If you follow current media and pop culture you could have been lead to believe that vaccines cause autism or that there is concern that they might be associated with them. Unfortunately this is not true and the real science showing this does not get the same media attention as celebrities sitting on a soapbox. The doctor who published a link between autism and vaccines (in particular MMR vaccinations) in 1998 has since had his medical practicing license revoked in the UK and his fraudulent paper has been retracted. However the damage was done and now it is left up to scientists to use valuable resources to convince the public that not only are vaccines safe but that they are important in the health of the general population. It is sad that to this day we are still trying to convince those who are ignorant to the evidence and I doubt that this post will change the minds of those people, however I hope that by reviewing one of the largest studies on the association of vaccinations and autism I will be able to sway a few people back to the side of reason.
Recently (June 2014), a group out of Sydney analyzed all the current research on the effect of vaccines on autism in what is known as a meta-analysis to determine whether a link between vaccines and autism exists. Meta-analyses allow researchers to combine and compare the results from numerous studies to find patterns in the results. In this meta-analysis, data on 1.3 million children (10 studies) and their vaccination history was analyzed. Needless to say, this is a very powerful data set and the results should do plenty to add weight to one side of the argument or the other. I should define something known as odds ratio before I get into the results of the study. Odds ratios (OR) is a way to measure how strongly one variable is associated with another variable (see explanation and examples here). In this case, the OR will tell us if vaccinations are associated with a diagnosis of autism. An OR greater than 1 would indicate the MMR vaccines are associated with development of autism or you have a greater chance of developing autism following vaccines. An odds ratio of 1 or near 1 would indicate there is no association between MMR vaccines and developing autism. In other words, you would have the same chance of getting autism if you didn’t have the vaccine as you would if you had the vaccine. An OR of less than 1 would mean you are less likely to develop autism if you got the vaccine then if you didn’t. If we look at the results of the study, they showed that there was NO association between vaccines and autism in the 1.3 million children (OR of 0.99). Not only was there no association between vaccines and autism, there was NO association between the MMR vaccine and autism (OR of 0.84), NO association between the preservative thimerosal and autism (1.00) and NO association between mercury and autism (1.00). This means that not even the components of the vaccines are associated with autism development. In fact, in some cases it looks like the MMR vaccine may be associated with a decreased risk of autism (OR of 0.84) although this was not significant. What does this mean, well as if it needs to be stated any more clearly, vaccines and their components are NOT associated with autism or autism spectrum disorder.
It disappoints me that such a large study with profound impacts on our current health crisis had gotten little to no media attention. Recently, dangerous diseases like measles and mumps have been making a comeback because of peoples concern over the safety of vaccines. Vaccines are safe and will protect your children and everyone else’s children from harmful illness. If you have concerns over the efficacy and safety of vaccines talk to your doctor. I hope everyone can pass this study or its message onto their families and friends in the hope that we can educate a few more people. Don’t believe celebrities on their soapbox shouting false facts with no evidence to back them. If you are interested in reading about this study it can be found here . Please educate yourself and make sure the stuff you read about on the internet is backed up by science.