Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs in young children and is associated with developmental issues, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors and so on. Researchers agree that autism is a genetic disorder. However, in the late 1990s, a survey carried out by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues raised loads of questions and MMR vaccines were linked to development of autism spectrum disorders (Chauhan, Chauhan & Brown, 2009). The researcher argued that vaccination could contribute or even trigger the development of the disease. A lasting debate started. There are still fears but recent research shows that vaccination cannot have any impact on development of autism. This paper dwells upon the reasons of such persistence of the controversy.
First of all, it is necessary to touch upon Wakefield’s findings. Thus, the researchers identified some symptoms similar to symptoms of autism that revealed several days after vaccination. At that, Wakefield stated that the research did not show a strong correlation between vaccination and autism but started a debate on potential hazards of vaccination (Chauhan et al., 2009). However, the result of this debate was parents’ reluctance to vaccinate their children. Many people also noted that autism often occurred after vaccination and, hence, it was logical to assume that MMR vaccination led or, at least, contributed to development of the disorder.
Nonetheless, scientists have argued that autism is a genetic disorder and, hence, it cannot possibly be linked to any vaccination. It has been proved that autism spectrum disorders develop at the stage of embryo (Chauhan et al., 2009). It is triggered by defects of certain genes, which may be associated with the pregnant woman’s exposure to some toxicants (Chauhan et al., 2009). Clearly, MMR vaccination that is carried out when the child is 11-12 months cannot have any impact on development of the disorder. At that, it is important to add that autism often reveals itself when the child is between 1 and 2 years old. This is the time after the MMR vaccination and it can be one of the major reasons why so many people still believe that it is associated with development of the disorder (Chauhan et al., 2009).
Importantly, researchers have implemented various surveys and experiments that show that there is no link between MMR vaccination and autism. For instance, a research carried out in the early 2000s showed no links between vaccination and the development of autism. Thus, researchers focused on the rate of vaccinated children and the rate of children who developed autism (Chauhan et al., 2009). It was found that the rate of vaccinated children remained the same while the rate of children diagnosed with autism increased significantly. Recently, Anjali Jain’s team implemented an extensive research that included 95,727 children (Salzberg, 2015). The research shows that there is no correlation between MMR vaccination and autism. More so, researchers argue that MMR vaccination may even reduce the risk of autism development.
Irrespective of all the arguments against the assumption that MMR vaccination causes autism, people are still reluctant to have their children vaccinated. One of the reasons is, of course, the ongoing debate and arguments to support the theory. Some scientists still claim that there can be certain correlation or, at least risk, of development of autism after administration of MMR vaccine (Downs, 2008). Parents do not feel sure that their children are safe when they are vaccinated.
Nevertheless, the major reason of such persistence of the debate is media coverage concerning the issue. Journalists have focused on the possible link between MMR vaccination and autism development, and have ignored the benefits of the vaccination (Downs, 2008). Media have also promulgated the idea that until exhausting evidence is provided, parents cannot feel safe as their children are at risk. At present, there are still many publications on the possible correlation between autism spectrum disorders and MMR vaccines. It is necessary to note that parents as well as journalists have become more positive about MMR vaccination and, at present, there are many publications that refute the assumption concerning the link between vaccination and autism.
Another reason for the persistence of the debate is the lack of information. People are still badly informed about benefits and hazards associated with vaccination. They also know little about autism and, therefore, they are ready to believe in any story about the disorder. Clearly, it is essential to raise people’s awareness on the issue and media should be involved in this process.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that it has been acknowledged that autism is not related to MMR vaccination. However, it is difficult to provide 100% evidence as researchers still note that there are certain facts that may suggest that the correlation exists. At the same time, media often focus on the possibility of the link between the disorder and MMR vaccination that makes people more reluctant to vaccinate their children. It is clear that two major reasons for persistence of the debate are media coverage of the problem and the lack of reliable information. Hence, it is important to make sure that people obtain comprehensive information on autism spectrum disorders and MMR vaccination. This will enable them to make the right decisions when it comes to their children’s health.
Chauhan, A., Chauhan, V., & Brown, T. Autism: Oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune abnormalities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Salzberg, S. Large study finds MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and may lower autism risk. Forbes.