Friday, April 11, 2008

Autism and Vaccines - Is there a link?

The other night Josh was watching a special on autism on PBS. I happened to walk into the room and immediately started listening to the program. What I saw really scared me. Children who could not speak or interact with their parents because of their autism. Parents who testified that their children were developing normally before their vaccines. I have to admit this was the first time I really began to think about a link between autism and vaccines. Immediately after the program was over, I went to Thomas' room and just prayed over my precious child. I asked the Lord to protect him and to give me wisdom concerning this subject.

Thus far Thomas had had all of his scheduled vaccines, including a flu shot. He has had no negative reactions to any of the shots. However, it is his 12 month and 18 month shots that are controversial and many parents believe their child became autistic after these shots. Doctors say that it is just a coincidence because it is around 18 months that a child exhibits signs of autism, while parents say it is because of all the mercury in the shots. On the PBS special, parents were trying to "detox" their child of mercury hoping if they could decrease the mercury it would help cure the autism.

I don't think that parents should stop vaccinating their children. We don't want an epidemic of childhood diseases to return. There has to be a balance and I pray more research will be done into the link between vaccines and autism.

Right now, I have no idea what I'm going to do. I want to be able to trust the doctors and the CDC, but I also think that mamas know their children better than a doctor. I'm thinking that I may delay some of his shots until he is a little older. More than anything, I want Thomas to be healthy and it really scares me to think I could make a decision that would hurt him. However, I know that God is sovereign and nothing happens outside of His perfect will.

Please comment on your thoughts or links to information you think would be helpful. I know this is a highly volatile subject, so please be kind in your remarks.


Anna said...

Very interesting topic! Here are some sites I looked at...I always try to stick to sites that seem legitimate, but it can be hard to tell these days.

Jarod said...

Vaccines are a scary thing for any parent. Most don't know how they work nor what potential side effects they can cause, so it is understandable that they are a little apprehensive. However, the risk that the diseases pose to children greatly out weighs any risk that these vaccines pose. I wholeheartedly support vaccines and if I had kids I would make sure they had them all. You only have to look to developing countries that do not have vaccine programs and see the disease and death rates associated with unvaccinated individuals. I have copied the text of an article discussing mmr and autism. I would have just posted the link but you have to be a member to view it. I hope this helps.

MMR and Autism: Suspect or Superstition?

Benjamin Estrada, MD
Infect Med 18(4):183, 2001. © 2001 Cliggott Publishing, Division of SCP Communications


Concerns about a possible relationship between autism and measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine administration were triggered in 1998 by a report that suggested a possible association between the two (Wakefield AJ et al. Lancet. 1998;28:637-641). This report was based on a case series of 12 children who presented with developmental regression associated with diarrhea, abdominal pain, and ileal-lymphoid nodular hyperplasia. These events were temporally related to administration of the MMR vaccine, and it was hypothesized that this product could trigger an intestinal inflammatory response that could be associated with developmental regression in previously normal children. This hypothesis has not been proved, and a causal association between the administration of this vaccine and the development of autism has not been found in recent studies.
Taylor and collaborators in the United Kingdom reported one of the first epidemiologic studies on this subject in 1999. These investigators included children born since 1979. Although there was an increase in the number of cases of autism, the authors did not find any difference in age at diagnosis between the vaccinated and unvaccinated subjects. From the data collected in this study, there was no evidence to support a significant temporal association between the administration of MMR vaccine and the development of this disorder. In addition, no evidence of a change in the trend of cases of autism was found after the introduction of MMR into the United Kingdom immunization program in 1988. The lack of association between autism and MMR vaccine administration has also been demonstrated in other studies performed in Finland and Sweden (Taylor B et al. Lancet. 1999;353:2026-2029).

Dales and collaborators recently reported a study to evaluate an association between development of autism and MMR administration in the United States (Dales L et al. JAMA. 2001;285:1183-1185). This was a retrospective study designed to evaluate the presence of a correlation between the trends of MMR immunization coverage and the occurrence of autism. This analysis included children born between 1980 and 1994 in California. The investigators included 600 to 1900 children in each year's cohort and determined their yearly immunization coverage. Data obtained from this study show that the rates of MMR immunization have remained relatively stable since 1998 and that they do not correlate with the increase in the number of cases of autism observed since 1985 in California.

In another study, Kaye and collaborators performed a data analysis from the United Kingdom general practice research database to evaluate the relationship between autism and MMR vaccine administration (Kaye JA et al. BMJ. 2001;322:460-463). Although they also found an increase in the incidence of autism between 1988 and 1999, no evidence to support a correlation between the prevalence of MMR immunization and the increase in the number of cases of autism was found.

It is very difficult to diagnose autism in the first year of life. Since MMR is usually administered to children after their first birthday, the diagnosis of this condition may occur temporally close to the vaccine administration, but there is no evidence to support a causal association between them. In addition, current data suggest a lack of correlation between the rates of MMR vaccine administration and the increase in the number of cases of autism observed during the last 20 years. Although the cause for the increase in the incidence of this disorder is not known (the apparent increase might simply be the result of increased awareness), mounting evidence suggests that immunization with MMR vaccine should eventually be excluded from the list of "usual suspects."

Dr Estrada is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of South Alabama, Mobile.

Ashley said...

I don't think that we should NOT have vaccines, I just wonder why we give them to babies whose immune systems are so immature and underdeveloped. Why is it that most over the counter meds are for age 2 and older but we will give our children under 2 vaccinations? I think it's wonderful to have vaccines but I don't think I can support it in giving it to children so young.

Jarod said...

The very reason you state for not giving infants vaccines is the reason that they need vaccines to protect them. They are most susceptible to the diseases we are vaccinating them against. A good case for vaccinations can be seen in the UK during the 1970's. There was unfounded suggestions that the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was causing severe side effects so for several years the UK stopped giving the pertussis vaccine. During this time, the incidence of whooping cough greatly increased. When the vaccine was reinstated the incidence dropped back down. One of the reasons we no longer have a high incidence of many of the diseases that were once common is because of vaccines. The reason over the counter drugs (tylenol, aspirin, etc.) are not to be given under age 2 is that their livers aren't able to metabolize the products effectively enough to prevent toxicity. Vaccines are non disease causing versions of the disease causing organism. It stimulates the immune system against the organism so that when the disease causing organism comes along it recognizes it and attacks it thus preventing disease.