1 In 4 Parents Buys Unproven Vaccine-Autism Link

By: Carla K. Johnson - AP Medical Writer
By: Carla K. Johnson - AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - One in four U.S. parents believes some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, but even many of those worried about vaccine risks think their children should be vaccinated.

Most parents continue to follow the advice of their children's
doctors, according to a study based on a survey of 1,552 parents.
Extensive research has found no connection between autism and
vaccines.

"Nine out of 10 parents believe that vaccination is a good way
to prevent diseases for their children," said lead author Dr. Gary
Freed of the University of Michigan. "Luckily their concerns don't
outweigh their decision to get vaccines so their children can be
protected from life-threatening illnesses."

In 2008, unvaccinated school-age children contributed to measles
outbreaks in California, Illinois, Washington, Arizona and New
York, said Dr. Melinda Wharton of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Thirteen percent of the 140 who got sick
that year were hospitalized.

"It's fortunate that everybody recovered," Wharton said,
noting that measles can be deadly. "If we don't vaccinate, these
diseases will come back."

Fear of a vaccine-autism connection stems from a flawed and
speculative 1998 study that recently was retracted by a British
medical journal. The retraction came after a council that regulates
Britain's doctors ruled the study's author acted dishonestly and
unethically.

The new study is based on a University of Michigan survey of
parents a year ago, long before the retraction of the 1998 study.
However, much has been written about research that has failed to
find a link between vaccines and autism. Mainstream advocacy groups
like Autism Speaks strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their
children.

"Now that it's been shown to be an outright fraud, maybe it
will convince more parents that this should not be a concern,"
said Freed, whose study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics,
released Monday.

Some doctors are taking a tough stand, asking vaccine-refusing
parents to find other doctors and calling such parents "selfish."

A statement from a group practice near Philadelphia outlines its
doctors' adamant support for government recommended vaccines and
their belief that "vaccines do not cause autism or other
developmental disabilities."

"Furthermore, by not vaccinating your child you are taking
selfish advantage of thousands of other who do vaccinate their
children ... We feel such an attitude to be self-centered and
unacceptable," the statement says, urging those who "absolutely
refuse" vaccines to find another physician.

"We call it the manifesto," said Dr. Bradley Dyer of All Star
Pediatrics in Lionville, Pa.

Dozens of doctors have asked to distribute the statement, Dyer
said, and only a handful of parents have taken their children
elsewhere.

"Parents have said, 'Thank you for saying that. We feel much
better about it,"' Dyer said.

The new study is based on an online survey of parents with
children 17 and younger. It used a sample from a randomly selected
pool of nationally representative participants. Households were
given Internet access if they didn't already have it to make sure
families of all incomes were included. Vaccines weren't mentioned
in the survey invitation and vaccine questions were among others on
unrelated topics.

Twenty-five percent of the parents said they agreed "some
vaccines cause autism in healthy children." Among mothers, 29
percent agreed with that statement; among fathers, it was 17
percent.

Nearly 12 percent of the parents said they'd refused a vaccine
for their children that a doctor recommended. Of those, 56 percent
said they'd refused the relatively new vaccine against human
papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Others
refused vaccines against meningococcal disease (32 percent),
chickenpox (32 percent) and measles-mumps-rubella (18 percent).

Parents who refused the HPV vaccine, recommended for girls since
2006, cited various reasons.

Parents who refused the MMR vaccine, the shot most feared for
its spurious autism link, said they'd read or heard about problems
with it or felt its risks were too great.

The findings will help doctors craft better ways to talk with
parents, said Dr. Gary S. Marshall of the University of Louisville
School of Medicine and author of a vaccine handbook for doctors.

"For our children's sake, we have to think like scientists,"
said Marshall, who was not involved in the new study. "We need to
do a better job presenting the data so parents understand how
scientists have reached this conclusion that vaccines don't cause
autism."
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On the Net:
Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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