DR STUART GUNZBURG BSc. (Hons), PhD., MBA is a South Fremanlte resident who earned his PhD studying infection diseases in Aboriginal children. He held postdoctoral positions at both the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Cornell University in New York where he worked on infectious diseases, including AIDS-related diseases such as tuberculosis. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he lays down some facts about vaccination.
I WOULD like to correct some misinformation presented in the Herald’s Letters page on August 19 (“Waldorf story backlash”, “Measles truth”).
Countless studies have found that there is no association between being given the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
These studies culminated in the research published by Sydney University which examined more than 1.25 million children and found no relationship between commonly-used vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, and autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Researchers also found that thimerosal (a vaccine preservative that has not be used in commonly administered Australian vaccines for over a decade) is not associated with autism or ASDs.
None of the researchers of this study have any conflict of interest associated with funding from pharmaceutical companies.
The only remaining question surrounding MMR and its supposed link to autism and ASDs is how much more money and time do researchers need to prove what’s already proven.
I do not need to refute any information presented in the Vaxxed documentary as the individual behind this work, Andrew Wakefield, has previously falsified research and lost his right to be called doctor.
Clearly, Mr Wakefield has a history of producing misleading information and this is further evidenced from this farcical “documentary”.
With regard to the rate of autism, there has been a move by physicians to improve the early diagnosis of autism to provide early intervention services.
In fact, the clarification of definitions surrounding the identification of autism and ASDs has been one of the leading causes of increased reporting of these disorders. We should be thankful this has led to strategies to assist children suffering from these disorders to live healthy, happy lives.
The correlation between increases in the number of vaccinations and autism is just that, a correlation.
Correlation does not imply causation—the idea that one event leads to another.
There are a number of correlations that occur by chance and are not caused by the two occurrences.
For example the number of Nicholas Cage movies in any one year is correlated with more deaths from drownings. Should we ban Mr Cage from making movies (perhaps from an artistic viewpoint)?
The fact that we see the effects of autism at a time when children receive their first vaccination in no way implies that one is linked to the other.
Measles still remains a serious disease that can cause short-term disabilities ranging from mild fever and rashes or hospitalisation (one in four cases), to more severe complications such as pneumonia (one in 20 cases) and meningitis (one in 1000 cases, which can lead to intellectual disability) or death (1-2 in 1000 cases).
Long-term effects can include auditory and ocular complications to the always fatal bacute sclerosing panencephalitis (1 in 10,000 cases).
Whilst improved hygiene helped reduce the number of measles cases, vaccination has been the leading single treatment that reduced measles infection.
Clearly, there is always a risk with a medical intervention, however, the risks associated with infections like measles, clearly outweigh the risks associated with vaccination.
Finally, it is incumbent on every parent to educate themselves about any medical intervention.
The best source of this information are family general practitioners and State and Federal medical authorities.