As a parent of a child with autism, I’d like to offer a voice of informed reason to this debate.
Let’s start off with the bare facts:
1) The MMR Vaccine protects our children against diseases that can be debilitating, or even deadly in some cases.
2) There has only been a single study, published in 1998 by Wakefield, et. al., that suggested (not proved) a connection between the MMR vaccine and Autism.
3) 10 of the 13 authors of that study issued a joint statement in 2004 retracting the conclusions in the 1998 study. There have been NO STUDIES since that have suggested even the possibility of a relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.
4) Experts at the Centers for Disease Control, The UK National Health Service, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences have all concluded, based on volumes of additional research, that there is no connection between autism ant the MMR vaccine.
It is in our nature, as human beings, to want to have an explanation for the bad things that happen in our lives. We want to make sense of things, to have an ordered universe that we can understand, categorize, and interact with. We want to believe that the MMR vaccine is responsible for causing autism.
The problem is that life isn’t quite that simple.
I would absolutely love to understand why it is that my middle daughter is so different from her sisters, and why it is that she is so different from the other children at school. Her condition makes me mad, at times, and I wish I had someone (like a pharmaceutical company or a doctor) to blame. I’d love to be able to crusade against the MMR vaccine so that other parents wouldn’t have to have the challenges that we have had. But the simple fact is that no one knows what causes autism, and probably won’t for a very long time.
Meanwhile, the worst possible thing we could do in our effort to understand autism is to discourage parents from allowing their children access to life-saving vaccines such as MMR.
The loudest voices in this debate are not scientists or researchers who have studied autism and MMR. Rather, these voices most often come from well-meaning but misinformed parents who have been led astray by false information provided by certain non-profit organizations and celebrities.