Saturday, June 8, 2013

Oregon leads nation in vaccination opt-outs

Via, comes an embarrassing statistic: “Oregon leads the nation in kindergarteners whose parents have exempted them from vaccination requirements. Some schools have vaccine opt-out rates of 70 percent or more.”

Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee member Steiner Hayward attributed the drop to misinformation and a lack of information.

As reported by, Hayward said “she heard testimony from physicians about parents who believed vaccines caused autism, mercury poisoning or diabetes. One patient believed eating organic foods provided the same protections as vaccinations. Such claims are unfounded, she said.”

Indeed, at 39 when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an education professional I respected introduced me to the notion that vaccines cause autism. “We’ve poisoned an entire generation of children,” he said to me, in what appeared to be genuine horror.

Because this was a person I respected, highly-placed and competent in children’s education, I took what he told me seriously. My research into what it meant for me to be on the autism spectrum included an examination of the claim that vaccines cause autism.

On the strength of my research, I had to reject the claim.

Here’s a lengthy passage (but one I think worth sharing) taken from pages 200-201 of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit, M.D. (Columbia University Press, New York, 2008):
“How can people best determine if the results of a scientific study are accurate? The answer is threefold: transparency of the funding source, internal consistency of the data, and reproducibility of the findings. 
“People have the right to know the funding source for scientific papers. For example, when Andrew Wakefield published his study of autistic children in the Lancet, he should have acknowledged that he had previously received money from Richard Barr and that Barr represented some of these children in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies. The irony in Andrew Wakefield’s case was that not only did he fail to inform the Lancet’s readership of his funding source, but he failed to inform his coinvestigators, most of whom later withdrew their names from his paper. Although funding sources should be reported in every scientific paper, they’re probably the least important factor in judging a study’s worth or reliability. 
“More important are the strength and internal consistency of the data. When Richard Horton found that Andrew Wakefield had received funds from a personal-injury lawyer, he was outraged. But Horton’s anger should have been aimed at the obvious weaknesses in Wakefield’s paper, not at his perceived motives. Andrew Wakefield had proposed that measles vaccine damaged children’s intestines, allowing entrance of harmful toxins that caused autism. It was a hypothesis for which Wakefield offered not one shred of scientific evidence. Wakefield’s paper shouldn’t have been published not because he had received funds from a personal-injury lawyer but because his assertions were based on flimsy, poorly conceived science. 
“Probably the most important aspect of determining whether a scientific assertion is correct is the reproducibility of its findings. Superb, reproducible studies have been funded by pharmaceutical companies and poor, irreproducible studies have been funded independently, and vice versa. In the end, it doesn’t matter who funds a scientific study. It could be funded by pharmaceutical companies, the federal government, personal-injury lawyers, parent advocacy groups, or religious organizations. Good science will be reproduced by other investigators; bad science won’t.”
The Wakefield study, which failed to provide evidence in support of its claims and could not be reproduced in other studies -- was one among many “strikes” against believing that vaccines cause autism

(The Lancet formally retracted the study in 2010.)

In the meantime, my research provided a far simpler explanation for increases in diagnosed incidents of autism from 1993 to 2003: expansion of criteria into an autism “spectrum,” elimination of diagnostic substitution and improved record-keeping.

A bill passed Thursday by the Oregon Senate would require parents opting out for non-medical reasons to provide proof that they received immunization education from health care practitioner or watched an online educational video.

Social sharing credit goes to the Oregon Public Health Association