Vaccine blame is hard to shake

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Even in 2020, approximately 1 in 6 caregivers of autistics believes vaccines may be the cause of autism. Of beliefs regarding the cause of autism, vaccines (16.5%) is fourth behind beliefs of genetics (58.4%), environmental influences (21.9%), and birth complications (16.9%). Caregivers who endorse the vaccine connection often have children requiring more “substantial levels of support,” and over 50% have children with regressive autism.[1] In regressive autism, a child has seemingly normal development, but then, typically between 1 to 5 years of age, the child’s development stalls or regresses especially in regard to social function and communication. Regressive autism accounts for approximately 30% of all autism. I can see how regression in the development of a child coinciding with the age that vaccines are given would enhance the belief in the vaccine-autism connection. The vaccine debate is ever looming, with particular focus on the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Some people argue that no good studies have been done to negate the claim. Yet, one research article worth mentioning is a paper by Madsen, in which all children born in Denmark from 1991 to 1998 were evaluated for diagnosis of autism by MMR vaccine status. This study, including over 500,000 children (>400,000 vaccinated (82%) and >96,000 unvaccinated) showed no difference regarding autism diagnoses between these groups. I mention this article due to its enormous size and to counter the argument that there are no major undertakings to quell this debate. The data demonstrates MMR does not cause autism, and I’d like to think this is the end of the MMR vaccine-autism question, but the incidence of autism in this study is rather small with only 738 diagnoses in total, an incidence of 1-2/10,000 children. Even in the 1990s, this is a conservative estimate. The article states that only specialists in child psychology may make the diagnosis of autism in Denmark, and hence, quote high validity in their diagnoses. In some ways this offers a more uniform diagnosis, and likely results in more clear cases, such as those requiring greater care. This kind of entire nation evaluation should help put an end to the debate, but again, I can see how regression in the development of a child coinciding with the age vaccines are given would cause concern, especially in the age of social media.

1. Fombonne E, Goin-Kochel RP, O'Roak BJ; SPARK Consortium. Beliefs in vaccine as causes of autism among SPARK cohort caregivers. Vaccine. 2020 Feb 11;38(7):1794-1803. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.12.026. Epub 2020 Jan 8. PMID: 31924427.

2. Madsen KM, Hviid A, Vestergaard M, Schendel D, Wohlfahrt J, Thorsen P, Olsen J, Melbye M. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism. N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 7;347(19):1477-82. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa021134. PMID: 12421889.

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

If given the choice...

I recently reread Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys [1], a book I had not read for some time, and now I have a much different perspective. I can see why the book fell out of favor as it was written

Let’s not go back to blaming parents

In the April 2020 article, “Early Media Exposure and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Heat and Light,” in JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. Christakis urges the USA to further investigate the association of early televis

Pet Peeves about Autism that Often Bother Me

By A 2020 Scholarship Recipient ~ ~ I do not look at having autism as a bad thing. I am actually really grateful I have it. I do not let it define me or my life, but I work hard to define it. I often