Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Autism and the MMR virus

The claim that the MMR jab for children could lead to autism has now been recanted by the journal that published the original research, on the grounds that the doctor who carried out the study was being paid by supporters of the parents who believed their children had been affected.

I wonder how he sleeps at night. If your child develops autism after a year of so of apparently normal development, of course you want to find a grand explanation, something that makes it someone else's fault. Parents worry that somehow they themselves might be responsible, just as people do after a bereavement (and realising that your child has regressed into their own is autistic world is very like a bereavement). And the MMR vaccine was a handy thing to blame; but apart from this one Dr Wakefield, no other researcher was able to find any correlation between the MMR take-up and the rate of incidence of autism (apart from the fact that both have increased recently, but even then the link appears weak).

My daughter B developed autism in the six months after her second birthday. She lost her speech, her interest in anthropomorphic play, and she is still in nappies (she is now six and a half). We think it may have been due to a bad fever she had just before she turned two, which presumably trigered a genetic predisposition (and looking around our weirder relatives on both sides, we have no difficulty in believing in a genetic predisposition). She lives with us, goes to the local special school (the best one in the vicinity of Brussels, which is why we have moved out here to Leuven), occasionally spends weekends at a respite care place, is generally very happy and affectionate, loves climbing trees.

But the shock of realising, four years ago, that our beautiful two-year-old would have a very different future from what we had hoped was quite simply the worst thing that I have ever experienced in my life; far worse than losing my father, or the occasional career setback. I completely understand that many parents need to blame the MMR vaccine as part of their coping strategy. But Dr Wakefield has not only fed this particular delusion, he has been making money out of it and gathering considerable fame as the heroic researcher who dared to stand up against the system. I wonder how he sleeps at night.
Tags: life: autism, people: andrew wakefield

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