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The Ridiculous Myth of Autism & Vaccines: “Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc” January 10, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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vaccines_do_not_cause_autism-e1429734457599I am the father of a wonder little 7 year old Autistic boy.  He is funny, clever, happy and generally a joy to be around. 3 years ago his school called and asked that I pick him up as he was coughing.  I took him to the Dr. and imagine my surprise when my son was diagnosed with WHOOPING COUGH!..yes…WHOOPING COUGH in 2015.  18 other kids were diagnosed, as well.  Why?  Because some “enlightened” parents in Park City, UT decided against vaccinating their children.  Now..before I hear that “Tyler should have been vaccinated”..he was.  Only..it does not reach full effect for several weeks.  Even better?  I had to cancel all my business travel as i could be a ‘carrier’ and infect the plane.

I am always disturbed when I read about celebrities, politicians and others perpetuating the myth (yes it is a myth) that vaccines cause Autism.  Today, President Elect Donald Trump nominated ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ shill Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to “lead a study on vaccines”. If he is already an avowed ‘anti vaxxer’ I question his objectivity on leading such a study.

So where did the Autism/Vaccine link (there is none) originate?  Simple.  “Dr.” Andrew Wakefield, who has since had his medical license revoked, published a research paper in 1998 in which he claimed a link between the MMR Vaccine and Autism.  In addition to having a financial conflict of interest, 10 of the 12 contributing authors of the paper published a retraction which read:

“We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between (the) vaccine and autism, as the data were insufficient. However the possibility of such a link was raised, and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent.

The Lancet formally retracted the article stating: “Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record [4]”.

In short, Dr. Wakefield perpetrated fraud.  Unfortunately, the damage was already done.  Actors and numerous ‘Hollywood’ elite jumped on the story and began promoting the false science behind the fraud.  Jenny McCarthy, Jenna Elfman, Rob Schneider, Robert DeNiro and Donald Trump all jumped on Anti-Vaccine bandwagon.  The “anti vaxxer” movie Vaxxed (by Wakefield) only added fuel to the fire and continued to encourage people to forgo vaccinations.

So what is the prevailing “link” between Vaccines and Autism?  Good question.  It is a common  logical fallacy known in Latin as Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc or “with this, therefor because of this”.  In short, children are getting vaccinated around the same age that children begin developing in such a way that Autism is presenting to parents and doctors.  Some people assume that because the Autism presentation followed the vaccine that the vaccine must be the cause.  This is a simple mistake of confusing potential correlation with causation. For more information on the philosophical underpinnings of ’cause’ please read my post here.  The point that I will make again (and the CDC and all respectable medical professionals) is that Vaccines do NOT cause Autism.

Those who are not vaccinating their children are relying on Herd Immunity of the community.  The idea of Herd Immunity posits that a disease outbreak cannot occur of a high percentage of those in the community are vaccinated.  Those forgoing vaccinations are, in effect, free riders on those who do.  A larger issue relates to those who cannot be vaccinated due to compromised immune systems (think immunodeficiency diseases) and those who may not have yet had the vaccine.  I have heard the argument numerous times: “If your child is vaccinated, then why do you care?”  See my original example.

I will leave everyone with this NSFW explanation from Penn and Teller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments»

1. cairdsextant - January 10, 2017

Thank you for this post. As a biologist, it pains me when friends and relatives bring such false links between Autism and vaccines, or between vaccines and other maladies. Vaccines provide not only a personal defense against many illness but are an important tool for the health of the nation, which is a matter of national security. The spread of this hoax reflects the danger of spreading misinformation, which is worst than having no information at all.


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