This started off as a Facebook post but it was becoming ridiculously long and I was just like, “Duh I should blog about this.” I will try to resist expletives and ad hominem attacks, even though my friend Lisa describes his face pretty accurately as a “troll doll someone left to close to a fire.” Okay, only one. I promise (to try).
I did not watch the GOP debate last night because everyone in this house has either some weird lingering cold or allergies and we all feel crummy so everyone was asleep by 8pm. But I did skim over some highlights and there was a white hot bolt of rage that shot through me as the panel touched on the subject of vaccines and autism.
Dr. Ben Carson has been the intelligent moderate in this GOP primary and last night during the debate he was given an easy pitch by the moderator that he should have knocked out of the park. Instead he went for a bunt, and it was underwhelming and disappointing.
Moderator Tapper: Dr. Carson, Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly linked vaccines, childhood vaccines, to autism, which, as you know, the medical community adamantly disputes. You’re a pediatric neurosurgeon. Should Mr. Trump stop saying this?
Dr. Carson: Well, let me put it this way: There has — there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism.
Dude, that was weak. His language borders on ambiguous and one can only ask if it is because he doesn’t want to offend the scientifically illiterate anti-vaccination movement? As the moderator pointed out, Dr. Carson is a pediatric neurologist. He has probably seen and treated autistic children. His answer should have been that 100% yes Donald Trump is wrong it is proven by massive amounts of scientific literature that there is absolutely no connection between vaccines and autism and that a certain worthless blowhard needs to stop running his flappy trap also it’s super ridiculous and offensive to suggest one should abstain from medical treatments that prevent disease and death for fear of autism because autism is not worse than death. Say it all in one breath, Dr. Carson, and say it loud. Run on sentences were made to shine.
Meek responses like Carson’s don’t help combat the onslaught of misinformation and twisting of facts that is the core of the anti-vaccination movement. Like this nonsensical bit Donald Trump offered up later in the debate:
Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.
No, Donald, autism is not an epidemic. An epidemic is defined as a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. Autism is not a disease and is certainly not infectious. You know what did become an epidemic? Measles. Between 2014 and February 2015, 125 people were sickened with this preventable disease, the source stemming from Disneyland, and nearly half of them were unvaccinated. The reemergence of previously diminished and eliminated childhood diseases is a serious concern and there is actual scientific evidence to support immunization. If epidemic is your concern, get vaccinated.
In regards to the latter half of Donald’s statement: Yes, autism rates have increased but unlike thirty years ago we now recognize autism as a spectrum of disorders. Previously only the most severe cases were detected and diagnosed. Higher functioning children, such as those with Aspergers syndrome, fell through the cracks. This increase in autism diagnoses is a good thing. More children are receiving the help they need and they are benefiting at earlier ages. These children have always been here. It is not out of control, Donald, it is the opposite of out of control. Things are getting better, treatments are getting more proactive and therapies more effective. Now if only resources like time and money were not diverted from truly helpful ASD research to debunk the absolutely incorrect suggestion that vaccines cause autism.
The fact remains that correlation does not equal causation. Yes, there are more childhood vaccines given. Yes, there are more cases of autism diagnosed. This is a correlation. It does not support that either of these is the cause of the other. Look at it this way: Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency on June 16th, 2015. On that same day, Putin announced that Russia would be adding 40 ballistic missiles to their nuclear arsenal. There is correlation, meaning they share a mutual or reciprocal relation, in this case they both happened on the same day, but is there causation? Can we say that Trump announcing his presidency caused the Russians to increase their nuclear arms simply because they both happened on the same day? Of course not, we’d have to ignore the basic tenets of the scientific theory to imply that mere correlation could attribute causation.
This whole vaccine debate is infuriating on its own, but when you bring my son, a four-year-old autistic child, into it I have to say something. I have to stand up and speak for Logan, and I have to remind people that autism is not the worst thing that can happen to your child. Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder, not a disease or scare tactic. My son was born this way, and it is part of what makes him Logan. If Donald Trump can’t understand even basic scientific principles or common decency, what business does he have in the White House?
Hippotherapy, another fantastic advancement for autistic children. More autistic children are riding horses than they did thirty years ago, do horses cause vaccines?!