One in ten parents skip or delay vaccinations for their young kids, often fearing the potential risks of “too many shots too soon.” And approximately a third of parents have safety concerns over a perceived link between autism and vaccinations.
New research raises questions about the validity of such concerns however. A study from The Journal Pediatrics found that children who received the full schedule of vaccinations do not have an elevated risk of autism.
The research is the latest in a string of 20 similar studies showing that there is no link between autism and vaccinations. However this is the first study to examine not just the number of vaccines kids received, but their overall exposure to antigens; or substances in vaccines that cause the immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies.
Simply counting the number of vaccinations received does account for the fact that every vaccine has a different number of antigens and that various vaccines can interact differently when combined. Calculating antigens may therefore provide a better picture of the effects of multiple vaccinations in one child.
The study included 256 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 children without ASD. Researchers calculated antigen numbers by adding up the maximum number of antigens in all vaccines received by a child in one day and in all vaccines given to a child for up two years of age. They discovered that children with autism were exposed to the same number of antigens as children without the disorder.
Although kids are getting more vaccinations compared to twenty years ago, the quality of the vaccinations has improved, according to the CDC. A press release from The Journal of Pediatrics explained, “An infant’s immune system is capable of responding to a large amount of immunologic stimuli and, from time of birth, infants are exposed to hundreds of viruses and countless antigens outside of vaccination.”
Still, misconceptions about autism and vaccine linger, leading to low vaccination rates in certain communities. This may be behind flare-ups of forgotten disease like measles, mumps, and whooping cough, experts contend.
DeStefano F, et al. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. The Journal of Pediatrics 2013; doi 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001.