Early this morning in the few moments I have control of the remote before my children beg for their Curious George and Super Why!, I caught the report that British Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the researched behind the now infamous Austism study, was found to be a fraud.
Although I've never actually read his study, I worked with many children with autism and their parents for many years, some of whom believed quite ardently that their children had shown signs of the disorder following a routine vaccination visit.
At the time, I wasn't a parent. I hadn't thought about vaccines ever. Except for the time I had to get a Tetanus shot after I had a glass dropped on my foot at TGIFridays when I was 15.
And given that there is no actual cause (or cure) for Autism, who was I not to believe their personal report - a valuable assessment of a medical or psychological problem?
Then I had my own kids and hearing these stories day after day completely affected my own decision on vaccinating my children.
I don't regret following a delayed and selected vaccination schedule. I'm still selective about what my children get and when they get them, not just due to my own experiences with children with autism, but from family reactions and other research I've done.
But I am saddened that a study like this, with obvious holes that even a neophyte researcher could have discovered, was ever published. Especially as a former researcher myself who had several research studies evaluated and subsequently published in scholarly journals on topics not nearly as controversial as this one. The editorial board ripped every single part of my data analysis apart; why didn't this happen for this study?
I think most disturbing is how many families have been affected - children who never were vaccinated and contracted Measles.
And even moreso, for parents with children with autism who held onto that study as at least one actual, documented cause for a disorder that continues to confuse researchers.
The news that the study was not only bad science but worse, fraudulent, does not at all make me question the many parents who truly believed that their kids did, in fact, show signs of Autism after their vaccinations. There's nothing yet to say that something in certain vaccines combined with a certain child's biology might be a factor for some children.
We just don't know. And that's the scariest part.
As I said to Dr. Paul Offit, author, researcher, and inventor of the Rotavirus vaccine, I believe strongly in the value of qualitative research as well. Not just the numbers but the stories and stories of parents who saw their child's behavior deteriorate.
I do believe in vaccinations. Just ask my older kids who get them almost every time they go to the doctor now as we have started our catch up schedule.
I also believe that children have reactions to them.
And I hope that there's a way for us to move forward and focus our energy in helping discover the cause of autism. And a possible cure.
And most of all, support the valiant efforts of so many amazing parents, who are raising children with this disorder.
I've written a lot about vaccinations on this blog, including the whole H1N1 vaccination debacle. I know it's an extremely heated topic. Please feel free to share your own opinions and experiences. But if you get nasty, I will delete it.