Community Commentary: Autism, vaccine link unproven

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It is a sad day indeed when newspapers publish diatribes against vaccines when our nation is facing a measles and pertussis epidemic simultaneously ("Mailbag: Parent disputes vaccination advice," May 27). As an emergency physician, trained in internal and emergency medicine, I have traveled to many parts of the world and worked in remote areas of the Dominican Republic and Peru.

I have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of preventable diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, tetanus and rabies. Even at Los Angeles County Hospital, I saw Nicaraguan immigrants with post-polio complications due to their country's civil war and lack of vaccines in the '80s; I have also seen tetanus in other unvaccinated immigrants.

There were so many inaccuracies in Robert Lyne Potter's letter that I cannot possibly address them all, but I feel it necessary to correct a few. First and foremost, the British physician who published the original — and only — medical article supporting a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism was found to have fabricated his results.

He subsequently lost his medical license and was disciplined for propagating this untruth. Also for the record, mercury has been eliminated as a preservative in vaccines for several years now. Finally, Latinos have the highest rate of vaccination and yet the lowest incidence of autism — something that definitely needs further study.

It is no wonder that physicians are retiring early, changing professions or working less as we command no respect anymore. Despite spending years of my youth in school preparing for a profession I love, my opinion is less valued than that of actresses, the Internet, and "the great Leonard Horowitz," whoever he might be. It is absolutely irresponsible for a newspaper of your caliber to publish such a letter in its entirety. Please give my educated opinion equal space.

MARY KAYE ASHKENAZE lives in Laguna Niguel and is a staff emergency physician at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.

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