Author: Nicholas Jannetty
As a scientist, I feel that I must begin this with an apology. This post will undoubtedly make a lot of people angry and make a lot of people stop reading, but I must say it. I apologize that scientists, generally, are not good communicators. It is something we are working on, so please be patient. It does not come naturally to most of us, but we are trying.
Having said that, it is the duty of the scientist to communicate the hard facts of natural laws and to do so in a way that is approachable and relatable to our fellow man. And so, having said this, I will do my best to try to convince you that vaccines don’t cause autism. To do this, I will be using only one piece of scientific data and the most dangerous tool in the scientist’s handbook, cold hard logic.
Do Vaccines cause autism?
The short answer is no. I challenge you to find a reputable immunologist, virologist, or infectious disease doctor who will disagree with this. The universal acceptance of this fact by the scientific community can be explained in one graph. You can skip ahead, but before I reveal it, I would like to put this debate in context and provide a background.
In 1998, a flawed study was conducted that suggested a link between vaccines to autism. Now taking aside the glaring flaws in this study, scientists were concerned and thought, “we should look into this.” So, they turned to the great country of Denmark. Now, a lot of things, good and bad, can be said about Denmark, but what we are going to focus on is a requirement of their universal health care system. And no, I’m not talking about the political aspects of this system, I want to talk about the Copenhagen Healthtech Cluster. This wonderful idea by the Danes was to collect anonymous data about its citizens to allow researchers to conduct large studies about health trends. I’m not talking about those studies where they poll ten doctors, and nine out of ten recommend this toothpaste. These studies include hundreds of thousands of subjects in an attempt to unleash the power of statistics to answer profound questions of medicine and biology.
Researchers used this database to determine if the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine was contributing to autism. The basic idea is this: in Denmark, most people get the MMR vaccine, but a small subset does not. There are legitimate medical reasons someone cannot get a vaccine, including allergies and a compromised immune system. Researchers decided to observe a cohort that got vaccines and a cohort that did not over time. If the MMR vaccine causes autism, then it is reasonable to say that, over time, the vaccinated cohort would have a higher rate of autism. If the trend between the two groups is the same, then it can be reasonably said that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
This study has been conducted twice, once in 2002 and again in 2019. The latest results were released at the end of last year. Here are the results:
As you can see, in comparing the two cohorts, there is no statistical significance in the prevalence of autism, if anything, the non-vaccinated cohort may have a slightly higher penetrance of autism; which means that the cause of autism cannot be vaccines.
As a scientist, this is it. This ends the debate for us. We don’t need more evidence. With a sample size of 600,000, Mark Twain can take all his “lies, dam lies, and statistics” and shove it. You can’t, scientifically, argue with this data. Scientists now turn to the task of finding out what actually causes autism.
However, for some people, this study is not enough. So, I will try to address some of the arguments that I have come across in my life, not with data but with logic and [heaven forbid] emotions.
One of the things I constantly hear is that big pharma is out to get people, and vaccines are a tool of big pharma to make money. To that, I would like to use polio as a case study and ask the following question, what costs more: a vaccine or an iron lung? Now, iron lungs have not been mass-produced for several decades (thanks to the success of the polio vaccine) so, I am using some guesswork. According to the National Museum of History, in 1930 an iron lung cost about$1500 (about $23,000 in 2020). Now, let’s assume modern manufacturing and technology could cut that price by about half. That’s still a $10,000 machine that, at best, would be needed for two weeks. At worst, there is a 1 in 100 chance that your child will stay on this machine for the rest of their life. All of this would add up to massive profits for insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. After all, treatable but chronic conditions are the fever dream of all pharmaceutical companies.
Now, let’s look at the polio vaccine. This eliminated the need for all that expensive equipment (cause your child won’t get sick), and it costs a whopping $0.13 to produce the oral vaccine and climbs to $1.90 for the injectable vaccine and costs $73 to get the vaccine at your local drug store16. So, by all means, keep fighting vaccines, you are just allowing for continued demand for the vaccine and demand for expensive procedures to keep people alive while fighting the disease, thereby allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue profiting. Don’t believe me? There is a reason we don’t have to pay for a smallpox vaccine. That reason? The smallpox vaccine was so successful; it irradiated the disease. Now, big pharma can’t profit off smallpox.
“These diseases aren’t that bad.”
No offense to anyone, but this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the evidence. As promised, this is not more data (though a little stats), it’s photos. The descriptors of the diseases are from various sources because I am vaccinated and have never had these diseases. I will also not cover all of them but pull out a few to make my point.
Polio kills 1 in 20 kids and 1 in 3 adults that become infected with the virus. If you survive, you can still develop post-polio syndrome, a gradual decline in muscle function that occurs in 1 in 4 polio survivors. Think FDR. So, if your child gets polio, there is a 25% chance they will look like this in a few years:
With measles, the rash is the least of your worries. What doctors worry about with measles is the complications caused by the accompanying fever, which typically lasts for a week and can get as high as 105*F. The high body temp for so long can lead to lasting brain damage and occurs in 1 in 1000 cases. The leading cause of death from measles is from pneumonia, which occurs in 1 in 20 cases. If we extrapolate that out, without an effective vaccine, that’s about one death per classroom in every school in the United States.
That swollen part on the child’s left cheek (his left not yours) is extremely painful and is not limited to the face (sorry men). Think: having a cavity, and then someone punched you in the jaw, and then imagine this pain lasting 7 to 10 days. You also have a 5 in 10,000 chance of losing your hearing.That may seem like a lot, but this is the same odds that your toilet injures you, and we all know someone who has the displeasure of a fractured tailbone from sitting down without the lid.
All this is meant to scare you, and I apologize for this, but I’m trying to point out these are serious diseases. The only reason we are debating this is we have lost our collective memory of how horrible these diseases are since vaccines work so well.
Whooping Cough sounds like this in basically 100% of cases: The Sound of Whooping Cough
This cough can last for up to ten weeks. My friends with kids always say how hard it is to get sleep with a newborn. Imagine having your kid cough like that almost constantly for 2.5 months and having to worry that they could die if their fever spikes. Not to mention the medical costs if your child is admitted to the hospital with a 105*F degree fever. How much sleep are you getting, knowing your child might die, and it could have been avoided?
Exposure parties are one of the more dangerous trends in the anti-vax movement. For those of you who have not heard of this, it is the idea that the natural pathogen will be better for your immune system than an “artificial” source. So, if a friend gets, say measles, parents will take their children over and purposely expose them to the disease to get immunity. DO NOT DO THIS. This is one surefire way to put your child in harm’s way. If anyone is actually considering this, let me ask you this: Would you put your child in a room with someone infected with coronavirus (COVID-19)?
What causes autism?
The real question is, “what actually causes autism?”. The short answer is, we don’t really know. In the past, when we didn’t know things, we would try to make ourselves sound smarter by making up some hogwash about miasma and your ethers being out of balance. Now, we are fine with saying, I don’t know. Acknowledging that you don’t know something is the first step in learning. There are thousands of scientists around the world tackling this problem, but like all things in life, it’s complicated.
Autism is like cereal. If I tell you to get some cereal from the grocery store, and that’s all I say, you will spend ten minutes standing in the cereal aisle trying to decide what the heck I meant. Autism is similar. There is probably no magic bullet, and there will be different treatments that will need to be developed once causes are found, but we do have some hints.
One of the biggest predictors of autism is the age of the parents, both mother, and father..The older you are when having kids, the more likely you are to have a child with autism. Another, strangely enough, is the sex of the child. Boys are 4x more likely to be autistic than girls. There are other factors too — none of them are vaccines.
Why is autism actually on the rise?
I don’t have a good answer, but if you will permit me my two cents, I think two factors are contributing to this. First is the improved training of doctors. Fifty years ago, if you had autism or a related disorder, you were labeled “mentally retarded.” Yes, that was an actual medical term that was in official use until 2013. Now, we train doctors to recognize the signs and symptoms of autism, and as such, diagnosis is going up. Secondly, people are having kids later in life, and as I said previously, this is a risk factor for autism. Maybe we should stop talking about what we know is not causing autism and start talking about what does.
A final word to my fellow scientists. This is a frustrating fight but one worth having. However, I think we have been fighting it wrong. I recently read an article that profoundly changed my views on education. In this article, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman was asked a simple question, “what is the ultimate outcome of education?” His answer, “to change your beliefs.” I have been thinking about this statement a lot in the past few months and I realize that he is completely right. Look no farther than the Netflix documentary “Behind the curve.” In this documentary, a flat-earther literally has proof that the Earth is round, shown directly to his face, but rejects this fact because he was never prepared to change his beliefs. As scientists we are trained to change what we believe to be true when confronted with evidence, but the general population is trained oppositely. Think about how hard it would be for you to change your religion or to reject your cultural traditions. That is how hard it is for some people to change their mind about vaccines. It would mean that people they have grown to know and trust are wrong. We can present all the facts and evidence we want, but ultimately it is about understanding people and how belief works. Essentially, it is about getting them to accept the words of the Dalai Lama. “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in [Buddhism] to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” It is something scientists do every day, so I challenge you to try it too.
P.S. As an added bonus, one of my favorite videos on this subject by Penn and Teller: