Is There a Connection Between Vaccines and Autism?
Those who are against the vaccines tell scary stories about the children, who got the disorder after being vaccinated. But what does modern science know about the connection between vaccines and autism? Are there any solid facts to be afraid of?
At the end of the last century, the doctor noticed that there are more and more people with autism: about 2 times more children with autism than it was 10 years before that. The scientists started looking for a cause and make various statements. And one of them is that vaccines and autism are closely connected. In other words – vaccines cause autism.
Failure of a Respectable Science Journal
In 1998 one of the oldest and respectable medicine journals – “The Lancet” – published the work of the doctor Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors. They linked autism and kids’ intestine inflammation with measles, rubella, and mumps vaccines. The journal made its work and mass media hurried to warn the public that the vaccines can be dangerous for children’s psychological health. Many parents had the reason to worry, and those who “battled against” the vaccinations only proved them harmful.
As a result, people around the world started to refuse vaccination, not without the consequences. After a while, the US-registered measles outbreaks among those who didn’t get vaccinated. Three people died from such an outbreak in North Ireland. In England and Wales, the number of infected people rose up to 1.000 in 2007. That is when the doubts appeared, whether Wakefield’s findings of vaccines and autism were true.
First of all, only 12 children took part in the studies – this number is an inadmissible amount for the results to be reliable. Secondly, the cause-effect relation between vaccines and autism wasn’t really proved. And in time, the doctor was accused of ethical principles violations and cooperation with parents who were trying to sue the manufacturers of the vaccines.
In a few years, the journal management officially admitted that Wakefield’s research was fraudulent and they removed the article from publication. After that, multiple tests were conducted, proving that there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Ten out of twelve Wakefield’s co-authors withdrew their names from the article, and even the scientist himself admitted that he violated the principles of medical ethics. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms this information, and it can be found on their official website.
The echo of that panic is heard even nowadays. The parents are still afraid of vaccinating their children.
In 2002 one more research took place and it supposedly proved the connection between vaccines and autism: doctor Uhlmann and his colleagues studied 91 samples of autistic children’s intestines and 70 healthy children’s samples. 75 kids with disorders had measles. But actually, this study didn’t prove anything because the scientists forgot to learn whether the kids got the vaccines. Consequently, they weren’t able to indicate the source of the infection – vaccine or something from before. Because of this error the virus could be “found” where it wasn’t and vice versa.
What is Autism and Why It Really Occurs?
Autism is a disability that alters brain development. The child loses the ability to communicate with others, repeats the same actions over and over again, prefers predictability, can’t empathize and the range of his/her interests is narrow.
What causes the disorder is not known completely. The major factor lies in genes – those that control the neuron cells connection formation. The risk for the baby to become autistic is increased if the mother had the flu or a fever, or took antibiotics during pregnancy. The scientists look into other factors as well. Autism is usually diagnosed before the 3rd year of child’s life.
The symptoms appear gradually, but some children develop normally up to some point and then start to show the signs of the disorder – regressive autism. This was connected to the MMR vaccine.
But what made scientists doubt the safety of the measles, rubella, and mumps vaccines? One of the reasons is the increased growth of the number of children with autism in the 1980s. The doctors learned how to diagnose this dysfunction. But there was something else.
Andrew Wakefield’s cooperation with parents, who wanted to sue the manufacturers of the vaccines, became another stimulus to do research. Very often autism is developed at the same age when it’s high time do get vaccinated. But that doesn’t prove anything. If the two phenomena happen at the same time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one causes the other.
When the journal published the article that connected vaccines and autism, scientists from all over the world started to check this info thoroughly. The main goal of the next tests was not to prove that vaccines were harmless but to see if they really affected the child’s psychological development. If the scientists had found solid evidence that immunization increases the chances of autism, they would have stopped using the MMR vaccine and started using other safe alternatives. But the proofs were never found.
In 2015 the scientist once again decided to see whether there is a link between vaccines and autism. They observed 100,000 children, 2,000 of which had autistic brothers or sisters.
And guess what? These tests didn’t reveal any connections between vaccines and autism. The MMR vaccine didn’t raise the risks of developing the disorder. The autism was developing equally among those who were not immunized and those who were.
There is no doubt anymore that vaccines have nothing to do with autism, but still, the parents don’t know what to do. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Perhaps the answer will become definite if you think of the moment in the future when your child will communicate with a sick person. This risk is more dangerous and its consequences can be very serious.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.