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There is no relationship between autism and vaccines

Misinformation has discouraged the vaccination of newborns, causing major public health problems.

Person holding a syringe

Anti-vaccine movements continue to campaign against the COVID vaccine and claiming that it can cause autism. Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Moisés Campos

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Leer en español: No existe relación entre el autismo y las vacunas

For more than twenty years, anti-vaccine movements have manifested their reluctance to be vaccinated, using arguments like claiming that vaccines cause autism.

Despite the fact that it could be shown that there was no such relationship between vaccines and autism, thousands of people continue to campaign against them, putting not only their own health at risk but also our collective health. Hence the need to inform that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism.

What is autism?

In the article by Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, published on the website of the health organization KidsHealth, autism is defined as a disorder that affects the brain, which causes difficulties both in establishing communication and in interacting with other people.

The causes of autism are still unknown. It is believed that factors such as genetics, differences found in brain anatomy, and environmental contamination by substances, can contribute to this condition in children.

Origin of the relationship between vaccines and autism

In the same KidsHealth article, it is noted that the origin of the arguments of the anti-vaccine movement was an article published by Andrew Wakefield, in The Lancet magazine in 1998, where it is suggested that the MMR vaccine (used against measles, mumps and rubella), may be the cause of autism.

Also read: Could mental health influence the effectiveness of vaccines?

Since that time, it has been shown through numerous scientific studies that there is no relationship between the components of vaccines and autism. In addition, it was established that the research that gave rise to this idea was false, and therefore, Wakefield was expelled from the medical association for falsifying the data, as reviewed by the journal Senesciencia of the University of Barcelona.

In addition, he did not have permission from the ethics committee of the hospital where he worked to do so since there was a conflict of interest, because he had a certain employment relationship with the law firm that filed the lawsuit against the manufacturers of the vaccine. The Lancet also retracted the publication of the article.

In the same article in Senesciencia, it is noted that this study caused negative effects on vaccination, the most harmful being the loss of confidence in vaccines, especially MMR, causing diseases such as measles to appear again. The results of the different subsequent scientific studies conclude that there is no relationship between the vaccine and autism.

Arguments against vaccines

The anti-vaccine movement primarily wields as anti-vaccination arguments, according to Senesciencia the following:

  • There is no need to be vaccinated against non-existent or infrequent diseases: But thanks to massive vaccinations, it has been possible to control diseases, which have not completely disappeared, therefore, it is necessary to continue vaccinating.

  • They are toxic: this is not true despite the fact that in order to maintain the sterility of the vaccines, a product that contained mercury was used, which the body disposed of quickly and was not toxic. 
  • They cause diseases: like autism, although it has been shown that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism.

Vaccines are safe

In the article by Andreu Segura Benedicto, published in ScienceDirect, the scientific documentation portal, he indicates how in the report of the Institute of Medicine it is established that a link between autism and the MMR vaccine could not be found, after having reviewed numerous studies in this regard.

There is a large body of evidence to support the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but even so, many parents choose not to vaccinate their children, especially for fear that they will develop autism. This carries great risk, as there are several life-threatening diseases that can be prevented with vaccines, as noted in the KidsHealth article.

It is normal for children to develop some type of reaction to a vaccine, such as a low-grade fever or a rash. But parents should bear in mind that the risk of having care reactions to the MMR vaccine and other vaccines is low, especially when comparing the serious risks associated with diseases that can only be prevented by vaccines.

Why get vaccinated?

In Senesciencia the reasons why you have to be vaccinated are established, two of them being:

They do not prevent contagion from occurring, but rather the disease from developing. In case the body is infected, the vaccine helps it to produce a series of defense actions, which makes it react faster and more efficiently, increasing the probability of not getting sick, depending on the type of vaccine.

Excellent risk-benefit ratio: If the relationship between the risk and benefit of vaccines is compared, it can be determined that it helps to prevent diseases in an economical way, since a vaccine has a low cost, only one or two are administered sometimes in childhood and it provides protection against almost all diseases that occur in this stage.

Some vaccines may require a repeat dose and there are some that have a higher cost than others, but nevertheless, the relationship between disease prevention and price is still more beneficial than the arguments against it.

It is necessary that both pharmaceutical laboratories, health organizations, the media, and health professionals establish campaigns to disseminate the benefits of vaccines, in order to eradicate fears and false beliefs around them, such as, for example, that vaccines cause autism. Only disclosure can counteract these beliefs, thereby ensuring that many diseases no longer appear and that others do not continue to cause deaths.

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