Everything you're about to read might be a waste of copy space. That's because it will either confirm what you already know to be 100% true or simply bounce off the titanium hull of your own ignorance, since it's doubtful that you or anyone else is still on-the-fence when it comes to the subject of autism and vaccines.
According to a comprehensive new meta-study by researchers at the University of Sydney, there is no link whatsoever between childhood vaccines and autism. To repeat: THERE IS NO LINK BETWEEN CHILDHOOD VACCINES AND AUTISM. What the Australian study did is combine all the previous research on a potential vaccine/autism link from around the world -- five full studies involving 1.25 million cases and another five case-controlled studies involving 10,000 additional children -- and reexamine it carefully. Despite mountains of anti-vaccine propaganda from esteemed Google Search Scientists like Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari, they found not a single connection between vaccines and autism. Not one. Associate professor Guy Eslick puts it like this: "The data consistently shows the lack of evidence for an association between autism, autism spectrum disorders and childhood vaccinations... providing no reason to avoid immunization on these grounds."
It would be wonderful to think that this will be the silver bullet that finally puts the anti-vaccine movement in the ground, but of course we all know better. When you aren't basing your views on evidence in the first place, further evidence of any kind is meaningless. But it's important that this report be seen far and wide if for no other reason than that it will hopefully pop up on the radar the next time some neophyte news producer gets hectored into running a segment linking vaccines and autism by his or her soccer mom anchor because she once saw somebody say something about it on The View that one time.
On the latest episode of his radio show, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted former CNN science and technology correspondent and very smart guy Miles O'Brien. A good portion of their conversation examined not only journalism's failure to call-out unscientific, anti-intellectual crap, but its willingness to elevate that crap so that it looks as if it has equal footing with actual science. We've all witnessed it: Every debate on a news network is a largely binary proposition, with one person being drafted to represent each side of the equation, giving the appearance of balance, even if the facts of the subject aren't at all balanced. In deGrasse's case, he was lamenting the mainstream media's complicity in making it seem as if there are two legitimate sides to the debate over, say, evolution or man-made climate change. On evolution there's no debate among serious scientists and on climate change the consensus is a whopping 97%.
The same kind of thing is true for the entirely pulled-out-of-someone's-ass "controversy" over childhood vaccines and autism. Granted, thanks to a relentless campaign of actual information -- as well as a steady stream of mockery -- most respectable outlets are coming around and refusing to take the word of an ex-Playboy bunny at face value when she recommends steering clear of a medical necessity for children. But there are still idiots out there and they're causing plenty of damage -- as in 11 majormeasles outbreaksin the United States in the past couple of years.
This new study isn't likely to change the mind of the most strident anti-vaccination parent, but hopefully it will get a good amount of traction over the next couple of days and help to further change the overall media narrative on this subject. If that happens, then no, none of this will have been a waste of copy space.