Autism prevalence has steadily increased throughout the last decade. In 2000, 1 in 150 children were identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By 2012, that figure was updated to an alarming 1 in 68 children (“Data & Statistics”, 2016). With these rapidly growing figures, public interest to discover the cause of autism is stronger now than ever before. The unfortunate reality is that there is no known cause for autism, and this lingering question has given rise to a troubling stance linking certain vaccinations to the disorder.
The cold, hard fact is this: vaccines are not linked to autism. The most commonly targeted inoculation, in terms of a speculated ASD connection, is the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Administered in two doses, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be given between 12 and 15 months of age. The second dose is recommended anytime four weeks after the first dose, but before the child begins kindergarten (“Measles Vaccination”, 2016).
The general thought behind a link between the MMR vaccine and autism is primarily due to the fact that the vaccine is administered around the same time ASDs are often first diagnosed. The correlation between when the MMR vaccine is administered, and when ASDs are diagnosed, is strictly superficial, as that does not mean the vaccine is automatically related to the cause of ASDs.
While there is no credible data to back up the claim that vaccines somehow cause autism, there is an overwhelming amount of research that confirms no connection whatsoever between the two. A recent study involving 14.7 million children worldwide found “no significant association between MMR immunization and…autism” (Demicheli et al., 2012). The research, compiled by Cochrane–an independent, non-profit, and non-governmental organization–was the result of “five randomized controlled trials (RCTs), one controlled clinical trial (CCT), 27 cohort studies, 17 case-control studies, five time-series trials, one case cross-over trial, two ecological studies, [and] six self controlled case series studies” (Demicheli et al., 2012).
The Cochrane study is not alone, as there is a mountain of research that finds the same result. There’s the 2013 CDC study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the final 2014 Immunization Safety Review report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the 2009 review by the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that evaluated “twenty peer-reviewed scientific studies published between 1999 and 2004” (Frazier, 2009). Each study comes to the exact same conclusion: there is no scientific evidence that links the MMR vaccine to autism.
In fact, one of the only studies to claim that a link between the MMR vaccine and autism exists, the 1998 Lancet study, was widely debunked by researchers, and eventually retracted completely by the journal in 2004 (Carroll, 2015).
It is the rare instances, however, of reports like the Lancet study that provide ammunition to a widely discredited idea. These falsified studies contribute to unfounded fears that prevent parents from vaccinating their children. In 2000, measles was declared as “eliminated” in the United States. In 2014, there were 592 cases of measles in the U.S., mainly in children who had not been administered the MMR vaccine (Koplowitz, 2014).
It is incredibly important that factual evidence is at the forefront of any discussions pertaining to vaccinations and autism. While forming an opinion, it is crucial that one refers to confirmed, accurate information on the topic. If that general idea is applied here, the only opinion one could form regarding vaccines and autism is that there is no link whatsoever.
The quest to determine the cause of ASDs is an understandable endeavor, but there is simply no bombshell link between childhood vaccines and the disorder. Not now, not ever.
Carroll, A. E. (2015, September 17). Not Up for Debate: The Science Behind Vaccination. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/upshot/not-up-for-debate-the-science-behind-vaccination.html
Data & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Demicheli, V., Rivetti, A., Debalini, M., & Di Pietrantonj, C. (2012, February 15). Using the combined vaccine for protection of children against measles, mumps and rubella. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from http://www.cochrane.org/CD004407/ARI_using-the-combined-vaccine-for- protection-of-children-against-measles-mumps-and-rubella
Frazier, K. (2009, May). More Studies Reject Vaccine-Autism Link – CSI. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from http://www.csicop.org/si/show/more_studies_reject_vaccine-autism_link
Koplowitz, H. (2014, September 08). Measles Outbreak 2014: 592 Cases Reported In US After Disease ‘Eliminated’ In 2000. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/measles-outbreak-2014-592-cases-reported-us-after- disease-eliminated-2000-1681352
Measles Vaccination. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/