The Hows and Whys of Baby Vaccines

Do vaccines cause autism?

Perhaps parents' biggest concern about vaccines is whether they can cause autism. So let's be clear. Despite what you may have read online or heard on television talk shows, there's no credible evidence linking the two. The main study, lead by a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield, was published in 1998 and involved just a small sample of 12 children. By March 2004, most of the study authors had reversed their decisions, and in early 2010 the same British journal, The Lancet, that originally published his findings retracted his study. In January 2011, the British Medical Journal publicly denounced Dr. Wakefield's research as "fraudulent," saying he had "falsified data" and tampered with research results to give the MMR vaccine bad publicity. At the time of his study, Dr. Wakefield had been involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine and would have gained money if he'd won, making his research an obvious conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, more than 20 other studies involving thousands of children have consistently demonstrated that neither vaccines nor the preservative thimerosal (a type of mercury that is no longer used, except in some flu shots) causes autism.

So if that's the case, why did the Polings, of Athens, Georgia, who claimed that a five-shot vaccine series triggered their daughter Hannah's autism, win a payout from the federal government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)? Doesn't that prove a connection? No, and this is why: the VICP maintains a list of vaccine-related injuries that are automatically compensated, with basically no questions asked. In the Poling case, Hannah's rare enzyme deficiency caused her brain dysfunction. And it got worse when she developed a fever after her measles shot, so her family qualified for compensation.

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