New Study Further Debunks Anti-Vaccine Claims

A few weeks ago, as my Composition II Honors classmates and I were discussing ideas for an upcoming research paper, the alleged link between vaccinations and autism was brought up.  Over the next ten minutes or so, as I tried to shed a skeptical light on the issue, I was subjected to a slew of skewed information and anecdotal evidence by the three other members of the class, and even the instructor, who all supported this ridiculous notion that childhood vaccinations and cases of autism have a direct correlation.

The anti-vaccination movement found its beginnings when Andrew Wakefield published a report, claiming there to be a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of neurological disorders, specifically autism.  Despite this study being thoroughly debunked long ago, the idea still persists, with its adherents launching campaign after campaign against childhood vaccinations.  Now, a new study has come out, which sheds even more light on the supposed link between childhood vaccinations and autism.

A large new government study should reassure parents who are afraid that kids are getting autism because they receive too many vaccines too early in life.

The study, by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found no connection between the number of vaccines a child received and his or her risk of autism spectrum disorder. It also found that even though kids are getting more vaccines these days, those vaccines contain many fewer of the substances that provoke an immune response.

This study deals a heavy blow to one of the latest claims to come out of the anti-vax movement: that getting large numbers of vaccines in the same day, or in the first years of life, has a causal connection with autism.

To find out if that was happening, DeStefano led a team that compared the vaccine histories of about 250 children who had autism spectrum disorder with those of 750 typical kids. Specifically, the researchers looked at what scientists call antigens. An antigen is a substance in a vaccine that causes the body to produce antibodies, proteins that help fight off infections.

“The amount of antigens from vaccines received on one day of vaccination or in total during the first two years of life is not related to the development of autism spectrum disorder in children,” DeStefano says.

Aside from the most obvious harm to individual children, vaccine denial carries some serious potential consequences.  for example, in the last few years, we have seen a strong resurgence of diseases like measles and pertussis (whooping cough), which could be linked to a loss of herd immunity.  On top of this, Ellen Wright Clayton, a Vanderbilt University Professor, points out that the focus on researching and debunking the link between vaccinations and neural disorders has hindered research on disease prevention.

“The sad part is, by focusing on the question of whether vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders, they’re missing the opportunity to look at what the real causes are,” she says.