Can Vaccines Cause Autism in Children?

Child being vaccinated
When a parent first learns that their child has been diagnosed with Autism, it is an emotionally challenging time. Parents will search desperately for a cause and an answer and will inevitably come across the 1998 article published in the British health journal, The Lancet. In the article titled 'MMR Vaccination and Autism', the author, Andrew Wakefield, states that there exists a definitive causational relationship between infants who receive this vaccination and the occurrence of autism . This notion gained international attention and remains one of the most disputed health care matters, even 15 years later. Since its publication, the article has inspired a huge movement that continues to cause a vast amount of parents to not have their children administered vaccinations of any kind. Nearly ten years later, the truth about the Wakefield article came to light. The author had falsified data after being pressured and paid to write a fraudulent report by a law firm seeking to sue a pharmaceutical company (source: CNN).

Even though the only scientific evidence that linked autism to vaccines has been proven false, people have kept the notion alive and many do not vaccinate their children, which has caused outbreaks of nearly dead diseases, such as measles. What scientific evidence are these groups basing their claims on? It is important to note that many opponents of vaccinations have had personal experience with autistic family members. It is likely that these people are searching for a cause because autism occurring without reason is too difficult to understand. They latch on to a notion because it provides them with some comfort and gives them a cause to fight. The main claims of the anti-vaccine movement, focuses on the specific ingredients of vaccinations. Naming the ingredients contained within vaccines out of context can be startling. According to the CDC, some vaccines contain mouse brain, formaldehyde, and thimerosal (mercury).

Because anti-vaccine protestors do not understand the function of these ingredients, they portray them as scientific evidence that vaccinations contain strange and potentially dangerous material that can cause autism. However, proper research will reveal that mouse brain fragments stimulate antibody levels, formaldehyde prevents viruses from reproducing, and thimerosal was taken out of vaccines altogether in 1999 (source: youtube). In addition, opponents cite the increase in the occurrence of autism as caused by vaccines. This, however, is simply explained by the definition of autism which has become the 'Autism Spectrum'. More people are diagnosed because the definition has broadened.

The anti-vaccine movement is falsely using little-understood facts about vaccine content as a scientific basis for their claims. What they do not realize is that by not vaccinating their children, they are putting many more people at risk of contracting diseases. The occurrence of vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles and polio, has decreased by more than 95% within the last century. In 2008, the CDC reported 131 cases of measles, which is double the number of cases in 2000 . This has been directly linked to the ability for parents to exempt their children from vaccinations and thus abolishing so called 'herd communities', wherein the likelihood of a person susceptible to a disease comes in contact with an infected person increases with the number of vaccinated people decreasing.

Although the science that stated vaccines could cause autism has been proven to be completely false, the notion spread like wildfire. The anti-vaccine movement grew steadily over the past decade and thus immensely increased the number of unvaccinated children. Science provides valid and reliable data proving that vaccinations have helped to prevent and nearly eradicate many diseases. "Not vaccinating the children" is much more likely to cause harm to entire communities because diseases, like the belief that vaccines cause autism, spread rapidly and indiscriminately.

Written By: Kimeko Neil, United States

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

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