What is the Correlation Between Immunizations and Autism?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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There has been an incredible amount written on the correlation between immunizations and autism. A number of parent groups strongly feel that some immunizations may be responsible for autism cases. This strong feeling and parent activism has led repeatedly to the demand to research this connection, and the clinical research done suggests there is no connection between immunizations and autism. The medical community stands directly opposed to an established tie, and even the courts have become involved, issuing rulings in the 2010s that no connection exists.

One of the strongest studies that suggested a connection between immunizations and autism was published in the respected medical journal, The Lancet in 1998. This article was later found to have data that was fabricated and inaccurate, and in 2010, The Lancet withdrew it. Its presence created a firestorm of concern, particularly among parents, and with rising rates of autism, many advocated forgoing vaccinations. Doctors, who felt the risk of contracting serious illnesses was still much higher than risk of getting autism, did not support this choice.


For a while, focus in parent advocacy groups was on the presence of a chemical in some vaccines called thimerosal. It was thought to elevate autism risk, as per The Lancet article and other sources. This matter has also been researched, and thimerosal has been removed from most vaccinations. Presently, by medical and judicial standards, this chemical is not responsible for autism cases, and especially the measles, mumps and rubella shot (MMR), which has been considered a likely cause of autism by parent advocacy groups, is not thought to have any relationship to the disease. The noted exception is that the first symptoms of autism may occur at roughly the same time the MMR is given, which is the case whether or not children actually receive the vaccine.

Recent research on this disease suggests less of a connection between immunizations and autism, and more of a relationship to genetics. An extensive study invested in by the large organization Autism Speaks, evaluated over 2000 children to determine whether there were genetic factors that predispose people toward autism, and it turns out there are. They are simply not single, but involve small defects or differences on many different genes. It’s clear a single gene isn’t responsible for the condition, but people might have a number of genes that more predict autism’s occurrence.

Even with all this evidence, a correlation between immunizations and autism can’t be completely ruled out in all cases. There are certain factors that argue against it. Immunization levels have now dropped over the fear that autism is caused by vaccines, and yet, autism levels continue to rise. Autism occurs in boys with much greater frequency than in girls, but both genders are vaccinated equally.

Legitimate science has failed to prove a correlation between immunizations and autism. Most evidence suggesting a connection is provided by medical laypeople and is unsupported by hard science. Virtually all legitimate medical organizations refute a connection and express deep concern about the potential dangers of avoiding vaccinations.


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Post 4

Herd immunity does not apply to vaccinated immunity, but only to natural immunity.

Post 3

There isn't anything showing that anon. They won't test that out. They know the answer.

Post 2

Vaccination rates are declining in the US, but autism rates continue to increase. That doesn't suggest a correlation.

Are there other environmental causes? Well that's an interesting question. I think probably that's true, and my guess is that we'll find some of the genetic differences we see are due to pesticides. They have finally linked ADHD to pesticide use, but pesticides are big business-- people don't want to stop selling them or using them.

And then there are all the other chemicals: air fresheners, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc. I think it's a very complex issue, but we do know from epigenetics that people's genes can change throughout life. And I think it's also fair to look at the advanced

age of many more pregnancies, fertility treatments, the hormones women take, the prescription drugs everybody seems to take.

But I think you are wrong that vaccinations are increasing. All evidence is that they are declining due to fears about autism-- but now we've got babies dying of whooping cough. That is just as devastating, and we are losing "herd" protection because the number of people vaccinated has gone down, which means these diseases will become more prevalent, and unvaccinated children who were protected by their vaccinated peers lose that.

Post 1

I love the "hard science" that attributes autism to genetics, when the rate of autism is growing rapidly (called out in the same paragraph).

If it is a genetic issue, the rate would not change unless the genetic structures were changing. How difficult is it to understand that when the rate of something is changing dramatically, environmental factors should be considered highly likely as a cause?

Since vaccination rates are an environmental factor that is also increasing greatly, and the load on the vaccinated individual is on their immune system, it would seem a likely place to consider.

Where is the research that shows that an unvaccinated individual gets autism at the same rate as a vaccinated one?

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