Photo by US Navy and used with Creative Commons license.
A new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found no connection between the numbers of vaccines a child receives and his or her risk of autism spectrum disorder, adding to a nascent but growing body of similar findings. The researchers also found that, while children today receive more vaccinations than earlier generations, these newer vaccines contain much fewer substances that contribute to adverse immune system responses. This news should help to quell the fears of the more than 10 percent of parents with young children who choose to skip or delay vaccinations out of fear that their children are receiving too many vaccines too soon.
This latest report by the CDC, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, examines the medical and vaccination histories of more than 1,000 children, one fourth of whom had autism and the rest did not. The researchers calculated the number of antigens – substances that stimulate disease-fighting antibodies – to which infants were exposed either in one doctor’s visit or at various points throughout their first two years. The study found, “kids’ total antigen exposure in the first two years of life was unrelated to their risk of developing an autism disorder.” Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at Autism Speaks told reporters, “we hope this will reassure parents that the number of vaccines your child received during the first couple years of life is not associated with a risk in developing autism.” Autism advocates hope that this conclusive study will end the tide of parents choosing to delay or forego their children’s vaccines so that researchers can move on to studying other issues, such as what causes autism. As Dawson notes “until we conduct the research to answer the questions about autism’s causes and risk factors,parents will continue to have questions.”
This study is the latest in a large and growing body of research confirming that there is no link between multiple immunizations during the first two years of life and an increased risk of autism, and there are no benefits associated with delaying vaccinations. Despite these conclusions from the medical and scientific communities, a growing number of parents continue to put their own children, and the children of others, at risk by delaying or foregoing vaccinations. The decision to delay or forego vaccinations is believed to be the primary cause for the record-breaking number of measles cases in 2011, as well as the 2012 resurgence of whooping cough,which was the largest epidemic of its kind in 50 years.