debate is not going to end soon, and Tonlijenovic's article continued to say that pregnant women and children, possibly the most susceptible populations, were being given TCV's on a regular basis (Tomljenovic 34). It seems that after a few studies recorded the same message, that TCV's are not harmful, that the research has fallen out of spotlight. Margaret Cook, a retired haematologist, states that “this disease needs to be wrested back into mainstream medicine and that will happen only when the establishment seriously addresses the theory of mercury as a contributory cause...” (Cook 1). This statement is valid as long as thimerosal, the mercury containing compound, is found in vaccinations even after a supposed removal over ten years ago. If things keep going as they are now, there are a few things that could potentially happen. According to Margaret Cook, without continuous research into the topic of vaccines related autism and injury, we can expect to see the continual rise in autism rates that we have experienced over the past years, even with the supposed removal of thimerosal (Cook 1). Nothing can be accomplished in this area of study without more research looking into mercury as a possible element of harm for developing children. Parents have the choice whether or not to vaccinate their children, but the cost could outweigh the benefits. In an article called “Vaccination Nation”, this choice is evaluated in regards to the safety of the population. The more people who decide to not vaccinate, the greater

Stokes 8 at risk for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated populations (Mooney 5). This is manifested in regards to a possible resurgence of diseases that were considered controlled when the greater majority of the population is vaccinated. Mooney suggests that because these vaccines have been around for so long, that many people do not remember the disastrous havoc that such diseases (measles, mumps, and rubella for example) can have on the greater population (Mooney 6). It is not to say that one person choosing not to vaccinate will bring about the resurgence of these diseases, but if enough people forego these vaccinations, there is evidence (it happened in 2008 in the United Kingdom with the measles) to suggest that the diseases could indeed come back. Nothing in this paper is as important as the fact that, in the end, children who have autism are really just children. Sure, parents may want to know what caused their child's disability, but what is more important is their child's safety and happiness, just like any parent would want for their typical functioning child. Regardless of whether or not there is a correlation between vaccination and autism, it all seems insignificant after spending just five minutes with a child who has special needs. Give them your heart and they will give you more than any other person could ever give you. Choose to believe what you will about the sanctity of modern day medicine, but I will believe that children with special needs truly are God's special angels.

Stokes 9 Works Cited "A 05 Autism Spectrum Disorder." DSM-5 Development. American Psychiatric Association. 26 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. Alli, Renee, ed. "A History of Autism." WebMD. WebMD, 29 2012. Web. 27 Oct 2012. AutismLibrary. Autism Up Close. 2008. Video. Youtube, New York City. Web. 29 Oct 2012. Cook, Margaret. "Autism: The Mercury Trail." New Statesman 134.4752 (2005): 19. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. DeStefano, Frank. "Prenatal And Infant Exposure To Thimerosal From Vaccines And Immunoglobulins And Risk Of Autism." Pediatrics 126.4 (2010): 656-664. Education Research Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Gorski, David. "Mercury In Vaccines As A Cause Of Autism And Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDS): A Failed Hypothesis." Scientific Review Of Alternative Medicine 11.(2007): 23-28. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Harkness, Richard. "Thimerosal Reduced Or Removed From Children's Vaccines." Saint Paul Pioneer Press 14 Jan. 2004: NewsBank - Archives. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Izuwah, Doris. "Assessment Of Autism Spectrum Disorders." IFE Psychologia 20.2 (2012): 1821. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. Kapp, Leché, and Ottilia Brown. "Resilience In Families Adapting To Autism Spectrum Disorder." Journal Of Psychology In Africa 21.3 (2011): 459-464. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. Kirkland, Anna. "Credibility Battles In The Autism Litigation." Social Studies Of Science (Sage Publications, Ltd.) 42.2 (2012): 237-261. Business Source Complete. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

Stokes 10 Lehrer, Denise. "Vaccine-Related Beliefs And Practices Of Parents Of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders." American Journal On Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities 117.3 (2012): 233-242. Education Research Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Mooney, Chris. "Vaccination Nation." Discover 30.6 (2009): 58-75. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Offit, Paul A., and Rita K. Jew. "Addressing Parents' Concerns: Do Vaccines Contain Harmful Preservatives, Adjuvants, Additives, Or Residuals?." Pediatrics 112.6 (2003): 1394-1401. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Tomljenovic, Lucija, José G. Dórea, and Christopher A. Shaw. "Commentary: A Link Between Mercury Exposure, Autism Spectrum Disorder, And Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders? Implications For Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines." Journal On Developmental Disabilities 18.1 (2012): 34-42. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2012.

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