Monday, May 18, 2009

The Vaccine Debate

The first, and most common question I hear from people when they find out I work with children with ASD's is, "Do you think vaccines cause Autism?"
I have worked with children whose parents describe a definite change in their children immediately following a vaccine, from normal milestone-reaching development to a complete retreat, so it is difficult for me to say that it is impossible vaccines did not play a role in the development of the Autism in this children. However, I have also worked with children with ASD's who were delayed in development from the very beginning. Recently a doctor who serves a large Amish community in the Northeast appeared on Larry King. He discussed vaccinating each child in the Amish community of close to 10,000 people and stated that there is only one documented case of Autism. The current research does not support a casual link between vaccines and Autism. (If vaccines caused Autism, every child who has been vaccinated would be Autistic, right?) But since we still do not know what exactly does cause Autism, I find it difficult to rule-out the vaccine correlation altogether.
I am not a epidemiologist or a medical doctor, but based on my experiences with hundreds of families and the current research, my position is this:
I believe there is a genetic predisposition to developing an Autism Spectrum Disorder that is triggered by some sort of environmental factor, and for some children that triggering factor could have been a vaccine (or multiple vaccines administered all at once).
There is no Autism in my family, but I was still quite nervous about vaccinating my child (because we still just don't know). My husband and I chose to vaccinate our son, but on a modified schedule. I would think it is pretty overwhelming to the tiny bodies of newborn babies to have multiple vaccines in one day. Plus, if your child does have a negative reaction, it is difficult to determine which vaccine is to blame. We had our son vaccinated one at a time with at least a week's time between each shot, so his body would have time to absorb the antibodies before bombarding it with more and so we could keep a closer eye on him during the process.
The decision over whether to vaccinate your child is certainly a personal decision that should be made by parents after conducting some research into the current scientifically- validated and peer-reviewed published work as well as a thorough family history.
Did you know that you can have your child tested for antibodies before administering the vaccines? Some children naturally have immunities to diseases, based on their "titers" hat can be detected by a blood test. Such a test can be costly (much more-so than the vaccines themselves) so many insurance companies will not cover the titers' test. But if you have a serious concern regarding vaccinating your child, you may consider having the titers' test conducted before making your final decision.

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