Opinion: The Greater Implication

Ryan Thompson

A pillar of the anti-vaccination movement is the fear that vaccines cause autism — which they don’t.

The medical community’s response to the proposed link between vaccines and autism is that there isn’t one. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism — because they don’t.

However, this approach ignores the underlying implication behind the anti-vaccination movement, an implication many supporters of the movement may not even be consciously aware of. It should be obvious by now that the results of scientific studies are not enough to convince people vaccines do not cause autism. They should be, but they aren’t.

Instead, the focus of arguments against the anti-vaccination movement should be on dissuading the movement’s supporters of the notion that losing a child is preferable to raising a child with autism.

For the sake of argument, consider the notion that vaccines have a chance of causing autism — which they don’t. Now consider one of the diseases that vaccines protect against.

Measles is potentially fatal in small children. It’s most serious symptoms include pneumonia, along with seizures and brain damage caused by inflammation of the brain. It became a nationally notifiable disease in 1912 and in the first decade of reporting, there was an average of 6,000 deaths caused by measles per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is among the most controversial, however it should be noted there has been only one recorded measles-related death in the United States over the past 12 years.

Other potentially fatal diseases that can be prevented by vaccines include diphtheria, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, polio and tetanus. Autism, while it does increase the risk of dying from accidents such as drowning, is not a cause of death, nor is it a fate worse than death.

Autism is a treatable condition, especially with early intervention. The situation is only improving as methods for educating children with autism become more effective. Even the most severe cases of autism are not hopeless. Even if they were — which they are not — it is sickening to suggest, intentionally or not, death is a mercy to children who have diminished social and communication skills.

The case against the anti-vaccination movement should not be that vaccines don’t cause autism. It should be that vaccines don’t cause autism and even if they did — which they don’t — it isn’t worth losing a child’s life to prevent it.