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The MYTHdiagnosis of
Autism
By: Emma Sams

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Emma Sams
15 January 2016
Intern Mentor G/T
Period 1
The MYTHdiagnosis of Autism
In recent years there has been a decline in children receiving vaccinations due to the
speculation that claims that vaccinations can lead to autism. Vaccinations have many benefits
that include taking advantage of the advanced technology in the medical world that allows
children to be protected from life threating diseases which simply outweighs the risk of autism,
which is not life threatening. Autism is a disorder of brain development that is characterized by
difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.
Autism is on a spectrum that can range from moderate to severe and can be controlled with
proper treatment. Many parents believe that there is no chance of their children getting polio,
chicken pox, or measles. They feel that these illnesses are eliminated in the United States, but
little do they know that they are rare to get because everyone is vaccinated. Why would they put
their own children and themselves in risk of these life threatening diseases over a false
accusation that vaccines lead to autism. Vaccinations are the best medical advancements and save
more lives than any other form of medicine and have no correlation to autism which is only
believed because of the lack of communication with patients and their primary care physicians.
Although vaccination rates are high in the United States, we may see future outbreaks
continue if parents continue to not immunize their children due to the widespread belief
that vaccines may cause autism.

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In 1998, a British gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, M.D. suggested that the
measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause symptoms associated with autism.
Wakefield did a case study of eight children who received the MMR vaccine and then later
developed symptoms of autism. As soon as he published these results, people began to panic.
However, this was a very small number conducted in the case study for him to make these
accusations. Wakefield believed that they had abnormal intestinal tracts and proposed a
syndrome linking intestinal inflammation from receiving the MMR with the development of
autism. Wakefield didnt say that MMR caused autism, but claimed that it opened the door for
the notion that a vaccine could cause autism. Wakefield argued that the MMR vaccine was
questioned for causing autism because it combines 3 vaccines into 1 injection and is thought to
have caused autism because the symptoms of this disorder become apparent when the children
start getting immunized. Childhood vaccines never contained thimerosal. After this journal was
published in England, thousands of parents refused to vaccinate their children which resulted in
hundreds of hospitalizations and three deaths in Ireland from the measles. There has been
extensive research done that have all shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Wakefields entire study was retracted because his review concluded that he had acted dishonest
and irresponsible in conducting his research by doing unnecessary and painful procedures on
children while not disclosing the fact that he had been paid as a consultant to two attorneys
representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR vaccine.
Although Wakefields study was retracted and he lost his medical license for these false
accusations, parents still chose not to vaccinate their children which is unfortunate because
vaccines save lives. (Rope)

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One of the biggest reasons that people still believe in the old myth that vaccinations lead
to autism is because of the press and media. Parents had the mindset that avoiding anything that
they feel might lead to autism can seem safer than choosing to get a vaccine for diseases that
seem unlikely. Parents need to be reeducated that not getting vaccinated will not lessen the risk
of autism, but actually only increase the risk of disease. When patients go to the doctor, they
should be given charts on the vaccinations that they should have received that correspond with
their gender and age. Many celebrities in the spotlight support and lend credibility to the idea
that there is a positive correlation between vaccines and autism. One celebrity who supports this
is Jenny McCarthy, who believes her sons autism was caused by vaccines, uses this as an
example that there is a link between vaccinations and autism. However, people need to realize
that the reason these diseases are so rare is because of immunizations. There was a measles
outbreak in 2008 in San Diego was triggered by an unvaccinated child who had traveled to
Europe. This fiasco could have been avoided if the child was just vaccinated in the first place.
Dr. Gary L. Freed, director of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan School of
Medicine said, I took care of a child who died of measles encephalitis because he was not
vaccinated. It was a horrible death that was needless and preventable, and those parents never
forgave themselves for not vaccinating their child. This shows that vaccinations save lives and
should not be something taken lightly. Choosing to not get a vaccine or to delay vaccines is not a
risk-free choice. Just because you dont live in the developing world doesnt mean you wont get
measles, it is constantly there and as soon as you drop your guard, these diseases will come back
and be deadly. It was okay to do the studies and to look at the link, but the studies have been
shown and the data is very clear so we should let that go and find the real cause of autism. It is
impossible to get rid of the vaccine hypothesis completely, but we should focus our time and

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money on finding what causes autism and thats why it is important for more research to be done.
It was hard for people to not believe his research because at the time it sounded legitimately
accurate. Luckily, now there are organizations set up, such as Every Child By Two who give
access to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This organization was founded to train nurses and inform lowincome parents about the program that gives free vaccinations, which is provided by the
government. Now they spend their time and resources addressing parental safety concerns about
vaccines and stress the importance about timely vaccinations. The creator, Freed says Its a
parents responsibility to be concerned for their child, and we as a society have a responsibility to
make sure there is factual information available to parents. (Offit)
In the article, Silencing Debate over Autism, it talks about how even though there is no
scientific evidence that proves that childhood vaccines cause autism, there have been extreme
tactics used by believers of this hypothesis that have been successful in influencing public
opinion and legislation. The idea that autism is caused by vaccination is influencing public policy
even though extensive studies do not support this hypothesis. These policy decisions should be
based on hard evidence rather than anxious parents because legislator officers should not be
swayed by parents and emotions and their ideas, when doctors and researchers have done
multiple studies proving that there is absolutely no correlation between vaccinations and the
increase in autism. This idea started in the 1980s when autism cases increased along with the big
push for childhood vaccinations. There have been over 200 studies that have proved that there is
no causal link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Studies have also proven that
autism is no more common among vaccinated children than unvaccinated children. Autismmercury lobbyists have been successful in getting their message across to the public because they

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appeal to peoples emotions but have no factual evidence to back up their hypothesis with. The
fears of the autism-vaccination debate are driven by ideology rather than science because there is
no science that can prove this argument. Legislators should base science policy on the best
consensus among researchers in the field, rather than the emotional appeals of the agenda driven
group. Autism researchers need to start publishing their work and promote that there is no direct
correlation between childhood vaccinations and autism.
Vaccinations are the best advance in medicine to this day. They save more lives than
surgery and antibiotics combined. Since there has been no research to find the cause for autism,
parents choose to believe that vaccines are the cause because that is the only thing they can think
it could be. Parents choose to not have their children vaccinated because of this reason and they
should be aware of the risks of serious diseases that children who are not vaccinated could get.
Education is another huge factor, because even if you have your child vaccinated, if they go to
school and a few other kids arent, it could cause an outbreak of these dangerous diseases in
people who have not been immunized. Timing of the vaccine also has no effect on causing
autism. Immunizations are very important and safe to ones health and not vaccinating your child
is risky and can be detrimental to his or her health. (Jim)
Overall, there is no actual evidence for people to believe that any vaccines lead to autism.
The real reason that this is still an ongoing debate is because of how this is portrayed in media
and the lack of communication between patients and physicians because it is a difficult topic to
discuss. Many famous celebrities buy into the myth that vaccinations cause autism. Since they
are displayed so much in the media, they support and display their opinions on television, social
media, and the internet. Since they are famous, many people look up to them and believe them
without knowing the facts. There is also poor communication between patients and physicians. If

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the parents arent educated by the physician and dont really know how important vaccinations
actually are. They believe that all of the diseases that the vaccinations protect against, are extinct.
Little do they know that the reason these diseases arent prevalent is because most of the
population is vaccinated. It is important for everyone to be vaccinated, because all it takes is one
person to not be vaccinated and get the disease and this could cause an outbreak of polio or
measles. Physicians need to advocate for the patient, especially in pediatrics, so the patient can
have the best quality of life and not have a constant fear of receiving autism from one
vaccination that could end up saving their life. Vaccinations are the single most important
technological advancements in medicine. They have the ability to provide immunity to the
disease without having to get the disease first. People should start basing their opinions on
scientific research and everyone should be vaccinated!

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Bibliography
"Autism and Vaccines-Topic Overview." WebMD. WebMD, 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Jim, Giles. Why Vaccines are hard to swallow. New Scientist 197.2640 (2008): 37-39. Science
Reference Center. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Offit, Paul A. Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.
New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Print.
Rope, Kate. "The End of the Autism/Vaccine Debate?" Parenting. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
"Silencing Debate over Autism. Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 2007. Web. 16 Nov.
2015.