Will vaccines make my child autistic?

John Tiong Jeh Lung
MPharm, PhD, RPh

Article 1 feature image (vaccines)

Did you know that the current vaccine fear was fuelled by Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent research paper in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism?

When Wakefield’s 1998 research paper was published in one of the top scientific journals, it received widespread attention for its controversial assertion of the association between MMR vaccine and autism. Nonetheless, findings of numerous subsequent studies successfully proved this to be untrue and refuted the claim by Andrew Wakefield’s group.

It was later revealed that Wakefield and co-workers had derived their conclusions based on unsubstantiated data and scientific misrepresentations. This was followed by the withdrawal of support by 10 out of 12 of the co-authors for the interpretation in Wakefield’s 1998 research paper and its subsequent retraction from the scientific journal. Andrew Wakefield (a medical doctor by practice) has since been struck off the UK Medical register for fraud and several charges of misconduct.

Despite the conclusion of such an unfortunate episode within the medical and scientific fraternity, the negative publicity surrounding vaccines has already spread like wildfire and sparked many anti-vaccine movements around the globe. The vaccine fear propagated by anti-vaccine groups has led to the drop in overall vaccination rate worldwide due to concerns among parents of the autism risk among their children. As a result, we are currently witnessing the rise of many infectious diseases which are previously preventable via vaccination.

Like any other medicines, vaccines may sometimes cause minor side effects including fever and allergies although it is unlikely to result in autism. If you are still in doubt, a more recent evidence-based meta-analysis in 2014 by Taylor and co-workers of 10 studies involving approximately 1.2 million children has once again reaffirmed the fact that vaccines are not associated with the development of autism. With this, let’s hope that this unfounded fear can be put to rest once and for all.

 

References:

Destefano, F. & Chen, RT. Negative association between MMR and autism. Lancet. 1999;353(9169):1987-8

Eggertson L. Lancet retracts 12-year-old article linking autism to MMR vaccines. CMAJ. 2010;182:E199–200.

Godlee F. The fraud behind the MMR scare. BMJ. 2011;342:d22.

Rao TSS, Andrade C. The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2011;53(2):95-96.

Taylor LE., Swerdfeger AL., Eslick GD. Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Vaccine. 2014;32(29):3623-3629

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