The New York Times reports that 1 in 4 parents link autism to vaccines inspite of the consistent scientific evidence that there is no such link. Autism diagnoses are up radically in the last 30 years and it's reasonable for parents to want to know the cause of this increase. Because of the timing of vaccination and the timing of autism diagnoses (and often onset), it was a reasonable hypothesis that the two are related.
There's just no science to support it.
In fact, the study that started the anti-vaccination movement has been thoroughly discredited.
Autism is a rough road. I'm lucky that I'm not on it so I cannot speak to how rough it actually is. I was impressed by the writing of autistic adults who emphasize that just because they are different does not mean anything except that they bring different perspective to society. And interventions to help autistic children interact with society have some amazing results. But it's still a rough road.
To be clear, blindness, deafness, cardiovascular disease, encephalitis, meningitis are also really rough roads some of which can lead to death. All are potential impacts from contracting a disease that is preventable through vaccinations. And not being vaccinated increases the public health risk for all of us.
As parents, we have to balance different risks. Our instinct to protect our children is wonderful, but sometimes very uninformed. Newsweek published a long article on the many benefits of vaccines in December - it's worth a read. There are arguments that vaccines are big-pharma making a lot of money. I guess that's possible, but the public health benefit has been tremendous. Vaccines and hygeine have saved millions of children.
There are a lot of potential causes for autism. I hope we research as many as we can to help parents prevent exposure if it's a preventable thing. The first step in good research is letting go of the theories that didn't pan out so you can put resources at finding a more viable answer.
My children are vaccinated and we also did H1N1 flu vaccines this year because we estimated it was a better risk after researching the science and talking with our doctors.
What do you think about the continual emphasis on the autism:vaccine link?
I applaud Allison's passion - and there are articles about the Homefirst medical practice and the Amish community stating that they have no incidence of autism. The issue is establishing causality - and making a very dangerous conclusion - since vaccines prevent life-threatening diseases that have ravaged society in the past.
Homefirst and the Amish have other differences with the general population beyond vaccination. I don't know that any of them are causal either.
That said, a reader on MotherJones (a very progressive publication) did share a lot of studies that aggressively looked for links between the vaccines, thimerisal and autism - and didn't find any. Another reader pointed out that the rise in autism corresponds to the rise in nutrasweet. I'm sure other people can suggest other correlations. The vaccine correlation has been studied extensively and never found statistically relevant. The power of vaccines for prevention of serious disease is proven.
Here are the studies (from ttamiesor on MotherJones):
"Review of 2 major textbooks on autism and of papers published between 1961 and 2003 yields convincing evidence for multiple interacting genetic factors as the main causative determinants of autism.” “These studies fail to confirm that immunizations with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine are responsible for the surge in autism."
"A statistically significant linear increase in pervasive developmental disorder prevalence was noted during the study period. The prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in thimerosal-free birth cohorts was significantly higher than that in thimerosal-exposed cohorts (82.7 of 10000 vs 59.5 of 10000). Using logistic regression models of the prevalence data, we found no significant effect of thimerosal exposure used either as a continuous or a categorical variable. Thus, thimerosal exposure was unrelated to the increasing trend in pervasive developmental disorder prevalence”
From Journal of the American Medical Association
"During 2,986,654 person-years, we identified 440 autism cases and 787 cases of other autistic-spectrum disorders. The risk of autism and other autistic-spectrum disorders did not differ significantly between children vaccinated with thimerosal-containing vaccine and children vaccinated with thimerosal-free vaccine.” “Conclusion The results do not support a causal relationship between childhood vaccination with thimerosal-containing vaccines and development of autistic-spectrum disorders."
"There is no support for the hypothesis for a role of either MMR or thimerosal in causation, but the evidence on the latter is more limited."
"Findings: 1294 cases and 4469 controls were included. 1010 cases (78•1%) had MMR vaccination recorded before diagnosis, compared with 3671 controls (82•1%) before the age at which their matched case was diagnosed. After adjustment for age at joining the database, the odds ratio for association between MMR and pervasive developmental disorder was 0•86 (95% CI 0•68–1•09). Findings were similar when restricted to children with a diagnosis of autism, to those vaccinated with MMR before the third birthday, or to the period before media coverage of the hypothesis linking MMR with autism. Interpretation: Our findings suggest that MMR vaccination is not associated with an increased risk of pervasive developmental disorders."
“Conclusions: The significance of this finding is that MMR vaccination is most unlikely to be a main cause of ASD, that it cannot explain the rise over time in the incidence of ASD, and that withdrawal of MMR in countries where it is still being used cannot be expected to lead to a reduction in the incidence of ASD.”
ttamiesor says s/he went through 30 abstracts, and found zero to support the theory the MMR and/or thimerosol shots had any statistically significant relationship to autism.
Again - it's about risk management - and looking for the research rather than opinions.