The Link Between Vaccines and Autism

Updated on June 13, 2018

Over the last few years, there has been debate over whether or not vaccines cause ASD, more commonly known as autism. Most arguments state that autism is an illness or disease, when in fact it's a developmental disability.

So what exactly is autism? According to the Autism Society, autism is a developmental disability. Symptoms of autism in children include lack or delay in speaking, consistent use of motor mannerisms and/or language, little to no eye contact, zero to no interest in relationships, fixation on specific or singular objects, and lack of spontaneity like make-believe play.

Though the specific causes of ASD are unknown, it is believed that the risk of a child developing autism can be increased by genetic and environmental influences. According to autismspeaks.org, the genetic mutations associated with autism can be found in those who aren't affected by it, as well as most people not being affected by environmental risks that may influence autism in others.

Autism appears to run in families, though the parents of those affected may not be afflicted with it. In most situations, one or both of the parents may carry the genes that influence autism, but they likely don't have autism themselves. There are also times when the gene arises or develops spontaneously in the early development of a fetus, as well as in the sperm and/or egg that created the embryo.

Environmental risks that increase the chance of autism include advanced age in one of the parents, complications with pregnancy and/or birth, and back to back pregnancies. An environmental risk that decreases the chance of autism is prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, which are taken before and during pregnancy.

Now here's the real question – are vaccines linked to autism? Well, the short answer is no. According to autismspeaks.org, autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 18 months old, while 23 out of 42 vaccines are given around or after 18 months of age, meaning these vaccines are the majority. That said, most vaccines aren't given to children before autism is detectable.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) there is no link between vaccines and autism. Thimerosal, an ingredient in vaccines, is a mercury-based preservative that is commonly used to prevent contamination in vaccines. This ingredient has been heavily studied and all research shows that it in fact does not cause autism. Since 2003, the CDC has conducted nine separate studies that have shown that there is no link between autism and vaccines that contain thimerosal, as well as MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella.)

In order to reduce exposure to mercury in children, thimerosal has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in most vaccines, excluding some flu vaccines. This was done in 1999 and 2001, though more recently it has been discovered that thimerosal isn't harmful. The only vaccines that currently contain thimerosal are flu vaccines that are in multi-dose vials. There is, however, the option to choose thimerosal free flu vaccines for children.

In conclusion, there have been countless studies done on the link between ASD and vaccines, and none have shown that vaccines make a difference in a child's risk to develop autism.


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