How The Media Perpetuated The Autism Vaccine Scare

1697 words - 7 pages

2Correlation ≠ Causation: How the Media Perpetuated the Autism-Vaccine ScareIn his book, The Culture of Fear, Barry Glassner describes an America lead by misguided fears: "Valid fears have their place, they clue us to danger. False and overdrawn fears only cause hardship" (xxiii). Such is the case surrounding the claims and controversy between vaccination and autism. While much is still not know about the causes of this disease, in the late 1990s, this became one of the most talked about concepts in the autistic community: vaccinations cause autism. This controversy has caused over a decade of arguments and analysis. Although extensive research has disproved the alleged connection between vaccines and autism, fear continues to perpetuate, and the news media has been largely responsible for preserving this autism-vaccination link. All of the conspiracy theories, misinformation about vaccines, and too many parents who do not fully understand the danger of diseases prevented by vaccines have allowed this controversy to continue. Ultimately, this could have severe implications and pose a major risk for public health in America.In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, developed a specific theory on how the MMR (measles, mumps, and rabies) vaccine could trigger autism. He published his findings in The Lancet, suggesting a possible link between measles virus in the gut and autism. He proposed that some children are genetically predisposed to immune issues, and various environmental toxins can attack the immune system:The child develops a leaky gut, tissue damage gets worse, the immune system grows weaker, and autoimmune reactions start. Then a lot of children experience a catastrophic event. Either in the form of a significant illness or a live virus vaccine. The immune system is overwhelmed and the child rapidly goes downhill. Some parents report a gradual deterioration, but many children seem to develop autism after a particular event. They go into the hospital or they get an MMR shot and they're never the same again. Autism is the end result of this developing series of reactions. (Honda 43)Following Wakefield's announcement of his findings, immediate media frenzy broke out in Great Britain. In the United States, more controversy was sparked concerning thimerosal, a specific preservative used in a number of vaccines to prevent bacterial contamination and its possible link to autism. By weight, thimerosal is fifty percent mercury, and mercury in large doses is a known neurotoxin (Baker 8). Although there was no real proof of harm, the United States government ordered that thimerosal be removed from any vaccine that was given to children under the age of six as a "precautionary" measure. With the evidence of autism on the rise, scientists conducted a number of studies to research if thimerosal was responsible. It was also during this time that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a column in The Huffington Post in which he stated that the...

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