The Link to Autism…Vaccines??

By Rachel

Photo source: nexusnovum on Flickr

What if you were a parent who moments ago just found out that your child was autistic? What if you were a teacher (see this video) with a class full of autistic children? New data shows an average of 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder. As a parent, your life is full of stress. Now, imagine having a child with a mental disability, this doubles your stress. You are left with nothing but questions; this is the reason why many parents have been easily influenced by what the media has to say about the vaccine link to autism, rather than listening to what scientists have shown to be correct.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of a child’s life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. It is a physical condition that is linked to abnormal chemistry and biology in the brain. The exact causes of this disorder still remain unknown. Autism comes in different forms, some being more severe and extreme than others. For instance one person with autism can lead a normal life and nobody will suspect them of having any disorder, but other’s require constant care throughout their whole life.  How does this huge range of symptoms make discovering the real cause of autism more difficult?

Is it true that the vaccines children receive are linked to autism? False, but even after scientific studies have proved it wrong, parents are still concerned and some are now against getting their child vaccinated, which could be dangerous and fatal. Nearly all of the health organizations have stated that there is no evidence or relationship between vaccines and autism, but a huge controversy still remains. The main reason as to why parents believe vaccinations are leading to autism is because a short time after their child had received vaccines, they noticed changes in their children’s behavior. A coincidence is all that it is; autism symptoms start to show at the same age as the routine vaccinations are scheduled.

The driving force of this whole “debate” is the media and its overall influence on the public. Thanks to people, like Jenny McCarthy who has lead the public to believe the misconception that autism is caused by child vaccinations, the public no longer has any interest in listening to what scientists and doctors have proven wrong. In today’s generation many people are easily influenced by celebrities like Oprah, even though she has little knowledge in the medical field. After many studies and cases in court, over and over again no link has been found to prove that the public’s hypothesis that autism is linked to vaccines. Parents would like to believe that vaccinations lead to autism, even though it has been proven false because any parent would like to find the answer to why their child has this disorder. Blaming it on vaccines is a comfort for parents.

If parents start to become ignorant and refuse to get their children vaccinated, then diseases that could have been prevented will become a major problem in our society.  Every year, 2.5 million unvaccinated children worldwide die of diseases that vaccines could have prevented, and vaccines prevent the deaths of an additional 2 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For this debate to come to an end, scientists must put in a bigger effort to communicate their research studies in a convincing manner. Then again, why should scientists work so hard completing experiments if factual results don’t convince people?

  • Ms Baker

    Reminder: Seth Mnookin, the author of the incredible book, The Panic Virus, may visit our school. Extra credit to any students who read his book.

    Also, check back soon for a podcast interview with Mnookin by your fellow classmate Alex!

  • Elsa

    Seth is also on our podcast (PRI’s The World Science) this week, and is taking questions and comments online. Quite a discussion is developing, I hope you and the students can stop by and check it out! Here’s the link:

  • Anonymous

    Great post! This is an extremely interesting topic and it is very relevant in today’s news. After doing a bit more research I came across on article written in the Huffington Post only yesterday related to this topic. In the article, Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein, M.D. (the chairman of the Department of Medicine, Cedars-Senai) explained simply that “child vaccinations do not cause Autism,” as Rachel said within this post. In the article, Braunstein mentioned a study conducted in 1998 by a man named Andrew Wakefield. This study seemed to present evidence supporting the fact that vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines, all had a link to Autism. However, this study is considered to be not only a poorly conducted study, but also a fraud. According to a recent investigation, Wakefield had altered the evidence and misrepresented data within his study in order to make a profit from lawyers that were preparing to sue vaccination companies at the time. Wakefield was charged with dishonesty and ethical violations. Although Wakefield’s study has proven to be completely false, people are still convinced that vaccinations are linked to Autism and are refusing to vaccinate their children as a result, which severely is putting many kids at risk. Something must be done to make it clear that vaccinations have absolutely no relation to Autism and those spreading the false message must be punished!


  • Gunnar_SIA

    Awesome Post! and Great comment Alice! I do also agree with you Alice. I just watched a video on CNN that you can view at the end of this comment that said the numbers and information of the vaccines were simply made up. The scientists brought this out of nowhere for attention. Autism isn’t even related to the vaccines of Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR). A CNN writer states in a post, “The Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes neither autism nor gastrointestinal disorders, a study reported Wednesday, disputing a theory that has persisted for a decade.” But, W. Ian Lipkin stated in his most recent study “Wakefield theorized that the virus used in the vaccine grew in the intestinal tract, leading to inflammation that made the bowel porous. That allowed material to seep from the bowel into the blood, Wakefield’s theory surmised, affecting the nervous system and causing autism.” So after this comment Lipkin and some more scientists decided to do some research. Lipkin analyzed samples taken from 38 children with bowel disorders, and 25 of who also had autism. They analyzed the data in Colombia in the same lab that Wakefield did his research. After further research Lipkin stated that they found absolutely no evidence linked to the vaccine and autism. Lipkin stated “this research is simply put to bed” which simply means this is over with.

  • Ms Baker

    Great quantitative data Gunnar! Do you think it’s important for people to read the data from these studies when trying to decide whether to believe vaccines cause autism? Is it not enough for scientists to just say, “we have the data = therefore, you should believe us”?

  • Ms Baker

    Anyone want to try and tackle Rachel’s question, “Then again, why should scientists work so hard completing experiments if factual results don’t convince people?”

  • Deirdre

    This was definitely an interesting post, and this question is interesting as well. With an autistic cousin, I can say that I have had some experience dealing with children of these problems. I agree with Rachel when she says that parents are blaming autism on the vaccines as a sort of comfort. The media is known for blowing things out of proportion, and for scientists to work very hard on researching such a large topic to just be ignored is an outrage, in my opinion. Scientists who look into these issues are dedicating their time and effort into searching for cures or even just reasons as to why Autism occurs. This is a topic I am happy was brought to the blog, because without this post I would not know that people have been basically ignoring the voices of scientists. I think scientists need to keep working with the media and can definitely compete for their voice to be heard, especially with blogs like ours. Scientists need to research these things, because without the research we wouldn’t even understand Autism and what makes an Autistic child different from a regular child. Scientists need to continue this research so we can understand the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this was such an interesting article! After doing further research on Jenny McCarthy and the reasons as to why parents erroneously believe that vaccines can cause autism, I found very interestingpoints! Jenny McCarthy has published a book called, “Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism,” which discusses her hardships in raising an autistic child and talks about how vaccinations caused her child’s autism. Because celebrities are so well-known and looked up to, many people are thoroughly influenced by them, and instead of listening to educated people like scientists, they listen to celebrities. This has caused many people to think that their child has autism because of vaccinations. Vaccinations have saved the lives of countless children, and based on scientific research, they protect, not hurt children.

  • Leyla

    I thought this was such an interesting post, especially considering that I have a post about this issue on my MedSci Discoveries blog coming up next week! In researching my post, I learned a very disturbing fact: an astonishingly large number of measles cases–more than there had been in any year since 1997– cropped up in the United States in 2008. This was 10 years after Andrew Wakefield had published his study about the supposed link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, and according to the CDC 90+% of these cases hit children who hadn’t been vaccinated. Though one must be sympathetic towards the skeptical views of parents whose children are afflicted with autism, they can’t simply stare blindly in the face of facts. It affects the health of children world wide when parents watch interviews of anti-vaccine parents and grow afraid, refusing in turn to vaccinate their own children.

  • Anonymous

    Hey guys. i decided to answer the question “why should scientists work so hard completing experiments if factual results don’t convince people?”. After reading this post, I was quite shocked that people would actually believe that vacines cause autism. Its almost like believing that the earth was flat. Suppose vacines did cause autism. Would scientists not have already noticed this and tested this hypothesis. If this was true they would’ve already have a cure for it. Scientists have been working day and night to help find cures for cancer, asthma, autism and other diseases. Why? not for personal gain, but to help other people with their medical problems, and benifit society.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Eva! After all these years scientiast ahve still not found a cure for cancer. If we can find a cure it would be a breakthrough in the science community. In the packet that we ahd fro homework some sceintsit have thought of cures. One cure is that they will stimulate the cancer with medicine and then attack it with therapy. Micahel Douglas has currently claimed that he has beat cancer. Which he did. Doctors have infected hsi body with medicine that eat away at cancer cells, but there will be furture problems because the chemiclas that they gave him affect other parts of his body such as the liver, kidneys etc. Another attempted cure is Chemotheropy. It works by killing fast-growing cancer cells. I hope that there are more post about cancer because I find it interesting.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting post! I decided to do more research on what types of things people think cause autism besides vaccines and found it has to do with problems in your genes. Some studies have shown that it has to do with certain parts of the brain having irregularities. There’s also the thought that autism is genetic, and studies even showed that if with twins, both typically have autism. Autism can be treated though, using therapies and medications, like most disorders like autism (ADHD, ADD).

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