Vaccine Safety and Autism

As a pediatrician who talks with families every day in my office, I know parents want to know more about both vaccine safety and about autism. I’m also a mom. Like you, I need accurate information to protect my kids as best as I can.

Posted on | Ari Brown, MD, FAAP | Comments ()

As a pediatrician who talks with families every day in my office, I know parents want to know more about both vaccine safety and about autism. I’m also a mom. Like you, I need accurate information to protect my kids as best as I can.

It's important that people have an accurate view of vaccines. Most parents of children with autism agree with the scientific evidence and do not believe that vaccines cause autism.

And, an overwhelming number of healthcare providers worldwide do not believe vaccines and autism are linked. What viewers witnessed on the show was far from the norm.

Also, most parents in this country support vaccinations. In fact, 99.4% of American children under 3 years of age are vaccinated. Click here for more information from the Centers for Disease Control.

I base vaccination decisions for my patients and my own children on science, not anecdotes or conspiracy theories. I’m passionate about vaccinations because I watched a child die from chickenpox – a vaccine-preventable illness. I refuse to let another child become a statistic because of hearsay. I’m compassionate towards families whose children have autism, because I have personally walked that road with several patients.

These are the messages that resonate with me, as a parent and a doctor. I hope they will resonate with you.

  1. Multiple studies conducted by academic institutions worldwide – which are not funded by pharmaceutical companies – have shown that vaccines do not play a role in autism. Click here for the studies. Vaccine safety concerns have not been ignored. In fact, they have been addressed appropriately.
  2. Delaying or selectively choosing some vaccinations has absolutely no benefit and only risk. It does not prevent autism, but leaves the youngest children vulnerable to serious infections. The diseases that vaccines protect against can cause disabling health problems or death – and they are often the most severe in younger children. They are not minor illnesses. Click here for a list of the diseases preventable by vaccination.
  3. The vaccination schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control has been studied extensively by the most respected group of experts in their field. The time frame provides the safest, most effective way to give certain vaccines together.
  4. A 2010 study showed that children whose shots were delayed were just as likely to develop autism as those who were vaccinated on time. As one father on the show said so eloquently, the point of delaying shots seems to be just to make parents feel like they are proactively doing something, but in reality, the decision puts their child at risk.
  5. While it was not addressed on the show, the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and its association to autism have been debunked. The scare began with a report in a British medical journal in 1998 that was recently retracted. Over the past decade, researchers dutifully tried to duplicate the findings of that report and no one ever could. The question was asked, and it was answered.
  6. It’s true – today’s children get more shots than we did as kids. Modern medicine now provides protection against twice as many deadly, disabling diseases. That’s a good thing! For instance, there is now protection against three different forms of bacterial meningitis. Infectious diseases are everywhere. No one can predict when a child will be exposed. And, even in the era of modern medicine – when someone becomes infected with a vaccine-preventable disease, it is usually too late or there is nothing to treat the infection. Prevention is key.
  7. Parents, healthcare providers, and researchers all seek answers for autism spectrum disorders. We will be most successful by working together with the same goal – to discover the true causes of autism.

My advice to parents is to examine the scientific evidence for themselves. Your child’s health is too important to base decisions on inaccurate information. Seek reliable sources for medical information. Go to the American Academy of Pedriatrics website and talk to your child’s doctor. As pediatricians, many of whom are parents too, we vaccinate our own children to protect them. We wouldn’t do anything differently for your child.

For more information on autism, visit HealthyChildren.org.

Blog written by Ari Brown, MD, FAAP
Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician, author, child health advocate, and a mom. She completed her pediatric residency and...