Do Vaccines Cause Autism? - Modern Alternative Mama

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

admin March 1, 2011

Do Vaccines Cause Autism

Well, do they?

There has been so much confusion on this issue.  First there was the famous Wakefield saga that began in 1998, where the media reported “Vaccine cause autism!”  And of course since then, there have been retractions, accusations, and more.  The media likes to confuse the issue, too, by claiming that the question has been resolved “once and for all,” and refusing to acknowledge any alternate view points.

No mention is ever made of other studies which may have been completed — if any — and what their conclusions were.  The whole thing is so crazy to sort through that most parents simply pick a side and stick to it.  This is usually dependent on where their biases lie (for example, most doctors say “absolutely not,” and parents of children who’ve been clearly affected by autism often say “yes of course!”).  But it’s just not that simple.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

This is a crucial issue to address, because it is the reason most often blamed for parents refusing vaccines.  And the media usually reports this as the only reason that parents refuse vaccines, says the paper was retracted, and uses the situation to stir up anger and fear towards those who don’t vaccinate.  This is not productive to the discussion and does nothing to reassure anyone.  We need to look beyond this hot button issue to what is really going on.

The truth is: we don’t know if vaccines cause autism.  We don’t have the final answer.  We don’t fully know what causes autism at all!  (However, there’s a lot of evidence, more every year, that vaccines do cause autism.)  But, there’s a lot of information we can sort through that will shed some light on this whole situation.

First, the Dr. Andrew Wakefield story.  What really happened there?  It’s the most often-pointed to piece of “evidence” that vaccines do or don’t cause autism.  But what was that study really about?

The Dr. Wakefield Saga

In 1997, Dr. Wakefield was a researcher in Britain who was looking at different types of bowel disease.  That is his area of expertise and he was near the top of his field.  Parents, knowing that this was his area, started to call him, saying, “Our children have bowel disease and autism.  Would you please do a study about this?”

Dr. Wakefield found this interesting enough to begin a study.  He gathered a team of 12 researchers and 12 families.  They began to gather data about these children.  Dr. Wakefield, himself, never examined any of the children; he was an “overseer” of the project, responsible primarily for collaborating all the data.

The initial set of data they were looking at came from average hospital pathologists: whoever was on call the day the kids came into the hospital.  Most of these had concluded that these children did not suffer from any sort of bowel disease.  However, when Wakefield’s team (comprised of doctors at the top of their fields) looked at the pathology slides, they diagnosed the children with colitis.

In the interest of accuracy, they passed all of the pathology slides onto another top-notch pathologist, without giving him any details about the children or their health history.  He was asked to make a diagnosis only on the slides presented.  He concurred that the children suffered from colitis.  These three sets of data later confused Brian Deer (who was not on the staff at the Sunday Times, but was instead on the payroll of the pharmaceutical companies) and he accused Wakefield of “falsifying” the data in order to make it look like he was right.  In fact, that’s not what occurred; Wakefield’s team asked an objective third party to verify their data.

After noting that there was an apparent connection between autism and bowel disease (the entire point of the paper), Wakefield’s team happened to note that in several (but not all) of the children, the measles strain used in the MMR vaccine was found in the bowel.  Their parents self-reported to Wakefield that their children had “changed” after the vaccine, and said that they blamed the vaccine.

In Wakefield’s conclusions, he noted the correlation between autism and bowel disease (not noting a causative relationship, only that they were related), and also reported finding the measles virus and the parents’ opinions.  His final thoughts on the matter?  That there was no possible way to say if the MMR vaccine was in any way involved in autism; it was merely an interesting side note, one that required further research.


That is a crucial point to understand, because everything that followed is based on the assumption that his paper did conclude that vaccines caused autism.  Dr. Wakefield, in fact, was appropriately cautious in noting that with the preliminary research, based primarily on parents self-reported information, that there was no way to draw a conclusion, and suggested further research.

Unfortunately, the media, as it usually does, ran with it.  And it reported: “MMR Causes Autism!”  This was extremely irresponsible.  It caused parents to panic and stop vaccinating their children without doing any research.  I do not recommend this approach at all.  Vaccinating is not a decision to be taken lightly, and a great deal of research is required.

So, enter Brian Deer.  He is a journalist who was on the payroll of the pharmaceutical companies.  He made wild accusations against Dr. Wakefield and his entire team.  Ultimately, it was demanded that Dr. Wakefield’s team retract the statement that vaccines caused autism (can you imagine how bewildered they must have been by this, seeing as they never stated it in the first place?).  They agreed to do so, and the matter was dropped.  For awhile.

In 2010, the matter again surfaced as more (false) accusations were brought against Dr. Wakefield, and they were forced to retract the entire paper.  Which is blatantly ridiculous, seeing as the purpose of the paper was to show a correlation between autism and bowel disease, and had nothing at all to do with vaccines.  The relationship between autism and bowel disease still exists.  But, no one remembers — or cares — what the paper was initially about, anyway.

The entire thing is a huge media scare-tactic, first against vaccines, and now for them.  But it’s filled with misinformation and, in my opinion, should be dismissed outright as “evidence” for or against vaccines.

Are There Any Studies??

Since this study was not what it was said to be, the next question most parents have is, have there been any studies done?  And if so, what were their conclusions?

We are reassured over and over that there is “no link” based on “many studies.”  At this point, most official media begins to belittle parents who don’t vaccinate: “First they blamed the MMR, but that’s not related.  Then they blamed thimerosal, but it’s been removed and autism rates and still rising.  Now they’re grasping at straws by trying to say that the vaccine schedule as a whole is causing it.  Ridiculous.”

This type of language does nothing to reassure parents, nor to respect the honest concerns they have about their child’s health and safety.  It is abhorrent that public officials are so non-responsive, and outright hostile, to parents that are asking important and intelligent questions (whatever their ultimate conclusions).

There have, in fact, been many studies completed — at least 19 (frequently cites in the media) that I have found so far.  You can read the details (the site’s author’s conclusions as well as the original published data) at Fourteen Studies.  It’s interesting to note that several of the studies are reviews, do not ask relevant questions, and are written primarily by those with huge conflicts of interest (CDC employees, pharmaceutical employees in the vaccine division).  For example, one study looks at differences between children who received all the same vaccines, but at different times.  This does not adequately assess the effect of vaccines on childrens’ immune systems.  These studies are primarily used to “prove” that there is no association, but they really deserve a second look (some have been heavily criticized even by the scientific community).

There are 34 published studies (and one phone survey) that suggest there may be a link between autism and vaccines — these are never mentioned (in the media).

Dr. Wakefield completed another study, which was blocked from publication.  It looked at the Hep B series in monkeys, and noted that the monkeys receiving it were more likely to lose reflexes crucial to survival than those who didn’t (part of this study was published, but the final results were blocked).

The point is — there are a lot of studies that have been done, and the conclusions currently support both sides of the issue.  There is absolutely no way anyone can claim “there are no studies that support a link” — that is patently false (see link above).  When anyone does discuss these studies, they usually say that the other side had conflicts of interest or used “bad science,” and therefore those studies are invalid (I find it hard to believe that this is always true, though I’m sure it is some of the time).

There is also no way that anyone can claim “The question is completely settled.” — It’s not.  There are plenty of questions that haven’t been asked yet.  There have been, to date, no published studies comparing completely unvaccinated children with vaccinated children.  There are no studies that look at the safety of the vaccine schedule as a whole.  There are no studies that look at individual vaccines beyond a 6-week period (and sometimes symptoms could be delayed, albeit hard to prove a link).  There are no studies that compare vaccines to a true placebo (saline); only to previously manufactured vaccines.

There are just too many questions yet to be asked, and very few are doing this research.  This is because if anyone does try to ask honest questions, they are ridiculed and shut down.  There is very little funding for those who want to ask unbiased questions that may turn up unfavorable results.  The lack of answers is most definitely political.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

We cannot say for sure.

Without answering several additional questions, and completing quite a bit of longitudinal, unbiased research, there is no way to say “yes” or “no” for sure.  This leaves parents in a very difficult and precarious position, to try to make a decision about what is best for their children without all the information they need and nowhere to get it!

The likely answer is, in healthy individuals, no, vaccines do not cause autism.  It is illogical to assume that injecting an otherwise normal person with a simple vaccine is going to cause instant and permanent regression into a debilitating developmental disease.  Vaccines have some serious ingredients in them, which I don’t believe promote health, but they are not “strong” enough to actually force a healthy individual to regress into autism.


Many people are not healthy these days.  Many are born with abnormal gut flora from allergies and other disturbances in their parents’ generation, repeated antibiotic use, and so on.  Many are born via c-section and not breastfed.  Many have asthma and allergies.  These individuals are in fragile health.  Their systems have not developed properly and are weak.  These are the people who, if given a vaccine, could regress into autism.  The vaccine did not really “cause” the autism, per se; but it was the “final straw” in triggering problems that were already partially there.

Even the U.S. government, with the Hannah Poling case, admitted that this is a medical possibility.

The unfortunate part is that we often don’t know who these “sensitive” children are until it is too late.  Allergies may not show up until 6 – 12 months.  Asthma may not either.  There is no reliable, common test for “abnormal gut flora” at this time (it is possible to get this tested; but try asking your doctor for it and see what kind of looks you get!).  There is certainly no time to assess risk before giving a newborn a Hep B shot.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Vaccines, autism, and health in general just do not have a simple answer or association.  There is no way to say exactly how they are related, where problems may have started.

Health, or the lack thereof, is a cascading series of events.  Eating food of poor nutritional quality, being exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers, poisons in the water supply, excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs, etc. all slowly chip away at your health, and this is magnified through the generations.  We can’t point our fingers at any one cause of poor health — or autism.  It is a truly cumulative effect.

So, I can’t answer the question for you today.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to truly answer it.  We may be able to note that vaccines are a “contributing factor” in autism (and I believe that is true).  It’s up to each parent, though, in their individual circumstances, to decide whether vaccines are worth it, based on a variety of factors.

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be looking at more aspects of the vaccine debate.

Do you believe that vaccines cause autism?  Why or why not?

Confused about vaccines?

Get our FREE no-nonsense vaccine guide. Answer your questions with rational, fact-based information instead of fear.

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  1. Nice post! The debate goes on and on, and parents need to educate themselves on the issues. I do think there is a relationship between vaccines and autism mostly because I am an occupational therapist in pediatrics and have heard over and over again parents who say "He changed after his shots" and not just the MMR, but when he got 5 shots, or 4 shots on the same day. However, there is obviously also a genetic and health link for these children. I worry less about autism and more about autoimmune diseases and the risks we are setting our children up for down the road. All of the toxins that go into the body in the SAD PLUS the toxins just walking around, and then on top of all of that, doctors want you to give your newborn baby 5 shots at a time? Not this little chicken, or any of her chicks. Thanks for the well laid out information!


  2. Just to share a friend's story!
    A wonderful family that we attend church with have 4 boys. Their oldest three have Autism. The oldest two have a more severe form of Autism. She had the oldest two fully vaccinated. The third son was selectively vaccinated and he has a milder form of Autism and he has made much progress. Her youngest son has never been vaccinated in his life and he is the only one who does not have Autism. Her and her husband FIRMLY believe that vaccines play a big role in the onset of Autism. Not for all children obvioulsy but for some.

    When I was growing up we got a total of like 10 vaccine shots. Now kids are getting like 36-38. I still can't understand such a HUGE increase!! Craziness!


  3. I don't know if they do or not, but it's tough to ignore the thousands upon thousands of parents who note a the difference in their child after a vaccine. We personally chosen not to vaccinate for countless reasons. I abhor those who dismiss the link between vaccines and autism because a parent knows their child. Or those they say its ridiculous because all children would get autism if it was really the vaccines. First, each person's body and immune system is different for reasons you already stated. Second, that is like saying cigarettes don't really cause lung cancer because not everyone that smokes gets cancer so it must not be the cause.


  4. My 3 yearl old started out with vaccines. He has severe food allergies that started showing its ugly head at 2 weeks of age even with breastfeeding. His pediatrician said she has only had 1 other case in her practice that has required neocate formula. At about 18 months of age he started showing signs of autism (i.e. not talking, playing only with a little wheel, not social and just seemed to revert backwards, and being in online support groups and the internet junkie I am, I was introduced to the notion that vaccines could potentially be a cause of autism. So at the 18 month and beyond checkups we refused the vaccinations but we would just delay them till he is older.

    I am happy to say that he is NOWHERE near the autism spectrum. He does still suffer from food allergies that seem to affect every body system there is, but I believe it was critical to his physiology that we refused the vaccines.


  5. I know you probably didn't include further information due to the length of the post already, but I would be interested to know why Dr Wakefield's other study was blocked. If it was due to poor research practices or something else that could have skewed results I don't think it's a good idea to include it in the reasoning. There were some other things I would like more information about too, but I can research them on my own.

    I think one thing people forget is that because of the nature of vaccines being given at certain ages, and the signs of autism showing up at certain ages, there could "appear" to be a connection without there actually being one. I'm not saying there is or isn't; I'm saying that just because "many" parents report that their child changed after being vaccinated doesn't mean that it was the vaccines that caused the autism. Especially because there are children who are not vaccinated who still develop autism.

    Another thing that might be something to consider would be for parents to delay some of the vaccines if they are worried about this kind of thing. For instance, we didn't do the Hep B vaccine until our son was about 4 months old. It didn't seem necessary at birth, and this gave his system a chance to get up and running before introducing vaccines. This would also help if you were worried about babies who aren't breastfed (which, incidentally, is not just cesarean born babies. My son was born c-section and is still being breastfed at 1 year, and many babies born vaginally are not breastfed).


  6. We don't vaccinate. Not because of mercury or autism, but because of ALL the ingredients in vaccines along with all of the adverse reactions.

    For anyone interested, here is a link for info on ingredients, adverse effects and vaccine compensation stats and other links and resources: Mama's Freshly Brewed Chaos – Recommended Immunizations – Know What You Are Injecting


  7. I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion. Vaccines play a part. But so does processed food, depleted soil, farm chemicals, too much sugar, vitamin/mineral/essential fatty acid deficiencies, pollution, and the list goes on. There is rarely one single thing to blame. The same is true for cancers and chronic disease. It all comes down to what we are putting into our bodies. Great post! Let's pray that hearts and minds are opened.


  8. This is SUCH A GREAT POST! This is exactly how I feel. We live in a polluted world and that includes medication.
    We need to look at our bodies as a whole, and look at children with Autsim as a whole. Someone needs to do better research with regards to Autism, it’s sad how the medical community doesn’t really seem to care.


  9. I personally believe that vaccines do cause autism. A court in Italy even ruled that the MMR vaccine caused a child’s autism, with the story blacked out by our media of course. Even if they don’t cause autism they cant be healthy. Here is a list of a few of the things we are shooting into our infants:


  10. Very well written! And I agree 100% with Christy @ Raising Knights (above) – there are so many other “toxic” factors we have in our world today that wasn’t present when our grandparents were children. Sadly, our environment is going to get worse and worse if we don’t make huge changes.


  11. Also, there is new information that should be considered, such as the CDC researcher William Thompson’s recent confession that there was manipulation of data in the 2004 Pediatrics paper. He states that he and his colleagues DID find an increase in autism in black boys who were vaccinated with the MMR prior to the age of 3 but made an effort to essentially hide that data. He states he actually felt very guilty about it, to this day!
    So, it’s possible that certain subsets of the population are more susceptible to adverse side effects.
    The sad thing is that there may be possible ways to mitigate vaccine damage, but no one is willing to explore those ways, as there can never be an admission that vaccines are ever harmful. For example, see this paper regarding glutathione deficiency and thimerosol exposure:


  12. A very good piece. I guess I would hope that this is where most of us are coming from; its hard (impossible?) to ignore the links between vaccinations and autism but we me must also reconize the other evironmental factors that play a role. I think many who feel such anger at non-vaxers don’t realize that non-vaxers are not JUST blaming the vaccinations for autism but hope to eliminate a major factor in not just autisim but other health issues as well (the media is surely partly to blame for this). My own kids were all fully vacinated (my youngest will turn 20 tomorrow so this was obviously before there were SO MANY vaccinations) except for one of my daughters who after her first DPT only got DT on the recommendation of her doctor because of how long she cried inconsolably afterward. None of them of them have Autisim BUT maybe they were fortunate enough not to have another factor that would have tipped the scales against them. However 5 out of 6 of them did have excema that didn’t show up until after they began vaccinations. Of course I will never be able to say that vaccinations caused their excema. Nor can I say it didn’t. I just wish people could calm down and not let their emotions rule so that they could look at the imformation that IS out there, do research, read what is all in the vaccines, and make educated decisions. I only know that if I had known when raising my kids what I know now I would have done things differently and I am thankful that two of my “kid-sets” have made the decision not to vaccinate.


  13. I read a study that said by 2025 half of all US children will be autistic. I would like to know why the ‘people in charge’ are remaining ignorant to the effects of vaccines, pesticides and so forth. Why are they choosing to ignore the direct correlation of the rise in autism and these pollutants in our bodies? I don’t understand why they would want an entire population of people who can’t take care of themselves. Is this some long winded scheme to gain more money from people who need to rely more and more on the health care system?? It’s an interesting thought.. Thanks for all of your hard work and thoroughly researched articles on vaccines!


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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