William H Ahearn, Ph.D., BCBA  

Specialties: Behavior Analysis, Learning Deficits, Autism

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Evidence suggests that there is no link between vaccines and autism

Dec 12, 2007 - 6 comments

The prevalence of autism has risen dramatically in the past two decades.  Prevalence is an estimate of the number of affected persons at a point in time.  Prevalence studies conducted in the United States show that the prevalence of ASDs in 2003-2004 is somewhere between 1 in 139 and 1 in 181 children between the ages of 4 and 17.  This implies that there are around 300,000 children diagnosed with an ASD.  Most scientists feel the rise in prevalence is due to a combination of changes in the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and increased awareness of the disorder (e.g., Wing and Potter, 2002).  

However, some have suggested that the increased prevalence of ASDs corresponds with an increase in the number of vaccinations recommended for children.  Correlation of two events is not sufficient evidence to assert that one caused the other as the two events could be unrelated.  For example, if a child is born during a full moon one could suggest that the lunar event caused the birth.  This would be an example of a likely false correlation.  Therefore, further study of such correlations is necessary to reveal evidence to either support or disconfirm a causal hypothesis.  One specific hypothesis of vaccines being linked to autism suggests that thimerosal, a preservative previously used in childhood vaccines that was removed from vaccines manufactured in the US in 1999, can cause autism.  Thimerosal is still present in some versions of the flu vaccine.  Several versions of this theory target different mechanisms for how thimerosal damages the child and causes autism.  They all, however, state that some damage occurs to the developing child after vaccination.  Advocates of the “thimerosal causes ASDs” hypothesis have also suggested that the prevalence of ASDs will substantially decrease subsequent to thimerosal being removed from childhood vaccines.  

A recent study published in Pediatrics by Fombonne and colleagues (2006) has shown that decreased thimerosal in childhood vaccines is not correlated with decreased prevalence of ASDs.  Fombonne and colleagues have collected data on the prevalence of ASDs in children in Montreal from 1987 through 1998.  Thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Canada by 1996.  Fombonne et al. found that there was a statistically significant increase in the prevalence of ASDs for children who received thimerosal-free versions of the recommended childhood vaccines.  If one were to apply the false correlation influenced thinking here it could be suggested that thimerosal should be added back into vaccines because they are correlated with a lower prevalence of autism.  Similar findings to Fombonne et al. have been obtained in Denmark and Sweden and will likely be revealed in the US in the not too distant future.  Informal review of several educational data systems suggests that the prevalence of ASDs is continuing to increase in the US.  

Another hypothesis suggests that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.  ASDs clearly have a genetic origin but one environmental trigger has been identified.  If a pregnant mother contracts rubella, there is an increased chance of the child having an ASD (Chess et al., 1971/74/77).  As the MMR vaccine decreases the chance of rubella infections, its use should decrease the likelihood of this environmental triggering of autism.  However, some have posited that the MMR vaccine triggers regression that is sometimes part of the course autism (i.e., some children with ASDs lose skills that they previously acquired in early development).  Most of the popularization of this theory has been spurred by Andrew Wakefield.  He suggested that the MMR injures a child’s gut in a specific manner producing problems similar to those caused by irritable bowel syndrome.  He also stated that measles was the cause because he and his colleagues purportedly detected components of the measles virus in the gastrointestinal tracts and blood of children with autism that were not present in typically developing children.  

Another study recently published in Pediatrics attempted to determine whether measles was more likely to be found in the bodies of children with ASDs than in typically developing children.  D’Souza and colleagues (2006) collected the largest sample of subjects for this type of study and used the same technique, polymerase chain reaction assays, that had purportedly detected measles in children with ASDs.  They found that this technique produced many positive reactions in both children with ASDs and typical children.  However, these reactions were further analyzed and found to be false positives for all subjects.  The products of the reactions were cloned and genetically sequenced and none of these sequences contained the components of the measles virus.  That is, neither the children with ASDs nor the typical children showed any evidence of measles virus in their bodies.  Furthermore, there were no differences found in anti-measles antibodies across the study groups of children.  

This, taken in combination with numerous other studies showing no relation between the MMR vaccine and ASDs, provides fairly definitive evidence against the “MMR causes autism” hypothesis.  It should also be noted that Andrew Wakefield was found to have been paid over $150,000 by a group seeking to pursue litigation against vaccine manufacturers in the United Kingdom.  Once this severe conflict of interest was revealed, ten of Wakefield’s co-authors requested that their names be withdrawn from the original publication used as support for this hypothesis.  More information on Andrew Wakefield can be found at BrianDeer.com, a website maintained by the investigative journalist who revealed the conflict of interest

D’Souza et al., (2006).  No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells From Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Pediatrics, 118(4), 1744-1745.

Fombonne et al., (2006).  Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations.  Pediatrics, 118(1), 139-150. 37.

Wing, L. & Potter, D. (2002).  The epidemiology of autistic spectrum disorders: Is the prevalence rising?  Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 8(3), 151-161

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Avatar universal
by Raechelle33, Feb 13, 2008
Dear Sir,

There are also MANY large scale studies with viable, professional, researched information showing a HUGE amount of these health issues (Strangely and Ironically) linked to these immunizations. No one can give an opinion on something, even if they have the political right to do so, unless they have proof of research study. It's not fair to others and it doesn't give a fair debate for either party.
I have read, printed out and studied from various sites regarding immunizations. Unfortunately, in our state, children cannot enter a public school w/out immunizations. Now, understandably, the school is there to protect. However, I must sign a "religious exemption" for my child to enter the school, even if my religion has nothing to do with it. I suppose that I will have to call my religion "self educated parenting". My children are honor roll students, they are polite, they are well-grounded. You would not know that both of my children are without vaccines.
Please take the time (as well as anyone else reading this) to go to the site of : National Vaccine Information Center, where you can read about death/injury/health issues, etc. from parents, physicians, medical records. As with most sites, there is documented medical records showing the issue at hand that our government, many physicians and the FDA do NOT want us to know about. They would rather herd us as sheep and lead us on a long string off rotten, deceptive information hoping that we won't figure out their twisted scheme to make/keep our culture sick to make a fortune. They make BILLIONS (NO exageration) a year off of sickness, disease and deception, when the true disease is their existence and the people that believe them without researching for themselves.
Please, everyone read and make your own decision and I'm not saying from just one particualr site, but this one is extrememly logical and informative: National Vaccine Information Center.

Raechelle Beals

Avatar universal
by Raechelle33, Feb 13, 2008
Raechelle Beals again. I also forgot to mention how I stumbled upon my interest in the vaccine study. I had heard from someone that people with autoimmune disorders should reconsider getting vaccinations (including the flu shot). Read the papers that you sign when you walk in to do your child's immunizations and you'll see what I mean. I also found it strange that our government all the sudden wanted to help us by giving "FREE" flu shots as you walk into Safeway. Since I have a pretty serious autoimmune disorder that can be genetic (my grandmother had the same disease I have), I thought I'd do the research for my children's sake. Some people don't realize that they are actually being injected with a small part of that virus/disease that they are fighting against. I have Lupus/Epilepsy/Fibromyalgia. Now, Fibromyalgia is still an "iffy" subject and I can see why. However, an extrememly large amount of the people who have been diagnosed/considered having Fibromyalgia, are all in the same range of age. It made me wonder if any of those innoculations back around the 70's/80's era, did not somehow do something to effect our bodies long term. I know that some people with F.M. have been subjected to trauma, as most of us have. But, I believe the trauma is very possibly the immunizations with a long term effect. The same with Lupus. I was not diagnosed until after I had my daughter at the age of 23. However, I had many of the symptoms starting around the age of 6. My seizures just seemed to appear at the age of 27 with no warning at all.
This is just my story and theory. I thought I would share that before someone starts going off about my previous BLOG.

Raechelle Beals

The posts by Raechelle Beals represents the typical misinformation provided by persons who persist in believing there is a connection between autism and vaccines.  There are no large scale connecting vaccines and autism and there are many large scale studies that show the benefits of vaccines in preventing disease.  Side effects are also identified by such studies but they tend to be minor (the most common being redness/swelling at the site of the injection) but if the potential side effects or costs to persons outweigh the benefits to society then that vaccine is not acceptable.  The notion that there is a vast conspiracy to make people sick for pharmaceutical companies to then provide medications is also unfounded.  Sticking with autism, there are no medications that will treat autism.  No medical regimens are going teach children with autism the skills that they are missing.  Only dedicated parents and teachers can do that so the idea that BIG PHARMA is benefiting from autism does not make any sense and is just plain wrong.  It should be noted that this information is coming from a professional who treats problems through behavioral procedures, sometimes with the explicit goal of avoiding medication. Medication should only be used when clearly necessary.  Furthermore, many persons who are holding to the idea that autism is caused by vaccines, they don't care about the contradictory evidence and are merely against the idea of vaccinating persons against preventable diseases.  How many children should die or be blinded by measles?  Would antivaccinationists be pleased by a resurgence of polio?  Many are too young to recall how devasting such diseases are to families and to society.  As a scientist I find personal anecdotes, such as those forwarded in the aforementioned posts, highly unreliable as evidence and prefer to allow science rather than faith to shape my opinion.

Avatar universal
by lpendleton, Apr 06, 2008
Just like everyone else, I have done my research on the dangers of vaccination. Dr. Ahearn, I don't think people are talking 'against' that vaccinations prevent disease. We know that vaccinations are good for our children in a sense that they protect them from these ailments. I see it as a catch 22. You don't vaccinate and you run the risk of your child coming down with a deadly disease. If you do vaccinate you run the risk of your child becoming completely disabled. Why does the medical field refuse to believe that there is some sort of link between vaccinations and these disorders? Yes, we are aware that there are deadly diseases out there but we are also aware that now 1 out of 150 are becoming autistic and disabled. I am tired of hearing that it is a coincidence. Put aside your medical degree and everything they have taught you for a moment and listen to the hundreds and thousands of parents who are screaming at you to listen. We are not saying that vaccinations do not immune us from disease. We are stating that vaccinations cause disorders and ailments in our children. No doctor as of yet wants to admit that there is something extremely wrong with this picture due to getting involved in an intense heated situation and for liability reasons. Doctors have to get rid of their vaccination "filter". You have to stop hearing "Vaccinations are bad". We understand the reason for them and the protection they offer. All we want is for something to listen. It's no coincidence that so many children have had seizures shortly (even days) after their vaccinations. Children go into their doctor's office as healthy as can be, never to return because they have been vaccinated. It's funny how the Control Center for Disease/ Vaccination &  Pharmacuetical companies are doing the research and say that everything is fine. I smell a conflict of interest. We are tired of hearing doctors say that there is no link between vaccinations and disorders. Stop spitting out what you learned in medical school and listen for a moment. So, maybe you have three beautiful children that were vaccinated and came out perfectly healthy? Well, you were the lucky one. I feel that if your child had been hurt by vaccinations you would be singing a different tune. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Doctors can come up with every single theory and excuse to squash our own vaccinations theories but all you have is dead data and data that is gathered by an intense conflict of interest, we have lived it. "My child has been completely healthy, we take him into the doctor for shots, four hours later he is going into seizures, he loses his ability to talk and walk",coincidence Doctor? I think not. Open your eyes. March to the beat of your own drum. Look at the statistics. Do not read material that is all one-sided. Again, we are not debating that vaccinations prevent diseases. We are debating that they cause diseases/ailments/disorders/death. Is it too much to ask to have intense research done by those that do not have a conflict of interest? There has been research done outside of the CDC. No one wants to listen. We want safer vaccinations. We want to be heard. We want to vaccinate our children to protect them and others from deadly diseases but at what cost, Doctor? Listen to us.

Avatar universal
by lpendleton, Apr 06, 2008
Another thing- I do have a feeling that autism and other disorders might possible be genetic. I have also heard several horror stories of children getting vaccinated and getting disorders due to allergies. A child had an intense allergy to metal, he went and got vaccinated. The clinic actually double dosed him and now he can't walk, talk, etc. If he would have been tested before this might have prevented this. Why aren't all children getting tested for certain allergies before they get vaccinated?

Avatar universal
by amymama, Jul 31, 2008
"Antivaccinator"s will stop whining when there is a study which proves there is no link between the rise in vaccines and the rise in Autism.  And when there is a study that proves what IS causing the epidemic.  Until you know what IS causing it, you don't know that the vaccines aren't.  I'm tired of trite articles such as "Evidence SUGGESTS (instead of proves) there is no link" (above) and quotes such as comparing births during a full moon to full moons causing births (above).  Stop insulting us.  Every time we look for reassurance from the medical community, we find this ****. I was searching this site hoping for sound facts and advice and again, it's a snow job.  PLEASE.  Refer me to the study which proves what is causing this epidemic if it isn't all the vaccines which children receive in their infancy just before Autism sets in.

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