Jade Hanson – Week 12

November 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The battle over whether vaccines cause Autism becomes nastier each year with more and more people being persuaded by unsupported claims.. With the help from other non-scientific politicians in the United States claiming a need for concern and the media portraying the science of the issue in an uncertain way, citizens are focusing too much energy on promoting their claim on whether vaccines do or not cause Autism. Because of the high levels of uncertainty involving ASD science, it is important for people to trust the findings we have and accept that there may never be a for sure answer on whether vaccines cause Autism. It is the job of media workers to report on the scientific findings that have come about and encourage citizens to do more important things like encourage more research or fight for the rights of Autistic individuals.

                In The Autism Spectrum Disorders / Vaccine Link Debate: A Health Social Movement, researchers claim uncertainty is very prevalent in the science of Autism and its relationship to vaccines. While many studies have shown no correlation between vaccines and Autism, the viewpoint of those who stress the uncertainties in Autism science is often featured in journalist pieces. Because this uncertainty is often a key element of journalist pieces, Kerr claims this is fuel for the fire regarding the debate. It is important for debaters to be aware that a finding to completely prove or disprove causation may not be obtainable due to the uncertainties listed by Kerr including etiological uncertainty, diagnostic uncertainty, and media uncertainty. For example, studies on how mercury affects the body will most likely not ever be acceptable because humans cannot be test subjects for such dangerous experiments. While those uncertainties are crucial in understanding the debate, media outlets need to give coverage to studies that disprove a correlation more often than they currently do. While these studies do not prove causation, they are more valid then findings from the other side of the argument.

 In Autism Politics: A Research Agenda, Pitney discusses different groups or opinions on the issue that are often hidden by journalists in the coverage of the debate. Groups with positive and unbiased beliefs such as the Autism Science Foundation encourage more scientific research and public education regarding the issue. If this perspective was highlighted more in the media, it is likely that citizens would react more rationally and channel their focus on finding more evidence for the debate. Also, Pitney also highlights an important group which is RARELY mentioned in news coverage, the opinions of people with autism. Groups such as Autistic Self Advocacy Network focus their energy on gaining a political voice so they can take action for themselves, rather than arguing a debate which may never be solved. If these types of actions were presented in the media more, audiences might better focus their time on aiding those already affected and let the research battle it out instead.

Overall, proving a relationship between Autism and vaccines is difficult. It is important to note how effective vaccines have been since their invention. If media uncertainty is constantly promoted by journalists, more parents may be convinced to not vaccinate their children. This jeopardizes not only the health of those children, but it impacts herd immunity. It is important for both the media and citizens to weigh the risks of both options based on scientific evidence. As of now, it is clear that vaccines do help prevent diseases while their responsibility for causing others is not proven.


The question I pose is, do you think that parents efforts to discredit vaccines are helpful for society or would a fight for more research be more helpful?



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  1. I think a fight for more research would be more helpful. While parents may feel strongly, contrary to science, that vaccines have caused their childs autism, as an activist mentioned in Offit stated – considering autistic children damadged is harmful. Clearly parents of autisitic children are experiencing many challenges, but research into ways to make their children more independant, or more able would be helpful in the longterm. Working to help the autistic, instead of playing blame games with big corporations would help people affected by autism, whos needs seem to be overshadowed by lawsuits and debates that miss the point — how to help children who are already suffering with autism.

  2. I definitely think that a fight for more research, especially research looking for a cure, would be more beneficial. Parents who continually try to discredit vaccines are not helping in the search for answers to what causes autism and what can be done to prevent/cure it. In addition, discrediting vaccines may cause more harm than good, as it may lead to fewer vaccinations and thus more preventable diseases will pop up again.

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