The Autism Chronicles: Once More Into the Vaccine Breach

If this post comes off as ranting, I apologize in advance, that’s probably because it’s ranting. I’m hyped up on coffee, I’m angry as hell, I’m listening to the most metal boss theme in my personal reserve (Red Sun, from the Metal Gear Rising OST) on loop until this is done, and it better be done soon because sweet merciful supernovas, I’m tired of all these hacks running around. If anyone has a high-frequency kit I can apply to my O-katana, that’d be very helpful. Actually, disregard that last part, I’d hate to be taken literally on it by some humorless Interwebs political officer.I’m sure some of you will disagree with me on this. That’s your right, but I beg you to be sure you’re doing it because I didn’t make my point well enough, and not simply because you don’t like considering the idea you could be wrong on this. Because I was needlessly offensive is also acceptable, though as reasons for ignoring an argument go, that’s pretty cheap by itself.

Well, it was nice while it lasted. A piddling three days after attending the START (Statewide Autism Research and Training) conference in Lansing this past Monday and feeling just the slightest bit uplifted about this whole mess, I discover there’s been yet another lovely salvo of anti-vaccine jargon. In sum, a doctor right here in Michigan has decided, based on the exhaustive case study composed of some Autistic children he’s worked with, that the answer to the Autism epidemic is addressing the children’s gastrointestinal tracts. He’s written a book about it, because everyone knows that when a doctor needs to report his findings, he types up something he can sell as opposed to just drafting a goddamn medical report. Not as if doctors are usually some of the highest-paid people outside of Hollywood and corporate executives, right? Regardless- clear out  the digestive tract, that’s simple enough, isn’t it? After all, everyone knows that you can cure neurological disorders by messing around with the guts of a person. There’s just one slight problem with this…

I’m not sure where the idea comes from that ‘most’ children with Autism also have gastrointestinal issues. Actually, let me rephrase: I have a very good idea where, but I’m not going to point fingers (at the moment) until I know for sure. It may be this is actually established fact, but if that’s the case the folks at the START conference must’ve just completely glossed over it. Out of the ten other Autistics I’ve met around campus, none of them have gastrointestinal issues on any meaningful level. There might be some dietary issues, but that’s not the same thing. Of course, the state of the mind can affect the performance of the digestive system, so it might be wise to consider that the children referenced could have GI issues because they’re upset by all these attempts to ‘cure’ them, and not actually because of a direct chemical link to their Autism.

Side note: some of you may read that and immediately think, “Of course, that’s the only way they’ll keep their jobs!” With all due respect, get over yourselves, you drooling throng of hypocrites- I don’t see any of you jumping at the chance to spend years of your life helping people to cope with a disorder that, by its very nature, causes angry feedback loops. Working with Autistic children is hard, did you know that? And yes, I’m qualified to make that statement. The sort of person in it for money wouldn’t stick around- for that matter, they would’ve put their time into a more lucrative field, such as becoming a medical doctor. If you think this has anything to do with maintaining an industry, you’re mistaken. All these would-be one-shot solutions are futile; the only functional silver bullet I ever heard of is the M829 APFSDS tank round used by the Army in the Gulf War.

Now then, let me be clear: I’m not dismissing the possibility that vaccines cause (or are cause, more likely) of Autism. Bunt until there’s enough research to either bring that campaign to the  fore, or lay it to rest, I think demanding that we invert the entire system of vaccination (or do away with it entirely, even worse) is a very stupid course of action. Yes, stupid. If a teenager decides to get drunk and drive on the highway 180 MP in the middle of a blizzard, that fully justifies the forthcoming Darwin award for crashing into a tree and being pulped. Getting rid of something critical to preventing dozens of lethal illnesses is at least as stupid as that.

Don’t even think of saying ‘vaccines don’t even work!’ Right, so Measles (which killed 2.6 million people a year before the vaccine in 1980) just decided to stop pestering us on its own (viruses and bacteria are, by all indications, not sentient). It most strongly affects children, as with many diseases, so think about that when Jenny McCarthy talks about Measles as preferable to Autism. As for what a vaccine is, I would’ve hoped most of you had middle-school science for long enough to learn that it’s just an artificial jump-start on antibodies. The fact that you’ve had a cold dozens of times in your life will not make you any more immune (meaningfully, anyway) if your brother brings his family over for Christmas and his three daughters are all hacking up a storm.

By the way, ever heard of Yellow Fever? It killed 5,000 people in three months back in 1793. This was all in one city, Philadelphia, at a time when the city’s population was a relatively tiny 50,000. If we were to have these outbreaks in a modern city, things would be much, much worse. I’m all for addressing the overpopulation issue, but I think you’re going about it the wrong way. Yellow fever is very common in mosquitoes, by the way, which is where all human cases comes from originally. I’m eager to hear about your comprehensive plan for killing every mosquito on the North American continent without, say, saturating all our crops in toxins for the next century.

That’s my vaccine yammer out of the way for now. As to the Autism ‘epidemic’: Yes, the rates are rising. The number of children with Autism has doubtless risen at least a bit, since there’s reason to believe it may be hereditary and in any case more people mean more cases of anything. But stop slinging around numbers like ‘1 in 68 children!’ Firstly, the diagnosis now includes a number of ‘higher-functioning’ disorders such as Aspergers- which you may recall hasn’t stopped me from doing much of anything- so there’s a bit of padding going on, and secondly, more diagnoses means more diagnoses. More doctors are applying the Autism diagnosis- that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the increasing amount of research and growing skill in noticing the symptoms, could it? Nah, that’s absurd!

Last of all, think back to the Black Plague. Google it if you’ve somehow forgotten the most devastating viral outbreak in the history of mankind. Then, once you’ve caught up with the average 3rd Grader, go deeper- dig up some info on the kind of things that happened in that timeframe. Such as, for example, the countless profiteers offering miracle ‘cures’ that did absolutely f*** all to stop people choking on their own fluids and dying. Vaccines work. They don’t work perfectly by any means (human error, folks,) but they work. None of these ‘solutions’ have been tested, and until they’re collectively proven to be 100% effective at stopping a non-lethal neurological disorder, and vaccines are conclusively proven to contribute to Autism’s rise on a meaningful level, to swap disease prevention for an en-masse placebo effect is ridiculous.

Oh, as to the parents reporting that their children had reactions after getting vaccinated: the human body reacts to everything. The fact that your child turned out Autistic later would be meaningful to me only if you could demonstrated that the majority of children who had such fits later developed Autism. Anecdotal evidence is emotionally compelling; that’s great if you want to make people cry and get donations, but it’s not science. You’re trying to protect your children, I get that; that’s precisely why I won’t listen to any number of stories by themselves. People have deluded themselves on a much larger scale than this to ideas much more harmful; nationalism comes to mind, for one. Your parental affection is wonderful most of the time- but emotion clouds judgement, we all know that.

If it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have typed up this article just to be yelled at by people who obviously know more about this than I do.

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