In recent years, autism cases have steadily increased. Even though the figure below stops at 2007, it is clear that the number of cases being diagnosed is increasing. Between 1993 and 2003, it is estimated that autism occurred in about 1 in 150 people. However, before the 1990s, autism only occurred in about 1 in 2500 people (Lilienfeld et al., 2010). The autism increase is very alarming because it is considered a disorder of brain development usually diagnosed during infancy or childhood.
During this period of development, many children receive vaccinations, one in particular the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccination (MMR). Even though this shot may only sting for a little bit, some parents will not allow this stinging to occur. Parents such as Jenny McCarthy, a former model and TV star, argue that these shots triggered autism in their kids. Such personal stories, especially from famous people, can influence decisions on vaccinating children.
The so called “Anti-Vaxxers” claim that vaccines cause autism, however, science proves otherwise. A common argument against vaccines is that these injections that are supposed to help us really contain harmful chemicals, thimerosal for example. However, multiple studies show that despite removing all thimerosal from vaccines, autism rates have still climbed (Lilienfeld et al., 2010). Researchers have also found that despite the decrease of vaccinations, the MMR vaccine in particular, autism cases are still increasing. Similarly, when the number of vaccines given increases, it shows no connection to autism (Gerber & Offit, 2009). Science has shown that vaccines do not cause autism.
Although cases of autism being diagnosed are indeed increasing, this does not reflect an actual increase in the prevalence of autism. Compared to the 1980s and now, the requirements to be diagnosed with autism have become less strict. This means that it is easier to be diagnosed with autism today than it has ever been before (Lilienfeld et. al, 2010). Another explanation for the increasing rate of diagnosis could very well be “diagnostic substitution.” Diagnostic substitution is where certain diagnoses, such as autism, replacing the diagnoses of other disorders, such as intellectual disability. A study found that as the rates of autism diagnoses soared, diagnosis of other disorders decreased (Lilienfeld et al., 2010).
Autism is not caused by vaccinations, and it is no more prevalent than it was years ago. It is simply a myth that autism is caused by vaccinations, and nothing more. Take the shot since the sting won’t last long; it will only hurt you and others around you more if you do not.
Gerber, J. S., & Offit, P. A. (2009). Vaccines and autism: A tale of shifting hypotheses. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Retrieved from http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/48/4/456.full#cited-by
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell