Breaking: Vaccines Still Don’t Cause Autism

Jenny McCarthy on autism photo used under the Creative Commons license by flickr user Kenya Allmond

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Well, it’s back again. The zombie meme that just won’t stay dead.

We love a good conspiracy as much as the next investigative magazine—especially one that involves Big Pharma, the FDA, and the CDC. But as we’ve extensively reported here, the vaccines = autism meme might just be the most damaging medical myth of the decade. Not only is it based on false “science” that’s tearing apart the families of sick children, it’s unintentionally sickening thousands of others.

If you don’t watch Oprah or read HuffPo, the theory goes like this. An ethylmercury-based preservative thimerosal (which was removed from all vaccines in the early 2000s) is retained by young children who then exhibit symptoms of mercury toxicity, the true cause of autism. Alternately, the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines, when given in tandem as MMR (the only form of the vaccine currently available) overwhelms the systems of sensitive children, causing intestinal distress, which causes autism. Sound odd?

Putting aside for just a moment the enormous weight of scientific evidence against these theories and the sound discrediting of virtually every doctor or scientist who has ever supported them, the MMR-causes-autism theory is downright dangerous.

Anti-MMR crusaders like Jenny McCarthy and longtime partner Jim Carrey insist they’re not anti-vaccine. But their position is dangerously close, for two reasons.

One, the overall hysteria about vaccine safety has led many parents to refuse shots outright, especially in Europe, where the burden of measles infection has transferred from poor countries like Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia to rich ones like the UK, France, Germany, and Austria.

 

Secondly, the ‘single-antigen’ vaccines McCarthy and others claim to support only exist in theory. Merck, the top vaccine producer, stopped making individual doses of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines in December, due to low demand and high production costs.

Even with our country’s stringent vaccination laws (New York has some of the toughest, Oregon and California some of the loosest), domestic measles infections tripled between 2007 and 2008. That year, New York saw the biggest outbreak in more than a decade, followed by another one this summer, and San Diego hit the headlines after a massive outbreak and an aggressive quarantine in a community where greater than 10 percent of children aren’t vaccinated at all.

That, says CDC virologists, is an out and out disaster. When herd immunity (a community’s overall resistance to a disease) drops below critical mass, the risk of a major outbreak increases exponentially.

Don’t blame the McCarthy-Carrey family for holding a wacky position—parents of sick children (even celebrity parents of sick children) can and have done worse. Save it for the MSM and others who give them a platform, particularly the ones who quote quack journalist David Kirbyin a misguided pursuit of “balance.” And next time you see a headline with a CYA question mark like “No Link Between Vaccines and Autism?,” don’t click.

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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