Vaccines and the fear of autism

A young mother named Emma* took her twin sons Jacob and Danny for their regular checkup and to get their shots. Shortly after, Jacob broke out with a high temperature and a rash. His developmental progress slowed, and, less than a year later, he was diagnosed with autism. This diagnosis seemed to come out of nowhere, since no one else in their extended family had been diagnosed before. For some parents, there would be only one logical explanation for the diagnosis: it was caused by vaccines.

This was not the case with Jacob.

Parents naturally fear for their kids. They want to protect them and love them and make sure they grow up safe and sound. Any change in their child must have some cause, which they could have prevented.

Sadly, some parents have taken up the belief that vaccines are the cause of their childrens’ autism. There is no scientific backing for this theory, as there is no consistent correlation between the two. Influenced by the just-world fallacy that there could be some fault for which they are being punished, their fear drives them away from vaccines.

The problem is, vaccines don’t just protect those who get them, they protect everyone else as well. Some people cannot get vaccines due to allergies, cancer treatments or age, and they need other people to get vaccinated to protect them.
For example, take the recent measles outbreak that occurred in Disneyland. So far, there have been at least 85 confirmed cases of the disease, which was thought to have been eradicated within the U.S. Now children, cancer patients and those with allergies are all in danger because some parents were afraid of autism.

James Neyer is a junior Honors Bachelor of Arts major from Cincinnati.
James Neyer is a junior Honors Bachelor of Arts major from Cincinnati.

While it’s natural to search for a cause of autism, there is nothing to be afraid of in autism. Autism is not a death sentence or even something one suffers from. It is a character trait just like Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder or Misophonia. Measles, on the other hand, is an easily preventable disease that can have serious health repercussions.

Jacob is a loving kid whose autism doesn’t define him any more than his love of owls, fire trucks and wheels. If you could spend a day with him, you would not be able to say that autism is the scary, horrible thing that it is often made out to be.

I know because he is my nephew, and I treasure every second that I am able to spend with him. Autism has been made into someThere is a correlation between parents’ ages, infections during pregnancy and even organic food sales, but no correlation between autism and vaccines, other than a few studies that suggest vaccines can actually reduce instances of autism by reducing maternal fevers during pregnancy.

With a background in science, Emma started noticing signs of autism a couple months before the checkup. She had noticed several odd behaviors, from how he acted when playing pattycake to how he was easily overstimulated. Also, once she learned more about autism, she realized that even though no one in her family had been diagnosed with the disorder, many people in her family lie on the spectrum. She doesn’t see her son as someone with some debilitating illness or problem, just a loving kid with a different trait.

Parents who try to find some reason or object to blame for the autism diagnosis are not bad parents. They are simply trying to find some explanation outside themselves for what happened. thing frightening that robs someone of their humanity, instead of just an interesting quirk that can be treated with timely therapy. I would be proud to have a kid like Jacob, and I know that his mother and father are more proud than I ever could be.

*The names in this article have been changed to protect privacy.