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Is Changing The Vaccine Schedule Enough? by Sandy Gottstein

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I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the politically correct thing to say, or because most people who are concerned about the likely relationship between vaccines and autism actually believe it, but changing the vaccine schedule has become the mantra of our autism times.  “Let’s go back to the 1983 schedule” some have said, before there was this huge rise in autism.  Or whatever schedule is eventually deemed the autism culprit.

But what will reverting to an earlier schedule really solve?  If you’re only concerned about autism, it might solve a lot.  And stopping the rise in autism is certainly a laudable goal.    

I would submit, however, that if the autism community in the end concentrates only on autism, they would be doing to others what was done to them.  By ignoring all the other damage vaccines may be causing, they would be treating the parents experiencing it and voicing their concerns as the understandably misguided in search of a scapegoat.  Or even worse, as unimportant. 

Had we listened to earlier reports of vaccine-injured or dead children, the entire autism fiasco might have been avoided.  Had we insisted on properly designed studies, not ignored those earlier studies that showed evidence of harm, and demanded the right to choose not only our schedules, but whether or not to vaccinate at all, we might not be in this mess.

Lest we forget, people like Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC didn’t get involved in this issue just for the fun of it.  She had a severely vaccine-damaged non-autistic child and was as a consequence spurred to co-write “A Shot in the Dark”.  Lest we forget, her child was vaccinated under the old schedule.  Others like her have tried over the years to get the public’s attention, to little avail.  It took the damage reaching epidemic proportions for the public to take notice, but only because parents of these autistic children are insisting that the vaccines caused the harm, there are too many of them to ignore, and we now have a public forum in the Internet.
Although I see clear signs that many in the autism community understand this, with calls for studies of never-vaccinated children in the hopes of determining whether or not vaccines are related not only to autism incidence, but to the rise in chronic disease and other modern afflictions plaguing our children, I fear that once any connection between autism and vaccines has been resolved that many in the autism community will wearily turn their backs on the rest.

I know it’s asking a lot.  The plates of families with autism are more than full and I can imagine the relief such resolution would bring.  But if the huge autism community stays involved, there is hope like never before that we will find out if SIDS, shaken baby syndrome (What could be worse, to have your baby die from vaccination and be charged with murder?), the rise in asthma, auto-immune disorders, allergies, childhood cancers – I could go on and on – are related to one or more vaccines. 

On the one hand, we can all hope they are not related.  Who in their right mind would want vaccines to cause harm?  On the other hand, if vaccines are the cause, having an answer to why these afflictions are rising in incidence might well mean an end to the carnage.  

Moreover, until and unless parents have the absolute right to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children, the vaccine manufacturers have no incentive to make them safer (to whatever extent that is possible). Of course, having their liability covered hasn’t made the vaccines safer, either, although the Poling case may have changed all that.

Let the free market determine whether or not and which vaccines are used.* 

I know those seeking answers to the autism question do not want to appear anti-vaccine.  But being in favor of valid, reliable studies, untainted by conflict of interest and for human rights should not be permitted to be characterized in that way.  Being pro genuinely informed choice is simply not anti-vaccine.  It is in our power to change that characterization.   As Ed Arranga so eloquently pointed out in his Age of Autism column, “Words Win Wars”, it is also incumbent upon us that we communicate our meaning.  We cannot allow others to define us and how our words are used.

Those families with vaccine damage unrelated to autism are surely praying for the answer to the cause(s) of autism, and if it is vaccine-induced, that we don’t flinch from the truth.  Just as surely, however, they must be hoping to finally be seen and heard, once the hard, cold facts are known. 

Our vigilance and attention to the question of vaccines must not end with resolution of the autism crisis.  We must be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

*For more on the question of mandatory vaccinations, see the “Scandals” columns  On cheating “the other guy”   and Forced Vaccinations - Musings on what the road to Hell is paved with .

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 4-11-2008

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)