Debating Autism and Vaccines

A hot-button topic tossed about at the GOP presidential candidate debate

The republican presidential candidates' debate Wednesday (Sept. 16), was CNN's most-watched program in the history of the network. Could it be America's fascination with reality TV? With the cast including an unscripted Donald Trump, there's always the potential for an entertaining, off-the-cuff remark that reflects some of TVs best reality TV.

But that's not what I'm really here to write about. To be clear, I missed last night's debate. My family turned off cable and cable news networks in favor of Netflix and streaming online, so I didn't tune in. I have read headlines today and taken a look at some of the hot-button topics, and may watch online tonight.

A headline that I was surprised to see was "The GOP's dangerous 'debate' on vaccines and autism." My first thought was how/why is this a topic of debate? Vaccines and autism are important issues, but the vaccine-autism correlation has long-been debunked through reported research. So why is it a topic at a 2016 presidential debate for the 2016 election? I'm not sure that asking a pediatric neurosurgeon to verify or deny the association that Donald Trump continually makes about vaccines still causing autism served a purpose that helps the American public, but it did stir some rhetoric about freedom. Carson's less than emphatic answer drew criticism from the social-media sphere with pediatricians immediately standing firm that there is no correlation between vaccinations and autism. Rand Paul, also a doctor, chimed in that he's all for vaccines, but also for freedom.

So what was the point in asking the question? Does the Donald want to do away with vaccines? Paul seems to straddle the issue without choosing a side, and Carson merely stated, albeit lightly, that studies show no correlation. And if we are going to discuss autism, let's discuss all possible things that researchers are evaluating as possible causes. Vaccines save lives, but parents have choices about how they can be administered to their children and if they choose to give them all recommended vaccines. It's a hot topic, but is it what should fill podium space at a presidential debate?

There are more important things that politicians can influence or control that affect families and need to be addressed. Off the top of my head: Lack of funding to public schools? Minimum wage and how that affects families living in poverty? Maternity leave? These are things that can be influenced by politicians and the economy. A discussion about vaccinations … well can we just leave that to the doctors?