The ostriches are plentiful
But their heads are well above the sand. A survey of over 1,500 parents conducted by the University of Michigan, in a story reported by the Associated Press, finds that 25% of those surveyed believe the now bogus connection between autism and vaccinations. However, the survey also found that 90% of respondents believe vaccinations are effective at preventing diseases in healthy children.
The survey was held last year, before the General Medical Council ruled Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s actions dishonest and unethical after a 1998 study suggested a link between autism and immunizations.
The article also reports doctors taking a tougher stance, asking parents who refuse vaccines to find another doctor. The survey is also a sign for doctors to design better ways to communicate how scientists reached a conclusion refuting vaccinations as a cause of autism to parents. Even Autism Speaks, not without its own controversies, encourages parents to vaccinate their children. The CDC reported measles outbreaks in five states in 2008 from unvaccinated school-age children.
The survey confirms what I speculated when word first broke out about Wakefield’s ruling and The Lancet‘s retraction of his study that spurred the hottest firestorm in the autism community. Correcting 12 years of false information will take just as long, if not longer, if history is any precedent (there was a 124-year waiting period before the United States granted women the right to vote and 189 years before the Civil Rights Act finally gave minorities equal rights under the law, although prejudice still exists). Surveys aren’t without faults, but the percentage of people believing the discredited theory is lower than I expected.
I’m up-to-date on all my vaccinations and the last time I checked, I’m still fully functional…wait a minute, I’m autistic. As soon as you find a cause for my case of autism spectrum disorder, send me an e-mail. Hopefully it will fall within my daily window of scheduled e-mail scans, which I maintain just as effectively as NBC does with its television audience 😀
What this also indicates is a lesson for anyone, including aspiring journalists when it comes to addressing controversies. Explain information as clearly as you can to your audience. You’ll be surprised at how many people believe untrue things simply because no one told them the right information. Communication is the reason print reporters, TV reporters and announcers often use simple words in their stories, because that saves us a boatload of time trying to define more complicated ones that you might see in scholarly work or the National Spelling Bee.