Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

by Jacob McCartney on 2018-01-25

In 1995, a group of British researchers published a study showing that individuals who had received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine had an increased chance of bowel disease. Among them was Dr. Andrew Wakefield, MD, who later, in 1998, along with others, published a study in The Lancet claiming that they found evidence of the measles virus in the digestive systems of children who were on the autism spectrum. This paper suggested a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

As a result, many parents began to refuse to vaccinate their children. Vaccination rates dropped dramatically.

In 2004, Dr. Richard Horton of the Lancet wrote in this statement that the results of the study "were passed to lawyers and used to justify the multiparty legal action prior to publication, a fact that was not disclosed to the editors of The Lancet." The method of study was sloppy and flawed. "Children were invited to participate in the study," Horton wrote, "thus biasing the selection of children in favour of families reporting an association between their child's illness and the MMR vaccine." The Lancet eventually retracted the paper, and Wakefield has since been banned from practicing medicine in Britain.

Mark Twain once said that "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." Even today, years after the results of this study were discredited, more and more parents are afraid to vaccinate their children, and there are ever more stories of parents claiming that their children have autism as a result of their vaccinations. The evidence against this is overwhelming, but the seed was planted. I want to do my part to explain why vaccines are safe and have been nothing but beneficial to the world.

First, we have to understand what autism is and what causes it. The CDC says, "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability  that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges." It causes problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. People with ASD will have problems doing doing many tasks, and they may prefer their own way of doing them. In the United States, about 1 in 68 people have been diagnosed with ASD.

There is no singular cause of ASD. Autism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. An article published by the National Institute of Health's Genetics Home Reference states that "[c]hanges in over 1,000 genes have been reported to be associated with ASD, but a large number of these associations have not been confirmed." Genetic mutations, however, only account for 2-4% of cases; more often, autism runs in families, and a parent carrying these changed genes may pass it on. For environmental influences, advanced parental age, birth & pregnancy complications, and frequent pregnancies increase a child's risk of autism.

The concerns surrounding vaccines are mainly in the ingredients, mainly thimerosal and the mercury content of vaccines, used as a "preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines." Other common ingredients include aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, and monosodium glutamate. Some concern surrounds these, specifically formaldehyde, which is used to kill unwanted viruses and bacteria, though it is removed from the vaccine before packaging.

Since 2003, there have been nine studies conducted by the CDC about the use of thimerosal in vaccines, and they all have concluded that there is no link. Due to concerns, it has been almost entirely removed from vaccines, and the only vaccine that still contains it is the flu vaccine.

In the online journal Vaccine, a report by the University of Sydney was published showing the results of a meta-analysis of 10 studies, which involved more than 1.2 million children. The result showed that, with a 95% confidence interval (CI):

  • there is no relationship between vaccination and autism,
  • there is no relationship between vaccination and ASD,
  • there is no relationship between [autism/ASD] and MMR,
  • there is no relationship between [autism/ASD] and thimerosal, and
  • there is no relationship between [autism/ASD] and mercury (Hg)

According to this meta-analysis, vaccination was, in fact, "associated with decreased risk that children would develop autism, a possibility that’s strongest with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine."

Another common concern is the amount of vaccines children receive at once. The number of vaccines a child receives in the first few years of their lives is fairly substantial, so this is a valid concern for people to have.

In 2013, Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, Cristofer S. Price, ScM, and Eric S. Weintraub, MPH published a study in the Journal of Pediatrics about "the association between autism and the level of immunologic stimulation received from vaccines administered during the first 2 years of life." After studying 256 children with ASD and "752 control children matched on birth year, sex, and MCO," the study concluded that there is no link between the two. Furthermore, the number of antigens a child is exposed to by age 2 was 315 in 2012, down from several thousand in the 1990's. The children in the study received their immunizations between 1994 and 2002. The full study can be read here.

The evidence that vaccines are completely safe is overwhelming. Years of credible, peer-reviewed research has been conducted, clearly showing that there is no causal relationship between immunizations and autism disorder. The ingredients used have nothing to do with it, nor does the vaccine schedule. The rise continuous increase in autism cases in America is caused by something else entirely and has nil to do with vaccines.

Vaccines are one part of many medical and scientific advancements that are helping the world improve health and battle diseases that were once untreatable. The mortality rate has dropped sharply over the last century, as has life expectancy. We have science to thank for this, and the anti-vaccine crusade that is becoming popular is the antithesis of what is good. Vaccines protect against diseases that kill people, especially babies and the elderly, and they save lives at a massive scale.

Vaccinate your children.



[1] RETRACTED: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children by Andrew Wakefield, et al. [2] A statement by the editors of The Lancet by Richard Horton [3] Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Centers for Disease Control [4] What Causes Autism? - Autism Speaks [5] Autism Spectrum Disorder - U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health [6] Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism - Centers for Disease Control [7] New Meta-analysis Confirms: No Association between Vaccines and Autism - Autism Speaks [8] Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies by Luke E Taylor, et al. [9] Ingredients of Vaccines - Centers for Disease Control [10] Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism by Dr. Frank DeStefano MD, MPH, et al.