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Moms: Understanding Vaccines and Autism

Each week, Moms Talk takes on a local parenting question that's on the mind of local mothers and parents.

Hamilton-Wenham Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Hamilton and Wenham.

Each week in , local mothers take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

Grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read this week's question. Below is how local mothers answered, but we want to hear from you. Leave a comment in the comment box below and share your thoughts.

Question: A recent report by retired MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour host Robert MacNeil has reignited the debate about childhood vaccines. The report focused on MacNeil’s daughter, Alison, who said her son was developing fine until receiving the DTaP, MMR and Hib vaccinations at 15 months and soon thereafter began showing signs of Autism.

Do you share Alison MacNeil’s concerns about vaccinations? Have you or anyone else you know made a decision to forgo vaccinations or alter their child’s vaccination schedule because of concerns about Autism? What things should be considered when considering the benefits of vaccination versus the concerns about Autism?

: While on the road over the April vacation, I heard an interview on the radio with Robert MacNeill about his week long series of reports on the MacNeill/Lehrer Newshour. I did not have the opportunity to see the actual reports on public TV, however.

Yes, the topic of the vaccine schedule and combining of vaccines is of concern. I do know parents who have altered the schedule and a few that skipped the Chicken Pox vaccine all together.

With my 9-year-old, I asked the doctor to spread out the vaccines, but was talked out of it. Fortunately, my son did not develop Autism or I would have always been left to wonder.

I do believe vaccines may play a role in triggering Autism in some children who are already predisposed genetically to it. Since we do not know, yet, who is and who is not predisposed to Autism, everyone should follow their instincts on what to do. I also believe diet may play a role helping alleviate some symptoms. 

I recommend Jenny McCarthy's book “Louder Than Word,” not because it gives any answers, but it gives encouragement to follow your mothering instincts and advocate for your child.

: These Mom's Talks can hit some touchy subjects. This is a subject that is very complicated because it is not as simple as scientific evidence informing the public about the correct choices to make. I think the answer lies in a parent’s own research of studies (and who is funding them) and their gut instinct.

For my children, I chose a delayed immunization schedule. I do believe that immunizations have changed the world and saved many lives, but I feel that too many shots are given to children at a young age. Our children's shot schedule I created with help of my supportive doctor. My children only got one shot per visit so their bodies could adjust to the shot.

Robert April 28, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I raise you tens and hundreds of thousands, without selection bias: Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal and Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations Fombonne E et al. Pediatrics. 2006; 118(1):e139-50 Study of thimerosal and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine uptake in 28,000 Canadian children born between 1987 and 1998, of whom 180 were identified with a pervasive developmental disorder. CONCLUSION: The data rule out an association between pervasive developmental disorder and either high levels of ethyl mercury exposure comparable with those experienced in the United States in the 1990s or 1- or 2-dose MMR vaccinations. A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism Madsen KM et al. New England Journal of Medicine. 2002; 347(19):1477-82 Compared relative risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children vaccinated with measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and unvaccinated children born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998. Of the 537,303 children in the cohort, 82% had received the MMR vaccine. Researchers identified 316 children with a diagnosis of autism and 422 with a diagnosis of other ASDs. There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of autism. CONCLUSION: This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.
Mark April 28, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Um, you might be interested in this little tidbit Robert. Ouch! http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/13/us-crime-research-funds-idUSTRE73C8JJ20110413 "CDC researcher Poul Thorsen, who famously headed up the “Denmark Study” that many claim disproved any link between autism and vaccines, has been indicted in Atlanta (4/13/11) by a federal grand jury on 21 felony charges of wire fraud, money laundering and defrauding research institutions of grant money." Need I say more?
Gloria April 29, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Robert, thank you. My son showed signs of autism at about three months of age. He was not diagnosed then but I knew something was not right. After reading , researching and from my personal experience of growing up in a third world country where vaccines were not available and I have actually held children dying of "simple" childhood diseases my husband and I vaccinated all three of our children. My son is my oldest and the only one that has autism. I have actually been blamed for his autism and for being foolish for having my other two children vaccinated. Even with all the real studies out there and facts this is still a hot issue. Thank you for speaking up with common sense. It is appreciated.
Francesca May 01, 2011 at 10:21 AM
To: Amy and Robert Amy, I dont understand how you can say: "Genes cause autism, and they have a trigger. In some, it *might* be vaccination or it might be that environmental toxins...". I have always felt this is drug co's way of disguising vaccines or other external factors, as the cause of autism among other things. Just say if one person has a certain type of genes, or weaker genes, or an immune system that is not as strong as anothers, and a vaccine *triggers* autism, surely it is the vaccine that is the cause and not genes: as if it were not for the vaccine that person would still be autism free. So in effect, a person has a certain type of gene that does not tolerate a vaccine as well as another. Do you not think then, it is the vaccine that is the cause, and not the gene? If a person is as they say is *genetically predisposed to autism*, but will not develop autism, if it were not for vaccination or some other *external* factor outside of the body. Then the body has not caused the autism, but the external factor. It is all smoke and mirrors with the drug co's and their research conclusions. Robert, I think it is APPALLING and INSENSITIVE that you can JUDGE *every* mother out there who has gone through the experience of having a child develop autism, by saying: "parents of autistic children will cling to any explanation that gives them someone to blame". To Moms - keep trusting your intuition - you know your children intimately and better than anyone.
Francesca May 01, 2011 at 10:33 AM
what I have done was looked into every vaccine and weighed up the pro's and con's for injecting each individual vaccine into my baby. Also, I wanted to wait until my baby was at least 2 years old (this is the time the brain developments the most in a persons lifetime and I did not want to interfere with that development) before any vaccinations (if any). If you look at the vaccines, many are not relevant, and have such a low likelihood of occurring. Some others may have a higher likelihood of occuring but the effects of that illness do not warrant immunization such as chickenpox or gastro type illness. If they are a risk factors for illnesses that are higher in overseas countries, then only get it done if you are needing to travel overseas. My child just turned 3 and as yet, I have not been convinced to vaccinate.

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