By Norm Roberts
I had pertussis as an infant. It had no lasting impact on me but it traumatized my parents. For the rest of his life my dad talked about pacing the floor with me in his arms while I cried and coughed that horrible whooping cough. Mom and Dad would have been vocal advocates for the DTaP vaccine. But they never heard of autism. They had no idea their great grandson would come down with it, what it would mean for him, or that there was any possibility it might be caused by his immunizations. If they had, if they thought there was any risk, I wonder if my dad might have said “No thanks, I’ll walk the floor.” With ten dead infants from pertussis in California this past fall it wouldn’t be an easy choice. But with thousands of cases of autism, and more than a few deaths there too, it wouldn’t be an idle choice either.
That’s what pediatricians and public health officials are afraid of; given an informed choice, parents will opt out of vaccines rather than put their children at risk of autism. Authorities would rather make those decisions themselves, and justify it as a public necessity. So they have made what I believe is a conscious decision to suppress the information. They refuse to compare vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. They insist vaccines have been studied to death without ever actually evaluating the cumulative effect of a huge increase in the childhood schedule. They muddle the definition of the disease and suggest without evidence that the change and better awareness may be entirely responsible for an observed phenomenal increase in incidence. They stop reporting classical autism separately from other autism spectrum disorders and further obscure the real increase. They invest millions in a bizarre attempt to show autism isn’t a disease at all but a genetic defect. They demonize any researcher who finds even an incidental tie to vaccines. They patronize parents who ask uncomfortable questions. They foist off on us one absurdity after another.
It isn’t working. With only a suspicion of a causal link to autism parents are choosing not to vaccinate in alarming numbers, numbers large enough to nullify the desired herd immunity. The more dismissive the authorities are the more suspicious the parents become. The voices are getting louder. Why don’t these people want to know what is causing the autism pandemic? The CDC and NIH just announced they will look into reports Somali children in Minneapolis have unusually high rates of autism. People have been clamoring for them to do this for years. Why are they just now getting interested? Will they conduct an honest investigation? Their credibility isn’t high on this.
I’m old enough to remember the polio epidemic of the 1950s and to consider Jonas Salk one of the heroes of the last century for his vaccine. The eradication of small pox was one of the great humanitarian advances in my lifetime. But for vaccines like those to be effective we have to be able to trust them and right now the people in charge of them aren’t looking very trustworthy. I don’t know whether the tragic increase in the incidence of autism is related to the childhood schedule or not. I am convinced however that some environmental factor or factors must be at its root, it must be something that emerged about eighty or ninety years ago at about the same time autism did, that exposure to it must have increased dramatically twenty years ago when autism rates began to explode, and that attempts by doctors and public health officials to explain it away amount to a betrayal of trust. Vaccines fit the profile. It is not irresponsible to question them. It is irresponsible not to.
Norm Roberts is a retired business analyst living in Plano, Texas. His 9 year old grandson has autism.