Tough Stuff

Some say that vaccines cause autism--do you agree?

You’ve may have heard about the massive debate about the cause of autism: some think that vaccines can cause autism, while others disagree. President Trump and actress Jenny McCarthy are among the high profile peeps who have said they believe that getting vaccinated (ouch!) in childhood leads to the development of autism. Organizations like Autism Speaks and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) argue that vaccines are not the culprit of these disorders.

Before you form your own opinion, get to know the facts.

What is autism?
According to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, autism is a term for “a group of complex disorders of brain development.” They say it’s characterized “by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”

What is a vaccine? 
According to, "a vaccine is a product that produces immunity from a disease and can be administered through needle injections, by mouth, or by aerosol" and that vaccines help in "preventing outbreaks of disease and protecting those who cannot be vaccinated." You can go here to learn more about how vaccines work.

Why do some people think autism is caused by vaccines?
Some parents refuse to vaccinate their children against polio, chicken pox and various other diseases because they believe that vaccines lower immune system function, making kids more susceptible to the disorder. The CDC recommends a child receive 13 vaccines (one vaccine can require several doses) from birth to age 18. That’s a lot of needles! During his campaign, then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump tweeted his opinion on vaccination, saying, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!”

The fear that vaccines cause autism goes back to a study published by Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist (someone that treats diseases related to the stomach and intestines), in 1998. The study found that kids who received the vaccine MMR, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella were more likely to develop autism. It was later proven that the study was littered with procedural error which discredited its findings. The journal that published it, The Lancet, later retracted the study and apologized.

What is the other side saying?
The CDC states that “there is no link between vaccines and autism.” In a 2011 study of eight vaccines given to children and adults, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded "that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe."

In addition, public health experts say it’s important that people know vaccines are safe and effective so that the majority of people will be immune to diseases like polio and measles (which killed millions of people in the U.S. before the vaccines).

What’s your take on vaccines and autism? Sound off in the comments.


by Emily Cavanagh | 2/18/2017
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