A lot has been heard and read about immunization vaccines, such as the MMR, being associated with the development of autism in children. However, do vaccines really cause autism? This Buzzle article throws some light on this debate.
Over 5,000 petitions were received as a result of the formation of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, from families who claimed that vaccination had harmed their children. While in 2003, the percentage of parents who refused or delayed vaccinating their children was 22 percent, in 2008, it rose to 40 percent, resulting in a massive breakout of mumps, measles, and whooping cough in the U.S.
What was the reason behind the mass agitation against the alleged link between vaccination and autism, that it’s been a debatable topic until now? What instigated thousands of families to not vaccinate their children, including celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, who also wrote a book titled Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism, where she links the global increase in autism to the increase in childhood vaccinations?
Autism has definitely increased in the past few decades. During the mid-1970s, reportedly 1 in 470 children were diagnosed to have autism, where the number today has increased to a shocking 1 in 50 children, according to a recent estimate done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the increase is extremely worrisome, the point to be noted is that within the past 30 years, the understanding of what qualifies as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has been enhanced. Autism expert Eric Fombonne, MD, who is also the head of the department of psychiatry at Montreal Children’s Hospital, says that what would have been diagnosed as mental retardation or a speech disorder back then, is now classified among the many symptoms of autism. Which is why, even though the number of autism cases have increased, the cases of mental retardation have reduced. This explains the illation.
So, is it because of the heightened awareness that the number of children diagnosed with ASD are increasing by the day, or is the increase in the number of vaccines to be blamed? Before we answer this question, let us learn how, in the first place, vaccination became the culprit for autism in the public eye.
Vaccination and Autism: Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s Study
It all started back in 1996, when Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a specialist of bowel diseases at the Royal Free Hospital in north London, noticed an increased visit in the number of children experiencing a “new kind” of bowel disease―possibly associated with autism―after receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. He did his research and published the findings in 1998, in the journal Lancet. This spread like wildfire in the media and has been a controversial topic ever since, especially when later studies done by various esteemed medical institutions found no link between vaccines and autism. The following section will discuss the various research studies and their findings.
Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism, and Here’s Why …
Due to the publication of Dr. Wakefield’s study and the media attention this study gained, there have been lawsuits, agitations, debates, and immense studies and research, to substantiate the link between ASD and vaccines. Over 15 years have been spent by medical experts across the globe to find clear evidence, but in vain. One ingredient present in vaccines called thimerosal was suspected to be the cause behind ASD. However, this ingredient was removed or reduced significantly from all childhood vaccines in 2001. In spite of this, the rise in the number of autistic children post 2001 just proves that there was no link between thimerosal and autism whatsoever. This has also been supported by the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their various studies in connection with thimerosal.
Wakefield’s study was discredited immediately, when, in the following year, researchers from the U.K. Department of Health were unable to find any evidence that immunizations were associated with a development of autism in children. Two years later, in 2001, a study conducted by a panel of 15 experts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) also found no link between the MMR vaccine and ASD. IOM conducted another in-depth study in 2004 in an attempt to find a relationship between the two, but failed to do so.
There was heightened concern among parents who believed that exposing their child to “too many vaccines too soon”, would lead to the development of autism. The results of the study in response to this concern were published in the Journal of Pediatrics on March 29, 2013, and stated that no relevant data was found during the research to associate the scheduled vaccines with the risk of developing autism. It also found that ASD is not linked with immunological stimulation resulting from vaccinations during the first two years of life.
Autism is challenging not only for the child but for the entire family. While it is natural for parents to be intimidated by Wakefield’s study and the publicity it gained, the necessity of immunizations to be given to children cannot be ignored. Little is known about the causes of autism, and experts are putting in consistent efforts to find the causal factors behind the disorder. The studies and findings mentioned above are just a handful of the immense number of studies undertaken by expert medical organizations across the globe. It is impossible to consider all these findings as incorrect, irrelevant, or insignificant. Many experts have linked autism to genetic predisposition and from the incessant evaluation we now clearly know that―vaccines do not cause autism.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional. Always get the child vaccinated by a medical expert. Do not try to vaccinate the child yourself. One of the risks involved in doing so is the formation of air bubbles in the syringe, which, when injected, may have fatal consequences. The image shown above is meant for representation only and does not intend to promote any unfavorable practices.