Autism Not Caused by Vaccines: Study

Autism Not Caused by Vaccines: Study

March 29th, 2013 // 1:59 pm @

For years, countless parents have blamed the childhood vaccination schedule – and sometimes, specific vaccines – as a risk for developing autism. In fact, about one-third of parents continue to express concern about the cumulative effect of the number of vaccines (click here for a back story). And nearly one in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations, despite proclamations from public health officials that childhood vaccines are safe (another back story and data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

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Now, though, a new study concludes that there is no association between the number of childhood vaccines and autism. Whether the findings trigger renewed debate remains to be seen. Portions of the public clearly remain skeptical about government reassurances, even though research that was conducted by the controversial Andrew Wakefield, who helped trigger the wrangling, has since been discredited (see this).

How did they reach this conclusion? A statement says this: “The researchers analyzed data from 256 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 children without ASD, all of whom were born between 1994 and 1999. The data was taken from three managed care organizations. Specifically, the examined each child’s cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination.

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“The researchers determined the total antigen numbers by adding the number of different antigens in all vaccines each child received in one day, as well as all vaccines each child received until they turned two years old. They found the total antigens from vaccines received by age two, or the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD. And when they compared antigen numbers, no relationship was found when they evaluated sub-categories of autistic disorder and ASD with regression.”

Now, it is true that the current childhood vaccination schedule includes more vaccines than the late 1990s. But the researchers contend the total number of antigens to which kids can be exposed by age two is 315, compared with “several thousand” during the period studied. “Because different types of vaccines contain varying amounts of antigens… merely counting the number of vaccines received does not adequately account for how different vaccines and vaccine combinations stimulate the immune system,” the researchers state.

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They offer this example: the older whole cell pertussis vaccine causes the production of about 3,000 different antibodies, while the newer acellular pertussis vaccine causes the production of six or fewer different antibodies. “The possibility that immunological stimulation from vaccines during the first 1 or 2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well-supported by what is known about the neurobiology of ASDs,” the researchers maintain (PLEASE CLICK FOR THE COMPLETE STUDY).

Despite years-long controversy, at least one advocacy group interpreted the findings positively. “This is a very important and reassuring study,” Geri Dawson, chief scientific officer at Autism Speaks, tells Bloomberg News. “It’s going to be very helpful in addressing some of the concerns parents have had about vaccination schedules.” And she tells NPR that, “as we home in on what is causing autism, I think we are going to have fewer and fewer questions about some of these things that don’t appear to be causing autism.”


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