Undoing the Damage
Jan 06, 2011

By Christine Vara
Last night, I sat in a room filled with an eager audience.  Infectious-disease expert, Dr. Paul A. Offit, was launching his newest novel, Deadly Choices:  How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us AllI would venture to guess that most people in the room were already familiar with much of the content of this new book.  Many in attendance were vaccine advocates.  Many have autistic children.  Some have sadly lost children as a result of vaccine preventable diseases.  Yet, there was still a sense of excitement -perhaps even a ray of hope – that publications like “Deadly Choices” could help to educate people and work to debunk the myths regarding vaccinations.
I couldn’t help but consider the irony of the night.  Just hours before, through my involvement with Every Child By Two, I was already aware that a big story was brewing.  A British investigative reporter by the name of Brian Deer, had written an article published in the British Medical Journal detailing how the now-retracted British study that had linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud”.  The investigation concluded that Dr. Andrew Wakefield misrepresented, or altered, the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of his 1998 study. 
Last night, as we listened intently to the perspective of a man who has devoted his life to public health, we were all eager for his suggestions on how we could collectively combat anti-vaccine misinformation.  Standing before us was a man who demonstrated genuine compassion for children and who generously donates the proceeds of his book to autism research.  Yet, outside of the room, journalists from most major news stations were busy putting Andrew Wakefield in the spotlight (once again), based on the immoral and fraudulent nature of his study that has had an overwhelming negative impact on the vaccination of children. 
So what will it take to undo the damage of Andrew Wakefield? 
Unfortunately, many of the parents I come in contact with haven’t really followed the story in detail.  Yet, they are somehow familiar with the frightening play-ground suggestions that vaccines cause autism.  Which is why I have been pleased with all the news coverage. 
Yesterday and today various reporters highlighted the recent developments in the Wakefield saga, (including CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and numerous others), and each illustrated that his study linking vaccines to autism was completely falsified.    My hope is that the continued coverage of this story will work to change the opinions of those who aren’t already well versed on the subject.  Even if the story is not necessarily “new” news, today’s reports are just another opportunity to reinforce the fact that the research was fraudulent.  Vaccines don’t cause autism.  They save lives. 
Perhaps, if you have refused or delayed vaccines for your child based on concerns about autism, the current news may give you reason to reconsider.  I would even encourage you to visit the Vaccinate Your Baby website today to view a list of studies that have disproven any link between vaccines and autism.  It’s important that your child be protected from potentially dangerous and life-threatening diseases, so be sure to get the information you need to make an informed decision. You may even want to read the official statement below that has been issued by Every Child By Two, an organization who supports this blog and who has worked hard for the past 20 years to promote children’s health through immunizations. 
Let us know what today’s news reports mean to you.  Have they reinforced your view of vaccines or have they forced you to reconsider?  Are you pleased with the coverage or are you fed up with the media?

Every Child By Two, the Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization, works to ensure that all children receive timely immunizations and continues to seek methods to institutionalize vaccine delivery and ensure access to vaccines for all children.  Their statement follows:  

Wakefield Study Claiming Vaccines and Autism Link Is a “Fraud” :  Misinformation Leaves a Deadly Legacy
 January 6, 2011 (Washington, D.C.):  An investigation by the British Medical Journal has confirmed not only that Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study linking vaccines with autism and gastrointestinal disorders was patently incorrect, but that Wakefield altered or misrepresented data to come to his harmful conclusions. Unfortunately, parents across the world have been deceived by Wakefield, and as a result, the United States has seen the return of disease outbreaks such as measles and pertussis that have taken the lives of children. 
Word of Wakefield’s false research findings spread quickly and widely, and since then, thousands of parents have chosen to exempt their children from vaccines. As a direct result, in 2008 hundreds of unvaccinated children and children too young to be vaccinated in California were infected and hospitalized with measles, a disease on its way to eradication in the U.S.  Since 2010, almost 24,000 unvaccinated children across more than 18 states have become infected with pertussis and more than a dozen children lost their lives.
“Over the twenty years that Every Child By Two (ECBT) has been working to promote timely immunizations a number of allegations regarding the safety of vaccines have been purported.  The medical community took each of these allegations very seriously and each was thoroughly investigated.  In each instance vaccines have been declared safe. Getting our infants vaccinated on time is unequivocally the best decision a parent can make to ensure the health of their children. ECBT will continue to strive to provide the public with science-based information about vaccines,” says Amy Pisani, executive director of ECBT.
For comprehensive, scientific-based information on vaccines, visit www.vaccinateyourbaby.org.

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