On Vaccines, Autism, and Andrew Wakefield

Let me tell you a story about a man named Andrew Wakefield. Former Dr. Andrew Wakefield patented a new, single virus vaccine. It was in no way better than the multi-virus vaccines currently on the market, and had the drawback of needing far more jabs and probably far more doctor’s visits to manage all of them. Wakefield wanted money, lots of money. He found a way to make his vaccine look more appealing than others; suggest the others were unsafe! For this he faked data in a fraudulent study which was printed in the British medical journal The Lancet. In this faked, completely untrue study, Wakefield claimed that the MMR vaccine was causing autism in previously neurotypical children.

Parents freaked. I was one of them! Moms I knew online in forums told me about their one year old who was developing right on schedule, and suddenly after their vaccines lost all speech. Who would want that? So I chose to delay vaccines for my son, or maybe not get them at all. I’d been born at home and was completely unvaccinated myself, so a “wait and see” approach seemed best to me.

At about 8 months old, I noticed my son was not responding to me talking to him the way other babies his age did. I took him to his pediatrician, and then to the Children’s Hospital for multiple hearing tests (one awake, one asleep.) I took him to Easter Seals for a developmental evaluation. He was diagnosed with a speech delay and started getting speech therapy and occupational therapy services.

In the years since then my son has been diagnosed with autism, my son has been fully caught up on his vaccines, and I’ve learned a lot about science and about Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield had his medical license stripped for his fraudulent, money-grubbing, public safety destroying lies. The Lancet posted an extended retraction and many scientific rebuttals. Numerous studies have conclusively shown that no vaccines cause autism, and the MMR vaccine definitely does not cause autism.

Autism is most likely genetic. And you know what? It’s not something I would avoid, now that I know the truth about it. My autistic son is amazing and I’m ashamed to have ever wanted to prevent him. Even worse, I risked his life to do so. Because of bigoted fears about a neurological difference I knew little about and didn’t understand, I risked my son’s life. That appalls me today.

Vaccine preventable diseases are child killers. They are not mild. They are not rites of passage. They are not a normal part of growing up in the 21st century. They are child killers. Protect your children from actual threats, like measles, mumps, rubella, and polio. Don’t protect them from autism. We don’t even know how to do it, and even if we did, I think it would be the wrong choice to make. Diversity of minds is as good for society as diversity of bodies and cultures. My son is amazing, autism and all. I would not want to change him or prevent him. I’m glad he lived long enough for me to see the errors of my ways and getting him fully immunized.