Do Vaccinations Cause Autism?

Posted on Aug 11, 2008 in Autism, Heavy Metals

By Miles Riley The Times-Reporter

By the time a child is 2 years old, he or she may have received up to 23 vaccination injections, and some parents believe vaccinations may be a factor in autism.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children receive 14 vaccinations, and depending on timing, a child may receive up to six shots during one doctor’s visit.

Although these vaccinations are responsible for the near eradication of many diseases, including polio, tuberculosis, smallpox, cholera, bubonic plague and typhoid fever, some parents believe that these vaccinations, and the implementation of so many during one visit to a doctor’s office, might be a leading cause in the recent increase of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a mental disorder that affects social and interaction skills.

“Their actions may be completely inappropriate,” Dr. Gregory Weber of Dover said of children with autism. “For example, the child might start hitting their mother for no reason. … It’s kind of like Alzheimer’s.”

Some believe that Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once used in vaccines, is the cause of ASD.

The CDC reports that exposure to mercury “can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing and memory problems.”

However, it’s believed by health care professionals that the small amounts found in vaccines “wouldn’t do that much harm,” Weber said.

Kathy Minarcheck, certified pediatric nurse practitioner at the Canton Community Clinic, said that the preservative no longer is used in vaccines given to children younger than 3.

She said that its use is being phased out, partially because of its possible link to autism, but noted that she has never seen evidence that the preservative is a factor in the development of the disorder.

The reason for the increase of reports of ASD, she said, “is the doctor’s ability to recognize the disorder.”

Another reason for the recent increase is the wider diagnostic spectrum, which includes very mild symptoms of the disorder, not just the severe cases, Minarcheck said.

The American Society of Autism doesn’t mention Thimerosal as a cause of autism. However, it does suggest that a child’s contact with such harmful elements, such as mercury, could be a cause.

The CDC reports that the preservative produces side effects that are minor and “rarely surpass a red blotch at the injection point.”

Minarcheck said that there is no evidence that vaccines, even if multiple types are given during one visit to a doctor’s office, can cause harm to children.

A study released in 2007 by the center’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network revealed that one in 150 children and one in 94 boys in the U.S. have ASD.

“It is even more important for children to get vaccines because their immune system is so weak,” Minarcheck said.

Recently, many celebrities and athletes have used their fame to promote autism awareness, but a clear cause of autism has not surfaced.

“There may be answers out there in the long run,” Minarcheck said. “They are always looking to find the answers.”