There's a lot of coverage today of a new Centers for Disease control report on autism rates in the U.S. The CDC found that the prevalence of autism is about one in every 150 U.S. children, based on an analysis of data from 14 counties in 2000 and 2002. That's considerbly higher than the estimate of one in every 200 children made in the 1980s, and there are many theories about that jump--chief among them a broader defintion of autism and better diagnosis. But the one theory that no reputable scientist supports is that vaccines somehow cause autism.
I blogged about this issue before, but it cannot be repeated enough: There have been no reputable studies linking autism and vaccines, while there have been many, many exhaustive studies showing no link at all. For an excellent essay on this issue, read this op-ed piece , titled in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Arthur Kaplan, an esteemed bio-ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. Here's an excerpt:
What must it be like to spend a huge amount of time every waking day trying to change public health practice - only to find out that you were wrong?
That is precisely what has happened to the proponents of the theory that mercury in vaccines - contained in the preservative thimerosal, which once was used (and is used no longer) in vaccines - is responsible for a nearly 20-year explosion in autism and other neurological disorders among American children.
This urban legend has had very real - and terrible - consequences. It has led, and continues to lead, many parents to avoid getting their kids and themselves vaccinated against life-threatening diseases. The failure to vaccinate has caused many preventable deaths and avoidable hospitalizations from measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, flu, hepatitis and meningitis. And fear of vaccines puts each one of us at risk that we, our children or grandchildren will become part of a deadly outbreak triggered by someone whose parents avoided getting their child vaccinated for fear of autism.
Recent research on many fronts in medicine and science has nailed the coffin shut on the mercury-in-vaccines-
causes-autism hypothesis. The connection is just not there. Perhaps the key fact, which has garnered little attention, is that thimerosal has been removed from vaccines in this and other countries for many years, with no obvious impact on the incidence of autism.
If you want more information on this very important issue, go to the CDC site on vaccines and immunizations. If you are thinking of not vaccinating your child, get the facts first.