“Is there a connection between Vaccination and Autism ?” is a question in every parents mind. The recent outbreak of Measles in the United States has resurrected one of the world’s biggest debates about the connection of the MMR Vaccine with the Incidence of Autism!
The MMR vaccine theory of autism has been one of the most extensively debated theories regarding the origins of autism. There are different concerns regarding vaccination and its relationship with autism. The primary concern of this being the Measles – Mumps – Rubella (MMR) Vaccine itself causing autism, second, one of the preservatives used in different vaccines causing autism and the third, simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines can overwhelm the immune system that can lead to an immunocompromised state causing autism.
This theory arose from the finding presented by a British Gastroenterologist in Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who presented a case series of 8 children with Autism who were diagnosed of Autism 1 month after receiving the MMR vaccine. The findings in this paper, however, were refuted by many other scientists due to lack of a control group and the inability to disprove the coincidental occurrence of autism in these children. There were approximately 40000 children receiving the vaccine every year in the UK and the prevalence of autism was 1 in 2000 children in 1998. Therefore, it was very likely that this could be an coincidental finding. This paper was later retracted by Lancet.
Twenty epidemiological studies thereafter, from several countries with a large enough population to detect even a minor effect of vaccines on autism have been conducted. However, all of these studies did not show any relation between vaccination and risk for Autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and the U.K. National Health Service have all therefore, concluded that there is no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. As diseases like measles can cause severe disabilities and death, the risk of a child’s death or disability due to not vaccinating a child is significantly larger than presumed risk of child developing Autism.
In reference to the recent Measles outbreak in the United States, Dr. Paul Offit, the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said that these outbreaks are a clear sign of the fraying of “herd immunity,” the overall protection found when a large majority of a population has become immune to a disease. He attributed it to the lack of fear of the diseases that could be caused when the vaccination isn’t administered, as people have forgotten how bad these diseases in reality are, which led him to express that vaccines in some ways are victims of their own success. He explained, that very quickly after birth, you have living on the surface of your body, trillions of bacteria, to which you make an immune response. The food you eat isn’t sterile. The dust you inhale isn’t sterile. The water you drink isn’t sterile. You’re constantly being exposed to bacteria to which you make an immune response! This makes it important that doctors, thus, explain to parents that these vaccines are “literally a drop in the ocean” compared to the myriad immune system triggers a child encounters each day.
Sadly, despite the World Health Organization having taken notice to this recent outbreak and declaring the anti-vaxxer movement a major threat to public health, many parents are still not convinced of the facts, and are continuing the movement.
Note: To Know more about What Causes Autism Click Here.