Question: “I have friends who say vaccines can cause autism. Others say it doesn’t. I don’t know what to believe.”
Dr. LaSalle: It’s tough being a parent these days. There is SO much information at our fingertips and it can be difficult to tell what is valid and what is not. You can thank the Internet and Social Media for spreading and magnifying this bit of vaccine misinformation.
The MMR-Autism claim was originally put forth in 1998 by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who has since been stripped of his medical license for falsifying data and for unethical practices.
His “study” involved only 12 children. It claimed that there was a syndrome of intestinal inflammation and developmental regression, termed “autistic enterocolitis,” that developed following administration of the MMR vaccine.
However, the problems with this study were numerous.
The participants in the study were not recommended by physicians, as is typical in valid research studies. Instead, their names were put forth by a lawyer that was hoping to file a class action lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.
Representing an incredible conflict of interest, Wakefield himself had applied for a patent for an individual measles vaccine which he hoped to profit from after discrediting the combination MMR vaccine.
Two of the children in the study that were diagnosed with this “autistic enterocolitis” had actually been suspected of developmental delay by their physicians BEFORE administration of the MMR vaccine.
Three of the children were not admitted to the study with suspicion of autism nor discharged from the study with this diagnosis.
The one child who did truly have a diagnosis of autism, did not develop it within 2 weeks of the vaccine, as Wakefield claimed. His parents revealed to an investigative reporter that he had developed symptoms not until 2-6 MONTHS after the vaccine was administered.
Wakefield’s “study” was full of mistruths and misrepresentations and it only served to strike fear into the hearts of unsuspecting parents.
Having a child diagnosed with autism is REALLY difficult for parents. And not having an answer as to WHY their child has this condition is a hard pill to swallow. Children are most often diagnosed with this condition between the ages of 2-3, around the time they are receiving many of their childhood vaccinations. And the coincidence of timing is easy to grab on to. But it is just that… coincidence.
What parents need to know is that, since that study of 12 children was published, then retracted, millions of children have been studied to see if there is any validity to this claim. And study after study after study has shown NO truth to the assertion that the MMR vaccine, or vaccines in general, or the mercury in vaccines, or the number of vaccines given causes autism.
With increasing research into the area of autism, we now know that the symptoms of autism are often recognizable at much earlier ages than originally thought, long before an MMR vaccine is ever administered. We are coming to understand that there is a significant genetic component to this condition. Something in the child’s genetic makeup predisposes them to this condition. We know that identical twins are much more likely to both be afflicted and that siblings of a child with autism have a greater chance of developing autism themselves, regardless of vaccination status.
From a multitude of studies on the subject, we know that vaccines do not cause autism. Now scientists are hard at work to discover the true origins of this condition and to find interventions that can help patients with autism thrive.