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Vaccines Don't Cause Autism

Updated on October 7, 2015

The evidence is clear, vaccinations don't cause autism.

Some celebrities are speaking out against vaccines on the grounds that those celebrities believe vaccinations cause autism. They have created vast anti-vaccination lobbies and organizations to convince parents to stop getting their children vaccinated. The unfortunate thing about this is that many people are more apt to listen to a celebrity rather than to their family doctor. This has resulted in a wave of parents skipping vaccinations and, unsurprisingly, it has also resulted in a wave of deaths and illnesses preventable by current vaccination practices.

Vaccinations prevent horrible, sometimes fatal, diseases. There is a tiny danger present in vaccination but that danger is minute in comparison to the dangers to be found in skipping childhood vaccinations. Diseases such as mumps, measles, rubella, influenza, polio, and hepatitis kill and maim children.

This page investigates the dirty origin of the dangerous myth that vaccines cause autism.

photo by Leonardini

Please Read First

Please note that this page is not about all reasons parents may choose not to vaccinate their children. It is solely about the danger of people basing their decision not to vaccinate their children on the "vaccines cause autism" myth. It does not address any other reasons, many of which are rational and valid, for parents to choose to question vaccination practices.

While many parents may have valid reasons for choosing not to vaccinate, the "vaccines cause autism" myth has caused many other people to avoid vaccinating because they fear that getting their children vaccinated will cause their children to develop autism.

So please keep in mind while reading this page that it is not a listing of every cause people have for choosing not to vaccinate but it is about the exposure of a single irrational cause, one which has duped many into a decision they might otherwise not make.

photo by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC
photo by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

Spreading the Myth

Anti-vaxxer celebrities have made the anti-vaccine lobby swell

A number of celebrities have bought into the myth that vaccinations cause autism. Unfortunately, they don't just base their own childcare information on that belief, they are spreading the autism/vaccine myth despite all evidence being to the contrary and despite the lives it is costing.

Celebrities Versus Your Pediatrician - Who knows best? Your family doctor or an anti-vaxxer celebrity?

While it's great that some celebrities decide to champion causes in support of sufferers of illnesses they can be a dangerous source of misinformation if they get their information wrong.

When making choices for the health of your child, whose opinion is more important, your pediatrician's or some celebrity's opinion?

Who do you listen to in regard to your child's health?



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    • Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I just said celebrities because I felt this side was lonely. :) I don't know, if the celebrity had a lot to say I might listen to them. When it comes to my kids, I listen to everyone and then listen to my heart.


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      • Kylyssa Shay 21 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        Medical professionals aren't always right but they are likely to be correct on medical issues a substantially higher percentage of the time than people without any medical training.

      • Amy 21 months ago from Darlington, England

        I would always take advice from a medical professional as they know what they are talking about, well most of the time anyway.

      • Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

        While doctors don't always know all the answers themselves, I sure don't trust celebrities with no medical training to have a clue. They are quick to jump on the latest campaign, or look for any "excuse" why their children aren't "perfect." Far easier to blame big bad government and the medical industry than random misfortune - or even perhaps just the statistics of having children later in life or even having engaged in activities which can have unfortunate pre-natal effects.

      • TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

        Actually I listen to myself and make my own decision but I do listen to the doctors AND I do my own research. I do not consider Jenny McCarthy to be a good role-model just because her son became autistic after getting the MMR vaccination.

      • Cinnamonbite 6 years ago

        Can't even trust your doctors. I had to switch docs because the one we had been seeing moved to another state. The new doc asked if I was against vaccinations and I said absolutely not. He said the old doctor was, she had a reputation among other docs and she hadn't given my son all of his shots. SHE DIDN'T ASK MY PERMISSION to let my son run around unprotected! Everyone should check online and verify that their kids have all their proper shots and not take their doctor's word for it.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        A positive book on Autism "No Matter What" (Autism) wins a Gold Award at the 2010 inaugural World Book Awards - chosen as a sensational book to receive top honours. ISBN : 9781847477491 - It's a valuable book which looks at every aspect of Autism.2010 World Book Awards"No Matter What" websiste:

      • Recoverhealthnow 6 years ago

        The most comprehensive report on government-approved medicine ever conducted shows that organized medicine has killed 7,841,360 Americans in the last 10 years. Our estimated 10-year total of 7.8 million iatrogenic [doctor-induced] deaths is more than all the casualties from all the wars fought by the U.S. throughout its entire history, commented the Nutrition Institute of America (NIA), in its report, Death By Medicine (Oct., 2003).

      • irregularworld 6 years ago

        Thanks for a fact-based analysis. I understand why parents look for an easy target for their criticism, but it's more responsible to think the subject through logically. I'm surprised the anti-vaccine crowd hasn't mobbed this lens discussion yet.

      • Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

        I trust me doctor because mostly he will only do the basic vaccines, the one that are really vital.

      • norma-holt 6 years ago

        I think doctors often act on popular decisions rather than evidence when advising patients. It is possible that giving multiple doses of vaccines in one hit is very harmful and if I had my time over I don't think I would do it to my children. In my own case I had measles 4 times, mumps, chicken pox and so on. They made me stronger and possibly the celebrities are right in raising awareness to this cause. But I would still listen to a doctor with sound evidence

      • ToddleTees LM 6 years ago

        I've no problem with people airing their concerns, as it usually means there is confusion out there that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, it can spiral out of control, and when you throw a few vocal celebrities into the mix, fact and fiction become confused. I pay my doctor for medical advice, and trust what they tell me. I'm sure they're not always 100% right, but I'll they sure have a better track record than those without medical training.

      • Cherry-Ambition 6 years ago from U.S.

        Doctors, as well as my own intuition. I don't think most celebs have any merit or reliability when it comes to whatever causes or beliefs they promote. They're simply allowed to promote a cause because they're famous and it gives that cause some attention. But it doesn't mean you can or should trust what they say...

      • Carol Fisher 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

        I would seriously question the ethics of any non-medical person giving advice on a question like this unless they have studied it in depth and can understand the scientific studies including the differences that can occur in a small scale trial and a large scale trial. The original so-called study was done on a relatively small number of children and the results have not been replicated in any reputable study as far as I know.No, I would never take the advice of a celebrity on such a matter as this over the advice of medical experts.

      • religions7 6 years ago

        This really IS costing lives. I don't have a child, so it's hard to weigh in here, but vaccines do save lives. Seriously: read any 19th century novel and you'll see death playing a far bigger role in all people's lives than it does in our modern Western lives. It's because of vaccines and hygiene. I don't think people are smart to risk their child dying, only to prevent autism. Don't get me wrong: autism is a serious issue, it's heart breaking. But the evidence that vaccines cause it is just not there.

      If you are thinking of not having your children vaccinated I suggest you investigate your own family tree. Look back one or two generations and count the children born versus the children who survived to adulthood. Almost every family lost children to diseases now preventable by vaccines. In my case, it was my eldest brother. My mother lost three siblings to childhood diseases. Why would anyone want to bring that child mortality rate back?

      Are Celebrities Responsible for Deaths Caused By Misinformation They Spread?

      Are people responsible for the information they spread? Are celebrities responsible if their bad advice causes deaths or injuries?

      Are celebrities responsible for deaths caused by misinformation they spread?

      See results

      Dangers Presented By Measles

      Just one disease childhood vaccinations prevent

      While most children who contract measles in developed countries survive, as many as three out of every thousand children who contract measles will die directly from the disease. Up to 15% of people who contract measles will develop complications including (but not limited to) blindness, deafness, respiratory ailments, and conditions which could result in death at a later point in time.

      While a child who gets measles has an 85% chance of recovering without severe consequences, that child may give the illness to others who may not be as lucky.

      Fortunately, measles is a disease easily prevented by vaccination. Recent vaccination efforts have resulted in a 60% drop in yearly deaths from measles. However, measles still causes around 345,000 deaths worldwide each year, mostly in third world countries where vaccination is uncommon.

      Unfortunately, many people have stopped having their children vaccinated due to misinformation that autism is caused by vaccinations. This endangers other children too young to be vaccinated yet, increasing the risk of measles in developed countries.

      A Coincidence of Timing

      Personally, I believe it's coincidence people see working when they see a connection between autism and vaccinations. Prior to the age a child gets his first set of vaccinations, very, very few cases of autism are diagnosed because the children have yet to reach the milestones autism tends to affect. An eight week old infant is unlikely to be diagnosed with autism because infants are all unable to communicate at that age.

      Children are usually diagnosed with autism between the ages of three and five. Children get their first vaccinations before those ages and many get a cluster at around age four or five, prior to going to school. The three to five age group is usually when the symptoms of autism become most noticeable because normal three to five year old children are communicative. The autistic children don't present normally for milestones associated with that age group. Coincidentally, many of them have just gotten vaccines as this is the age at which many children begin preschool or get readied for kindergarten.

      With or without vaccinations, children will be diagnosed at the age they fail to meet a normal developmental milestone.

      Do Vaccines Cause Autism

      image by Leonardini
      image by Leonardini

      The study suggesting autism might have been caused by vaccinations has been debunked. Its author has been shown to have had a financial interest in the outcome of the study and it has also been proven that his methodology was bizarre and unscientific. So do you still think vaccines cause autism?

      Do vaccines cause autism?

      See results

      What do You Think about Vaccination? - Are you anti-vax or pro-vax?

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          Kylyssa Shay 21 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          I think it's responsible parenting to protect your child from all of those diseases. Kudos to you for valuing your child and the lives of all the people around her. I have high-functioning autism and it hasn't been a picnic, but I'm glad to be alive. I also grew up seeing how the loss of my brother (before the vaccine for HIB meningitis existed) destroyed my parents' and siblings' mental and emotional health, in my parents' case, permanently. A poke in the arm can now save families from that kind of grief.

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          Amy 21 months ago from Darlington, England

          My 7 year old daughter is fully up to date with all her vaccinations and even if there was a link with autism I would not have said no as preventing the diseases that the vaccines do is more important in my oppinion. And also as I and my partner are possible ADHD sufferers then there is a chance my daughter and my unborn child will have a form of it anyway.

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          Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          @jen09 writes: I'm not sure what was amusing about the statistics; talk to some old people if you don't believe diseases kill some people and mess others up or that vaccines have an effect on diseases. I'll have to look them up again, I could swear I had them sourced but I removed a bunch of links on lenses after getting the "too commercial" flag and may have done so too indiscriminately. (I aIso must have accidentally reset the guestbook to automatic approval, otherwise I'd have seen your comment earlier.) I am certain the measles statistics, at least some of them, came from articles I found cited at the bottom of a Wikipedia article on measles. The vaccination reduction of death rates were from a charity website. I has been a long time since I wrote it but I'll look for it in my notes.

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          jen09 writes 3 years ago

          I am on the fence on this issue, however I found myself chuckling a bit when I read your statistics. While I am sure they are for real, because there is no indication as to where you got this information, a quote kept coming to my mind - "86.35% of all statistics are made up on the spot to benefit the person making them up". On a serious note, I really am trying to study this out and would love to know where you got that information

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          Kylyssa Shay 4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          @Gypzeerose: Hasn't the mercury been gone since the late nineties?

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          Rose Jones 4 years ago

          I just don't know. The mercury in the vaccines is frustrating, I don't know why it has to be there. On the other hand we are exposed to all kinds of toxins in the environment. I believe that the dangers of vaccines are less than the dangers of not getting the. I got my kids vaccinated but got them vaccinated at the 6-8-12 month schedule rather than the 2-4-6 schedule. Of course, my kids were not in day care, that makes a difference. Well-researched.

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          FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

          Go science! That study was laughably terrible. On the other hand, I hate needles. Hate. Hate. Hate. On the third mutant hand... I have no problem with small children who are not me being injected.

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          faielyne 5 years ago

          @kerbev: I agree! I've read studies that suggest gluten and dairy could even be a factor. But honestly, I've worked with so many amazing children who have autism or aspergers and I think the biggest thing we need to work on is how the rest of us deal with and relate to them. They are special kids with amazing ideas and ways of thinking.

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          norma-holt 6 years ago

          Until about 30 years ago I had never heard of autism. Now just about every second child I come across has some form of ADD or worse. Louise Pasteur was ridiculed, ostracised and called a quack when he insisted that pasteurised milk was more healthy than unpasturised. Likewise most medical scientists who opposed the general trend were likewise treated so I would not condemn Wakefield for trying to alert us to the possibility that vaccinations, given together in single doses, are harmful. It's a good argument that is *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

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          Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

          This is an excellent lens discussing an issue which far too many people are willing to just listen to celebrities about instead of learning the real facts. While there may be some debatable link between vaccination and autism, it has yet to be proven and too many parents are causing clear risk to their childrens' lives by not vaccinating them, based on simply what someone like Jenny McCarthy says.

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          TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

          I actually do think that the MMR vaccine does have a component that causes autism, but its NOT ONLY the vaccines fault. The kids also have to have something genetic that is susceptible as well.

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          MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

          Well, the celebrities rarely say that vaccines cause it, but that so many at once, especially with the neurotoxins (which have been removed, perhaps due to celebrities) are dangerous. But well done lens and angel blessed

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          Recoverhealthnow 6 years ago

          Lets get down to hard facts. 20 years ago a child by 6 years old According to the CDC vaccine schedule got 10 shot 30 vaccines. Today In 2010 by 6 years old in the US the child gets 36 shots 109 vaccines. Just a few months Ago they added 4 more shots to the CDCs vaccine schedule.Here is the big one. Never have they done studies of the cumulative effectsOf all the chemicals, viruses, Pathogens, RNA/DNA of animals.Do you think a childs DNA will ever be the same? Here take a look so you can see what I mean: Toxic Vaccine Ingredients: Varicella virus/ human diploid lung cells, Embryonic Guinea pig cell cultures, Beef heart infusion/ fetal bovine serum, Ammonium Sulfate, Glutamate, Neomycin, Diphtheria, Tetanus Toxoids, & Acellular pertussis endotoxin, beef heart infusion/fetal bovine serum, aluminum, formaldehyde, Thimerosal (mercury derivative), phenol/phenoxyethanol, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), dry natural latex rubber, Hepatitis B virus gene / yeast protein, Aluminum, Formaldehyde, Thimerosal (mercury derivative), Diphtheria Toxoid, Tetanus Toxoid, Haemophilus influenza type b antigen, Neisseria meningitides serogroup B, Ammonia Sulfate, Aluminum, Thimerosal (Mercury derivative), Dry natural latex rubber, Hepatitis B virus gene / yeast protein, Haemophilus influenza type b antigen, Neisseria meningitides serogroup B, Aluminum, Formaldehyde, Mumps virus / chick embryo culture, Rubella virus / human diploid lung cells, Beef heart infusion / fetal bovine serum, Human albumin, Sorbitol/sucrose, Aspartame, Glutamate, Neomycin, Diphtheria toxoid, Streptococcus pneumonia/ soy peptone broth/ yeast, Ammonium Sulfate, Glutamate, Neomycin, Polio virus/ monkey kidney cell, beef heart infusion/fetal bovine serum, formaldehyde, phenol/phenoxyethanol, dry natural latex rubber, neomycinGOT ADD/ADHD? Go ahead and be my guess. Its is your childs DNA they want to trash!

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          Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

          Many of these vaccines are absolutely necessary, the problem now is the new vaccines coming out for the sake of making money (such as the one preventing cervical cancer for example). This one here in France (and in many european countries) has a huge warning when TV or paper ads run: it says that it only protect about 1 of the hundreds of virus that COULD give this cancer, and even doctors don't want to risk it with their patient. The big pharmaceutical tried to remove the warning but the government and the doctors association fight and won. So yes my son has all the basic and absolutely vital ones and nothing else.

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          missbat 6 years ago

          If people took time to educate themselves and fund research about autism instead of looking for something to blame, then we might find ways to help treat or maybe even eradicate autism. Thanks for making this lens!

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Very interesting lens, a lot to thing about on here.

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          MagpieNest 6 years ago

          I didn't realize this was still an issue in the US. It's the media that has been a problem in the UK - poor science journalism. I know well-educated people who still haven't had their children vaccinated (no contra-indications). I'm just so appreciative of living in a time when vaccinations are available.

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          kab 6 years ago from Upstate, NY

          I do not believe that vaccines cause autism. I find the case of the Amish particularly interesting. While some Amish don't get vaccines, most do, yet the rates of Autism are much lower in Amish communities. Perhaps we should look to other chemicals and materials we are exposed to.

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          ToddleTees LM 6 years ago

          This is a great subject to write about. I don't think well-meaning celebrities themselves are responsible for deaths, and indeed, if their concerns are commonplace, then it's great that they are using their pedestal of fame to start a discussion and get clarification from the real experts. Rather, I think the problem is the celebrity-centric culture that gives their views more weight than they deserve. I think that goes much deeper than the individuals themselves.Having said that, celebrities do need to exercise some degree of personal responsibility in what they say publicly, especially if it's about a subject they aren't trained in.

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          hayleylou lm 6 years ago

          I don't know about Autism but I do believe that the Vaccines are linked to eczema. Well put together lens, thumbs up :)

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          Carol Fisher 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

          I think this is a really important subject. Here in the UK the number of cases of measles has been steadily rising since the publicity surrounding the so-called research. I have a grandson who is autistic and neither his mother nor I believe vaccinations were the cause or had made any difference to his autism. As you say, it's the coincidence of timing.Celebrities should never give this kind of advice unless they are medically qualified and can give reasons and evidence for their opinions. Mostly I think it's a way of keeping a high profile for them. What other reason can they have for commenting on something outside their fields of expertise?Don't listen to unqualified people. Look at the scientific evidence which you can find online and get your children vaccinated.

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