January 9, 2017 11:30 am
Updated: January 9, 2017 2:27 pm

Here’s what happened when a Cleveland Clinic doctor promoted anti-vaccine claims

More parents today believe vaccines are unnecessary, a U.S. survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics has found. The most common reason, provided by three out of every four parents: Vaccines are unnecessary because the diseases they prevent have been wiped out. But doctors are reminding parents that vaccination is a civic duty.

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A doctor at the renowned Cleveland Clinic incited an online firestorm after his opinion piece suggested that vaccines contribute to a rise in rates of autism and ADHD. His article, ultimately, pushed the medical centre to issue a statement clarifying its stance on the value of vaccines.

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On Friday, Cleveland.com posted an opinion piece from Dr. Daniel Neides, the medical director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

READ MORE: Anti-vaccination movement means preventable diseases are making a comeback

“What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES,” he wrote in a post titled Make 2017 the year to avoid toxins (good luck).

He said the adjuvants, such as aluminum, can be “incredibly harmful” to a developing nervous system.

“Some of the vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of childhood communicable diseases, like meningitis and pneumonia. That is great news. But not at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates,” he wrote.

By Sunday night, the Cleveland Clinic provided its response:

“Cleveland Clinic is fully committed to evidence-based medicine. Harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways. We completely support vaccinations to protect people, especially children who are particularly vulnerable,” the prestigious research hospital said.

“Our physician published his statement without authorization from Cleveland Clinic. His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” the statement read.

By Sunday night, Neides retracted his statement.

“I apologize and regret publishing a blog that has caused so much concern and confusion for the public and medical community. I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them,” the statement said, according to Stat News.

But doctors were incredibly upset with Neides’ take on vaccines, and the effect his message may have on parents worried about vaccinating their kids.

READ MORE: Why do parents refuse vaccines? They don’t think they’re necessary anymore

Some theories had postulated a link between autism and childhood vaccinates. These allegations have been debunked by the scientific community repeatedly.

Along with measles outbreaks, whooping cough, chicken pox and mumps — all preventable with vaccines — have also resurfaced in the Western world. Doctors, and their research, are pointing to one culprit: a steadily growing anti-vaccination movement.

“When people say some of this might be related to low vaccine rates among people, that’s a huge understatement,” Dr. Gerald Evans, a Queen’s University medicine professor and director of infection control at Kingston General Hospital, told Global News.

“It’s all because of vaccination rates falling. It’s 100 per cent blamed on the fact that people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Evans said.

READ MORE: 6 vaccination myths debunked

Dr. Benjamin Mazer, a doctor at Yale-New Haven Hospital, told Stat News he thought the op-ed was “one of the most vile, false things I have ever read by a doctor.” But he said it isn’t a one-off and points to a bigger problem.

“This is really part of larger movement that distrusts mainstream medicine, distrusts mainstream public health and really trades in conspiracy theories,” he told the publication.

Julia Belluz, senior health correspondent at Vox, pointed to other examples of doctors peddling unfounded medical claims, from Dr. Mehmet Oz to Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman.

READ MORE: How should health officials reverse an anti-vaxxer movement?

“The medical profession has been struggling with how to deal with dangerous doctor talk, since doctors can pretty much say anything and keep their medical licenses (outside of the doctor-patient context),” she wrote.

Evans hears from concerned parents more frequently. They’re worried about what they may be hearing about vaccines.

“That makes me say to myself, ‘If my patients who make sure they’re vaccinated are asking me questions, what might be happening in the general public?’” he said.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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