It’s been quite a while since MCNtalk has posted on the subject of childhood vaccines—since our February 12, 2012 post, “More Doctors ‘Fire’ Vaccine Refusers.” But the issue has not gone away. As this article in Slate points out, there are still those who argue publicly that there is a link between autism and childhood vaccinations, specifically that a vaccine preservative called thimerosal causes autism when injected into children.
It is important to understand that the original study in 1998 linking childhood vaccinations and autism has been thoroughly debunked multiple times using rigorous standards of scientific evidence. (Read “Vaccinations and Autism—Junk Science Is Not a Victimless Crime” for a summary.)
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. gave this year’s (May 24) keynote address at the Autism One/Generation Rescue Conference in which he strongly argued for a link between childhood vaccination and autism. The Slate article touches upon the speech and subsequent conversation between Slate and Kennedy as well as neatly summarizing pertinent facts on the issue. Why is this important? Because when people are not vaccinated, they needlessly put not just themselves at serious health risk, but their entire community as well.
We refer to people who say vaccines cause autism with the shorthand “anti-vaxxers” or say that they are part of the “anti-vaccine movement.” Kennedy said that he is “very much pro-vaccine” and that “vaccines have saved millions and millions of lives.” They will save even more lives if he and his colleagues stop spreading fear and misinformation about them. Kennedy is a passionate guy with practically unique name recognition, powerful connections, and the ability to command attention. He could reverse the course of the anti-vaccine movement today if he announced that his concern about vaccines had been well-intentioned, but that research has shown that vaccines don’t cause autism after all. It would be a proud legacy, one worthy of his name.