Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad, by Peter J. Hotez (author), P.J. Ochlan (narrator)

Tantor Audio, ISBN 9781541449817, October 2018

Peter Hotez is a pediatrician, a vaccine scientist specializing in neglected tropical diseases, neglected mainly because they affect mostly very poor people, and the father of an autistic daughter.

It's the intersection between his specialization in vaccines, and the fact that he has an autistic daughter, that has given him perhaps more public attention than he really enjoys. Well, that, and that fact that is not shy about speaking up about the absolute nonsense that is the anti-vaccine movement.

It's important to realize that the modern anti-vaccine movement started in 1998, when Andrew Wakefield, who was then a British physician, and twelve colleagues published a paper in the Lancet, purporting to prove that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine caused autism in children. This was a startling and alarming conclusion, and new epidemiological studies were conducted--and no one could replicate the results. It was known that Wakefield's "study" only involved twelve patients. What wasn't initially known is that he was paid by attorneys undertaking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers, that he and his team had conducted invasive procedures on the children without obtaining ethical clearance, and lied about their results. Eventually, due to journalistic investigation rather than the procedures the Lancet should have had in place, all of this came out, and the Lancet had to take the unusual step of fully retracting the paper. In addition, in 2010, which personally I find to be an appalling delay, Andrew Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register, losing his right to practice medicine.

He moved to Texas, which is where Peter Hotez ultimately moved with his family, in the furtherance of his goal of conducting well-funded research on developing vaccines for more of those neglected tropical diseases than his previous positions had made possible.

Hotez also, over the course of his work in developing vaccines, and his life as the father of an autistic daughter, became increasingly outspoken on the false connection between vaccines and autism, working hard to make clear how completely wrong-headed this is. Although autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, around the time many vaccines are given, based on autism symptoms first manifesting then, the changes in brain structure are detectable much earlier, even in utero. In addition, every time the anti-vaccine movement identifies a different aspect of vaccines that in their view is obviously the cause (this time for sure!) of autism, subsequent studies find no such connection, and even when that aspect can be and is removed, as in the removal of thimerosol, a preservative, from most vaccines, the rate of new cases of autism doesn't decline.

Hotez lays all this out in clear, understandable, accessible terms, and with the passion of a dedicated professional. He also discusses his autistic daughter, her symptoms and experiences, and how he and his family have been personally targeted because he is, in the eyes of some of the anti-vaccine movement, Evil, because he has an autistic daughter, and yet not only advocates for vaccination, but conducts research to develop new vaccines. 

This is a clear, readable, informative, passionate book. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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