How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Hurts Autistic Families

Many people see Jenny McCarthy battling doctors to save or recover her son as being anti-autism.
Many people see Jenny McCarthy battling doctors to save or recover her son as being anti-autism.

People have different reasons for skipping or delaying vaccines.

Some are simply scared of things they have heard from friends or family members – the common anti-vaccine myths and misinformation that float around on Facebook.

Others feel that either they or someone in their family has been a victim of a vaccine injury. While vaccine injuries are real, as no vaccine is 100% safe, these injuries almost certainly don’t occur as often as some people think they do.

Consequences of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Although the anti-vaccine movement has been around as long as there have been vaccines, we are starting to see new consequences.

In addition to harming herd immunity levels and triggering outbreaks, by pushing their anti-vaccine ideas, many of these folks often hurt autistic families too.

How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Hurts Autistic Families

Many people think that the anti-vaccine message is anti-autism.

“Autism, as I see it, steals the soul from a child…”

Dr. Jerry Kartzinel writing in the introduction to Jenny McCarthy’s first autism book Louder Than Words

Why?

In addition to the imagery of a soulless child, Jenny McCarthy said multiple times that it would be better to have a life threatening vaccine-preventable disease instead of autism. Folks would line up for it she said.

This “deficit model” of thinking about autism, “which focuses almost exclusively on impairments and limitations, ultimately leads us to see autistic individuals as broken people who are ill and, as my child’s first psychologist explained, need to be fixed.”

“I look at autism like a bus accident, and you don’t become cured from a bus accident, but you can recover.”

Jenny McCarthy

Hopefully, no one looks at their autistic child and thinks about a child in a bus accident, or a child who has lost their soul, been kidnapped by autism, or that they have a damaged child.  That kind of thinking is offensive to many, and hopefully more and more people.

Other reasons the anti-vaccine message is often seen as anti-autism include that:

  • Anti-vaccine/anti-autism rhetoric might get in the way of a parent accepting their child’s diagnosis of autism.
  • They push expensive, often unproven, sometimes disproven, and dangerous  non-evidence based biomedical treatments and cures on hopeful parents of autistic kids. Things like bleach enemas (miracle medical solution), chemical castration with Lupron, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chelation, restrictive diets, stem cell therapy, raw camel milk, vitamin supplements, antifungal drugs for Candida, secretin injections, and so on, etc.
  • They waste resources. Every dollar that is spent defending vaccines, refuting an antivaccine study, controlling an outbreak, or on a MAPS doctor (the new DAN! doctors), is a dollar that cannot be invested in the needs of actually autistic people and their families.
  • They lead others from understanding that “communicating a strengths-based approach to autism may not only afford autistic patients the respect and dignity they deserve, but may also help family members better understand and support their loved ones.”
  • It leads to ableist messaging when we respond to anti-vaccine fears by saying “don’t worry, vaccines don’t cause autism” without pointing out that “autism and neurodiversity are far from the worst things that could happen to a parent.”

The anti-vaccine movement also harms the relationship many of these parents have with their pediatrician (who they characterize as vaccine pushers controlled by Big Pharma), pushing them to alternative providers who will be more likely to pander to their fears about vaccines and allow their kids to follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule. These are often the same types of providers who push biomed treatments, instead of more standard therapies that a pediatrician or neurologist might recommend, who would also be more likely to explain that “autistic children can and do exhibit improvement in their symptoms simply through growth and development.”

And of course, in addition to being anti-autism, the anti-vaccine movement is typically anti-science.

Sarah Kurchak sums it up well in her recent article, Here’s How the Anti-Vaccination Movement Hurts Autistic People, saying that “The anti-vaccine argument is wrong in both the scientific and moral sense.”

“A huge thing for parents in the anti-vaccine movement is the emotional support. The talk of cures and biomedical interventions is almost secondary to the feeling of connectedness with other parents. A lot of the appeal of the community is just being able to talk to people who can relate to what you’ve been through.”

Seth Mookin author of The Panic Virus

It is certainly understandable to want and need support, but parents of autistic children should know that they can get that support from other parents who don’t think that their child is damaged.

In advocating for vaccines, I refuse to stigmatize autistic people.
In advocating for vaccines, I refuse to stigmatize autistic people. I will use neurodiversity over ableist messaging.

What To Know About the Anti-Vax Movement Hurting Autistics

Autism is not vaccine damage. Instead of a deficit model, it is best seen through a neurodiversity model, which “sees autistic individuals as possessing a complex combination of cognitive strengths and challenges.”

More on How Anti-Vax Movement Hurts Autistic Families

Save

Save

3 thoughts on “How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Hurts Autistic Families

  1. This is a foolishly written article that assumes you know the answer to whether vaccines are a risk that is worth the reward. That answer is not yet known. We are learning more about disease and the pathophysiology of disease every year. Things we did not know last year. The role of mitochondria in aging and disease for example. If people want to question vaccine therapy then let them. They are operating on a higher level than you are as a doctor. I do like some of your ideas on autism. I believe the rise in autism apart from increased survival rates and better record keeping has to do with more recently developed cellular and genetic fragility brought about by a multifactorial change in what we eat, what we are exposed to over time and how cellular metabolism has been affected by these influences. Thomas Seyfried’s work on Cancer and the diet shows that in order to get the most potential out of our genetic structure we should live like we were designed, to slightly starve a bit over the course of say a week.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s