The story they don’t want you to hear
OK guys, I have to tell you something. You’re probably not going to like it. And I’m telling you, they don’t want you to know. They don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to have a discussion about the facts.
It’s about vaccines. I have given all routine vaccines to my children and things really were going as expected up until now. My daughter is 2 and is speaking in full sentences, very active and playful, cracking jokes and making mischief. My 5 year old had been a superstar – speaks like a little old man he is so coherent, loved his letters and doing Montessori math, and . . .well. . after the most recent dose they got at their last well visit, the most UNEXPECTING THING happened.
Absolutely NOTHING. Not even a stinkin’ tear afterward (though they did cry a bit before). They didn’t whine or say they couldn’t use their arm. Not even a fever. The little nutcases were up and running and active right away. They were just as communicative as ever, though I’d have to say that the worst thing about the entire experience was actually the band-aid. It took nearly a week to come off. When it did it still peeled a bit and didn’t fall off easily the way I would have liked. Every mom knows there is nothing worse than removing an ultra-sticky band-aid to make a kid distrust his mommy. (OK maybe combing tangly hair is a close second).
So getting back to those vaccines, they really must be a menace. I mean geez, the number of shots that kids have had to get to prevent diseases that could harm them or children whose immune systems cannot fight these diseases. With the hundreds of thousands of species of bacteria and viruses in our world, maybe it is too much to ask for the scientific community to recommend children get vaccines for 16 of them?
But here’s the crazy thing. Since getting his 5 year old vaccines, my son has learned to read extremely well. He went from reading Bob’s books to reading simple storybooks and the “Mr. Men” and “Little Miss” books he prizes. I wonder if vaccines caused him to be such a strong reader?
But here’s a bigger question. Why the meandering rant?
There’s nothing like a new celebrity wagging his finger at the medical establishment to make a doctor-mom want to vomit. A lot. The most recent iteration: Dr. (okay, not a doctor) Robert DeNiro stating that physicians and researchers have not been paying sufficient attention to the conversation about whether vaccines are related to autism (Antique Spoiler alert: they’re not.) Doctors deal with this issue every day – thanks to the work of charlatans like Andrew Wakefield – and millions of dollars have been spent trying to see if there is a relationship. No relationship has been found. Mr. DeNiro says that “nobody wants to talk about it.” Not true. We talk about it often with patients and we all do our reading and our homework and I have personally read that horrific Wakefield study enough times to know that it’s plainly a bad study, and warrants no documentary, no expose, and certainly no recognition at an internationally renowned film festival. Interesting that DeNiro pulled “Vaxxed” because filmmakers were backing out.
Now my disappointment. Ah the disappointment. I LOVE Robert DeNiro – at least until I saw this ridiculous interview. I remember learning that his son had autism and seeing that he blocked the “Vaxxed” film from Tribeca and me thinking, finally a celebrity who can look at this with a clear eye and not let false views prevail. And then he comes out with his interview. Where I learn that he cares about his finances more than his personal ideals — and that his personal ideals and beliefs themselves are misguided.
We physicians do (and so very much do) want to find out the cause of autism. Having a child diagnosed with autism can be a devastating experience for families, but it does a disservice to the autistic community to argue that vaccines are the cause. All of us want our children and our patients to be healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. But — Evidence shows more and more that autism is present in the brain before birth.
You know the story that nobody wants to hear? That vaccines work and that all of us benefit from vaccines being around and that the use of vaccines has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and has contributed to our longevity and our health. And children who have autism have a medical condition and they are children who have needs, wants, talents, beliefs and aspiration. They are themselves and are a part of our community.
As a medical community we need to figure out how to continue to be empathic with patients and deal with their concerns while also taking on those who support bad science and fake stories. And we need to figure out how to make the true stories prevail.