The risks of vaccines and their association with autism remain a continuing debate between doctors, pharmaceutical companies, parents, and health advocates. The debate is often passionate and led by emotion; celebrities Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey providing a vocal campaign against vaccination because of vaccines’ alleged link to autism (Adams). The argument that vaccines are linked to autism generally includes the idea that it is the preservatives in vaccinations that is the link between this product and the debilitating disorder. The issue is complex and there is no simple answer.
A 2005 article in NaturalNews discusses the toxicity of the preservative thimerosal; it “contains 49.6 percent mercury by weight” and that mercury poisoning is responsible for a variety of problems for people including dyslexia, heart disease, seizures, dyslexia, and autism (Prate). According to this article, thimerosal has been banned everywhere around the world except in the United States, and that “The National Vaccine Information Center in Vienna, Virginia, has noted a strong association between the MMR vaccine and autistic features” (Prate). Yet, according to more than one recent source, the MMR vaccine contains neither thimerosal nor mercury (Grabenstein ;“Vaccines, Blood”). It may be that in the past, the MMT vaccine contained these ingredients, but it appears that they no longer do. The possibility exists that other chemicals within the MMR vaccine could be associated with autism, and futher studies are exploring that idea.
However, the MMR vaccine is not the only vaccine that children typically receive. Other vaccinations do contain thimerosal. The DT (diphtheria and tetanus), DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), several influenza vaccines, MSPSV4-Menomune (Meningococcal), and two d (tetanus) vaccines all contain thimerosal (Grabenstein).
However, avoiding vaccinating children is not a good option for the overall health and welfare of the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concerned parents should ask pharmacists or health care providers for a list of ingredients in the vaccines and learn about possible complications (“Ingredients of”). As evidence from Grabenstein’s list of vaccine ingredients demonstrates, not all vaccination manufacturers who make the same vaccine use the same additives. Concerned parents can investigate the ingredients and if they have doubts, request a particular brand be used for their child. The consequences of not vaccinating children can be devastating, not only for the child, but also for other people in society. Many of today’s parents have not personally witnessed the tragic effects of diseases such as polio, mumps, measles, and other mostly eradicated diseases themselves. Many of these diseases can have long-lasting developmental or disabling effects or even cause death. Additionally, there are some people who cannot be vaccinated because they have an immune disorder or allergies to ingredients in vaccines, and if an outbreak of disease occurs, having many people not vaccinated puts these people at a greater risk (“The Harm”).
The jury is still out on whether or not autism is caused by vaccinations. However, rather than being swayed by celebrities or relying on outdated information on the Internet, parents should make their decisions based on up-to-date information and studies as well as the advice of their children’s pediatricians. They must decide if the risks outweigh the benefits.
Adams, Mike. Andrew Wakefield, Scientific Censorship, and Fourteen Monkeys; A statement by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey. NaturalNews.com, 6 Feb. 2010. Web.
Grabenstein ,JD. Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary: Excipients Included in U.S. Vaccines, by Vaccine. ImmunoFacts: Vaccines and Immunologic Drugs (2012). Web.
Ingredients of Vaccines – Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (22 Feb 2011). Web.< http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm >
Prate, Dawn. The great thimerosal cover-up: Mercury, Vaccines, Autism and Your Child's Health. NaturalNews.com (22 Sep. 2005). Web.
The Harm of Skipping Vaccinations or Delaying. New York State Department of Health, n.d. Web. Accessed 20 Mar. 2013.
Vaccines, Blood & Biologics. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (6 June 2012). Web.