Vaccines not associated with autism: a meta-analysis

vaccineFindings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder”.

That was the primary conclusion from a review of existing studies by Luke Taylor and colleagues*.

Based on an analysis of several previous investigations cumulatively including over a million children including research looking at the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the use of vaccine preservative, thiomersal (thimerosal) in other vaccines as possible triggers of autism onset, authors reported no association between vaccine use and the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There has been enormous debate regarding the possibility of a link between childhood vaccinations and the subsequent development of autism. This has in recent times become a major public health issue with vaccine preventable diseases increasing in the community due to the fear of a ‘link’ between vaccinations and autism” said Taylor and colleagues.

Such points described by the authors succinctly cover how the suggestion of a link between childhood vaccinations and autism onset has generated various headlines and often heated discussions down the years. The suggestion of a correlation has also been linked to reports of missed vaccinations and outright vaccine refusal in some quarters potentially leaving children and adults unprotected against outbreaks of various preventable communicable diseases.

Science, health politics and the legal system have become intertwined in this controversial area. The vast majority of epidemiological science concluding no link between vaccination and onset of autism has been pitted against lay reports citing a possible connection for some and individual high profile legal decisions directing compensation for autistic-like conditions conceded either to be triggered or exacerbated by vaccine administration.

The Taylor findings whilst not presenting any novel data on the issue of vaccination and autism nevertheless represent the gold-standard of scientific evidence (the meta-analysis) supported by their inclusion of a substantial number of participants. The authors had no vested interest in the outcome of the analysis and even provide a candid epilogue in the paper detailing the experiences of the primary author and how one of his own children suffered a reaction post vaccination so encouraging parents to report any adverse events they observe to the relevant agency. The Taylor findings should provide further reassurance to parents on the value of childhood vaccination and an additional voice for the lack of any population-wide link to the onset of autism.

 

* Taylor LE. et al. Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Vaccine. 2014. 9 May.

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