Ill-Founded Claims About Risks Of Vaccination

Source: “Herald, The; Glasgow (UK)” Publication date: 2003-06-23

We read your report, Mercury linked to autism (June 19), with some
dismay that yet again a single unpublished study that has not been
subjected to critical scientific scrutiny has generated such an alarmist headline.
Such articles, adorned with quotes from the usual band of crusading
commentators who use any study, however flawed, to justify their beliefs,
are misleading and irresponsible. Many suppositions are made in your
report that fly in the face of common sense, logic, established facts, and other
scientific evidence. Much publicity has been given to those who advocate
that the MMR vaccine is the cause of the rising numbers of children being
diagnosed as having an autistic spectrum disorder.

This MMR scare began in 1998 with a study by Dr Wakefield et al published in the Lancet. The study
has since been widely discredited and no valid scientific evidence has
ever been produced to support such a hypothesis. On the contrary, a large
number of rigorous scientific studies have testified to the vaccine’s safety and
absence of linkage with autism. The MMR vaccine does not contain
thimerosal.

Having failed to demonstrate the culpability of the MMR vaccine, we
are now being told that it is thimerosal, a preservative present in a
certain brand of the Diphtheria/Pertussis/ Tetanus vaccine (DTP), that is
the cause of the perceived rise in autism in recent years. Better
diagnosis and changes in diagnostic classification are often ignored as at least
part of the explanation for the rise.

This assertion is strange in the context
that DTP vaccine has been in use for over 60 years and yet this claimed
“epidemic of autism” is a relatively new phenomenon. In addition it is
also the case that the amounts of thimerosal received by children from the
infant immunisation programme in the UK have decreased in recent times. These
facts clearly contradict a causal relationship between thimerosal and recent
rises in autism.

Almost all previous studies on the toxicological effects of heavy
metals such as mercury and lead have substantiated a positive correlation
between very high levels of these substances found in hair and an
increasing adverse effect on neurological development. Whereas in this quoted study the amount of mercury found in the hair of autistic children is less than in
the non-autistic children. Yet somehow it is hypothesised, without any
evidence, that mercury build-up somewhere else in the body is responsible for their autistic symptoms.

Finally, it is the view of this department that such unsubstantiated
and ill-founded claims are detrimental to public confidence in the childhood
vaccination programme. This programme has been an outstanding success in
eradicating serious and life-threatening infections in recent times.
Irresponsible scaremongering could eventually result in death and serious
disability in many children if these diseases are allowed to return due to
low vaccine- uptake.

It is also a cruel blow to all those parents of autistic children
who are now being erroneously informed that they have permanently damaged
their own children because of their responsible actions in attempting to protect
their loved ones against the consequences of contracting such diseases.
– Vincent McKeown, public health nurse;
Dr Syed Ahmed, immunisation co-ordinator, Public Health, Greater
Glasgow NHS Board, 350 St Vincent Street, Glasgow.

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