For any parent concerned about autism, getting a child vaccinated can bring up a great deal of uncertainty. With all the controversy surrounding the potential relationship between vaccinations and autism rates, it's difficult to know what to believe. As with many aspects of autism, familiarizing yourself with the research is the key to making informed decisions and understanding your child's health.
Evidence Linking Vaccines to Autism
For many years, parents have reported concern about a potential link between autistic disorders and vaccines. There's no shortage of anecdotal evidence to support a possible connection, but there is limited scientific proof. Many scientists agree that more research is needed.
The Wakefield Study
The controversy surrounding vaccines and autism began in 1998 when a British study by Andrew Wakefield was published in Lancet, a scientific journal. This study suggested a link between toddlers who received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and those who later developed autism. The study had a sample size of only 12 individuals, and it has been largely discredited by the scientific community.
You can read the original study online.
Hannah Poling Case
In 2008, the parents of Hannah Poling, a toddler who developed encephalopathy after receiving a series of vaccines, sued the United States Department of Health and Human Services. They won their case and received a settlement. Although many parents interpreted this case as evidence that vaccines are dangerous, the New England Journal of Medicine offers the reminder that Hannah Poling had a rare condition called a mitochondrial enzyme deficit.
Anecdotal Evidence of a Link
Although there are few scientific studies indicating a link between vaccines and autism, there's other evidence that parents may want to consider. For years, parents have reported that their children's autistic symptoms began shortly after the children received their vaccinations. Many scientists contend that certain types of regressive autism typically develop around the same age and that there is no link between the vaccination and the autism.
Regardless, you may find these parents' stories helpful in making a decision about whether to vaccinate your child.
Comprehensive Guide to Autism Asserts Link to Aluminum
The 2014 book, A Comprehensive Guide to Autism included an article about the possibility of a link between aluminum-containing vaccines and autism rates. There are no studies directly linking aluminum and autism; however, the article does cite studies linking aluminum to impaired brain function.
Books Linking Autism and Vaccines
If you're interested in learning more about this topic, you may enjoy books that explore a potential link:
- Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism by Jenny McCarthy
- Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy by Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy
- Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland
Studies Refuting a Link Between Autism and Vaccines
The scientific community has conducted several studies to try to determine whether there is a link between vaccinations and autism. Research has taken place over many years and in several different countries.
Danish Population Study
A Danish study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that although thimerosal-containing vaccines have not been given to children in Denmark since 1992, the incidence of autism had not decreased. The researchers interpreted these findings as an indication that was no correlation between vaccines and autism rates.
Study in the British Medical Journal
The British Medical Journal published a study investigating whether children in five districts surrounding London had an increased likelihood of developing regressive autism and associated bowel disorders if they received the MMR vaccine. The study followed 278 children and found no link between vaccines and autism.
Regressive Autism and MMR Vaccine
A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders also found no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines. The researchers interviewed caregivers of 351 children on the autism spectrum who developed autism symptoms after developing normally for more than a year. The study included research into when these children had received the MMR vaccine and what type of MMR vaccine they were given.
Japanese Population Study
Another study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examined the rate of autism and administration of the MMR vaccine in one neighborhood of Yokohama, Japan. This neighborhood of 300,000 residents stopped vaccinating children for MMR after 1993, yet they saw an increase in autism rates for subsequent generations of children. The researchers concluded that there was no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Evidence Analysis From the Journal Canadian Family Physician
The medical journal Canadian Family Physician did an in-depth analysis of the evidence for and against a link between autism and vaccines. In the analysis, they examine the Wakefield study, as well as 20 subsequent studies indicating that there is no link. The authors concluded that vaccines have no effect on autism rates.
Number of Vaccines and Autism
Some parents have concerns that the high number of vaccines causes autism. A 2013 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that there was no association between the number of vaccines a child received on any given day and later development of autism spectrum disorders. Additionally, the age at which the child received these vaccines had no impact on whether the child was diagnosed with ASD.
Evidence-Based Analysis From the Journal Vaccine
The scientific journal Vaccine conducted a meta-analysis of all major studies on the purported vaccine-autism link. The analysis included more than 1.25 million children and offered conclusive evidence that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism. Additionally, the analysis found no relationship between autism and mercury, the MMR vaccine, or the vaccine preservative thimerosal.
Finding More Information
Scientists are conducting more research all the time to find out if there is any connection between vaccines and autism. You can learn about the latest studies and current information about vaccine safety at the following resources:
- If you'd like more information about current vaccine safety research and how you can report a problem with a vaccine, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization Safety Office. There, you can get the most up-to-date information about whether there is a link between vaccinations and autism rates.
- The Institute for Vaccine Safety, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, offers an independent assessment of vaccine safety, including issues like thimerosal content, immunization schedules, and specific vaccines for various diseases.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great website devoted to vaccine safety, including information about the MMR vaccines, thimerosal, aluminum, and other issues. This website is recommended by the World Health Organization.
Deciding for Yourself
Understanding the current research about this issue is an essential part of making the decision about whether to vaccinate your child. The more homework you do on this topic, the better prepared you'll be to make this important decision.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about vaccinations or your child's development with your child's pediatrician. He or she can answer your questions and provide you with many helpful resources.