Many people have had concerns that Autism (ASD) might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. A recent study in 2019 has revealed that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, or is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.
In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) reportExternal on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.
A ExternCDC study in 2013 added to the research showing that vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.
One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific reviewExternal by the IOM concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies Cdc-pdf[PDF – 357 KB] that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children.
Between 1999 and 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines. This was done as part of a broader national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposure in children before studies were conducted that determined that thimerosal was not harmful. It was done as a precaution. Currently, the only childhood vaccines that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. Thimerosal-free alternatives are also available for flu vaccine. For more information, see the Timeline for Thimerosal in Vaccines.
Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD as well. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.
Related Scientific Articles
The following scientific articles support the fact that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.
Anders Hviid, DrMedSci; Jørgen Vinsløv Hansen, PhD; Morten Frisch, DrMedSci; Mads Melbye, DrMedSci. Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170(8):513-520.
Anjali Jain, MD; Jaclyn Marshall, MS; Ami Buikema, MPH; Tim Bancroft, PhD; Jonathan P. Kelly, MPP; Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD. Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism. JAMA. 2015;313(15):1534-1540
Taylor LE, Swerdfeger AL, Eslick GD. Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studiesExternal. Vaccine. 2014 June;32(29):3623–3629.
Schechter R, Grether JK. Continuing increases in autism reported to California’s developmental services system: Mercury in retrogradeExternal. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65:19-24.
Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review. Vaccines and AutismExternal Board of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2004).
Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M. Association between thimerosal-containing vaccine and autism Cdc-pdf[PDF – 145 KB].External JAMA. 2003;290:1763–6.
Madsen KM, Hviid A, Vestergaard M, Schendel D, Wohlfahrt J, et al. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autismExternal. N Engl J Med. 2002;347 (19):1477–1482.
Ball L, Ball R, Pratt RD.An assessment of thimerosal in childhood vaccines.External Pediatrics. 2001;107:1147–1154.
Joint statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States Public Health Service (USPHS)External. Pediatrics. 1999;104:568–9.