Updated: Jun 24, 2019
Just this morning, CNN published an article stating that a new study performed by the American Academy of Pediatrics said that 20 states were proposing new bills to expand the exemptions for child vaccinations.
So, what does that mean exactly? While there is a federal bill in place for vaccinations, each state has its own protections. Here’s an outline:
What a ride! And now that you’ve read through each state’s exemption requirements, how do you feel? Overburdened with information? Yeah, me too. Basically, seventeen out of fifty states allow a parent to forego vaccines if they simply don’t agree with them. That’s what we call a “Philosophical” reason. Thirty of the states allow the parent to refuse vaccinations based on religious beliefs (so much for separation of church and state). Only three states allow for medical exemptions only.
What’s the deal with anti-vaxxers?
Susan Senator can shed some light on why some Americans are severely anti-vaccinations.
Essentially, when a child is diagnosed with autism, the parents aren’t prepared for this scary concept. They tend to panic and not know what to do. Having a anti-vaxxer in my own (extended) family, I’ve seen this panic, anger and frustration first hand. No, it’s not fair that people who want to be parents have to deal with a disability we don’t fully understand.
And that’s where my point lies. It’s not fair. To the parents. The child suffers from isolation and sensory overload. But the parents suffer with lack of sleep, money woes, schooling issues and many other things. It’s only natural that once someone “identifies” a source, these parents will often grab hold of it. Because humans just can’t not know things. A lot of us have to have someone or something to blame when things go wrong.
No, we don’t know what causes autism. But we can determine that parents over a certain age when they conceive are more likely to have a child with the disease. In the year 2000 (babies born in 1992), only 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism. But in 2014 (babies born in 2006), it jumped to 1 in 59 (CDC).
Why autism numbers have increased
In 1992, 4,084,000 babies were born in the United States. That number didn’t increase much in 2006 with 4,131,019 live-birthed children (Infoplease). Obviously, more children being born means more diagnoses will be made. But 1990 had a higher birth rate of 4,179,000, so it can’t be that, right?
Right. When autism was first observed in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, he labeled it as a psychiatric disorder. He studied children who exhibited detachment from reality or an obsessive need for sameness, giving the disorder its powerful name. But in the 50’s and 60’s, Bruno Bettelheim said autism was caused by cold, unemotional mothers.
In 1980, the definition of autism was broken down even further. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defined the disorder as having three distinct features: lack of interest in people, impairments of communication and strange responses to their environment. These developments had to happen within the first 30 months to be diagnosed as autism.
In 1987, the criteria was expanded even more. No longer did a child have to be under 30 months to be diagnosed. There were 16 different conditions, 8 of which were required to give a diagnosis.
In 2000, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett syndrome were added to the list of criteria (CORRECTION: Asperger’s disorder, CDD and Rett syndrome were listed under Pervasive developmental disorders in separate classifications). It was determined that autism found its root in genetics.
In 2003, the Human Genome Project brought hope to medical professionals. Perhaps we could get more information on how this disorder forms. Unfortunately, the genes pertaining to autism were in the hundreds, with no hope for isolation. This led to the characterization of autism as a spectrum disorder.
In 2013, Asperger’s, childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett syndrome were removed from the Pervasive developmental disorders list. Two groups of features were proposed for autism. “Persistent impairment in reciprocal social communication and social interaction” and “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior,” were included along with social communication disorders, thus creating a spectrum for “shy” or “reserved” children (Zeldovich).
To me, it seems obvious that the recent influx of autism diagnoses is caused by not only a confusion over what criteria meets the disorder, but the characteristics have also changed. It seems that almost anyone with a fear of talking to crowds or loud noises could be added to the list.
What’s up with the 20-state hesitation?
Before we dive into what the issue is, let’s look at what these bills are actually saying.
As we can plainly see, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington have opted to present bills that will eliminate every exemption except medical. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like any of these bills are making it easier to not vaccinate your child.
Sites such as CNN and Tech Times are not reporting correctly, or even offering sources for the information. I’ve seen countless forums today where people are freaking out, thinking these states are creating more loopholes for anti-vaxxers. But before you jump to conclusions, just do some research!
I hope my analysis of these articles is helping you in any way. My aim is to help people understand each other better, so we can have civil conversations.
Thanks for reading!
Carlos, N. (March 7, 2019). At Least 20 US States Propose Anti-Vaccination Bills Amid Measles Outbreaks. Retrieved from https://www.techtimes.com/articles/239215/20190307/at-least-20-us-states-propose-anti-vaccination-bills-amid-measles-outbreaks.htm
CDC. (November 15, 2018). Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Griggs, B. & Lou, M. (March 6, 2019). Even with measles outbreaks across the US, at least 20 states have proposed anti-vaccination bills. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/06/health/vaccine-exemption-bills-across-us-trnd/index.html
Iannelli, V. (February 20, 2019). New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2019. Retrieved from https://vaxopedia.org/2019/02/20/new-vaccine-bills-and-laws-in-2019/
Infoplease. (n.d.). Live Births and Birth Rates, by Year. Retrieved from https://www.infoplease.com/us/births/live-births-and-birth-rates-year
National Vaccine Information Center. (2019). State Law & Vaccine Requirements. Retrieved from https://www.nvic.org/vaccine-laws/state-vaccine-requirements.aspx
Senator, S. (August 24, 2018). Why I Was an Anti-Vaxxer. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-families-are-not-alike/201808/why-i-was-anti-vaxxer
Zeldovich, L. (May 9, 2018). The evolution of ‘autism’ as a diagnosis, explained. Retrieved from https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/evolution-autism-diagnosis-explained/