Vancouver residents are dealing with a measles outbreak that has been traced to a man who didn’t vaccinate his kids over concerns about autism, a mythical connection that has been promoted by Jenny McCarthy and other celebrity anti-vaxxers.
Emmanuel Bilodeau says he isn’t an anti-vaxxer at this point in time, but that he and his wife skipped their kids’ inoculations years ago because they saw certain doctors linking them to autism, according to CBC News.
The man whose family is at the centre of a measles outbreak in Vancouver said he didn’t vaccinate his children because he distrusted the science at the time.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Emmanuel Bilodeau said he and his then-wife were influenced by reports that linked the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) with autism.
“We worried 10-12 years ago because there was a lot of debate around the MMR vaccine,” said Bilodeau. “Doctors were coming out with research connecting the MMR vaccine with autism. So we were a little concerned.”
Bilodeau is likely referencing the “research” from 1998 by then-doctor Andrew Wakefield, who came out with a flawed (and now retracted) article claiming the link. The problem here is that, right after Wakefield’s paper came out, it was universally refuted, including by 10 of the 12 co-authors who worked on the study.
Almost immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the posited link between MMR vaccination and autism. The logic that the MMR vaccine may trigger autism was also questioned because a temporal link between the two is almost predestined: both events, by design (MMR vaccine) or definition (autism), occur in early childhood.
The next episode in the saga was a short retraction of the interpretation of the original data by 10 of the 12 co-authors of the paper. According to the retraction, “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.
That retraction from the co-authors occurred in 2004, which means that 10-12 years ago – between 2007 and 2009 – it was already established that the study was not a reliable source of information. Bilodeau may have been late to the party, but at least now he acknowledges that he was wrong.
Bilodeau said he knows now the link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been debunked.
“We’re not anti-vaccination,” he said. “We’re just very cautious parents and we just tried to do it in the manner that was the least invasive possible on the child’s health.”
“We were hoping we could find a vaccine that was given in a separate shot so it wasn’t such a hit on the kid,” he said.
I appreciate that Bilodeau and his family seem to have learned from their mistakes, but it’s worth noting that this “cautious parents” mentality actually put everyone at risk. They bought into false narratives promoted by celebrities who don’t know what they’re talking about, and as a result at least eight people have the measles in Vancouver.