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The most controversial topic in Pediatrics these days is vaccines and its link to Autism. Parents are increasingly becoming more scared of the vaccines and the possible side effects ,specially its link to Autism.

How did the controversy between MMR and Autism begin?

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, (a British doctor and researcher) along with his colleagues published a case series in the Lancet, a British Medical Journal, which suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may predispose to behavioral regression and pervasive developmental disorder in children. This paper received enormous publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination.

This was the time when parents started questioning MMR and all other vaccines. Parents became more and more suspicious of the ingredients, the adjuvants and preservatives added to the vaccines. This was the time when Pediatricians started facing questions asked by families regarding vaccinations and if they are safe for their children.

Soon after that, there was a retraction of this article by Lancet. According to the retraction, “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”. This was accompanied by an admission by the Lancet that Andrew Wakefield  had failed to disclose financial interests.

The Lancet completely retracted the Wakefield paper in February 2010, admitting that several elements in the paper were incorrect, contrary to the findings of the earlier investigation. Andrew Wakefield  was held guilty of ethical violations and scientific misrepresentation (they reported that their sampling was consecutive when, in fact, it was selective). Around this time, famous celebrity Jenny Mccarthy also became an outspoken person about the vaccines causig Autism, and was writing books as well as appearing in shows like OPRAH actively talking about vaccines causing Autism, ADHD and developmental regression in kids.

Several families and parents shared and agreed with Jenny Mccarthys ideas about vaccinations

The Medical community and researchers all over US started intense efforts to convince the public that there is no link between vaccines and Autism. Hundreds of Physicians came forward and explained how vaccines are safe and have saved hundreds and thousands of patients from life threating infections by vaccinations.

There have been several outbreaks of various preventable infections in different parts of US due to the decline in the vaccination rates by families. There have been outbreaks of Measles, and Pertussis specially.

Following information is obtained from the CDC website( www.cdc.gov):

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in how the brain functions. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in different ways. Recent estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network found that about 1 in 68 children have been identified with ASD in communities across the United States. CDC is committed to providing essential data on ASD, searching for causes of and factors that increase the risk for ASD, and developing resources that help identify children with ASD as early as possible.

There is no link between vaccines and autism.

Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.

2013 CDC study [PDF – 204 KB] added to the research showing that vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.

Vaccine ingredients do not cause autism.

One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies[PDF – 357 KB] that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children.

Between 1999 and 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines. This was done as part of a broader national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposure in children before studies were conducted that determined that thimerosal was not harmful. It was done as a precaution. Currently, the only childhood vaccines that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. Thimerosal-free alternatives are also available for flu vaccine. For more information, see the Timeline for Thimerosal in Vaccines.

Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD as well. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.