Developmental and psychological disorders in children are challenging issues in healthcare management globally. All parents expect to have healthy children from birth hence get disappointed when they realize a child has a disorder. Many children and youths are experiencing emotional, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders, leading to unhealthy social and psychological well-being. Developmental and mental disorders impact both the child and family’s lifestyle since incapacitated children require extra care and significant economic and social support. Apart from financial aid, most disorders persist throughout an individual’s life, seriously impacting social well-being and life expectancy.
Some conditions include autism, conduct disorders, social anxiety disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Developmental and mental disorders occur due to many variants, such as genetic inheritance, prenatal healthcare, poor nutrition, alcoholism, substance abuse during pregnancy, toxicity, and brain damage due to injury or chemical imbalances.
However, speculations relating autism to children’s vaccines are a growing concern where parents with autistic children demand a clear answer on the role of vaccines in autism. The crisis has led to various scientific and public health studies to provide evidence that confirms otherwise. Despite the evidence, controversies still exist as to whether vaccines contribute to autism among individuals. Thus, this essay discusses the controversial arguments suggesting that vaccines cause autism and the scientific evidence that proves otherwise to conclude that vaccines do not cause autism.
Arguments Relating Vaccines to Autism
The Measles Vaccine
Controversies relating autism to vaccines date back to the early 1900s where people had little understanding of vaccines. According to Goin-Kochel et al., individuals regarded vaccines as a means of profiting governments and manufacturing institutions which led to the belief that vaccines caused harm, particularly developmental disorders in children (6330). During that controversy, a London physician, Wakefield, claimed that the measles vaccine was the particular cause of autism after experimenting with the theory among autistic children. According to the physician, the measles vaccine triggers inflammatory ulcers in the colon, disrupting the wall’s permeability, leading to the passage of neurotoxic proteins into the bloodstream (Boseley). As a result, the toxic proteins travel to the brain, causing autism and among children.
Another speculation relating autism to vaccines claims that vaccines cause autism through thimerosal, a common ingredient in children’s vaccines. Thimerosal contains mercury and preserves vaccine vials against external contamination during the process of vaccination
(Pivetti et al. 7). The early researchers’ arguments claimed that adding thimerosal to vaccines led to poor brain development due to the large dosages and high frequency of vaccinations in children over short periods (Goin-Kochel et al. 6333). Since vaccines are given at high frequencies over short periods, scientists argued that children could not withstand the high amounts of thimerosal in the bloodstream leading to toxicity and brain damage.
Scientific Evidence Against the Theories
Scientists disapprove of Wakefield’s theory as illogical since autistic children do not demonstrate similar characteristics. Bervoets and Kristien argue that autistic children have diverse phenomenological features, and it would be impossible to obtain the same results from eight children (10). Therefore, the theory is inaccurate and only assumes the facts based on false ideas. Further research into Wakefield’s assumptions by reducing the measles vaccine’s exposure rates among children also indicated that the vaccine does not cause autism. Boseley states that more children developed symptoms of autism despite parents opting out of using the measles vaccines.
Recent research on Danish children regarding the relationship between the measles vaccine and autism also indicates that the vaccine does not lead to autism. Out of 650,000 children born between 2000 and 2010, where 95 had the measle vaccine, only 6000 were found autistic, indicating that the vaccine is not a risk factor for autism (Hoffman). Thus, the statistical data and scientific view regarding Wakefield’s idea of using diverse autistic characteristics in creating assumptions demonstrates that vaccines do not cause autism.
Regarding thimerosal, scientists decided to eliminate the substance from vaccines due to the concern of high thimerosal substances in vaccines and the frequency of vaccinations in children within short periods. However, since the elimination in 2001, cases of autism among children are still increasing rapidly among populations globally (Hoffman). The statistical results of children who have autism before and after the removal of thimerosal indicate that the vaccine ingredient was not the cause of autism since the cases continue to increase.
Results from several pieces of research across populations in Canada and California also indicate that eliminating the exposure of thimerosal in children did not reduce cases of autism (Boseley). The world health organization also reviewed the relationship between high thimerosal exposure to children and autism rates. The organization concluded that there was no relationship after examining records of autistic research globally.
Nowadays, most parents worry about the number of vaccination children receive during infantry and relate it to immune deficiencies and developmental disorders such as autism. In a survey among parents with autistic children, six out of ten parents claim that childhood vaccines affect a child’s immunity and may cause developmental disorders (Pivetti et al. 7). However, medical researchers argue that children have adaptable immune systems from birth that can cope and fight against foreign substances that have adverse effects. Knopf claims that a child’s immune system can withstand foreign antigens found in vaccines since they fight numerous bacteria and viruses that are stronger than vaccines (2). Therefore, the argument that vaccines cause autism is illogical since a child’s immune system defends against multiple bacteria, antigens, and viruses to keep the child healthy.
Paediatricians also support the argument regarding children’s ability to expel toxic substances from the bloodstream faster than adults, which helps get rid of toxins quickly. A study in Argentina where vaccines still contain thimerosal-mercury substances indicates that the chemical does not cause autism. The research argues that children can get rid of mercury found in thimerosal at a higher rate than fish mercury (Knopf 2).
Thus, they can expel the surplus amount of thimerosal substances and avoid accumulation that can travel to the brain, hindering development. The experiment proves that vaccines have zero impact on a child’s mental and developmental process and do not cause autism. Apart from thimerosal, this study also helps discredit Wakefield’s assumptions which suggest that the measles vaccine causes autism through the travel of toxic substances in the bloodstream to the brain.
Despite the speculations relating autism to childhood vaccines, there is enough proof indicating that the vaccines do not cause autism. Wakefield’s theory is baseless since autistic children behave differently and cannot have a common cause of autism. Investigations on the chemical composition of vaccines to determine their relationship to autism indicate that most vaccine ingredients do not cause the disorder. Particular emphasis on the thimerosal chemical, a vaccine ingredient containing mercury preservatives and used for preventing vial vaccines from contamination, indicates that the component does not cause autism.
Since the elimination of the vaccine due to high quantities and frequency of vaccination, children’s vaccines do not contain thimerosal. However, cases of autism are still persistent a growing rapidly among populations globally. It is also evident that children’s immunity systems expel mercury toxins quickly, which help in removing a high amount of thimerosal, preventing toxicity and brain damage through blood circulation to the brain.
Bervoets, Jo, and Kristien Hens. “Going Beyond the Catch-22 of Autism Diagnosis and Research. The Moral Implications of (Not) Asking “What Is Autism?”.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11, 2020, pp. 1-15.
Boseley, Sarah. “No Link Between Autism and MMR, Affirms Major Study.” The Guardian. 2019. Web.
Goin-Kochel, Robin. P., et al. “Beliefs about Causes of Autism and Vaccine Hesitancy Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Vaccine, vol. 38, no. 40, 2020, pp. 6327-6333.
Hoffman, Jan. “One More Time, With Big Data: Measles Vaccine Doesn’t Cause Autism.” The New York Times. 2019. Web.
Knopf, Alison. “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism: Pediatricians Fight Back Against Anti‐Science.” The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, vol. 33, no. S2, 2017, pp. 1-2.
Pivetti, Monica, et al. “Vaccines and Autism: A Preliminary Qualitative Study on the Beliefs of Concerned Mothers in Italy.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-15.