In the most comprehensive review of its kind in 17 years, the Institute of Medicine recently released a report on a group of controversial vaccines, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and DTaP vaccine, concluding that they cannot be linked to diseases such as autism and Type 1 diabetes.
The panel of experts was looking for, “a causal effect between vaccines and diseases and side effects,” according to The Huffington Post. “They found that the MMR vaccine was not linked with autism, and that the DTaP vaccine was not linked with Type 1 diabetes. In addition, the panel found that the flu vaccine was not linked with Bell's palsy or worsened asthma.”
Amanda Chan of the HuffPost reports that the panel did note that immunocompromised adults and children can experience side effects with certain vaccines, but that the average person has no cause for concern based on the “best evidence currently available.”
But vaccine skeptic Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, questioned the conclusiveness of the research. She told the HuffPost that there is, “still inadequate evidence in scientific literature ‘either way’ in terms of causation.” Fisher also warned against, “oppressive one-size fits-all mandates from pharma and from organizations,” arguing that parents, “need to make sure we're not bullied."
Parents who believe that vaccinations are linked to autism and other diseases balk at government regulations that bar their unvaccinated children from attending school if they don’t have the required shots.
But those on the opposite side of the argument say not vaccinating violates the rights of others. According to officials at the Centers for Disease Control, "The decision not to vaccinate is a decision for your child but also a decision for society." They say that unlike other medical issues where refusing treatment affects only the patient, refusing vaccinations puts others at risk as well, including newborns and people with suppressed immune systems.
Parents of unimmunized children rely on the vast majority of kids who do get their shots, figuring there’s little polio, measles, chicken pox or other pathogens to be found among so many protected kids. But with recent measles outbreaks in four states, that protection may not be enough. "We are seeing outbreaks that look different, concentrated among intentionally unimmunized people," says an immunization official. "I hope they’re not the beginning of a worse trend."
Tell us what you think: When it comes to vaccinations, do parents have a responsibility beyond their own children? Has the new study from the Institute of Medicine changed your perspective on vaccines?(A portion of this story was previously published as “Sticking Points” on The Responsibility Project on 7/1/08)