Lives Made Better | Summer 2011

Immunizations and Autism:
Evidence Shows No Link

Autism is a significant medical concern. It has become more prevalent in recent years, affecting about one in 150 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One reason is that the definition of autism now includes more children. Also, parents and doctors know more about autism, so a greater number of kids are being diagnosed and getting help.

Autism actually represents a group of developmental disorders with symptoms that can range from mild to severe. The main problem for children with autism is that they find it tough to engage in the social part of life. They have difficulty communicating and interacting with parents and other kids. They also may rock back and forth or repeat the same behavior several times.

Medical experts are still trying to learn what causes autism.

In 1998, one published report asked if childhood vaccines could be the cause. The small study—which included only 12 children—questioned the MMR vaccine, a combination shot that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). Other experts and follow-up research had long disputed the study. Then, in early 2010, the article was retracted by The Lancet, the respected medical journal that had published it, after flaws in the study’s research methods were revealed.

There is no scientific evidence, therefore, that vaccines cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics says no evidence supports the theory that MMR shots cause autism. This conclusion is supported by a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine as well as the CDC.

Besides the now-discredited report, there’s another reason some parents have spoken out against shots such as the MMR vaccine. The first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when kids are between ages 12 and 15 months. This is often when early signs of autism can appear. Again, a causal relationship is not supported by the evidence.

Based on the research, parents can feel safer about having their children vaccinated. There is also no evidence that combination shots such as the MMR vaccine can overwork a child’s immune system. In fact, vaccines actually help the body’s natural defenses fight off disease. According to medical experts, it’s what you don’t do that could harm your child. Skipping or delaying immunizations can put your child at risk for disease. For example, the MMR vaccine protects against serious—sometimes deadly— conditions. Measles can lead to seizures and swelling around the brain. Mumps can cause deafness, and rubella can have severe effects on pregnant women and their babies.

These diseases are becoming more common in the U.S., including Michigan, for various reasons, such as global travel. Concern about vaccinations, due in part to widespread publicity about the now-discredited study, is also considered a factor in the comeback of some vaccinepreventable diseases.

To keep your child safe and healthy, follow the vaccination schedule your doctor recommends; it has been carefully designed based on reliable medical research. If you have concerns about vaccinating your youngster, talk openly with your doctor. Getting the facts will help you make the right choices for your child.

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