In the year 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, distributed an article in a global mental health journal that recommended a connection between the MMR immunization and the advancement of autism. Based on his assessment of 12 individuals, Dr. Wakefield and partners revealed that patients could create intestinal manifestations and may be mentally unbalanced after receiving the MMR immunization. (Kemp, M & Hart, B, 2010) The media jumped on the story and proceeded to cause one of the biggest health scares in history. These accusations left many parents questioning if vaccines were safe to give to their children. Causing them to question medical professionals and refuse vaccinations for themselves as well as their children. Giving us the myth that vaccines are directly linked to autism. However, even with all of these accusations, there is much scientific proof supporting no relationship among vaccinations and kids determined to have autism.
Despite recent findings, many experts have proven there is no scientific evidence linking the measles mumps rubella immunization and autism. If Wakefield’s autistic enterocolitis theory were to be correct, damage to the body would be much more evident and global. The brain would not be the only region affected. (Moreton) If autistic enterocolitis is, in fact, a threat after receiving the MMR vaccination, both “proteins and peptides would leak, leading to protein-losing enteropathy” (Moreton). There is no evidence of protein enteropathy in autistic patients. Proteins and peptides leaking out of a patient’s stomach into the blood would be filtered by the liver before even reaching the brain. If these peptides and proteins had reached the brain the patients liver would not be functioning properly, and there is no evidence of liver malfunctions in Wakefield’s trial.
Symptoms of autism start to arise around the time routine vaccines roll around in a child’s life. So, when Andrew Wakefield released his study to the public an uproar of angered parents of children with autism and children without autism emerged. (Talavera) The public started blaming vaccines for numerous health crisis, not just mental imbalance. But, the science didn’t seem to match up in Wakefield’s claims. The scientific reasoning behind the MMR immunization causing autism is what Wakefield considered to be autistic enterocolitis. His theory is the measles virus encapsulated inside the immunization causes a leaky gut, which allows opioid peptides to leak into the bloodstream (Moreton). Which then travel through the body, and eventually access the brain causing brain damage (Moreton).
The culprit to the spread of the myth is the media. The Media put the negative correlation between vaccines and autism in the limelight and caused many to believe vaccines were harmful. Some parents began to refuse vaccines, fearing that their children would be harmed (Kemp, M & Hart, B, 2010). Many individuals are not properly informed on immunizations and how the function and jumped to conclusions on the issue. (Talavera) Opinions seem to become stronger because they are fueled by bias, misinformation, fearmongering, and fallacious thinking (Talavera).
In conclusion, Dr. Wakefield, with help from the media, created a myth that caused many to fear immunizations. Although scientifically disproven, many still believe vaccines are a threat to society. The day medical experts find a reason children are diagnosed with autism, will be a triumph in the immunotherapy field. More parents will entrust medical professionals with immunizations and the world will be a safer, healthier place.
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