Facts and Fiction about Childhood Vaccines and Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder in which the nervous system is adversely affected, thus having a negative impact on the ability to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, and interact socially. This neurodevelopmental disability is a lifelong condition and cannot be “cured.” There are medications that can manage or reduce some of the symptoms but there is no medicine or treatment to cure autism. However, there is no fixed set of symptoms for those suffering from autism; in fact, there is a “spectrum” of symptoms which are considered to be signs of autism. Thus, medication is not effective in all cases or for all patients. And these are just some of the hurdles faced by those suffering from autism and their caregivers and parents. The other obstacles include the numerous myths that surround autism, especially related to vaccines.

 

Myths and facts related to vaccines and autism

Parents and caregivers of those suffering from autism are already riddled with a lot of concerns and difficulties in taking care of patients with developmental disorders. To top it off, the rumors and myths surrounding the disease can add to their woes. Vaccination, especially childhood vaccines, has borne the brunt of these baseless rumors, with the popular myth being that these vaccines lead to autism or aggravate the condition.

 

It is a common myth that MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine) causes autism. In fact, there was even a single fraudulent paper making this particular claim, but it has now been withdrawn. This speculation must have started due to the signs of autism appearing in the same age group as those who receive the MMR vaccine.

 

It was even claimed that the component thimerosal, present in vaccines as a preservative, also led to a rise in the number of children being diagnosed with autism. However, this myth was refuted when there was still a steady rise in the number of patients even after the preservative thimerosal stopped being used in vaccines.

 

The probable reason for the fictional statement that vaccines lead to autism could be traced to the fact that there was a rise in the number of vaccines being received by children and at the same time there was a rise in the number of children suffering from autism. The two facts were clumped together and it was assumed that vaccines cause autism. There are, however, no scientific studies or any evidence to date that suggest that this claim is true.

 

Another possible reason why these rumors made (and still make) the rounds is that now children with even a few or mild symptoms are diagnosed as autistic in order to receive proper and timely treatment as compared to previously when not that many children were diagnosed as suffering from autism. The rise in the number of sufferers of autism might have been linked to the rise in vaccines for children.

 

Patients and their caregivers require accurate information as well as guidelines to prevent them from believing evidence-less myths and to help them provide proper care and treatment.