Parenting

Is There a Relationship Between Autism and Vaccinations?

Is There a Relationship Between Autism and Vaccinations?

Key Takeaways

  • Some parents don't vaccinate their children in an attempt to prevent autism. 
  • People believe the MMR vaccine causes autism. 
  • There is no evidence that links the MMR vaccine and autism. 

What the research shows

Several studies have been carried out among children and adults to try and establish if there really is a link between the two, but the largest of them all was recently published in  the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was conducted to establish any link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). By analyzing the health records of 95,727 children, the researchers were able to track the number of children who were not vaccinated. Of those studied, 15,000 children had not been vaccinated by the age of two years old, and 8,000 were still not vaccinated by the time they were five years old. Of the 8,000, 2,000 were considered to be at risk of ASD, which is 25% of the study group.

Similar studies were carried out on vaccinated children of the same age, and the rates of autism were not very different from those who were not vaccinated. Therefore, it is clear that non-vaccination does not decrease or increase the chances of contracting autism.

What started the belief in a connection between ASD and MMR vaccines

If the truth is clear, what would have possibly led so many people to believe that MMR vaccines led to ASD? Well, the first report to speculate about the link was published 15 years ago, and since then, researchers have been trying to find out if there is any truth. At the moment, the report is largely discredited for the lack of accuracy, but the damage has already been done.

How the report has affected MMR vaccination

Because there is still speculation among some people who don’t have all the facts, the idea of a possible connection between MMR vaccination and ASD still exists. This is why families with a relative affected by autism tend to have lower MMR vaccination rates.

For example, in the study, in families that had not been affected by autism at all, MMR vaccination rates were 84% by the time the children were two years old and 92% when they were five years old. On the other hand, if an older sibling had been affected by autism, the MMR vaccination rate dropped to 73% by two years old and 86% by five years old.

Why the truth is only coming out now

The report that first suggested a connection between autism and vaccines is more than a decade old. At that time, it was nearly impossible to go through the medical records of large numbers of children.

At the moment, it is possible to acquire records from large health databases, as was the case with recent studies. These records provide a more definitive look into any possible connections between various illnesses and their causes.