Dr Ari Brown, a pediatrician and author (books in photo), was on Dr Oz yesterday. She was asked to join a discussion about autism. Dr Brown is a board-certified developmental pediatrician, a mom to two, and an advocate for science. She is passionate and clear about what she believes. She is speaking all over the country about how to protect children from illness, particularly when making decisions about vaccines. She contributed ideas in my series in late 2010 entitled, “Do You Believe in Vaccines: part I, part II, and part III.” On Dr Oz, she was asked to contribute to a discussion about autism that ultimately focused on fears about vaccines. I worry the discussion wasn’t a representation of most American families and even Autism Speaks refused to join the show.
She’s shared with me a blog post she wrote after being on the show. Many other pediatricians are writing about the show; read Dr Natasha Burgert’s post, too. On the show, Dr Brown sat next to Dr Bob Sears, a pediatrician who deviates from the recommended AAP schedule and had a chance to discuss her take. She sheds light on what we can do as parents to really understand. Thanks, Dr Brown.
I am thankful, Dr Oz, for the opportunity to participate in your autism show. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and I hoped the show would help educate the public and move the conversation forward.
As a pediatrician who talks with families everyday in my office, I know parents want to know more about both vaccine safety and about autism. I’m also a mom. Like you, I need accurate information to protect my kids as best as I can.
I am concerned that viewers took away a very inaccurate view of vaccines. The most vocal audience members represent a small minority. Most parents of children with autism agree with the scientific evidence and do not believe that vaccines cause autism.
And, an overwhelming number of healthcare providers worldwide do not believe vaccines and autism are linked. What viewers witnessed on the show was far from the norm.
Also, most parents in this country support vaccinations. In fact, 99.4% of American children under 3 years of age are vaccinated.
I base vaccination decisions for my patients and my own children on science, not anecdotes or conspiracy theories. I’m passionate about vaccinations because I watched a child die from chickenpox—a vaccine-preventable illness. I refuse to let another child become a statistic because of hearsay. I’m compassionate towards families whose children have autism, because I have personally walked that road with several patients.
These are the messages that resonate with me, as a parent and a doctor. I hope they will resonate with you.
1. Multiple studies conducted by academic institutions worldwide—which are not funded by pharmaceutical companies—have shown that vaccines do not play a role in autism. Here are the studies. Vaccine safety concerns have not been ignored. In fact, they have been addressed appropriately.
2. Delaying or selectively choosing some vaccinations has absolutely no benefit and only risk. It does not prevent autism, but leaves the youngest children vulnerable to serious infections. The diseases that vaccines protect against can cause disabling health problems or death—and they are often the most severe in younger children. They are not minor illnesses. Here are the diseases preventable by vaccination.
3. The vaccination schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control has been studied extensively by the most respected group of experts in their field. The time frame provides the safest, most effective way to give certain vaccines together.
4. Dr Bob Sears, a panelist on the show who supports a delayed vaccination schedule, has said, “My schedule doesn’t have any research behind it. No one has ever studied a big group of kids using my schedule to determine if it’s safe or if it has any benefits.” (“The Truth about Vaccines and Autism.” iVillage, September 2009). Since that statement, a 2010 study showed that children whose shots were delayed were just as likely to develop autism as those who were vaccinated on time. As one father on the show said so eloquently, the point of delaying shots seems to be just to make parents feel like they are doing something, when in reality, the decision puts their child at risk.
5. While it was not addressed on the show, the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and its association to autism have been debunked. The scare began with a report in a British medical journal in 1998 that was recently retracted. Over the past decade, researchers dutifully tried to duplicate the findings of that report and no one ever could. The question was asked, and it was answered.
6. It’s true—today’s children get more shots than we did as kids. Modern medicine now provides protection against twice as many deadly, disabling diseases. That’s a good thing! For instance, there is now protection against three different forms of bacterial meningitis. Infectious diseases are everywhere. No one can predict when a child will be exposed. And, even in the era of modern medicine—when someone becomes infected with a vaccine-preventable disease, it is usually too late or there is nothing to treat the infection. Prevention is key.
7. Parents, healthcare providers, and researchers all seek answers for autism spectrum disorders. We will be most successful by working together with the same goal–to discover the true causes of autism.
My advice to parents is to examine the scientific evidence for themselves. Your child’s health is too important to base decisions on inaccurate information. Seek reliable sources for medical information. Go to the AAP website and talk to your child’s doctor. As pediatricians, many of whom are parents too, we vaccinate our own children to protect them. We wouldn’t do anything differently for your child.
For more information on autism see this link.