Vaccination and Autism Myths Debunked
A lot of people say that certain vaccines may lead to autism. However, evidence over the years has shown that there is absolutely no link between the two. Unfortunately, unvaccinated children can and do develop autism, and they do so at the same rates as children who have been vaccinated. Apart from these, unvaccinated children can also catch vaccine-preventable diseases and spread them to others in the community.
MMR Vaccine and Autism
The myth about MMR vaccine causing autism started in 1998 when British researchers published a paper stating that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine were responsible for it. The study looked at only 12 children, yet it received a lot of publicity. At the same time, a lot of children were being diagnosed with the autism.
After this, other doctors also began doing their research into the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The follow up studies found no evidence of vaccine causing autism. Further investigation also revealed a number of problems in the way the study was conducted. The journal that published it eventually retracted it. Yet, some people still believe the myth about MMR vaccine causing autism.
Thimerosal and Autism
Sometime after the British study about MMR vaccine, a new fear about possible vaccine-autism link emerged. This was related to a substance called thimerosal and it contained mercury. It is well-known that mercury at high levels is harmful for brain and kidneys. Doctors used thimerosal to prevent growth of bacteria and fungi in vaccines. No evidence was found that the small amount used in vaccines caused harm, yet it was taken out of most children’s vaccines by 2001.
Researchers studied children who received vaccines that contained thimerosal and those who didn’t receive any vaccine. They found no link between vaccines and autism. Also, autism diagnosis continued to rise even after thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines. Currently, some vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP and DTaP-Hib) have traces of thimerosal.
Several researches have also been conducted at other vaccines given to kids before the age 2. These tests were done to check if any of these or a couple of them together can lead to autism. Children receive around 15 to 20 shots of vaccines in the first 15 months of their life. Some people fear that getting all these vaccines can lead to autism, however research has proven otherwise.
Experts are still uncertain about the causes of autism. It is believed that a multiple causes, including environmental, biological, and genetic factors can make a child likely to have autism rather than due to vaccines.