Whether or not vaccines cause or contribute to the effects of autism has been the subject of much debate. I have met parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated just in case and also met others whose child has autism and they stopped their immunizations, thinking it may be a factor in the success of treatment and therapy. Theories abound; but is their evidence that links the two?
Some believe that thimerosal, a mercury containing compound used as a preservative in vaccines, was the blame for increased cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that no evidence exists to link the exposure to thimerosal in vaccines to the development of autism. In fact, if you can stand to read all the details of the extensive clinical trial results that are posted on the website of the CDC, you will see absolutely no research linking vaccines and autism.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also has posted results from research done by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that finds no link between the use of thimerosal and autism. They further state that thimerosal was primarily used as a preservative in childhood vaccines until 1999. No vaccines currently use the preservative and some, like MMR and Varicella, never did.
Further reading at the website of NIMH, states that small genetic mutations may increase the risk of autism. This and other findings of possible genetic causes makes it unlikely that a vaccine given after birth would be responsible for the development of ASD.
The increase in ASD and the increase in vaccinations being performed may very well be a coincidence. Understandably, parents who have children with ASD are looking for a place to put solid blame. Unfortunately, a cause is not always clear or easy to pin down.
Even in the absence of any scientific proof of a link between vaccines and autism, celebrity clout has continued to spur on the belief. Actor Jim Carrey and his wife, Jenny McCarthy, who have announced their split, have been one such power couple who used their celebrity to help raise awareness of the concern about a link between immunizations and autism.
While there is no research or scientific proof of a link between vaccines and autism, many parents remain steadfast in their belief to the contrary. Testing is ongoing within the scientific community to provide more information on the causes of autism and how it can prevented, recognized and treated early.
CDC, Concerns About Autism
CDC, Immunization Safety and Autism
FDA, Thimerosal in Vaccines
NIMH, Research into Causes and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
NIMH, Tiny, Spontaneous Gene Mutations May Boost Autism Risk
Splitsville For Autism Power Couple, Shaun Heasley, DisabilityScoop.com