AUTISM: Link to Vaccine Will Lead to Fear, Disease
In the Washington Post's Sunday "Outlook Section," Dr. J.B. Orenstein, a pediatric emergency room physician at Virginia's Inova Fairfax Hospital, explored the growing fears that some standard childhood immunizations might induce "the horrible and baffling disorder of autism." Almost two weeks ago, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who believes that his grandson developed autism after receiving immunizations, chaired a hearing on the reported increase in autism among American children and possible connections to the measles- mumps-rubella vaccine. A 1998 study in the The Lancet hypothesized that the MMR vaccine could bring about irregularities in the intestinal wall that might lead to autism. But one year later, another The Lancet study determined that there was no relationship between autism and the vaccine. Orenstein noted why some parents might link autism to the MMR vaccine: the vaccine is administered around the same time -- between 15 and 24 months -- as the first signs of autism become apparent. Orenstein acknowledged that there are legitimate vaccine issues, mostly after higher-than-acceptable levels of mercury had been found in vaccine preparation and the recent withdrawal of the RotaShield vaccine. But he expressed concern about what might happen if "unproven rumors make significant numbers of parents turn their backs on routine vaccination," which he views as a "dangerous rejection of one of the substantial accomplishments of modern society." Orenstein argued, "Without vaccines, a surge in preventable diseases will take place sooner or later, and some children will suffer severe complications." He pointed out that after "a wave of doubts about the safety of routine childhood vaccines" surfaced in Japan and England in the 1970s and early 1980s, outbreaks of measles and whooping cough occurred and were eliminated only after children started receiving vaccines again. Orenstein concluded that the same will happen in the United States if fears take hold, warning doctors to "get ready" and "[b]one up on your infectious diseases" (4/16). Be sure to check out the Post's coverage of the hearing.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.