Posted: February 11, 2011 08:39 AM
I have been speaking to young parents in my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn lately about vaccines and autism, which science and the media have once again pronounced as completely debunked for what I believe is now the sixth or seventh time.
These are highly educated, affluent and politically progressive people — doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, writers and other successful professionals. And like half of the American population in one poll, many of my neighbors (though certainly not all) say that there is, or may be, an association between autism and the current U.S. vaccine schedule.
Although some Park Slope parents refuse to vaccinate their children at all – an unwise and dangerous choice in my opinion — the vast majority makes sure their kids get immunized; although many do so on a schedule worked out with their pediatrician.
In general, it is the most highly educated parents who are now eschewing the CDC schedule and vaccinating their children at a different pace. In one recent presentation of data, for example, mothers with masters degrees were significantly more likely to forego the Hepatitis B vaccine birth dose than mothers with an 8th grade education.
Why do so many educated, successful parents still believe that the current vaccine schedule can hurt a small percentage of susceptible kids, and that some of those injuries might result in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Despite all of the population studies showing no link, high-profile court cases that went against parents, insistence of omniscience by health officials and the public mauling of Andrew Wakefield, I don’t think that many people around here have changed their minds.
That’s because evidence of a vaccine-autism link did not come to them via a 12-year-old study published in a British medical journal, nor from Hollywood celebrities: Not very many had heard of Wakefield until recently.
Some of these parents actually keep up with the science, including a new review of autism studies in the Journal of Immunotoxicology which concludes: “Documented causes of autism include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis following vaccination.”