While the US state of Vermont considers ending parental choice over childhood vaccinations, new research adds weight to arguments that vaccines can cause autism. Clearly, vaccine choice is vital – but will the new evidence sway the vote?
To many people, the very premise of the Vermont debate may seem illogical. Aren’t parents guardians of their children? And as such, isn’t making the crucial decision concerning vaccination not only a right – but an obligation? However, it is mandatory for US children to be vaccinated before they can go to school. Most US states allow exceptions on the basis of religion, and 17 – including Vermont – also allow exemptions based on personal beliefs.
But vaccine advocates want to go even further. They aren’t only utterly convinced that vaccines are both effective and safe; they also put their faith in the highly plausible and scientific sounding theory of ‘herd immunity’. Public health officials point to increased rates of whooping cough (pertussis) in Vermont and elsewhere as evidence that vaccine exemptions lead to resurgence of childhood disease, conveniently ignoring the vaccine’s limited effectiveness. As of today, the exemption hangs in the balance: the Vermont Senate has voted to revoke the philosophical exemption, while the House of Representatives has voted to keep it.
Herd immunity is only a theory, as is the idea that certain vaccines can cause autism. Further evidence of a link came with the recent publication of a pilot study, showing that monkeys given the complete US vaccination schedule exhibited autism-like brain developmental changes.
It is becoming clearer all the time that vaccines are not as safe as the authorities pretend they are – and that, at the very least, parents must be able to choose whether to expose their children to the associated risks. We can only hope that those voting in Vermont will look at the evidence and come to the same conclusion.
Updated: 2 May 2012
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