For years, parents have been misled by the belief that vaccines cause autism. In a recent article, managing editor of The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, Alison Knopf, discredits this common misconception. Knopf discusses why much of the general public has been taking fact from fiction about the unsupported link between vaccines and autism, as well as what this idea means for public health.
A False Start
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published a study in The Lancet that first linked the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. This study, conducted with only 12 subjects, gained press and MMR vaccinations began to drop. Twelve years later, this study was determined invalid, as similar results could not be reproduced.
“The study was, in fact, fraudulent, and when The Lancet found it had been funded by lawyers for parents who were suing vaccine companies, the paper was retracted in 2010, and Wakefield lost his license. Since then, large studies found no connection between vaccines and autism. This includes thimerosal, a preservative in some vaccines.”
Despite the mounting evidence proving that vaccines do not cause autism and the lack of concrete evidence suggesting the contrary, this controversy continues. President Donald Trump, a long time vaccine critic, propels this controversy by moving to include Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a task force on autism. Kennedy advocates the idea that vaccines cause autism and wants overturn laws that require child vaccination. This move raised alarm for the American Academy of Pediatrics who responded with the following statement on January 10th, 2017, immediately following the Trump’s meeting with Kennedy:
“In response to news reports today suggesting a possible new federal commission on immunizations, the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterates that vaccines protect children’s health and save lives. They prevent life-threatening disease, including forms of cancer. Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are the most significant medical innovation of our time.
“Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.”
“Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature. Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease. Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, and children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.
“Pediatricians partner with parents to provide the best care for their children, and what is best for children is to be fully vaccinated. We stand ready to work with the White House and the federal government to share the extensive scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of vaccines, including the recommended schedule.”
— Fernando Stein, M.D., AAP President & Karen Remley, M.D., AAP CEO
Measles, a disease that had been successfully eradicated from the US in 2000 thanks to widespread vaccination, has made a return leading to an outbreak in 2014. Outgoing commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D, emphasizes that vaccination is the single best prevention for measles, as it works with the body to develop immunity and prevents spread of the disease.
“When more people are vaccinated, there are fewer opportunities for the disease to spread… Today, there are two safe and effective FDA-approved vaccines. More than 95% of the people who receive a single dose will develop immunity. And a second dose conveys immunity to nearly everyone who did not respond to the first dose. Simply put, these vaccines are safe and effective, and serious side effects are rare.”
Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement in 2015 as a reminder that there is no evidence linking autism and vaccines.
The idea that vaccines cause autism has been disproven time and time again, yet many still choose to believe the results a single, very limited, proven fraudulent study. Furthermore, the idea that a vaccine, something completely unrelated to Autism, is able to some how manifest into a disorder that effects social skills is simply absurd. Unfortunately, this mindset is not going anywhere quickly, as policymakers are led by vaccine critics or are skeptics themselves. This is not a matter of taking sides on the issue, but rather separating fact from fiction. Fact of the matter is that vaccines do not cause autism, and failing to vaccinate children puts them and others at risk for serious diseases that are easily preventable.
– Claire Jaicks
Knopf, A. (2017). Vaccines do not cause autism: Pediatricians fight back against anti-science. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter,33(S2), 1-2. doi:10.1002/cbl.30195
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