Is the polio booster safe?

Thanks to the Israeli Government’s recent decision to vaccinate school age children with polio boosters, the vaccine debate arrives in Israel.

Watching the comments on TOI over the past few days, it is quite clear that there are a lot of people with a lot of misinformation on the topic as many people seem to be asking the question of whether the polio vaccine is safe?

As the mother of an autistic child, I know more than I care to on the subject of vaccines.  

Vaccines are one of the most highly controversial subjects in the world of autism, there is a lot of information and even more misinformation out there.  Very much like the middle east conflict, people adopt a position and are firmly cemented in it, convinced that the other side of the debate is full of conspiracies, misinformation and lies.

It is not my desire in writing this blog post to convince anyone of either position, certainly anyone within reach of this post is able to Google for themselves and decide what is best for their families.  My purpose here is to help clarify the questions I am seeing being posted about the polio vaccine because it seems to me that a lot of people are questioning the safety of the polio vaccine and linking it with autism.

I am the mother of an autistic child and I am in favor of vaccines.  I vaccinated my child and I am glad I did.  I don’t believe that vaccines caused my daughter’s autism.    

I am not a doctor or a medical researcher (and nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice) but I have read more than my share on the subject and while I cannot say with a medical certainty that vaccines are not at the root of autism, the science behind this connection so far has been completely debunked by the medical and scientific communities.  Not one accredited medical or scientific organisation believes in this link.

Just to be clear.  It has never been scientifically proven that autism is caused by vaccines, in particular the MMR vaccine (which by the way has nothing at all to do with the polio vaccine).  This research which supports this assertion, based on that of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a discredited British surgeon who researched the link between autism and the MMR vaccine who lost his medical license on account of his unethical practices while doing this research.  Even though his research found a correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism, he did not prove that the relationship between the two factors was causal, meaning that the vaccine causes autism. So, even though loads of parents and celebrities have made this assertion, there is no research accepted by the medical and scientific communities to support it. In fact, Dr. Wakefield’s study and his research practices were fully discredited. Although those against vaccines often site the Bocca case as proof that the MMR vaccine causes autism, it should be understood that while an Italian court awarded a family with an autistic son damages for vaccine injury brought on by the MMR vaccine, this causal relationship was determined by judges and not doctors or scientists.

Many of those that support the vaccines-cause-autism cite the greed of big Pharma to make profits through global immunization without regard to the side effects or safety of these vaccines.  While there is some validity to that argument and I have absolutely no trouble in believing that the ethical ground force behind big pharma is profits over safety, still vaccines are not all that profitable in comparison with other drugs.  Big Pharma would actually make more money if there was widespread polio, measles, hepatitis, etc.

I obviously support the view that vaccines don’t cause autism (although I do believe that environmental causes are key to unraveling autism’s mysteries), but again my purpose in writing this piece is not to convince anyone one way or the other on a position regarding vaccines and autism, but only to demonstrate that none of this debate has anything to do with the polio vaccine.

This bears repeating: the controversy surrounding vaccines has nothing whatsoever to do with the polio vaccine.

The Israeli government has acted quickly and is doing what it is supposed to do,  protect its citizens by making large quantities of the vaccine available.

As a parent, our job is to raise our children and make decisions in their best interest. It is not for me to tell anyone in Israel what to do, but I would have no hesitation whatsoever in giving my child a polio booster.

About the Author
Dana has made it her habit to break cultural barriers and butcher languages wherever she goes. Born in Pittsburgh, Dana lived and worked in Tel Aviv for five years, before moving to the Netherlands where she lives with her husband and daughter in Amsterdam.