On January 21, 2011, CNN.com ran an Op-Ed by Dr. Rahul K. Parikh stating that parents of unvaccinated children should pay substantially higher insurance rates than those who are in compliance. He argued that the discrediting of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, once and for all, settled the issue of vaccines and autism. Furthermore, it was suggested that the obstinate parents who refused to be convinced, must now pay exorbitant premiums for their unvaccinated children, who are putting everyone else at risk.
Dr. Parikh´s central premise that the repudiation of one study settles this issue once and for all is illogical, if not ludicrous.
When asked if there is life elsewhere in the universe Carl Sagan sagely replied, ¨Absence of proof is not proof of absence." The same can be said for the vaccine controversy. The disgracing of a single study does not constitute proof that there is no correlation between the rise in autism and the rise in the number and types of vaccinations required by law.
Dr. Jacqueline McCandless, the brilliant clinician and autism expert came to Dr. Wakefield´s defense by circulating a petition stating, ¨Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield’s findings of gastrointestinal pathologies in a subgroup of children with autism are very important. His persecution is akin to the persecution of Semmelweis¨.
For the unknowing, of which I was one, Ignaz Semmelweis was the nineteenth century Hungarian physician who advocated hand washing by staff in hospitals to reduce infection. He was ruthlessly scorned, then later vindicated (You can read Dr. McCandless´ entire statement at the Age of Autism).
Rather than ending the vaccine debate altogether, the current media blitz of the dangers of Dr. Wakefield and his study have intensified the need for more clear-eyed, impartial research by scientists whose only aim is to find the truth,
whatever that may be.
The cynic in me says this will never happen, but the idealist says it must. The backlash against Dr. Wakefield and the questioning of parents is evidence that the plates of society’s bedrock assumptions are bumping up against each other and inexorably shifting.