Recently, the OC Health Care Agency announced a measles outbreak in Orange County.
This year, 22 cases have been reported in Orange County, a marked increase from the three cases reported in the last five years.
One of the best ways someone can ensure protection against measles, is to have his or her Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) immunizations up to date.
In fact, the 19 out of the 32 cases reported statewide were due to lack of immunization.
Regardless of that, some argue that immunizations, particularly the MMR vaccine has a variety of adverse side effects and so should not be given.
The most controversial argument is that the MMR vaccine causes autism.
Notably, Jenny McCarthy has said the autism-like symptoms her son has were caused by his measles vaccination.
But that is hogwash.
Now, all this started when Andrew Wakefield, a medical researcher and surgeon, presented a paper in 1998 that stated that the MMR vaccine causes gastrointestinal problems in children, which led to chronic enterocolitis (swollen intestines), and this was associated with behavioral dysfunction, which included autism.
Basically, what it meant was autistic children were associated with having an “inflamed or dysfunctional intestine.”
The key word here being associated, not caused, but associated.
Surely, basic English classes have taught people that association and causation do not share the same definition.
If Wakefield himself said the link is an association, it seems ridiculous to say the MMR vaccine causes autism.
It should also be noted that after presenting his findings and causing wild panic among parents, Wakefield lost his credentials and his paper was retracted because there were several holes in his research.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) listed a number of “critical flaws” with Wakefield’s research. One of which was the expected coincidence between MMR vaccines and an autism diagnosis.
An autism diagnosis is often given around the same time an MMR vaccine is administered. Ninety percent of children in England received the vaccine during the time of the study, according to the AAP, so it is expected that children with a diagnosis of autism would have received an MMR vaccine recently.
Another noteworthy flaw is that while Wakefield stated the behavior differences are a “sequel” to the intestine problems, the data shows the behavior symptoms occurred before the bowel symptoms.
In most cases however, the bowel symptoms could not even be identified.
In California, as of Jan. 1, 2014, parents have the option to opt out of the vaccinations even if their reasons are not tied to religious beliefs.
But let’s look at the numbers first.
In a search done on the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System (VAERS), a self report system the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed, there were 64 cases reported in California that listed autism or autistic spectrum disorder as an adverse effect of the MMR vaccine from 1990 to 2014.
That’s an average of 2.6 cases reported each year during the 24-year period.
VAERS also makes it clear that the data reported is correlational, not causal.
Adding onto that are the several trend studies done both in the United States and internationally that show while there has been pronounced rise in the number of autism cases reported, the number of MMR vaccines administered have remained the same or have had a relatively small rise.
One study in California, in 2001, reported a 373 percent rise in number of autism cases from 1980 and 1994, but only a 14 percent rise in MMR vaccines administered. Other studies have shown similar data.
These studies show that there is not even an association between the MMR vaccines and an increase in autism occurrences in children.
If there were, the increase in autism occurrences would have had a much smaller rise, instead of ballooning as it did.
However, because Jenny McCarthy said her son’s autism was caused by an MMR vaccine, it must be true.