By Alison Singer
Newsweek has just posted a special “end of the decade project” in which the editors attempt to recap the last ten years. They have produced twenty different top 10 lists, including one on overblown fears; threats that fortunately didn’t materialize or were later debunked. Topping this list are Y2K, and the threat of shoe bombs (and frankly nothing is more annoying than having to take off your shoes at airport security, especially in winter when the floor is cold. Number 3 on the list is “Vaccines and Autism”.
More than a dozen studies done over the past decade indicate that neither vaccines nor any specific ingredients in vaccines cause autism. While research on environmental factors is important in autism, it makes little sense to continue to pursue a specific study of vaccines, the one environmental factor that science has already ruled out.
Writing in Newsweek, Dr. Paul Offit explains the origin of the disproved notion that vaccines cause autism, and concludes with the following: “In the meantime children whose parents were frightened by MMR have died from measles and those frightened by thimerosal have died from bacterial meningitis: sacrificed at the altar of poorly conceived ideas. The tragedy is, given all we now know about the neurological basis of autism, these hypotheses had no chance of bearing fruit.”
As we approach a new decade, let’s keep focused on areas in autism research that have potential to yield new, actionable information for families. Let’s commit to asking new scientific questions in the coming decade and to putting the vaccine-autism myth squarely behind us.