A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that there is absolutely no link between vaccinations and the onset of autism.
That in and of itself isn't very shocking because there have been dozens of studies that have come to the same conclusion. What makes this study noteworthy is who paid for it: anti-vaccination groups.
SafeMinds, The National Autism Association, and the Ted Lindsay Foundation have all made public statements about an "autism epidemic" and implied that thimerosal, a preservative no longer used in new childhood vaccines, is a likely culprit.
The very heart of their argument is problematic for a number of reasons. For starters, many experts agree that there isn't an autism epidemic and the rise of cases is merely due to changed standards about how to diagnose the disorder. Additionally, much of the recent research regarding the cause of autism has shown it to be largely genetic, and signs can be determined as soon as the second trimester of pregnancy. There are likely many other factors at play, but those are still being teased out.
One factor, however, that has been ruled out time and time again as not playing a role in the onset of autism is the use of vaccines.
Desperate to prove their position, these three organizations helped fund a five-year study investigating the role thimerosal plays in the parts of the brain most affected by autism. At the end of a rigorous examination, not a single shred of evidence emerged to support their claims.
Apparently unwilling to accept that their agenda could not be bought, SafeMinds president Sallie Bernard has asked that the data be analyzed again, Newsweek reported.
The origin of this pervasive untruth stems in large part from a 1998 study, whose principle investigator claimed the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine caused autism, due to the thimerosal. Scientists rushed to replicate the study, though nobody ever could. Eventually, it surfaced that the researcher, Andrew Wakefield, had falsified the data because of a personal financial interest. The paper was retracted, Wakefield lost his medical license, and was exiled by the scientific community. That should have put the myth to rest once and for all.
Unfortunately, as these three organizations have demonstrated, it hasn't.
Despite nothing but evidence to the contrary, anti-vaccination groups hold steady with their claims that vaccines cause autism. Many people are scared to vaccinate their children, and low vaccination rates are responsible for the rise of preventable infectious disease. While children with autism do pose certain challenges that neurotypical children do not, painting the disorder as a fate worse than death is mind-bogglingly offensive.
These groups proved that you can't buy the answer you want to hear, when all of reality is telling you otherwise. Autism is far from being well-understood, but these organizations would be doing the world (and their donors) a lot more good by funding studies that will actually lead somewhere.
Vaccines do not cause autism. Period.
[H/T: Medical Daily]