Do vaccines cause autism?
Concerned parents ask me this question, and I am relieved to be able to tell them “NO.”
Amazingly, most of the autism/vaccine hoopla can be traced to one very small report.
In 1998 a doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a paper in a well respected British medical journal called The Lancet. He said that in his study of twelve children who were patients in a GI (Gastroenterology) clinic, eight of them had evidence of abnormal intestines and abnormal behavior that began after they received the MMR vaccine. He wondered if the combined MMR vaccine may have triggered abnormalities in the gut, allowing unspecified toxins to leak out from the gut, causing brain damage.
Unfortunately, this one small paper involving 12 children caused huge controversy about the safety of vaccines. Many parents lost confidence in the very vaccines that were so successful at protecting the lives of their children. They stopped vaccinating and caused the measles rate to increase. For evidence of this please see:
On February 6, 2010, The Lancet published a retraction of this paper because the study design was flawed and thus any conclusions cannot be reliable. Specifically, the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel, after investigations, concluded that the children in the study were not “consecutively referred,” meaning that they were not “random samples” as stated in the paper.
In addition, the panel discovered that Dr. Wakefield did not have permission from any institutional review board (panels that review the ethics of research done on people) to perform the lumbar punctures, MRIs, EEGs, endoscopies, and intestinal biopsies that he conducted on the children whom he studied.
Despite the original study being flawed, a question about a connection between MMR and autism had been raised. In the years since 1998, scientists performed subsequent studies to see if the MMR vaccine might have a link to autism. No association was found. These studies involved thousands of children and showed that the rate of autism in vaccinated children is THE SAME as the rate of autism in unvaccinated children. To read these articles as well as the original article that caused the controversy, you can go to www.TheLancet.com and register to view the articles for free.
I urge all parents reading this blog post to speak with your child’s health care provider if you have ANY doubts about vaccinating your children. In addition, if you are going to conduct your own research on this subject on the Internet, I urge you to consult the following credible sites:
Vaccines save lives. Unfortunately, for those too young to be vaccinated, those who have immune system diseases, and those who do not receive immunizations, vaccine preventable diseases still can potentially cause severe illness and death.
Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod
January 10, 2011: The above links to the CDC and UK parliament are down. For more information on trends in measles rate, please see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7872541.stm.