Fact: Vaccines do not cause autism.

Antivax Myth: vaccines cause autismWhy the Myth Exists

Over the past few decades, a few people have made assertions that vaccines cause autism. But nothing caught fire like Andrew Wakefield’s infamous study.

Andrew Wakefield was a gastroenterologist in the United Kingdom. In 1998, he published a small study in the Lancet suggesting a link between the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine and autism. Specifically, he suggested that the MMR vaccine caused a bowel disease he called autistic enterocolitis, leading to measles proteins ending up in the brain and causing autism.

Variations on this Myth

  • “Vaccines cause mercury poisoning which leads to autism.”
  • “Thimerosal in vaccines cause autism.”
  • “Combination vaccines cause autism.”
  • “Vaccines given too early in life cause autism.”
  • “Vaccines cause demylenation of nerves, which leads to autism.”
  • “Vaccines cause encephalitis, which leads to autism.”
  • “The rise is autism diagnoses is due to the rise in vaccines on the childhood schedule.”

Examples Found Online

The Real Deal: What the Evidence Shows

Vaccines do not cause autism. They don’t cause disorders that then cause autism. They don’t interact with gene mutations to result in autism.

Wakefield’s study was found to be fraudulent—based on falsified data—and retracted by the Lancet. He was stripped of his medical license in the U.K. in May 2010 due to his unethical treatment of children for the study. Yet he continues to urge parents to skip not only the MMR and other vaccines, but pediatrician visits as well.

Over one hundred studies have concluded that there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. Furthermore, not a single study has been able to replicate Wakefield’s findings.

Anti-vaccine individuals frequently point to a list of studies that they believe prove a link between autism and vaccination. These studies either do not reach that conclusion or are easily debunked. Even when an organization involved in the anti-vaccination movement (SafeMinds) funded a study to find a link between autism and vaccines, the study showed that the expected link does not exist.

The continuing effort to “prove” that vaccines cause autism (in spite of the overwhelming evidence against this belief) diverts time, money, and resources away from genuine support for autistic people.


“Dispatches: MMR – What they didn’t tell you” [49:41]

This investigation of Andrew Wakefield by Brian Deer was broadcast in peak time in the U.K. on November 18, 2004, and excerpts were later shown on NBC’s Dateline program.

References and Further Reading

Science-Based Memes and Screenshots