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LETTER: Trust science, not speculation, on vaccine debate

I am profoundly disturbed by the attitudes of the parents quoted in the story, “The Vaccination Debate” ((Page C1, Aug. 18).

Clearly, these parents are too young to have experienced any of the diseases that children now are vaccinated against, or perhaps even to know someone who was affected.

The reason they don’t have to worry much about their children getting measles or polio is that most of the other children in the community are vaccinated, so viruses and other pathogens have a hard time getting a foothold. At the very least this is ethically problematic, and at worst, it’s simply freeloading on others.

While most of us who had the misfortune to have measles, mumps and other diseases as children did recover (after two weeks of absolute misery with each illness), it is naïve to say that if a child gets sick, the body “knows how to recover.” Tell that to the mothers of the 2.6 million children worldwide who die of measles each year and to those whose children suffer encephalitis or other serious complications.

Tell that to people who have withered arms or bad legs as a result of polio. Tell that to the child born blind and retarded because his mother contracted rubella during pregnancy.

Those of us in the grandparent generation are all too familiar with these dreadful outcomes of diseases that are now so easily preventable.

The scientific evidence for an association between vaccinations and autism does not exist. The publications that originally touted this theory have been shown to be fraudulent. Autism appears to be a spectrum of disorders with a strong genetic component; the genetic tendency can be “turned on” by things such a mom getting the flu (also preventable by vaccination) during pregnancy.

Parents, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. If you want scientifically sound information about vaccines and their risks, please ask your physician.

Phyllis Johnson

Grand Forks

Johnson retired as vice president for research and economic development at UND and professor of basic science at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The views expressed above are her own and not necessarily those of UND.