Frontline excerpt: Ashland Oregon

22 Apr

The PBS show Frontline has an upcoming episode called “The Vaccine War”. They recently posted a video excerpt of the episode. In this segment they follow a public health worker in Ashland Oregon, a community with one of the highest vaccine refusal rates in the US.

So, how is that vaccine refusal working out in Ashland? That’s in Jackson County, Oregon. I’m not alone in asking that question. One of the founders of Generation Rescue asked the same question recently

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 15 percent of children in Jackson County, Ore., are unvaccinated, Handley said. Someone needs to find out how these kids look comparatively. “It’s in the pockets of the unvaccinated kids where the first truths may be found,” he said.

Ashland appears to have an even higher vaccine refusal rate than the rest of Jacknson County. From the Frontline press release:

With an estimated quarter of the town’s children entering kindergarten not fully immunized, Ashland is one of the least vaccinated places in America.

So, Jackson County has a refusal rate of about 15% and Ashland about 25%. Let’s see what the Ashland City Council has to say. Here is a proclamation from the City of Ashland proclaiming Autism Awareness month

PROCLAMATION

“AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH”

• Autism is a complex neurobiological condition that appears at birth or typically before age three and occurs in one out of every 150 births each year in the United States.
• Autism affects the areas in the brain that regulate pragmatics of speech and perceptions of others, affecting how people with autism assimilate and express verbal and non-verbal communication, and sensory processing.
• Oregon has one of the highest rates of autism in the United States, with the Oregon Department of Education reporting 1 in 98 students on the autism spectrum, and in Ashland, 1.1 percent of students have been diagnosed which is the highest rate in Jackson County.
• While there is no precisely identified cause and cure for autism, Autism Centers of Excellence and institutions for education such as Oregon Health & Science University, and the Southern Oregon University Masters in Special Education program offer hope for recovery, and treatments to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
• Early Intervention services such as those provided by Asante Early Childhood Development can alter the course for children living with autism and their families in their ability to interact and communicate not only wants and needs, but dreams and aspirations.
• Adults living with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome can find a warm and welcoming home and community in Ashland.

NOW THEREFORE, the City Council and Mayor, on behalf of the citizens of Ashland, hereby proclaim the month of April 2008 as:

“AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH”

and call upon the citizens of the City of Ashland to observe the month by learning about people with autism, their strengths, abilities, and the programs which serve their needs.

Dated this 4th day of March, 2008.

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor

Keep in mind that the above proclamation involves educational data, which are not the same as real autism prevalence. That is especially problematic in Oregon, which has a very vague criterion for an educational diagnosis. But, that said, Ashland (with a vaccine refusal rate of 25%) had 1.1% of their students with educational diagnoses of autism, the highest in Jackson County and higher than the Statewide average.

Again, education data are fairly weak to begin with, and Oregon has a very loose definition of “autism”. But, that said, there isn’t evidence in the educational data that vaccine refusal is helping Ashland avoid autism.
In other words it looks like vaccine refusal is not protecting Ashland from autism.

12 Responses to “Frontline excerpt: Ashland Oregon”

  1. Rogue Medic April 22, 2010 at 10:46 #

    Is there any in depth epidemiologic research being done, trying to control for variables, since this appears to be an excellent place to do this kind of research? Even J.B. Handley seems to agree.

    • Sullivan April 22, 2010 at 19:50 #

      Rogue Medic,

      if you check Protheius’ blog (photon in the darkness), you will see how he has laid out a strategy to do a vaccinated/unvaccinated study. He’s even volunteered to do it. Well, volunteered to handle it should it be funded.

  2. Laurentius Rex April 22, 2010 at 15:40 #

    Well elsewhere I talk about keeping my enemies closer than my friends but at least I hope I don’t descend into talking there language.

    I am an enemy to the medical model discourse of autism where-ever I find it, and I am surprised to see an educational diagnosis of autism being given less value than a medical one.

    A medical diagnosis is of no practical value whatever other than an official or statutory lable. There are no pills for autism. An educational perspective of autism on the other hand is vitally necessary to ensure that the child is educated in an appropriate way given there neurological difference.

    Nobody in there right mind would question that dyslexia is a neurological difference that belongs in the educational and occupational domains, so why all this defence of medical model autism as if it were more real. It ain’t!

    A medical degree is all fine and dandy if I need a diagnosis for the measles, mumps, or rubella, because I will need a medical intervention for that, and indeed there are medical prophylactics, ie vaccination.

    Autism however requires social and educational interventions, it’s not even anything most Dr’s in general practice would recognise anyway let alone have the training to make a full diagnostic assessment, something which does not require a medical degree at all.

    • Sullivan April 22, 2010 at 19:48 #

      Laurentius Rex,

      Thanks for your comment. I should be more precise.

      educational diagnoses of autism are very valuable–for the student and to help the system work out the correct way to help the student.

      As an epidemiological tool, not so good. The definitions of “autism” vary from state to state in the US. There is nothing to insure that the methods used to classify a student are the same even within a state. Follow the link–Oregon has a very vague definition.

  3. Rogue Medic April 23, 2010 at 07:11 #

    Sullivan,

    I’ve read that post by Prometheus. He has some great insights.

    I was hoping that there is something already in progress on this in Ashland. Sort of a Framingham study for autism.

    Thank you for the information about the upcoming Frontline segment.

  4. Prometheus April 24, 2010 at 01:23 #

    JB Handley states:

    “It’s in the pockets of the unvaccinated kids where the first truths may be found.”

    How prescient of him! And now, thanks to the parents in Ashland, we know one of those “first truths”:

    [1] Vaccination rates are inversely related to autism prevalence (i.e. less vaccination leads to more autism).

    Having proven the opposite of his oft-stated position, will Mr. Handley move on to something other than “vaccines-cause-autism”? I doubt it. It’s not about the data, it’s about believing.

    Prometheus

  5. Jack May 6, 2010 at 18:13 #

    But what was the vaccine refusal rate in Ashland about 8 years ago? That’s the only way to evaluate what the DoE special education numbers mean. NOW the vaccine refusal rate is 25%, so we’ll see what impact that has in about six years or so. Right now you can’t say anything.

  6. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 6, 2010 at 20:44 #

    from post: “Keep in mind that the above proclamation involves educational data, which are not the same as real autism prevalence.”

    Not sure about that… that would be a medical definition… and, given LR’s comment, it may be that medical prevalence is not as accurate a gauge as we’d like.

    LR: “Autism however requires social and educational interventions, it’s not even anything most Dr’s in general practice would recognise anyway let alone have the training to make a full diagnostic assessment, something which does not require a medical degree at all.”

    Indeed. This is why I’d like to see autism away from the medical realm and into that of the educational sphere. Plus, the medical model is practically useless in understanding something like autism.

    Sullivan: “Educational diagnoses of autism are very valuable—for the student and to help the system work out the correct way to help the student.”

    Yes.

    Sullivan: “As an epidemiological tool, not so good. The definitions of “autism” vary from state to state in the US. There is nothing to insure that the methods used to classify a student are the same even within a state. Follow the link—Oregon has a very vague definition.”

    I make psycho-educational diagnoses from time to time, and I use the criteria to the research standard (somewhat more strict than the clinical ones). However – the lack of a standard educational definition in general use does indeed make it impossible to use educational statistics as the basis for an autism demographic study.

  7. Teija May 23, 2016 at 07:00 #

    Whomever wrote this article left out the most important piece…what percentage of the 1.1 percent with autism were vaccinated? Likely all…you might check out CDC Whistleblower & Vaxxed. Horrible journalism…please consider retirement.

    • Chris May 23, 2016 at 16:24 #

      Why don’t you go back with data from six and then tell us why it is relevant. Or do you just go Googling for old articles to dump irrelevant silliness.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 24, 2016 at 20:11 #

      “you might check out CDC Whistleblower & Vaxxed”

      There is a search function on this (and every other wordpress) blog. I don’t often use the “CDC Whistleblower” phrase, but I have written about William Thompson a great deal. I have also discussed Vaxxed. To be blunt, I believe I have researched those topics in far greater depth than you. But surprise me–tell me what you think about those topics.

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