Everyone wants a cure for autism, but scapegoating vaccines will not help families suffering from autism and hurts everyone equally.
Families struggling with autism rightfully want to know why their child has autism. An unfortunate article by Andrew Wakefield claiming an association between vaccinations and autism was published 20 years ago and later reported to be fraudulent and the author widely discredited. This fueled the momentum of the anti-vaxx movement and preyed on vulnerable parents struggling with an autistic child. The truth is, over the last decade or more, dozens of peer reviewed articles have shown zero association with vaccines and autism, and zero association with childhood vaccines and mercury accumulation in mothers or children.
As a physician, I understand these families. I believe in autonomy and verification. I know our profession can do better at forming trust and providing proper education to those who question vaccines. Wonderful, caring parents are being victimized by an understandable desire to find the answer for autism.
- Thimerosal is a pharmaceutical preservative with trace mercury that prevents microbes from growing in a medication bottle. It is no longer used in any single-use vials of vaccine since 2001.
- Childhood vaccines are all single-use, thimerosal-free, mercury-free vaccines. Other vaccines are available in single-use vials including influenza vaccine.
- Bottles are labeled “single use vial.” Single-use vials do not require the backup of a preservative and are thimerosal free.
- There is zero mercury in childhood vaccines and all single-dose vaccines.
- Mercury prior to 2001 in vaccines equals 12.5-25 µg of mercury per dose; these were single doses, not chronic exposure/intake like with pollution and food sources.
- Mercury in a can of tuna fish equals up to 35.0-56.0 µg of mercury per 100 gram serving of tuna.
You can see that even for older vaccines, the amount of mercury contained in a single dose is far less than the amount humans are exposed to in the environment or through the food we eat. We are talking about trace amounts that our body can, and does, handle on a daily basis.
The data is clear. Vaccines are associated with a remarkable reduction in pain, suffering and death. Here are the historical facts:
- 1 in 10 children with diphtheria die.
- 1.3 in 10 people with tetanus die. Since vaccinations, the rate of tetanus declined 95-99 percent as of 2001.
- Annual rate of measles in the U.S. was 4 million prior to the advent of vaccinations in 1964; prior to vaccination, measles was the most common cause of infant death.
- Thanks to vaccines, measles was declared eradicated in the U.S. by 2000.
- In the past few years with the drop in vaccination rates, the U.S. now has multi-state measles epidemics occurring.
- Historically, 1:100 children and infants with measles die, and the others have a long, sometimes partial recovery with permanent deafness.
1:200 polio victims had irreversible paralysis, many of those also die. Vaccines are the only reason we have essentially eradicated this disease.The good ‘ol days of no vaccination programs were the days of iron lungs and child funerals and disability from infections that are now preventable. Know the facts. Everyone is harmed, even the families that subscribe to anti-vaccination, by supporting public policy designed to reduce vaccinations. Know the facts, and vaccinate.
Dr. Traci Pritchard is president of the Arizona Medical Association.