Vaccinations and Autism

Dr. Julia A. McMillan, a noted professor with extensive background in pediatrics, who highlighted several key points in favor of thimerosal not being a causal agent of autism. She noted that the recommendation that thimerosal be eliminated from vaccines for infants was made as a precaution, knowing that mercury in large doses is a neurotoxin and–not because there was evidence that the mercury used in vaccines causes neurologic damage; vaccinations on the recommended schedule for children do not contain thimerosal with the exception of some flu vaccines (or contain only a trace amount that cannot be removed after the original manufacturing process); despite public thought, many vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella, oral polio, and the conjugated pneumococcal, never contained thimerosal; the cause (or causes) of autism is unknown (2005). In reviewing the literature surrounding a causal relationship between vaccinations and autism, this writer encountered two barriers: very little evidence supporting a causal relationship between vaccinations and autism and a lack of recent research supporting or debunking the relationship between the two.

Even some of the research that may have appeared to be in favor of a causal relationship on first glance, provided inconclusive evidence to support this hypothesis or flat-out denied that vaccinations cause autism. Whereas this writer began this assignment fully invested in the idea that vaccinations play a definite role in causing autism, a level of uncertainty is now apparent due to the research cited in this report. With that being said, more research as well as consultation with professionals are needed to weigh the options and make an informed decision as it relates to consenting to childhood vaccinations. And while there may not be an all-out refusal of vaccinations, it may mean making an adjustment to the vaccination schedule where possible. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate; that is the question. In conclusion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that vaccines have reduced preventable infectious diseases to an all-time low and now few people experience the devastating effects of measles, pertussis and other illnesses.

Many of these are childhood vaccines that have contributed to a significant reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. Yet the public wonders whether, in the absence of outbreak, vaccinations may present more of a risk than the diseases they prevent. To have a balanced view, possible side effects have to be weighed against the expected benefits of vaccination in preventing the serious complications of disease. This sentiment can be seen in the conclusion made by press reports and public discussion: that “we’ll have an answer to the question of whether thimerosal is responsible for the increase in the incidence of autism among our children only by waiting to see what happens to that incidence now that vaccines for infants are free of thimerosal” ( ) – a very sobering but logical thought that may not offer a sense of satisfaction to the average person. What would help, as Parmet (2016) elaborates is for the American legal system to treat public health as a legal norm in order to maximize health benefits and minimize risk of vaccines. In short, creating of norm of honesty and forthrightness when informing the public and everyone be held accountable.


Black, C., Kaye, J., & Jick, H. (2009). Relation of childhood gastrointestinal disorders to autism: Nested case control study using data from the UK general practice research database. British Medical Journal. 325, 418-421. Cannell, J. J. (2015). Autism causes, prevention & treatment: vitamin D deficiency and the explosive rise of autism spectrum disorder [E-Book Version]. Retrieved from https:// Immunization Safety and Autism, vaccinesafety/00pdf/ CDCStudiesonVaccinesandAutism.pdf. Geir, M. R., & Geir, D. A. (2003a). Thimerosal in childhood vaccines, neurodevelopment disorders and heart disease in the United States. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.8(1), 6-11. Geir, M. R., & Geir, D. A. (2003b). Neurodevelopmental disorders following thimerosal-containing vaccines. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 228,660-664. Geir, M. R., & Geir, D. A. (2006). A meta-analysis epidemiological assessment of Neurodevelopmental disorders following vaccines administered from 1994 through 2000 In the United States. Neuroendocrinology Letters. 27(4), 401-413. Gerber, J., & Offit, P. (2009). Vaccines and autism: A tale of shifting hypotheses. Vaccines. 48(4), 456-461. Gross, L. (2016). In search of autism’s roots. PLOS Biology. 14(9), 1-3. https://doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2000958.g001 Immunizations.aspx Hiviid, A., Stellfeld, M., Wohlfahrt, J., & Melbye, M. (2003). Association between thimerosal- containing vaccine and autism. Journal of the American Medical Association. 290(13), 1763-1766. Hornig, M., Briese, T., Buie, T., Bauman, M. L., Lauwers, G., Siemetzki, U., Hummel, K., Rota, P. A., Bellini, J., O’Leary, J. J., Sheils, O., Alden, E., Pickering, L., & Lipkin, W. I. (2008). Lack of association between measles /virus vaccine and autism with entereopathy: A case-control study. PLoS ONE. 3(9), 1-8. Madsen, K. M., Hiviid, A., Vestergaard, M., Schendel, D., Wohlfahrt, J., Thorsen, P., Olsen, J., & Melbye, M. (2002). A population-based study of measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism. The New England Journal of Medicine. 347(19), 1477-1482. Parmet, W. (2010), Pandemics, populism, and the role of law in the H1N1 vaccine campaign. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 4,1061-1082. Parmet, W. (2016), Health: policy or law? A population-based analysis of the supreme court’s ACA cases. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 41(6), 113-153. REFERENCES Pitney, J. Jr. (2017). The politics of autism: Navigating the contested spectrum. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc. Singh, V., Lin, s., Newell, E., & Nelson, C. (2002). Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism. Journal of Biomedical Science. 9, 359-364. Suryadevara, M., Handel, A., Bonville, C. A., Cibula, D. A., & Domachowske, J. B. (2015}. Pediatric provider vaccine hesitancy: An under-recognized obstacle to immunizing children. Vaccine. 33(48), 629-634 Wakefield, A. J., Murch, S. H. & Anthony, A., Linnell, J., Casson, D., & Malik, M. (1998). RETRACTED: Ileal-Lymphoid-Modular Hyperplasia, Non-Specific Colitis and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children. The Lancet. 351(9103), 637-641. White, E. (2014). Science, Pseudoscience, and the Frontline Practitioner: The Vaccination/Autism Debate. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work. 11(3), 269-274. Wolff, S. (2004). The History of Autism. European Child Adolescent Psychiatry.13, 201-208.

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