Immunizations Do Not Cause Autism

Persistent fears continue about the safety of immunizations and autism. As celebrities weigh in and the internet can be full of misinformation we thought it was important to make our stance clear on vaccines.  We respect the rights of all parents to make the best decisions for their children, but in this case the science continues to win this argument.

How did this controversy come to be? In the late 1990’s concerns that children vaccinated with products that contained the preservative Thimerosal™ could receive doses of mercury above those considered acceptable were raised. At the same time, the number of children diagnosed with conditions that fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders was on the rise. But the authors of well-designed and scientifically rigorous research studies demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, that there simply is no association between immunizations and the apparent rise in the incidence of autism.

Vaccines are among the most effective prevention tools available to clinicians. High immunization coverage has resulted in drastic declines in vaccine-preventable diseases. And for those who cannot be immunized because of other illnesses, “herd effect” – the phenomenon by which a disease is squeezed out of a community due to a lack of hosts capable of transmitting it – offers a potentially lifesaving option. Unfortunately, the low incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases has led some to wrongly believe the conditions have been eradicated – we have become victims of our own success.

A new study evaluating parents’ concerns of “too many vaccines too soon” and autism has been published online in the Journal of Pediatrics. It adds to the conclusion of a 2004 comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that there is not a causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism. The results provide relevant data for the current childhood immunization schedule.

Use of immunizations is good medicine and good healthcare policy. It helps protect individuals today. And in the long-run, it will decrease the cost of providing care to those who might be afflicted by preventable conditions. It is the proverbial “win-win” situation. A popular aphorism states that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the case of immunizations, this simple and safe precautionary measure not only prevents illnesses, it saves lives.

Pedro Weisleder, MD
Pedro Weisleder, MD, PhD, is an attending pediatric neurologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Neurology Residency Program at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Weisleder is Co-Chair of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Integrated Ethics Committee, as well as Co-Chair of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Graduate Medical Education Committee.

5 thoughts on “Immunizations Do Not Cause Autism

  1. Robert Schecter on said:

    I’m curious how you can claim “vaccines” in general don’t cause autism when only one vaccine ingredient, namely thimerosal, and one vaccine, the MMR, have ever been studied to any great extent in regards to autism. Do you have any studies looking at vaccines in general. As to the study to which you did link, surely as a medical professional you understand vaccines and antigens are two different things.

  2. Pedro Weisleder on said:


    Thanks so much for your thought-provoking comments which, for the purposes of simplicity, I will address in reverse order.

    You are correct, antigens and vaccines are not the same. An antigen is any substance, particle, or material that is foreign to our body. As such, the immune system produces an antibody against the antigen so that other components of our immune system can dispose of it. In the case of vaccines, the liquid injected, swallowed, or inhaled contains parts of viruses or bacteria. These parts, stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to those viruses or bacteria so that our body gets rid of them before they have the opportunity to make us sick.

    The authors of the paper I linked to my blog went beyond analyzing exposure to viral and bacterial parts, they also analyzed the components that are necessary to manufacture vaccines such as some types of sugars. Almost every manufactured food item – bread, canned soups, ketchup, mayo, soda pop, etc. – contains substances to keep them fresh, and vaccines are no different. Analysis of the data presented in the paper is very clear, neither exposure to the viral and bacterial antigens, nor to the components that keep vaccines fresh, is associated to an increased risk of developing conditions that fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders.

    The same paper provides an answer to your first comment. The authors examined the risk of developing conditions that fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders in children who received the full compliment of immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Pedro Weisleder, MD

  3. You study the chemicals/ preservatives in the vaccines but not the fragile blood brain barrier and immune system of the babies?!

    Of course vaccines have a role to play in the explosives rates of autism in the US – as do other environmental toxins.- like the mothers diet – think GMO toxins. Even Julie Gerberding admits vaccines cause autism in children born with mitochondrial syndrome.

    In NJ, a peninsula of chemical pollution and the most Drug / Vaccine Makers the autism rate is 1 in 29.

  4. Kimberly Crapsey on said:

    These continued arguments are fruitless. It is really quite simple to solve everyone’s goal, spread out the vaccination schedule and separate the MMR as other nations have done. I am sorry, but studies can be manipulated, and research data interpreted to support or debunk a hypothesis. We can all agree that something is going on causing this high increase in autism, we just can’t agree on a root cause.

    I work in IT. We make it quite simple. When something breaks, we ask “what changed.” We do not always know what change may have caused what break. So, we revert ALL changes until the break has been resolved. Then we analyze the structure of each change that was backed out so we can pinpoint why that change caused a break.

    The MMR and vaccination schedule HAS changed. Autism rates soared after said change. It isn’t rocket science. So why does the medicinal community refuse to back out the changes?! I would rather take my child in every other month for a vaccine than to give him NINE different vaccines at once. Seriously! One visit they wanted to give my son NINE vaccines at once. I said no, but I had no choice and had to let them give five at once because of the manner of distribution.

    Are there mitigating factors that haven’t been vetted out yet as contributing factors to the Autism soar? Sure, most likely that is probable. Perhaps it is the high push of induced labors and using Pitocin to encourage births. Perhaps it is mother’s consuming artificial sweeteners during their pregnancy that puts the baby at higher risk to Autism once they have had the MMR. But one thing is for sure, there are enough first hand experiences of severe and immediate response to the MMR to question its safety.

    These continued debates are not solving the issue but instead are creating an anti-vaccination movement that continues to grow, and continues to put our children at risk. Why not admit that we simply do not know, revert the MMR so it can be SAFELY administered over a series of months, and spread out the vaccine schedule accordingly.

    At the minimum, it would put parents’ minds at ease on vaccination, at the most, it might just reveal evidence of some other causation of the autism spikes.

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