Jul 29, 2014

Moms Talk: Do Vaccines Increase the Chances of Autism?

The decade-long debate still concerns parents of young children—should they listen to their doctors, leave time between shots or not vaccinate at all?

Moms Talk: Do Vaccines Increase the Chances of Autism?

Immunizations used to just be something routinely scheduled for every child and viewed as normal doctor’s appointments during the first few years.

But over the last few years, autism spectrum disorders started to rise, and some said there was a link between vaccines and the emergence of symptoms. 

It’s hard not to wonder if vaccines are causing autism. Most symptoms of a spectrum disorder tend to surface right around the time children are scheduled for their vaccines.

For parent Penny Dean, a former employee with the city of Milpitas, she began noticing her second child became more withdrawn six months after a series of routine vaccinations.

Tyler, now 18 years old, has the first known case of autism in the family lineage. And her advice to other moms is to space out the vaccinations.

"So when it's time for that shot," she said, "you don't need to get all those shots right away," especially when the kid is not going immediately into school.

Make an appointment with the doctor to go back in a month, she said. 

Even though the link between autism and vaccines is unclear, parents may still seem a little hesitant about the overwhelming schedule of vaccines during the first few years of their children’s lives. A popular option is to spread out the vaccines, as Dean suggests, as they are usually given as combination shots or two or three at a time.

Yet  research now shows that children who receive spaced out vaccines are just as likely to be diagnosed with autism compared with children who received them on time or not at all. 

For parents who prefer not to vaccinate at all, the most important thing to consider is if the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent are worse than an autism spectrum disorder.

Polio, measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis are just some of the debilitating diseases that vaccines protect our children from. These diseases are hard to treat and can be lethal.

In my opinion, I think the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. And even though the research says vaccines don’t cause autism, you still need to find a way to be comfortable with your decision to vaccinate your children.

I work as a behavioral aide for autistic children and see the ups and the downs of having a child on the spectrum. While it's stressful and heartbreaking to work with children who in some aspects of their lives will never be quite how their parents had hoped, I also get to see firsthand the joy they bring their families.

If I had to choose, I would rather have a child on the autism spectrum than to lose him or her to a preventable disease for which I chose not to have them vaccinated.

*The debate started in 1998, after an article published in a popular British Medical Journal that  showed a direct correlation between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). After several researchers tried to replicate the findings unsuccessfully, it has been discovered that the lead author of the study had manipulated evidence, and the findings were declared fraudulent in January of this year.

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