Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Science is Clear

Vaccinations have been a touchy subject lately and once again the debate has taken over politics. On February 2nd Hilary Clinton tweeted, “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork.” Hilary Clinton has long been an advocate for vaccinations, starting in 1993 with her CDC program, Vaccines for Children. There has been a lot of stories in the news lately about politicians who are questioning if we should be making vaccinations mandatory. New Jersey governor Chris Christie questioned whether measles and other diseases should be required to be vaccinated against. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has said that he has seen many healthy children end up with mental disorders due to vaccinations. The sad and scary thing about Rand Paul is that he is an ophthalmologist, he has gone to medical school and still believes in this nonsense that vaccines cause disease.

There has recently been an outbreak of measles in this country with over 100 cases of the disease, most spreading from Disneyland in Anaheim California. Scientists are blaming this outbreak on the anti-vaccination movement. Meanwhile measles is a disease that has been virtually eradicated, and hasn’t been a real concern in a very long time. This has recently become a problem because parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. They are refusing to do so because they believe that vaccines are causing autism. This belief comes from a study in which CDC has estimated that 1 in 68 children under the age of 8 have autism, a number that is 30% higher then previous estimations. This belief and the steep rise in cases of autism may come from the recent change in the DSM-V or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fifth Edition. This most recent change that happened in 2013 changed the way that autism was diagnosed and offered new guidelines on diagnosis. This change got rid of the separate labels of Autism, Asperger’s, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and put them all under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder. So this now much larger number might be because instead of just one disorder three were being recorded under the same name

The idea that vaccines cause autism stems mostly from the 1990s. During the ‘90s it was thought that the vaccination MMR, which protected against measles, mumps and rubella was a cause of Autism. It was mainly thought that the use of thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccines that contains mercury was the main culprit. Since that time the World Health Organization along with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all said that they see no correlation between autism and the use of vaccinations.

Posted by Madison Boone (Group A)


  1. I thought this was pretty good, though I think you could've included more actual numbers and data to prove wrong those who are against vaccinations instead of relying primarily on the words of pandering politicians.
    - Ian Mallor

  2. I've been reading all about this in the news lately and I'm glad someone addressed it in a blog post. I think you did a good job of incorporating both the biology and politics of this topic, but I would love to learn more about the ideas you brought up in your last paragraph. Were there other controversial vaccines in the 90s or later that could have influenced the people who are firmly against vaccines?

  3. Fascinating read, just recently had a conversation about the outbreak of measles with my doctor. So the big question here is should parents be required to vaccinate their children and what are the potential risks of vaccine vs no vaccine. This is a very interesting debate and I would have liked to hear more of your stance on it. I think adding a little bit of personal opinion would add a nice touch to the blog.

    Posted by Amanda Okpoebo

  4. I think you present the information in a clear, informative way. But, one point that could have strengthened your argument relates to the changes made in 2013 to the DSM­-V, which is used to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. This change entailed removing the diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder and instead grouping these together under the term Autism Spectrum Disorder. So, people previously diagnosed with these disorders now fall under this umbrella term when they are re-­evaluated. This could partially explain the rise in children diagnosed with autism, since the CDC study was published in 2014.

    - ­Carolyn McDonagh

  5. Nice blog post! The discussion about vaccines lately seems to have everyone voicing their opinion. As amateur scientists, we can see without question the necessity of vaccinating children against infectious disease. Our old friend Bill Nye the Science Guy posted on twitter recently: "Thoughtless politicians saying @GetVaccinated is a choice. But you & I have a right not to have human germ generators among us. It's science."

    Thanks for linking to the CDC article about 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with autism. That is definitely a troubling statistic -- hopefully one day medical science will prevail so that we can better understand the mechanisms of autism and ways to treat this unfortunate neurological disorder.

    - Michael Salhany

  6. You stated at the end of your second paragraph that the CDC study reported a very high rate of autism in children. Is this number high due to an actual increase in cases in recent years or do you think the study is flawed in some way (over diagnosing, info gathering, etc.)?
    -Dan Staiculescu