'Too Many Vaccines Too Soon' Won't Cause Autism, Study Finds
Despite parental fears, giving children several vaccinations on the same day will not cause autism, a new study finds.
By Amir Khan
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FRIDAY, March 29, 2013 —There's a plethora of medical evidence to the contrary, but many parents refuse to get their children vaccinated because they fear that doing so will cause autism.
One of the primary reasons for the concern is the sheer number of vaccines administered in a single day and over the first two years of life, but according to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, there is no association between autism and receiving “too many vaccines too soon,” the researchers said in the study.
The CDC currently recommends a total of 25 vaccinations over the first two years of a child’s life, with up to nine scheduled in a single day. However, nearly 1 in 10 U.S. parents refuse or delay vaccinations over fears of their child developing autism.
For the new study, researchers analyzed data on 256 children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 healthy children, all born between 1994 and 1999, when the CDC recommended a total of 23 vaccines in the first two years. They calculated each child’s exposure to antigens, the substances vaccines induce the body’s immune system to make, and found that the total exposure was the same in both groups, which indicated that the number of vaccines the children received did not play a role in who developed autism.
Although young children today are exposed to more vaccines, the number of antigens they are exposed to is lower, researchers said. For example, the 1999 pertussis vaccine would have exposed the children to 3,000 different antigens, whereas the new vaccine, introduced in 2005, exposes them to only 6 antigens.
“Concerns about a possible link between vaccines and autism persist, with the latest concern centering on the number of vaccines administered to infants and young children,” the researchers, led by Frank DeStefano MD, director of the Immunization Safety Office at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in the study. “The possibility that immunologic stimulation from vaccines during the first 1-2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] is not well supported by the known neurobiology of ASD.”
The purported vaccine-autism link arose in 1998, when Andrew Wakefield, a former British surgeon, published a now-discredited paper on a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. In July 2007, Wakefield was accused of professional misconduct by the U.K. General Medical Council, including being paid to conduct the study by funders representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR vaccine. In 2010, Wakefield was removed from the U.K. medical register and was stripped of his license.
However, the damage had been done, and despite scientific evidence to the contrary, many people still believe that vaccines can cause autism.
Despite the Evidence, Some Experts Are Not Convinced
Ultimately, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Pediatrics, all the evidence points to vaccines being safe, with no link to autism.
“We found no evidence indicating an association between exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides contained in vaccines during the first 2 years of life and the risk of acquiring ASD,” they wrote. “These results indicate that parental concerns that their children are receiving too many vaccines in the first 2 years of life or too many vaccines at a single doctor visit are not supported.”
Richard Deth, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University, disagreed, saying that despite the new research, he believes that there is a link between vaccines and autism, and that the immune response in kids who are at risk for autism, such those who have a sibling with the condition, may cause them to develop autism after receiving an immunization.
“A lot of kids with autism are hypersensitive to the immune response changes that come with vaccines,” said Deth. “When you give a vaccine, you’re trying to invoke an immune response, and some kids are more sensitive to the response. There’s a very obvious relationship between what vaccines do and mechanisms for development.”
He also said that giving multiple vaccinations on the same day is likely to cause harm, even though the study found differently.
“Everything that I’m aware of that involves a change in the body has a dose relationship,” said Deth. “The important thing is that not everyone is equally sensitive, and I’m sure that for some individuals, the risk is greater when they have multiple immunizations at the same time.”
“The main point is that what vaccines do is what seems to be causing autism,” he added.
But Deth’s opinion doesn’t mesh with current research or the views of the nation's largest group of pediatricians.
“Studies conducted in the U.S.
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