It's safe to vaccinate kids — studies find autism risks are linked to genetics instead

Compiled by Chandra Johnson, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, July 25, 2014, 6:15 a.m. MDT

 Person receiving a vaccine

Person receiving a vaccine

(Jeffrey Hamilton, Getty Images)

For decades, scientists and doctors have struggled to find out the cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Last weekend, a study published in Nature Genetics may bring them closer to the answer.

CNN Health reported that the study looked at Swedish population statistics correlating with autism and found that 52 percent of the risk of developing autism comes from genes, while just 2.6 percent can be attributed to environmental factors.

That's significant because, as Salon reported earlier this month, the autism "blame game" has become dangerous, as some have blamed everything from pesticides to childhood vaccinations for the condition.

"Today’s fad is to blame pesticides, and tomorrow’s could be to blame peanut butter in plastic jars. With each claim will come unwarranted hysterical reactions that are not based on solid scientific findings, but instead by a public hungry for conclusive answers where none yet exist, and a media more than happy to stoke speculation," Dan Arel wrote at Salon. "Claims that haven’t been tested and retested, subjected fully to the rigors of the scientific method and peer review, can have deadly consequences."

While the study still leaves plenty open for interpretation about the role environmental factors can play in a child developing autism, one thing parents should take away is that it's once again safe to vaccinate kids, Dr. Jane C. Hu wrote in Slate this week.

Hu cited a plethora of studies that have ruled vaccinations do not cause autism, and chastised celebrity parents like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jenny McCarthy for crusading against vaccination.

"Loving parents out there may be dismayed to know that science doesn’t tell us much about how to prevent autism, short of changing your genes," Hu wrote. "But on the upside, it does tell us yet again that we should vaccinate our kids so that they don’t suffer from the diseases we already know how to prevent."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

1. On the other hand
Riverdale, MD,
July 25, 2014

The supposed link between vaccines and autism was put forth in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998 by British medical researcher Andrew Wakefield and colleagues. Scores of scientists have explored this hypothesis in the years since, and none have been able to reproduce Wakefield's results. Between 2004 and 2011, it was revealed that Wakefield had several conflicts of interest which he failed to disclose to his coauthors and to The Lancet (including a scheme to create a multi-million dollar industry around diagnosing "autistic enterocolitis", a medical condition invented by Wakefield in the study and widely discredited since). The UK's General Medical Council (GMC) conducted a lengthy investigation and found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct. The British Medical Journal has documented how Wakefield falsified some of his data to match his conclusions. The Lancet withdrew the paper, and the GMC revoked Wakefield's right to practice medicine.

The large number of children whose parents have avoided vaccination as a result of Wakefield's claims create a real public health risk. Despite the medical community's efforts to educate society on the safety of vaccines, myths and conspiracy theories abound. Wakefield's fraud has caused society serious, lasting harm.

2. JLindow
St George, UT,
July 25, 2014

"it's once again safe to vaccinate kids"

As if it wasn't before?

3. Aggie5
Kuna, ID,
July 25, 2014

While I do get my kids there shots, I think any study can be bought off by big pharma.

4. Deserthiker
July 25, 2014

While the potential for corruption exists in any industry, those who question the safety of vaccination on the basis of "big pharma" fixing the results ignore the fact that many studys document the safety and efficacy of vaccinations, most of them not sponsored or influenced by the pharmaceutical manufacturers. There are risks to being vaccinated. Nothing in life is risk free. There are greater risks in not being vaccinated. The research evidence clearly indicates that on balance, your child is much safer vaccinated than not. The fact that there is an occasional bad reaction to vaccination doesn't change that risk equation. It's not just an individual decision. Every child left unvaccinated is a potential disease transmitter who places other children and adults of frail health and immune deficiency at risk of severe illness or death. For many diseases, such a measles, we could forever eradicate the disease (remember smallpox) if enough were vaccinated, eventually eliminating the need for any one to be vaccinated.

5. Ace
Farmington, UT,
July 25, 2014

Aggie5 - That's a silly conclusion to make with regard to vaccinations. Remember, vaccinations prevent diseases. What do you think would be more profitable to "Big Pharma" and the medical industry: giving you a $9 vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella, or treating a substantial part of the population for these debilitating and life-threatening diseases, some of which can have effects lasting for years (if you survive). Vaccines are a clear money-loser for the medical industry.