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Archive for the ‘fairness’ Category

Let me be perfectly blunt. I may do that with you, may I not? I mean, if you are here reading my blog then you have some sense of me by now, I hope.

I HATE choosing sides. I can’t help it; I’m a true Libran, always striving for balance and even-handedness even in my zealous passions. I am also a reformed journalist. My training dictates that I try to see all sides of an issue and leave my opinion out of things. Because, really, in the end, your own opinion has to matter more to you than mine, right? And so I feel about the ongoing debate about whether vaccines cause autism.

If I had to come down on one side or another, I would have to say that I do not believe vaccines cause autism. Certainly, if that were the case the entire vaccinated civilization as we know it would all be autistic. Hell, maybe we are and we just don’t recognize it? I mean no disrespect to anyone with my flippancy, truly. But I just don’t think it’s the sole mitigating factor in what made my son autistic.

I think it may, in fact, be possible that vaccines and a number of other necessary interventions used during my son’s early life have all had an impact on how he perceives and functions in our environment. But I think that would be the case for any child born three months prematurely, weighing a mere nineteen ounces, and requiring multiple life-saving surgeries within the first four months of life. Vaccinated or not, that child would face significant hurdles in their young life.

However, in the interest of fairness —and pandering to the pull of my Libran traits —I understand those people who are convinced that vaccines caused their child’s autism. I’m not saying that I think they are right; let me be very clear. What I am saying is that I understand and respect their right and privilege to feel and think what they do.

I look at this debate much like I look at religion —specifically, the belief in God. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary —Darwinism, Big Bang theories, etcetera—millions of people believe with all their heart and soul that God created the Universe and all its inhabitants. Me? I think it’s something of a mixed bag; that science and religion are not that neatly separated despite man’s fervent need to make them so. It is about faith. Do you put your faith in science or in the things that seem to make sense even if you can’t explain them or back them up with anything besides a feeling? It is up to the individual to decide. No matter what scientific evidence one presents to a person of deep religious faith, they will not be swayed from their stance. And vice versa.

In either case, though, one’s beliefs do not give them the right to force them on others. And that seems to be happening a lot right now —especially from people and organizations who are utterly convinced that vaccines are the cause of autism. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, there are those who would rather cry conspiracy and cover up than look in other directions. There are those who espouse any number of non-traditional treatments —medical and otherwise— and claim to have cured their children. Maybe they have in their own minds. Or maybe those children weren’t truly autistic but subject to something else which can mimic some autistic characteristics? I’m not saying they were or weren’t. I’m saying I don’t know. There’s not enough evidence to convince me. But their voices are loud; they want to drown out any voice that doesn’t sing the same tune.

Last I checked, this was still a democratic nation with freedom of speech. Whether or not you like what’s being said is not necessarily as important as the fact that you have an opportunity to hear all the messages. So, in the interest of fair and even-handed coverage, I offer you this letter from Susan Stevens Martin of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Please read the following and then decide for yourself where you stand, how you feel, and what part you want to take in this ongoing issue. ‘Cause it’s not going away anytime soon, folks!

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(Text of Susan Stevens Martin’s letter begins here.)

Hello,

As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.

Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.

We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.

If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of parents from a wide range of geographical areas.

As the Jenny McCarthy and “Eli Stone” stories illustrate, this issue is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP recommendations.

The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.

Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.

Thank you,
Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics
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If you are interested in participating, please contact Susan Stevens Martin directly at ssmartin@aap.org.

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ETA: If you would like to read posts on this topic —from individuals who are far more articulate and erudite than I am —please check out the Autism Hub web site. ON this site you will also find numerous blogs written by autistic individuals, family members, and professionals; they cover a broad spectrum (sorry for the bad pun!). You’ll find a little something for everyone there.

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