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Why Do People Think Vaccines Cause Autism

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Myth #: We Don’t Need To Vaccinate Because Infection Rates Are Already So Low In The United States

Do Vaccines Cause Autism? – Dr. Bradley Peterson

Thanks to “herd immunity,” so long as a large majority of people are immunized in any population, even the unimmunized minority will be protected. With so many people resistant, an infectious disease will never get a chance to establish itself and spread. This is important because there will always be a portion of the population infants, pregnant women, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems that can’t receive vaccines.

But if too many people don’t vaccinate themselves or their children, they contribute to a collective danger, opening up opportunities for viruses and bacteria to establish themselves and spread.

Not to mention, as the Centers for Disease Control warn, international travel is growing quickly, so even if a disease is not a threat in your country, it may be common elsewhere. If someone were to carry in a disease from abroad, an unvaccinated individual will be at far greater risk of getting sick if he or she is exposed.

Vaccines are one of the great pillars of modern medicine. Life used to be especially brutal for children before vaccines, with huge portions being felled by diseases like measles, smallpox, whooping cough, or rubella, to name just a few. Today these ailments can be completely prevented with a simple injection.

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March 18, 2020 10:01 am — Understandably, news headlines around the country — and, indeed, around the globe — are currently being dominated by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, and the AAFP has been leading the charge to keep family physicians up to date with the latest COVID-19 developments.

It’s critical to remember, though, that outbreaks of infectious diseases such as influenza and measles continue — and that although a vaccine for coronavirus is still a year or more away, vaccines for other known preventable diseases already exist and are readily available.

Unfortunately, as the results of a recent Gallup survey indicate, public support for vaccines continues to trend in the wrong direction. The survey found that fewer people today say it’s important for parents to get their children vaccinated than in 2001, while more people now think that vaccines cause autism in children and are more dangerous than the diseases they are designed to prevent.

Sarrc’s Message On Vaccines

At SARRC, we believe the ultimate decision to vaccinate a child is a personal choice. If asked, we would recommend vaccinations because dozens of reputable scientific studies have failed to show a link between vaccines and autism, while numerous other studies demonstrate that the risks from the diseases the vaccines are meant to prevent are dangerous to a childs health and well-being. Our research focuses on early identification of autism because it leads to early intensive intervention, which is the most important support we can provide for a child diagnosed with autism at this time.

Read more about autism and vaccines in a Q& A with SARRC’s Vice President and Research Director Christopher J. Smith, PhD, here.

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Medical Experts Weight In

In addition, several studies reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer assurance to parents that vaccines do not cause autism.

These studies evaluated eight vaccines and also looked at a child’s response to antigen development from several vaccines over the first two years of life. Plus, the CDC found that exposure to thimerosal, either early in life or in the womb, does not increase a childs risk.

Additional studies from Europe, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have confirmed what the CDC found the patient advocacy group Autism Speaks also agrees.

Even though the medical evidence strongly supports that vaccines do not cause autism, many parents find the data overwhelming or simply ignore it. Some parents do not follow their child’s vaccine schedule and skip immunization, a great cause for concern.

In a study from Kaiser Permanente published in JAMA Pediatrics researchers found evidence that among children aged 4 to 6, those with autism were “significantly less likely” to receive the full range of recommended vaccines compared with other children.

Talking About Vaccines: Autism

Nine major myths about vaccinations. Busted.

Claims that vaccines cause autism have led some parents to delay or refuse vaccines for their children. The most common claims are that autism is caused by MMR vaccine, vaccines that contain thimerosal, or too many vaccines. Many scientific studies have been done to test these claims. None has shown any correlation between vaccines and autism.

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The Danger Of Medical Myths

People want and need to be able to make informed decisions about their own health care and the health care of their family. And when armed with the correct, science-based information, people can make very effective health decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Other vaccine myths have cropped up as well.

One myth is that we dont need to vaccinate against diseases that are no longer endemic. But the only time we can safely stop using a vaccine is when a disease is eradicated worldwide. So far, thats only happened with smallpox.

Other people have raised fears that vaccines weaken the immune system and that natural immunity is better. However, thats not the case. Vaccines strengthen the immune system by providing a challenge to the immune system against a very particular antigen or group of antigens.

Medical myths are not benign. They have the potential to do the most harm.

People want and need to be able to make informed decisions about their health care and the health care of their families. When armed with the correct, science-based information, people can make very effective health decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

The Allure Of Natural Health

Our society is increasingly preoccupied with organic foods and medicinecertain that natural substances are all we need to remain healthy and than “chemicals” are the problem. In 2018, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company, Goop, invited “holistic health psychiatrist” Kelly Brogan to speak at a conferenceBrogan links vaccines and autism, and insists flu shots don’t work. Holly Blumhardt, a California mother of three unvaccinated children, told the L.A. Times her family believes in staying healthy “from the inside out.” She takes vitamins, avoids GMOs and sees to a chiropractorand receives a belief exemption from innocculating her kids.

An entire alternative medical establishment has emerged to serve anti-vaccine parents fixated on being “natural”: One former naturopathic doctor told The Atlantic she met a naturopath who suggested elderberry syrup could substitute for the flu vaccine. Naturopaths undergo far less rigorous scientific training than conventional doctors, yet 20 states give them licenses to practice, legitimizing science-skeptical philosophies.

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Substantial Uncertainty On Vaccines And Autism

Perhaps the most well-publicized and debunked claim of danger posed by vaccines is that they cause autism. Currently, 10% of U.S. adults believe vaccines cause autism in children, marking a modest increase from 6% in 2015. Nearly half, 45% do not think vaccines cause autism, up modestly from the 41% who said the same almost five years ago. And 46%, down from 52%, say they are unsure.

Yes, do cause autism
Gallup, Dec. 2-15, 2019

The more advanced an American’s formal education, the more likely they are to say vaccines do not cause autism. The figure is 73% among those with postgraduate education, falling to 61% among those with a college degree only, 42% of those with some college and 28% of those with no college experience. Importantly, lesser-educated Americans are much more likely to have no opinion than to say they believe vaccines do cause autism. The percentage making the causal connection tops out at 12% among Americans with no college education, versus 5% of postgraduates.

There are also substantial partisan differences, with 55% of Democrats saying vaccines do not cause autism, compared with 37% of Republicans.

Problems With Herd Immunity

How do we know that the MMR vaccine doesnt cause autism?

Parents who have relied on herd immunity, which takes place when the vast majority of a population is immune to a highly contagious disease like measles, can no longer do so.

To the parents who don’t trust the AAP, saying it is in the pockets of the vaccine industry, consider this. Of all the medical societies, it is the one which consistently lobbies for the benefit of moneyless patients: children. It doesn’t lobby for the pediatricians. Like child psychologists and psychiatrists, pediatricians have the best interests of the child, not the vaccine company, at heart. The huge amount of time they spend trying to convince parents to have their children vaccinated is unreimbursed. The amount they are paid for administering a vaccine is negligible.

Even Autism Speaks, a well-known autism advocacy group which in the past has not helped encourage vaccinations, in 2015 urged parents to vaccinate their children with MMR. Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism, said Bob Ring, Chief Science Officer, in a statement at that time. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.

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Thimerosal And Autism: What’s The Link

Thimerosal was removed from most vaccines by 2001 . That’s because researchers worried that children were being exposed to too-high levels from receiving multiple vaccinations in a short timeframe. This decision was based on what levels were considered safe for methyl mercurythe kind in fish, which is structurally very different from the ethyl mercury found in thimerosal. Although scientists suspected that thimerosal was much safer than methyl mercury, they decided to remove it anyway, just to be super-careful.

However, a large study published in Archives of General Psychiatry in 2008 found that cases of autism continued to increase in California long after 2001, when thimerosal was removed from most vaccines. “If thimerosal in vaccines were causing autism, we’d expect that diagnoses of autism would decrease dramatically after the chemical was removed from vaccines,” says Eric Fombonne, M.D., director of the psychiatry division at Montreal Children’s Hospital and a member of the National Institutes of Health advisory board for autism research programs. “Not only did cases not decrease, but they continued to rise. That tells us that something else must be responsible for rising rates of autism in this country.”

A series of many studies in other countries and populations drew similar conclusions. “Thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Canada in 1996 and in Denmark in 1992,” says Dr. Fombonne. “Autism is still on the rise in those countries as well.”

Myth #: Vaccines Can Infect My Child With The Disease It’s Trying To Prevent

Vaccines can cause mild symptoms resembling those of the disease they are protecting against. A common misconception is that these symptoms signal infection. In fact, in the small percentage where symptoms do occur, the vaccine recipients are experiencing a body’s immune response to the vaccine, not the disease itself. There is only one recorded instance in which a vaccine was shown to cause disease. This was the Oral Polio Vaccine which is no longer used in the U.S. Since then, vaccines have been in safe use for decades and follow strict Food and Drug Administration regulations.

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Myth #: Infant Immune Systems Can’t Handle So Many Vaccines

Infant immune systems are stronger than you might think. Based on the number of antibodies present in the blood, a baby would theoretically have the ability to respond to around 10,000 vaccines at one time. Even if all 14 scheduled vaccines were given at once, it would only use up slightly more than 0.1% of a baby’s immune capacity. And scientists believe this capacity is purely theoretical. The immune system could never truly be overwhelmed because the cells in the system are constantly being replenished. In reality, babies are exposed to countless bacteria and viruses every day, and immunizations are negligible in comparison.

Though there are more vaccinations than ever before, today’s vaccines are far more efficient. Small children are actually exposed to fewer immunologic components overall than children in past decades.

Why Do People Believe Vaccines Cause Autism Where Did This Myth Come From Why Has It Spread As Truth

Why Parents Aren

In 1998, a UK physician named Andrew Wakefield that claimed he found a correlation between autism , gastrointestinal disorders, and infection with the measles virus.

The paper did not directly implicate vaccines. However, in the subsequent press conferences and media contacts Wakefield had, he specifically spread concerns about the MMR vaccine being linked to this gastrointestinal-autism disorder connection.

The fear that vaccines cause autism spread from that point for the following decade and beyond.

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Mmr Vaccine Does Not Cause Autism Examine The Evidence

There is no scientific evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism. The question about a possible link between MMR vaccine and autism has been extensively reviewed by independent groups of experts in the United States, including the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine . These reviews have concluded that the available epidemiologic evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism

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Why Do Parents Worry About Vaccines

We are in the midst of a measles epidemic. As of July 25th, more than 1,100 cases have been reported in 30 states since the beginning of the year. Thats the highest number since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Given that measles is extremely contagious the virus can linger in rooms even after a sick person has left and can lead to serious complications, this is really alarming.

There is a simple way to help: get more people immunized.

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Do Vaccines Cause Autism

Some parents of children with ASD wonder whether a link exists between autism and vaccines. The concern first started with the MMR vaccine, an immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella. Some parents believe this vaccine causes the onset of autism. Despite these strongly held beliefs by proponents of the vaccine theory, there is no scientific proof that the MMR vaccineor any other vaccinecauses autism.

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Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism: Healthcare Triage #12

None of the claims have proven to be true when it comes to autism, and there’s no reason to think they are any more valid with the Covid-19 vaccines. With the stakes so high, it’s important to understand just how and why vaccine doubters are wrong.

It’s true that the Covid-19 vaccine went through an unprecedentedly rapid process for which we should all be grateful, given the urgency. And while there’s concern that the Covid-19 vaccines were rushed and that that means they haven’t been properly vetted or that their safety is otherwise in question, it’s simply not the case.

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Why Are People With Autism At Higher Risk Of Covid

The higher risks of COVID-19 that researchers found in people with autism arent due to the developmental or intellectual disabilities themselves, but rather because people with them are more likely to live in a group setting, be unable to communicate about having symptoms, or have trouble understanding or following safety measures, according to the CDC.

Sometimes it is difficult for people with ASD to wear masks and keep social distancing, themselves and others at increased risk of spreading or acquiring COVID-19, says Robert Hendren, DO, a psychiatrist and the director of the program for research on neurodevelopmental and translational outcomes at the University of California in San Francisco.

Early symptoms may be overlooked because people with ASD may not be able to express their discomforts, such as sore throat. If someone with ASD gets COVID-19, they may have a very difficult time being in the hospital and receiving treatments that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and potentially scary, Dr. Hendren explains.

Further, and as noted by the authors of the NEJM Catalyst report, people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to have other health problems at the same time that put them at higher risk for infection and COVID-19 disease, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Banks says this is true of people with ASD as well.

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Vaccine Ingredients Do Not Cause Autism

  • One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative used to prevent germs from contaminating multidose vials of vaccines. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosalcontaining vaccines and autism.Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism external icon

Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD. These studies also found no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and ASD in children. Learn more about the CDC Studies on Thimerosal in Vaccines pdf icon.

Even before studies showed that thimerosal was not harmful, there was a national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposures in children. As precaution, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines between 1999 and 2001. Currently, the only type of vaccine that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. There are thimerosal-free alternatives available for flu vaccine. For more information, see the Timeline for Thimerosal in Vaccines.

Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.

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