Before you read this post, I want to clarify my position as an educator to avoid anyone reading anything into what I want to write about vaccines. As most of my readers know, I base all my blog posts on current research, best practice policies by leading health organizations (e.g. CDC, WHO, AAP), and a firm understanding of developmental pediatrics. I have no personal gripe with the medical establishment, holistic medicine, or scientific process. My position on vaccines is guided by peer-reviewed scientific research and my knowledge of the dangers of childhood illnesses that are prevented with vaccines. I have no agenda beyond wanting to give accurate, unbiased information so you can make the best decision for your child.
With that said, I will continue…
Recent research* has again confirmed the findings of past research that the MMR vaccine does not raise the risk of autism, even among children who are at increased genetic risk. These studies, plus multiple previous studies, have shown that there is no link between the MMR vaccine, nor any vaccine, and autism.
It is important to remember that the small 1998 study that linked the MMR vaccine with autism was found to be fraudulent and was retracted**. And, the doctor that published that study was also stripped of his medical license***.
Since the fraudulent study’s publication in 1998, vaccines have been under attack, particularly the MMR vaccine. It is normal that parents are concerned about autism, especially with the rising rate of diagnosis. Researchers have investigated the false association of the MMR vaccine to autism and ruled it out over and over. Additionally, they continue to investigate other associations to discover the real cause.
Currently, researchers believe the rising rate of autism is related to a “triple hit” which includes a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger that occurs during a certain period of time in brain development. That said, the MMR vaccine has never been identified as one of the environmental triggers. Researchers are looking at prenatal brain development as being the critical period of brain development – which is well before vaccines are introduced into a baby’s body.
Much more research needs to be done to find out what is causing the exponential increase in autism diagnosis. Answers will only be found by using appropriate scientific methods, following information as it arises, discarding insignificant data, and avoiding the desire to spread fear by blaming common items or activities just to provide an “answer.”
It is completely understandable that parents with children affected by this disorder want an answer. And, we know that when we have an answer for why some children are autistic, that prevention and treatment methods become more precise and effective. However, erroneously blaming life-saving vaccines only leads us away from finding real answers and puts children’s lives at risk from other disease that are still dangerous and deadly, such as measles, pertussis, and diphtheria.
Most pediatric health care providers have an enormous passion for pediatric health. We care tremendously about our little patients and their families. The recommendation to vaccinate completely, and on time, is motivated by our desire to provide the best care for every patient. Vaccination prevents illnesses and death. Not vaccinating puts patients at risk for very real illnesses. Vaccinating a child is a loving, health promoting act. Putting a child at risk of numerous childhood illnesses for fear of a disorder that has not been linked to any vaccine by a well-designed, legitimate study is not logical.
Emotions can drive us to act irresponsibly. However, there are ways of dealing with those emotions in a positive way to avoid acting irresponsibly. Logical, responsible ways to confront strong emotions about vaccines and autism could include seeking information from reputable sources, talking with experts, or reading the solid research available on this topic. Also, remembering that information on the Internet can be widely variable in terms of quality and trustworthiness. So, be sure to evaluate the reliability of the information you are reading.
In the end, the message of this post is to vaccine your child for his or her health. If you are still unsure, please talk to a trusted health care provider to review the relevant information to help you understand the situation better, feel more confident about vaccinations, and dispel any doubts.
*Haviid, A. Hansen, J., Frisch, M. & Melbye, M. (2019). Measles, Mumps, rubella vaccination and autism: A nationwide cohort study. Annuals of Internal Medicine 170(8), 513-520.
* Lo, N. & Hotez, P. (2017). Public health and economic consequences of vaccine hesitancy for measles in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association 171(9), pp. 887-892.
*Reavis R., Ebbs, J., Onunkwo, A, & Sage, L. (2017). A self-affirmation exercise does not improve intention to vaccinate among parents with negative vaccine attitudes (and may decrease intentions to vaccinate). PLOS One 12(7), e0181368. doi: 10.137/journal.pone.0181368.
*Woo, E., Winiecki, S., Arya, D., & Beeler, J. (2016). Adverse events after MMR or MMRV vaccine in infants under 9 months old. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 35(8), e253-7. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000001201.
**Godlee, F., Smith, J., & Marcovitch, H. (2011). Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. British Medical Journal 342: c7452. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c7452
*** Burns, J. (2010). British medical council bars doctor who linked vaccine with autism. The New York Times, May 24, 2010. Retrieved: September 6, 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/health/policy/25autism.html?mcubz=3
About the instructor
Deanna Marie Mason PhD
More than 20 years of clinical experience helping families:
Bachelor's Degree in Registered Nursing, Master’s Degree in Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and PhD in Nursing. University professor, patient education specialist, pediatric researcher, published author and reviewer to first-line international scientific journals, continuous philanthropic activity related to health promotion and education, wife and mother of two children.