4 important questions about vaccines and autism

October 5, 2015

Vaccines, contrary to a growing belief, do not cause autism. Here's how the myth started, and why it's false.

4 important questions about vaccines and autism

1. Are vaccines dangerous?

  • Vaccinations are undoubtedly one of the most important health achievements of the human race.
  • They are responsible for eradicating terrifying diseases like smallpox and polio.
  • As wondrous as the benefits of vaccinations are, however, they're not perfect. We do know they carry some risks. Thankfully, most are minor.

2. Has research linked vaccinations to autism?

  • The answer, in short, is no. The most exhaustive research to date hasn't found a connection.
  • Autism rates are still rising, even though thimerosal (one suspected culprit) was removed from vaccines years ago.
  • There have been persistent rumours that vaccines may cause some babies to develop the developmental disorder known as autism.
  • Most believe that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is specifically to blame. But subsequent studies failed to show any connection.

3. How did the myth start?

  • The rumour was fuelled by a controversial 1998 study that suggested there might be a link between autism and the vaccine. It was later proven false.
  • In a 2004 report on the issue concluded that it was time to put the matter to rest. It noted that a large review of studies conducted in 2001 failed to find any link, as did follow-up studies.
  • The authors of the report wrote that "the evidence now is convincing that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine does not cause autism or any particular subtypes of autistic spectrum disorder."

4. Why aren't people convinced?

  • Some parents believed that thimerosal, a preservative used in the vaccine, gave their kids autism.
  • Thimerosal contains a small amount of mercury, and it's known that mercury toxicity can affect the neurological development of babies and children.
  • As with the MMR vaccine itself, studies have found no link between thimerosal and autism.
  • In response to the fear and outcry over the use of the preservative, however, vaccine makers stopped using it in 2001 — yet rates of autism continue to rise.
  • Some neurological researchers believe that this increase is due to more liberal and expansive diagnostic criteria for autism.
  • These new diagnostic methods are leading to more children being diagnosed with the disorder, rather than a medical or environmental pollutant causing more cases.

Many people believe that vaccines are dangerous to children, but these claims are unsubstantiated. This is especially true for autism. Arm yourself with knowledge, and vaccines, so you can stay healthy well-informed.

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