Vaccinations and Autism: Is There a Connection?
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The possibility of a vaccination-autism connection has become highly controversial; there is intense debate going on among scientists. On one side, there is a growing tendency to blame the increased numbers of required or suggested vaccinations as well as the tendency to give multiple vaccines in one shot for all the cases of regressive autism in the past ten years (regressive autism is autism that appears in a child at around the age of eighteen months, after a normal development, causing the child to regress). However, vaccinations in themselves do not cause autism, or millions more children would be autistic. Neither does thiomerosal, an organic compound present in some vaccinations. But perhaps these are triggers for children who are genetically predisposed to have autism and who have immune systems that are not functioning properly.
On the other side are the government and the vaccine manufacturers stating that vaccines are safe, and that those refusing to vaccinate their children are putting the public's health at risk.
In reality, no one knows for sure. It is difficult for the average person to form an educated opinion just from reading the newspaper headlines. Many headlines in the UK and the United States over the past few years have stated that expert groups and panels have found no link between childhood vaccination and autism. In reality, a careful review of the different government and experts' reports actually show the following:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health in the U.S. asked the Institute of Medicine(IOM), a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, to establish an independent expert committee to review immunization safety concerns (the Immunization Safety Review Committee). The "Immunization Safety Review: Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine and Autism," issued on 23 April 2001, stated that "Although the committee has concluded that the evidence favors rejection of the causal relationship on the population level between MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the committee recommends that this issue receive continued attention… Its conclusion does not exclude the possibility that MMR vaccine could contribute to ASD in a small number of children."
- The Medical Research Council in the UK published a "Review of Autism Research: Epidemiology and Causes" in December 2001. After noting that "It is important to recognize that epidemiological studies cannot prove that vaccines are safe but can only exclude specified adverse reactions with a certain degree of confidence," it goes on to state that "Currently there are no epidemiological studies that provide reliable evidence to support the hypothesis that there might be an association between MMR and ASD."
- In response to Petition PE 145, calling for an inquiry into issues surrounding the alleged relationship between the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism, the Health and Community Care Committee reported to the Scottish Parliament in 2001 that "What is clear to the committee is that while there is an absence of any scientific data of a causal link between the MMR vaccine and the onset of autism, it remains impossible to prove conclusively the absence of a link." The committee also called for further research.
- Another immunization safety review by an expert review committee is being conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). This review had not been made public at the time of the writing of this book.
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