Sunday, April 26, 2009

vaccines and autism

I've had several very interesting conversations over the last few days regarding autism and vaccines. First, at work yesterday, I was talking to a pediatric nurse practitioner about some of the changes they're making to the vaccine schedule and how we seem to be seeing an increased incidence of pertussis and meningitis in our community. Last night, we had dinner with some friends and the topic came up again. Thanks, Cheryl, for inspiring this post!

I AM NOT AN EXPERT. AND I AM NOT A MOMMY. But I do feel a huge responsibility, perhaps even a calling to help educate our community about pediatric health issues, so that's what I'll do now. Please understand that the following information is here to help you educate yourself. I'd be happy to share my own opinion, but this is not the place. In the meantime, if you're at all interested in this topic, grab a Diet Coke, wait, don't! my next soapbox might just be on the dangers of artificial sweetener, and a comfy chair, put your laptop in your lap and READ!

My friend asked me last night where she could go to research this topic. I will list reputable sources here. Please, please, stay away from Google because you will find tons and tons and tons of opinions. This is a very hot topic right now -- everyone and their mamma has an opinion. But look first at real evidence. Look at unbiased data, not the soapbox blog of some celebrity who thinks she's got it all figured out. And after you've exhausted the evidence, make an informed choice about whether or not to vaccinate.

And pray. To the moms and dads out there, pray that God will give you wisdom and understanding and conviction about your decisions to vaccinate.

First, search the CDCs website. They're a really great source of information and have done an excellent job of providing information that the public can actually use.

I found this chart - it's a great overview of the studies that the CDC has supported regarding this topic. It's a quick way to see the results of multiple studies. A quick explanation - Thiomersal is an organomercury compound used as a preservative in things like immunoglobulin compounds, eye products, nasal sprays, tattoo inks, and vaccines. It is probably what the public is calling "mercury" in vaccines, and it's caused much hype. Many of the studies listed in this chart refer to Thiomersal, so you'll need to know what it is. With a few exceptions, Thiomersal is no longer used in the U.S. to preserve vaccines, but was used up until 2001 in routine infancy vaccines.

The following is copied from the CDCs website, and I find it very informative:

What are other Federal Agencies doing related to vaccines and ASDs?

In 2000, CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to put together an independent expert committee (the Immunization Safety Review Committee) to review evidence about whether vaccines cause certain health problems and to report their findings and recommendations. The committee studied evidence about 1) the theory that MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine causes autism and 2) the theory that vaccines with the preservative thimerosal cause neurodevelopment disorders, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and speech or language delay. To read the IOM report,
click here.

NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)NICHD has a website about
autism and vaccines, which includes research being done by NIH. You can get more information about autism and autism research related to vaccines by calling the NICHD clearinghouse at 1-800-370-2943.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)NIAID funds
thimerosal research to better understand what happens to thimerosal once it enters the body and how this compares with current knowledge of methyl mercury pathways.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)FDA’s website provides a thorough discussion of
thimerosal in vaccines, along with frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you find the information you need quickly.

And if you're interested in reading a full research report, try this one:
Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study

I like this article, too. It looks like the transcript of an interview. The MD really explains things in an easy-to-understand manner, including what will happen if we do stop vaccinating.

Patricia Stinchfield, CPNP, puts it this way, "when you care for the sickest of the sick, the bias is strong in favor of vaccination," but "parents and many providers today have never seen these diseases so the benefit of vaccines is invisible." You can read her full report here. I empathize with her opinion because I do take care of some pretty sick kiddos, and preventable disease is heartwrenching. Just ask the little baby in my unit right now with pertussis who coughs and coughs and coughs...

I would love opinions, stories, sources, information, comments! So feel free to post! But remember that the decision to vaccinate is personal and what works for one mom and baby might not work for another. As always, thanks for reading!

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