There is a quiet war going on at the Rhode Island State House over vaccines. Currently, vaccines for children are mandatory for both public and private schools. The only exceptions are for medical and religious reasons. But bills submitted by Representative Michael Morin and Senator Maryellen Goodwin would allow for exceptions to also be granted for “personal” and “philosophical” reasons.
This, as the United States is currently suffering the worst measles outbreak since the 1990s.
Before I proceed further, let me state one thing with certainty: Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives. Those saying that there are links between vaccines and autism are woefully misinformed or lying. Countless studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
One particularly robust study, conducted in 2015 and published here, looked at over 96,000 children. The report concludes: “In this large sample of privately insured children with older siblings, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.”
Very nice, very reasonable seeming people testified in favor of personal and philosophical exceptions for vaccinations in the House Health Education and Welfare Committee on May 1. Many told stories of children and family members who are “vaccine injured.” They talk of ailments and illnesses that their loved ones (or themselves) suffered after being vaccinated.
Despite this moving and heartbreaking testimony, we know that correlation is not causation. If I eat a peanut butter sandwich then get hit by a car, no one would think that the peanut butter sandwich caused me to be hit by the car. This applies to vaccine injury as well: Though there are rare negative reactions to vaccines, it is wrong to assume that because your vaccinated child was later diagnosed with autism, that the vaccine caused the autism.
Rhode Island has won awards for our vaccination rates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Our current policy of allowing exceptions only for medical and religious reasons, seems to be working.