I understand people’s yearning for “holistic” approaches to illness. We all want to think that it’s natural, organic, and somehow destined for us to live to be 100. Do we not remember reading Romeo and Juliet? They were 13 when they died. And that was middle-aged for their time. Evolution is a process that takes millennia. The fact that the average life span for someone born today is decades longer than someone born a century ago is not his/her birthright, but proof positive of the unbelievable advances in medicine and science that quite possibly shepherded him/her into the world.
Andrew Wakefield, who will go down in history as the person single-handedly responsible for the deaths of scores of children, is the reason for this blog. I am a primary care doctor. I don’t perform surgery. I don’t administer chemotherapy. I recognize that there is most times little I can do to “fix” people. What I can do is to help people understand what they can do to increase their odds of living beyond the 45 years or so that evolution has set as our limit.
Vaccination has most likely saved countless more lives than any other medical intervention. Can you imagine losing the kid you grew up with to measles? Can you imagine spending a year of your life as a nine-year old in an iron lung? Of course you can’t, because we were immunized for these illnesses. Our parents may remember. Our grandparents, unless they’re still living, are rolling in their graves. I imagine they’re saying, “Don’t let my great-grandchildren suffer because you think that the advances that my generation created are somehow not ‘organic’ enough.”
Autism is an awful thing. I cannot imagine what it is like for a parent to nurture, sacrifice, and love a child, and not be loved back – but to think that not being loved back means that your child is incapable of having loving relationships is worse than unimaginable.
Andrew Wakefield has admitted that his “research” was deeply flawed, fraudulent, and influenced by pharmaceutical companies that stood to make money if vaccines were discredited. I don’t know how that makes sense. My understanding of the vaccine market is that it’s not a particularly high margin business, and when celebrity moms like Jenny McCarthy start demonizing vaccines, and people actually listen to her, the drug companies are going to be less likely to fund research into new vaccines. They may even stop producing existing vaccines. Why wouldn’t they funnel their resources into developing yet more pills for restless legs, erectile dysfunction, and hair loss if the vaccine market gets too tumultuous?
The evidence is clear, vaccines have never been shown to be soundly linked to autism. Before the widespread availability of vaccines, millions of children died, and in the past few decades hundreds of children have died because the available vaccines were not given to them. I understand that we sometimes accept medical science blindly and to our peril. The women who took thalidomide while pregnant and the diabetics who took Rezulin are testament to that, but just because sometimes mistakes are made in science and medicine is no reason to ignore the benefits that they offer us.