Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who first concluded that autism and the MMR vaccine were linked, was found guilty of over 30 charges by the General Medical Council last week. He has been on trial for more than two years. You can read the Fitness to Practice Panel documents here:
All over the internet, people are spouting reactions. Clearly, I’m a fan of the internet, and opinion spouting, but tonight I am concerned about the larger effects of this extended controversy.
The vaccine debate is possibly the most divisive quarrel in the greater autism community (meaning people with autism, and their parents, doctors, and general entourage), and it has sapped a lot of our potential strength. I can’t even imagine the total amount of time and money we have spent researching, writing, analyzing, griping, gossiping arguing, blaming, defending, and promoting different sides of this issue. The fact that most of us who participate in this debate are immensely unqualified to speak scientifically about it does not seem to faze us, and, accordingly, the internet is littered with impassioned statements with little to no academic references.
Meanwhile, while we furiously type un-referenced diatribes, our growing community, which most of us agree is under-supported and poorly understood, has to make do without us. When we spend our energy pointing fingers at each other and howling about the idiocy and fraudulent nature of each other’s arguments, we lessen our potential as a united force for good.
I understand that many people feel THEIR vaccine argument just MIGHT be saving incoming children either by keeping them from being vaccinated, or by maintain herd-immunity, and I acknowledge the possibility of this kind of contribution. However, I want to point out that when we non-researchers put our energy towards creating empowered, positive attitudes and programs in our communities (see a list below for ideas), we aren’t gambling with our efforts. We can be reasonably assured that we are contributing positively in a community which can’t afford to waste any energy.