Fact: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Why 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.
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
- “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- “Vaccines & Autism” | Science-Based Medicine
- “Vaccines & Autism” | Vaccinate Your Baby
- “Vaccines and autism” | Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters
- “The Autism-Vaccine Myth” | Emily Willingham and Laura Helft | Nova/PBS
- “Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses” by Jeffrey S. Gerber and Paul A. Offit | Oxford Journals
- “The Lancet retracts Andrew Wakefield’s article” by Steven Novella | Science-Based Medicine
- “Retraction—Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children” | The Lancet
- “75 studies that show no link between vaccines and autism UPDATED to 107” | Just the Vax
- “Both Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children Can Have Autism” by Vincent Iannelli, MD | verywell
- “Those Lists of Papers Claiming That Vaccines Cause Autism: They Don’t Show What They Claim (Part 1)” by Liz Ditz | I Speak of Dreams
- “Exposed: Andrew Wakefield and the MMR-autism fraud” by Brian Deer | BrianDeer.com
- “The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield” by Darryl Cunningham | Darryl Cunningham Investigates
- “Antivaxxers Accidentally Fund a Study Showing No Link Between Autism and Vaccines” by Jessica Firger | Newsweek
- “16 years ago, a doctor published a study. It was completely made up, and it made us all sicker” by Adam Mordecai | Upworthy
- “Is Autism an ‘Epidemic’ or Are We Just Noticing More People Who Have It?” | Discover Magazine
- “How My Daughter Taught Me that Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” by Juniper Russo | Voices for Vaccines
- “Did a high ranking whistleblower really reveal that the CDC covered up proof that vaccines cause autism in African-American boys?” | by David Gorski | Science-Based Medicine
- “Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies.” | Taylor LE, et al. | Vaccine