Autism isn't caused by vaccines, but one in ten parents still refuse or delay providing their children with potentially life-saving vaccinations because of this long-standing myth. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new study led by Dr. Frank DeStefano which again found absolutely no link between the number or timing of childhood vaccines and the development of autism.
The study, which will be published in The Journal of Pediatrics, examined over 1,000 children born between 1994-1999. One-fourth of the children had autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the rest didn't. The team looked at each child's exposure history to vaccines, including the number of antigens that a child received in a single day of vaccination.
Antigens are the substances in vaccines that allow the body's immune system to produce antibodies that fight the development of disease.
The CDC noted that the current childhood vaccination schedule lists more vaccines than the 1990s schedule. However, because of more targeted drug design, children today are exposed to only 315 antigens by the age of two, compared to the thousands of antigens that they would have been exposed to during the time period of the 1990s children in the study.
Yet, even with that high exposure to the antigens, the children showed no link between getting the vaccines and having an autism spectrum disorder.
The CDC has had an uphill battle trying to persuade parents to get their children vaccinated on time. Doctors have published multiple studies on the safety of vaccines. For instance, a study released in January said there was no link between childhood vaccination and autism or asthma.
As far back as 2001, Dr. DeStefano and the CDC worked on a paper called "Autism and measles-mumps-rubella vaccination: controversy laid to rest?" In that paper, the CDC addressed the issue of parents blaming the life-saving vaccine for their children developing autism. After examining the evidence, they noted that it was simply a coincidence caused by the fact that the vaccine was often received at the same age that children with ASD would be old enough to start showing obvious symptoms of their illness.
However, the false association got new life because of a 1998 study performed at a London hospital, which had to be retracted in 2010 by the Lancet, the medical journal that published it. That study turned out to be "an elaborate fraud," the journal acknowledged in early 2011.
Andrew Wakefield was stripped of his UK medical license in May 2010. But the damage done by his hoax remains because busy parents don't always have time to keep up and they may continue to believe the link is there.
But there's no link between autism and vaccines. None. Don't make the CDC have to come over there and tell you again.
[vaccine photo James Gathany and CDC via Wikipedia Commons]