Are Vaccines Really Linked With Childhood Autism?

childhood autism

Photo by Camp ASCCA / CC BY

Disease has been a part of the human condition since we started walking the Earth and as early as 1796 people were turning to inoculation as a way to prevent disease. Invented by Edward Jenner, smallpox was the first to be treated with arm-to-arm inoculation. The large scale production of vaccines started in the 1940’s with children being inoculated for smallpox, diphtheria, and tetanus. The vaccine against polio came next in 1955, with measles, rubella, and mumps following close behind in the 1960’s. Due to the success of the eradication efforts, in the 1970’s the use of the smallpox vaccine was discontinued. In the mid 1990’s a vaccine for hepatitis B was added to the list of recommended vaccines.

Since 1995 there have been several additions to the list so that now, when a child is being inoculated against disease they will be receiving up to 24 shots by the time the child reaches two years old, and where they used to receive only one shot at a time they can now get up to five in one visit. Receiving these inoculations is often mandatory when entering the public school system, and children have been turned away for that very reason. Choosing not to inoculate their children is often why a parent makes the decision to home school.

 While it is important to note that there have been some cases of autism directly linked to a particular vaccine, more research needs to be done before vaccines are abandoned altogether. There are many diseases that are preventable, but that could easily become common again if left out of control. Diseases such as Polio, for which there is no known cure, left thousands of victims most of whom were children in wheelchairs and in the worst cases in an iron lung. Almost everyone used to contract the measles, with 20% ending up in a hospital, and 450 deaths from measles each year were reported in a ten year span. At least 600 children each year were killed by the Hib meningitis disease with survivors experiencing retardation, deafness, and seizures. The vaccine for Hib meningitis was introduced in 1987 and reports of the disease have plummeted by 98%.

Recent outbreaks of disease can be directly linked to individuals who have for whatever reason decided against immunization. The Eagle Mountain International Church located in Texas was against inoculation and preached so to its members. An outbreak of measles occurred throughout its uninoculated congregation after one member contracted the disease during a trip. An outbreak of whooping cough occurred in California under much of the same circumstances resulting in 10 deaths and thousands sick with the disease.

It is true that there may be rare instances where a child may contract autism or some other neurological disease via vaccines. In these cases the vaccine and the child should be studied to determine why, but we also need to keep in mind that while you may be OK with your child not being inoculated, others may not feel the same way.