Vaccines and the autism myth - part 1 | Infectious diseases | Health & Medicine | Khan Academy



Where Did the Myth About Vaccines and Autism Come From?

A 1998 study falsely linked MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was retracted and its author lost his medical license, but the idea stuck.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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Sometimes there are two sides of an issue, and sometimes there aren't. When it comes to the safety of vaccines, there's only one side. Vaccines are safe. They do not cause autism and they do save lives.

But where did that false idea about autism originate in the first place? Seth Mnookin, a lecturer at MIT, gives the history in his book "The Panic Virus." In 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield claimed he found a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. MMR stands for measles, mumps, and rubella. It was a tiny study, just 12 people.

Investigators later discovered Dr. Wakefield had fudged his data. The paper was retracted and Wakefield lost his medical license. Numerous studies since then have thoroughly debunked the idea that vaccines cause autism. But once the idea was out there in the public, it stuck.

One reason the myth is so persistent is that autism is on the rise, and we don't know why. Parents are right to be frightened about that, but they are wrong if they think vaccines are to blame. We don't know what causes autism, but we know it is not vaccines.

RELATED: Measles 2015: Get the Facts, Get Vaccinated

In a way, vaccines are a victim of their own success. They work so well, we've forgotten just how terrifying diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, and diphtheria used to be. But we are starting to see a small glimpse of those bad old days. The current measles outbreak that began at Disneyland is spreading because significant numbers of children in some communities are not vaccinated.

Recently, a possible presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul, weighed in. Senator Paul is a doctor himself, but he's also a strong libertarian. While he says he personally believes vaccines are a good idea, he thinks parents should have the freedom to choose for themselves.

The problem is, when it comes to vaccines one person's choice affects everyone else as well. The simple fact is measles was once considered eliminated in this country, and now it's back. The reason is that too many parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children.

In the face of this outbreak, some of the so-called anti-vaxxers have changed their minds. That's good news, especially for their children. Measles is a serious disease. There is no reason for a child in this country today to have to suffer through it.

Last Updated:2/13/2015

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Date: 11.12.2018, 03:11 / Views: 92174