This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Note on Perceived Bias in the Vaccine Safety Debate

When people ask me for information about vaccine safety, they almost always emphasize that they are looking for "unbiased" information, and that they feel that much of what is out there regarding vaccines is biased.  I'm not going to argue with this, I am not overjoyed with the general quality of vaccine information easily available, but this is not different than the quality of information available on any other health topic. However, people tend to hold very strong opinions on this subject as compared to many other heath issues, and I do think that "strongly held opinion" is often misinterpreted as "bias".  Whether or not an opinion is "strongly held" is a separate question from whether it is informed and evidence-based.  I strongly believe that it is wrong to beat children.  This isn't just a bias, it is an opinion based on the evidence of how harmful this is.   

A bias is when someone comes to a conclusion first, and then only considers the evidence or information that upholds their idea, dismissing the rest.  If someone begins with an open question such as "what is the truth about vaccine safety?", looks at the evidence, and THEN comes to a conclusion, that is not biased, even if the conclusion is very firmly held.  That merits repeating- a conclusion or opinion is not necessarily a bias.  I think part of the source of this confusion is that in the US, and probably in many other western countries, there is this idea that "the truth is in the middle", that all ideas and opinions are equally worthy of being considered regardless of how informed they are.  This is absurd- if someone is accused of murder, either they did it or they didn't, the truth isn't always somewhere in the middle.  Just like in a criminal court case, we can look at the available evidence and consider the incentives and motivations of those involved.  We may never know the exact truth for sure, but we can make an educated and informed guess.  That is not the same thing as speculation and bias.

I find it ironic that it is commonplace in the mainstream media for the motivations of parents to be questioned and doubted, while the motivations of researchers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies who stand to gain billions of dollars are assumed to be lily-white and above reproach.  What do these parents have to gain?  "Someone to blame" the media would say.  Let me tell you, I know many many parents who do believe that vaccination played a part in their child's regression, and none take comfort in this.  Instead many parents feel terrible guilt at having gone into such a major health decision without having done more research or with so much trust.  Many parents have said that they wished that it was something else, something that they hadn't participated in, held their child down for, something completely beyond their control.  The only two things that I see parents trying to "gain" (if you can call it that) is recognition and accountability for what happened to their children, and to save future families from this fate.  Is that more questionable of a motivation than people who stand to make billions of dollars in profits?