In our last post on autism, we discussed why the diagnosis of autism has been on the rise over the past twenty years. During that same time period, researchers also began studying vaccines, because the number of children receiving vaccines was increasing. Here is what the scientific research has found.
Multiple, large-scale scientific studies over the past decade have failed to find any association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The controversy began in 1998, when Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published a fraudulent research paper, falsely claiming that the MMR vaccine was linked to the development of autism. After it was found that the study’s data was manipulated and the study was critically flawed, the Lancet medical journal retracted the study in 2010. This means that the paper is not part of scientific record or the medical literature, because it was based on falsified, misrepresented data. Since 2001, numerous studies have shown that children who received vaccines and those who didn’t had no difference in their neurological outcomes.
Thimerosal, a preservative used in trace amounts in some vaccines, has not been found to be associated with autism.
Numerous studies have failed to confirm any association between thimerosal and autism. Since 2008, thimerosal has either been removed completely or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines that are routinely recommended for children who are six years old or younger. A recent meta-analysis also failed to find a relationship between MMR, mercury, thimerosal or vaccines in general.
Researchers studied children 7 to 10 years after they received vaccines, and found that there is no adverse effect on neurological outcomes for children who received recommended vaccines on time during their first year of life, compared to children whose vaccines were delayed or not given at all during infancy. This may reassure parents who are concerned that children are receiving too many vaccines too soon.
Daniel L. Coury, MD, is Chief of the Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Psychiatry at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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