Example Of Research Paper On Myths And Misinformation In Human Health And Disease
Autism, Aspergers’s syndrome, and pervasive development disorders are conditions which affect children during their early childhood (Scahill & Bearss, 2009). These disorders are characterized by deficits in socialization and communication as well as unusual interests and repetitive behaviours (Scahill & Bearss, 2009). The aetiology of the diseases is yet to be fully elucidated and is the subject of myths, conjecture, and wide ranging debate. A debate about a possible link between autism and vaccines in a prime-time TV show and government settlements under the vaccine protection program are some of the recent events in relation to the issue (Scahill & Bearss, 2009). This paper will provide an overview of the issue and its relevance to the course. It will also describe the different perspectives to the debate and discuss my personal views on the issue.
Overview of the Issue and its Relevance to the Course
Currently, the prevalence of Autism is estimated to be 20 per 10 000 children. This prevalence rate is significantly higher to the pre-1980 rate which was only 4 cases per 10 000 children (Scahill & Bearss, 2009). The combined prevalence of Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive development disorder (60 to 65 children per 10,000 children) is also much higher than previously recorded (Scahill & Bearss, 2009).
The debate about a link between vaccines and Autism is based on two contentions. The first proposal is based on the toxic effects of thimerosal which contains an ethyl mercury preservative. The second argument is hinged on the potential adverse effects of the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine (Scahill & Bearss, 2009). The vaccine and autism debate is about two decades old. By late 1996, the Autism epidemic had attracted the notice of many parents in the UK (Rimland, 2000). At that time, 150 families believed that the cause of Autism in their children was the MMR vaccine which was being given as a single shot as opposed to three separate vaccines (Rimland, 2000). Currently, a significant number of people still believe that vaccines cause autism. This is in spite of the fact that there is no scientific evidence on a relationship between Autism and vaccines (Woo et al., 2004). For example, only 15% of parents believe that vaccines are important (Woo et al., 2004).
The view that Vaccinations Cause Autism
Thimerosal, which is used to prevent bacterial contamination, is a mercury based preservative (“Study finds,” 2004). Mercury is known for its toxicity on the brains and nervous systems of fetuses and young children (“Study finds,” 2004). Thimerosal was, however, not an issue of safety previously because the amount in each vaccine was insignificant (“Study finds,” 2004). These days though thimerosal is an issue because the mercury administered to infants in their first months of life has tripled (“Study finds,” 2004). The increase in the mercury content of thimerosal has strengthened the belief that Autism is caused by this mercury (“Study finds,” 2004). This notion seems to be supported by statistics that indicate that the prevalence rate of autism during the 1980’s and early 1990’s was ten times less current figures (“Study finds,” 2004).
The View that Vaccinations do not Cause Autism
Findings from current studies suggest that Autism has a large hereditary component (Recame, 2012). Further, numerous studies have indicated that there is no link between vaccines and serious diseases (Recame, 2012). Shan (2011) also noted that there is no epidemiological study which supports the idea of an association between autism and MMR (Shan, 2011). There are, however, scientific studies which show no relationship between Autism and MMR triple vaccine. For example, a study in Japan showed that Autism rates are constantly increasing in spite of a decreased uptake of the MMR vaccine (Shan, 2011). Similarly in the USA, it has been seven years since thimerosal was removed from all vaccines other than the flu vaccine but the prevalence of Autism is still increasing (Gorski, 2007). Gorski (2007) also contended that the incident of Autism is higher in children born after 1992 who did not get the MMR vaccine than in children born before 1992 who got the MMR vaccine. McGuinness & Lewis (2010) attribute the increase in the number of Autism cases to heightened awareness on the disorder, availability of more treatment options, and reclassification of disorders.
Discussion on the Importance of Vaccines
Vaccines have saved millions of life in the world (McGuinness & Lewis, 2010). Because of them, the life expectancy of the society has increased and a huge burden of suffering and disability around the world eliminated (McGuinness & Lewis, 2010). Gorski (2007, p. 125). asserts that “vaccination is the most effective public health intervention ever developed.” He further contends that compared to the diseases that vaccines prevent, the risks due to vaccines are much lower (Gorski, 2007).Vaccines prevent health complications of diseases such as measles which causes encephalitis and seizures, mumps which causes testicular problems, and rubella which can result in birth defects including mental retardation (McGuinness & Lewis, 2010). Martin (2013) also noted that measles can cause pneumonia, meningitis, serious eye disorders, and even death. He further warns that if vaccinations are stopped, the diseases which are prevented by these vaccines will increase. Unvaccinated persons are at a high risk for contracting the measles virus which causes respiratory diseases, miscarriage, and even death (Recame, 2012). For instance, an estimated 200 000 people die from measles every year worldwide. Notably, postponement or avoidance of immunizations puts children as well as communities in danger of possible outbreaks (Recame, 2012).
There is no published evidence supporting a link between Autism and vaccines. In spite of this, many parents still believe vaccines can cause immune dysfunction, attention deficit disorder, and autism. Therefore, psychiatric nurses should educate parents with young children who have questions about autism and MMR vaccine and place emphasis on the importance of vaccination. Health care providers are in a position to provide appropriate information to parents who believe vaccinations can lead to autism.
Baker, J. (2008). Mercury, vaccines, and autism: One controversy, three histories. American
Gorski, D. (2007). Mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders
(ASDS): A failed hypothesis. Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine,1123-1128.
Martin, J. (2013). Believe It. Practice Nursing, 24(5), 213.
McGuinness, T., & Lewis, S. (2010). Update on autism and vaccines. Journal of Psychosocial
Nursing & Mental Health Services, 48(6), 15-18. doi:10.3928/02793695-20100506-02
Recame, M. A. (2012). The Immunization- Autism Myth Debunked. International Journal of
Childbirth Education, 27(4), 76-78.
Rimland, B. (2000). The autism epidemic, vaccinations, and mercury including commentary by
Downing D. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 10(4), 261-269.
Scahill, L., & Bearss, K. (2009). The rise in autism and the mercury myth. Journal of Child &
Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 22(1), 51-53. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6171.2008.00152.x.
Shan, Y. (2011). Strategies to improve vaccination uptake rates. Primary Health Care, 21(2), 16-
Study finds no autism link to mercury in childhood vaccinations — findings are challenged.
(2004). HealthFacts, 29(1), 5-6.
Woo, E., Ball, R., Bostrom, A., Shadomy, S., Ball, L., Evans, G., & Braun, M. (2004). Vaccine
risk perception among reporters of autism after vaccination: Vaccine adverse event
reporting system 1990-2001. American Journal of Public Health, 94(6), 990-995.