My baby is scheduled for his one-year well visit next week and even though I've always believed my pediatrician knows what's best for my children, whenever it's time for the MMR vaccine I have a moment of panic as the tiny needle is inserted. It's an involuntary paranoia that overcomes me, one fueled by a massive campaign by the anti-vaccine movement over the past ten-plus years. Even though intellectually I know that vaccines do not cause autism, the persistent voices of those who disagree have wormed their way into my subconscious enough for me to grab my baby, and his sister before him, a little bit tighter after shot day.
My husband and I both have family members on the spectrum. While the causes of autism are stil unclear, if there is indeed a genetic component our kids would be at risk. Worrying about genetics makes more sense to me than worrying about a vaccine, but I didn't decide that the risk of reproducing was too high. So why do I shudder when my pediatrician lists the vaccines my babies are scheduled for at those milestone appointments?
I blame the hysteria of an emotional movement that while it searches for answers, just might be looking under the wrong rocks. As of Friday, the anti-vaccine crowd had three more strikes against it as judges in three separate cases ruled that thimerosal does not cause autism. In fact, one of the masters in the case, Patricia Campbell-Smith dismissed the arguments and, "...echoed a contention by vaccine defenders that a shot is safer than a tuna sandwich." The argument being mercury levels in tuna eaten by pregnant women are more dangerous to a baby than the vaccine.
Whether it is the tuna sandwich, or BPA or genetics, we do need more research into the root of autism as the numbers of children diagnosed continues to rise. But I sincerely hope that these latest rulings, on top of the repudiations of Dr. Wakefield's research on the MMR vaccine and autism will be enough to keep moms (like me, admittedly) from panicking in the pediatrician's office.