not cause autism. Despite the unfounded claims of various celebrities and advocacy groups, large amounts of research do not support any link between vaccines and autism.” src=”http://www.doctorhuntersville.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/mom_baby_smiling-211×300.jpg” alt=”Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite the unfounded claims of various celebrities and advocacy groups, large amounts of research do not support any link between vaccines and autism.” width=”211″ height=”300″ />Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite the unfounded claims of various celebrities and advocacy groups, large amounts of research do not support any link between vaccines and autism. The whole debate started approximately 10 years ago when a physician in England noticed that 12 of his autistic patients had been diagnosed around the age of 18 months to 2 years, shortly after receiving the MMR vaccine. He then published a study about these “findings,” concluding that the MMR vaccine causes autism and a controversy was born. Obviously this “study” was very poorly designed. This would be analogous to a physician speaking with 12 patients who got pneumonia, noting that they were wearing blue jeans when their symptoms started, and concluding that wearing blue jeans causes pneumonia!
Nevertheless, researchers plowed through the data on hundreds of thousands of children and have not found a link. Children who have had the MMR vaccine (and other routine vaccines) do not have higher rates of autism than those who never received vaccines. The number of children diagnosed with autism has increased in recent years, primarily because the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (which it is now called), has broadened to include many children previously considered “normal.” The diagnosis of autism now includes many children with mostly normal behavior that just don’t socially connect well with others.
Rumors have also circulated that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that had been used in some vaccines was the culprit. Rigorous research has also defied this myth, and not found any association between thimerosal and autism. Despite no data to support a link, thimerosal was removed from routine vaccines several years ago in an attempt to diffuse the controversy. The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder has continued to climb despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines. This supports previous research that this preservative is not the cause.
Another factor that feeds the controversy is that the MMR and other vaccines are given at an age when many social skills are developing and manifesting themselves. Autism is frequently first observed and diagnosed around 18-24 months of age (when MMR and other vaccines are given). Social development in a normal child will explode around 18-24 months, so when this normal explosion doesn’t happen and developmental milestones are not achieved, people perceive that an insult has occurred. In fact, with our current knowledge base, there is no way to know if a child had autism until this stage of development, because by definition, autism is a disorder of social development. The underlying processes (possibly involving a genetic tendency) may have already been there, but were just not manifested until this age.
The unfortunate and frustrating reality is that we don’t know what causes autism and have very limited treatment options. Doctors want to find a cause and a cure just as badly as parents do. Unfortunately, this vaccine controversy and propagation of misinformation distracts attention from the rigorous research needed to get answers. .