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Vaccines

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Vaccines, Do They Cause Autism in Children?
Michael L Eisenmenger
Western Governors University

Vaccines, Do They Cause Autism in Children?
Vaccinations have been used for centuries to prevent the spread of some of the most dangerous diseases in humans. In 1998, a research study from Dr. Andrew Wakefield was published in the journal Lancet, suggesting common vaccinations were the cause of autism in children (Brink. 2013). That study has since been retracted by the Lancet and Dr. Wakefield has had his medical license revoked. However, the rates of vaccinations have declined because of the study and new outbreaks of diseases once considered eradicated are killing children. Research has shown that vaccines are not a cause of autism in children because the preservatives suspected of causing autism have been removed from them, research studies have shown no link between the two, the original research has been proven false, and the diagnosis of autism has changed.
Ever since the debate of vaccines being a cause of autism has started, the ingredient thimersol has been one of the focus’ of study. Thimersol is a preservative that was used in vaccines until 2001. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated,
“In 2001, thimersol was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccinations except one type of influenza vaccine, and thimersol-free alternatives are available for influenza vaccines.” (CDC, 2014)
Thimersol contains the type of mercury called ethyl mercury. The body processes this form of mercury out of its system faster than the mercury found in fish and other seafood. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) contends from a 2004 report, there has never been a link to autism and mercury poisoning (Mooney, 2009). Another point that eliminates thimersol as a cause of autism is made by Harvard public health researcher Marie McCormick. She contends, based on a 2008 study publish in the Archives of General Psychiatry, that since the removal of thimersol from vaccinations in 2001, there has not been a decline in the diagnosis of autism in children. The rate of autism has actually increased (Mooney, 2009). In addition, the IOM review five large scale studies comparing the autism rates of children who received vaccinations with thimersol to those who were not vaccinated. In those studies they found no difference in the rate of autism between those vaccinated and unvaccinated (Downs, 2008). Next, there have been numerous research studies in the United States and other countries proving there is no link between autism and vaccines. One such study from Poland took a look at the cognitive development of children up to the age of 3 who either received the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine or the single measles vaccine versus unvaccinated children. The results showed there were not any differences in cognitive or intelligence development between vaccinated and unvaccinated children (Vaccine, 22, 2551-7). The study also showed higher test results for children given the MMR vaccine versus the single measles vaccine on one of the mental aptitude tests administered. Another case control study in Japan was conducted to determine if there was any correlation between general vaccinations and individuals within a similar genetic background. The study compared 189 autistic children to 289 non-autistic control subjects. Each child was matched based on sex and birth year as well as the number of vaccines that were given to the individuals. The study determined there was no proof showing an increased risk for autism in the control group no matter how many vaccines were given (Vaccine, 30, 28, 4292-8). Some of the strongest pieces of evidence showing there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism would be a study completed in Canada and the United Kingdom. Researchers evaluated medical records of more than 27,000 children from 55 different schools in Quebec. What they found was while MMR vaccination rates decreased the rate of diagnosis of autism actually increased (Gerber & Offit, 2009). In the United Kingdom, medical records of 498 children born between 1979 and 1992 with autism were studied. The studied showed although there was an increase in the diagnosis of autism year over year, there was not a change in the rate of autism diagnosis when the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1987. Also they determined no consistencies between age of vaccinated and unvaccinated children diagnosed with autism (Gerber & Offit, 2009). Another study in the United States parallels these findings. Researchers analyzed data from the study of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a control group of children with identical birthdays, sex and managed care organizations (MCO). The article goes on to explain the total exposure of each child to anti-body proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines administered from the age of 3 months to 2 years. The study found there to be no risk from vaccines administered and developing ASD (Destafano, Price, Weintraub 2013). Since Dr. Wakefield’s study there has 14 different studies conducted on millions on children worldwide and none of them have been able to determine a link between the MMR vaccine and autism (Downs, 2008). Another point in the debate is the number of vaccines administered to children overpowering a child’s immune system. In 1980 there were 7 vaccines administered to children versus 14 today. Gerber and Offit point out, “advances in protein chemistry and recombinant DNA technology, the immunologic load has actually decreased. The 14 vaccines given today contain <200 bacterial and viral proteins or polysaccharides, compared with >3000 of these immunological components in the 7 vaccines administered in 1980” (p. 461). Basically they are saying the vaccines administered today contain less of the viruses than they did thirty years ago. This point is reinforced by five cohort studies conducted on over 1.2 million children. The studies showed no link between autism and vaccines, or the number of vaccines administered and the components in them (Vaccine, 32, 29, 3623-9). The greatest argument in this debate is why it is even a debate. In 1998, gastroenterologist Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues conducted a study on twelve children with behavioral disorders. They discovered an inflammation in the children’s intestines which they believed was caused by the MMR vaccine. Wakefield developed a theory that the inflammation released toxins into the bloodstream that made their way to the brain causing autism. After this was announced to the public in a press conference and in publication through the Lancet, there was a decline in MMR vaccinations in England (Mooney, 2009). Since this theory was published it has been proven false and additional information regarding the motive and funding of this study have been discovered. As for Dr. Wakefield, after his research was published the credibility of him and the study were called into question. The General Medical Council in Britain revoked his medical license for ethical violations and fraudulent research. The biggest ethical violation was failing to disclose financing he received from a group of lawyers that were involved in a lawsuit with vaccine manufacturers. The British Medical Journal determined his research as fraudulent stating timelines were influenced to imply the vaccines were at fault (Dominus, 2011). The cohort study Wakefield completed was inaccurate since it did not contain any control subjects for the study. In 1998, 1 in 2000 children born in England was diagnosed with autism. If 50,000 children receive the MMR vaccine then 25 will be diagnosed with autism just by chance alone. Second, the assessments completed were not blind and the data was incomplete. Third, the intestinal inflammation did not precede the autism diagnosis in some of the children. Fourth, the MMR vaccine has been found not to cause inflammation in the intestines and the final point is the toxins suspected of being release have not been detected in the brain (Gerber & Offit, 2009). The last point is that diagnosis of autism has changed in the past thirty years. Paul Shattuck who is an assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University received criticism in questioning there is an autism epidemic. Shattuck suggest that children that were once categorized with learning disabilities or mental retardation are now categorized within the autism spectrum. Shattuck was not suggesting that there isn’t a possibility of autism rates increasing due to environmental factors; he was showing the change in diagnosis due the awareness placed on autism and how special education programs diagnosis it (Mooney, 2009).
Vaccines are safe and save lives. The preservatives in them that were thought to cause autism have been removed for more than 10 years in the United States and the rate of autism did not drop. Next, there has been numerous research studies have been conducted around the world to try to find any connection. Studies looking at the age administered, amounts of vaccines given at one time, and the levels of virus in each vaccine, have all been shown to have no correlation between the two. The original study suggesting that the MMR vaccine caused autism has been proven false. The doctor who conducted the study has lost his license and it has been proven his study was fraudulent and unethical. Last is the diagnosis of autism has changed becoming broader in diagnosis. Certainly, it is clear that vaccines do not cause autism, they save lives.

References
Brink, Susan (2013, July 13). One Thing We Know About Autism: Vaccines Aren't to Blame.
National Geographic retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130716-autism-vaccines-mccarthy-view-medicine-science/
Center of Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Vaccination Safety Concern about Autism. retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism/
DeStefano Frank, Price Christopher S, & Weintraub, Eric S. (2013, Feb 1) The Journal of
Pediatrics Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism. retrieved from http://jpeds.com/webfiles/images/journals/ympd/JPEDSDeStefano.pdf
Dominus, Susan (2011, April 11). The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru. New York Times retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/24/magazine/mag-24Autism-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Downs, Martin (2008, March 31). Autism-Vaccine Link: Evidence Doesn’t Dispel Doubts. Web
MD
retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/searching-for-answers/vaccines-autism
Gerber, Jeffrey, & Offit, Paul A (2009). Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses
Clinical Infectious Disease, 48, 4, 456-461. doi: 10.1086/596476
Mooney, Chris (2009, June). Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On? Discover retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jun/06-why-does-vaccine-autism-controversy-live-on/
Mrozek-Budzyn D, Kiełtyka A, Majewska R, & Augustyniak M (2013, May 24). Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination has no effect on cognitive development in children - the results of the Polish prospective cohort study. Vaccine, 22, 2551-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.03.057. retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588083
Taylor LE, Swerdfeger AL, & Eslick GD (2014, June 17). Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Vaccine, 32, 29, 3623-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24814559
Uno Y1, Uchiyama T, Kurosawa M, Aleksic B, & Ozaki N. The combined measles, mumps, and
Rubella vaccines and the total number of vaccines are not associated with development of autism spectrum disorder: the first case-control study in Asia. Vaccine, 30, 28, 4292-8. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.01.093. retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22521285

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