Wednesday, June 10, 2009
For over a decade now most doctors, researchers, and government officials have denied that there could be any link between vaccines and autism. They’ve denied it so vehemently that they’ve refused to adequately study the very idea. Until now. The federal government’s vaccine advisory panel (the National Vaccine Advisory Committee or NVAC) just voted to recommend to the US Dept of Health and Human Services that they and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct large-scale prospective research trials in groups of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children to determine various theoretical risk factors and possible severe reactions to vaccines, including autism.
For those of you who are saying, “Wait – they HAVE researched it extensively and have proven there is NO link between vaccines and autism.” Well, that’s not exactly accurate. To date, no study has “proven” there is no link. Many studies have “failed to demonstrate a causative relationship between vaccines and autism” – in essence, showing there probably is no link, or even there is almost definitely no link. But that is a very far cry from “proving for sure that there is no link.” What they HAVE done so far is use population-based statistical analyses (epidemiological studies) to determine that vaccines probably don’t cause autism. But no large prospective study has yet to be done using unvaccinated children as a large control group to have something to compare the vaccinated children to. This is really the gold standard for coming as close as we can to proving something is safe. And that’s the type of research the government had, up until now, refused to do. And we are not just talking about autism. There are so many other theoretical reactions to vaccines that have never been adequately studied. We’ve just written them off as so rare we won’t worry about them. Finally, after years of public pressure, the government has agreed to do the research.
What they FIRST have to do is do a study to determine if such research is even feasible and figure out how exactly to go about doing it. The government is going to select a neutral third-party research organization (The Institute of Medicine, possibly) to study how to do the study. Such an organization may or may not find such research feasible. If they determine it is feasible, then the research will begin. If not, then we’re back to square . . . whatever square we are on right now, which is “vaccines probably don’t cause problems, but we haven’t really proven it for sure.” This is also going to take time – a couple years to study the feasibility of the study, then a few more years before results start to roll in. But at least the ball is now (probably) rolling. The only thing that could stop it is a roll of red tape. That’s no obstacle at all, right?
Highlights of what the NVAC recommended the CDC begin doing research on (if it is found to be feasible):
Identifying subsets of our population that may be at higher risk of suffering a severe vaccine reaction, such as those with mitochondrial dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, autoimmune family histories, and genetic predispositions
Accurately determine the statistical incidences of various reported severe reactions like encephalitis, encephalopathy, seizures, autoimmune reactions, demyelinating disorders, and autism
The risks of reactions for babies with a prior reaction or with a family history of reactions in the parents
Study various alternative vaccine schedules, including comparing reactions with multiple vaccinations to fewer vaccinations
Study specific and individual vaccine chemical ingredients, including animal toxicology research (hey, I thought they would have already studied each and every vaccine ingredient in animals before they started giving them to us?)
These issues have always sat in the back of my mind as unanswered questions. And the absence of unvaccinated control groups in vaccine research has probably been the one single factor that has always weighed heavily in my mind regarding vaccines. To date, such control groups have always been infants receiving the current vaccine schedule minus the new vaccine that is being studied. But now there are just way too many vaccines to consider such a group as a placebo control.
FINALLY, the government is paying attention to what parents really want to know regarding vaccines. Let’s just hope they pull through with these plans so we can all feel safer about vaccines.
A more extensive discussion regarding this development can be found here:
David Kirby’s analysis of the NVAC’s findings. David also provides a link to the NVAC’s 90-page document at the bottom of his blog so you can read the document yourself.