Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 15 April 2021

Table of Contents :


  1. Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
  2. MMR Vaccine Controversy
  3. Thimerosal Controversy
  4. All Vaccinations Combined


Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

According to extensive studies, vaccines do not cause autism. Over a dozen studies have attempted to establish a correlation, despite this, every single one of them has not managed to establish one. 

MMR Vaccine Controversy

The controversy started in 1998, when British researchers released a paper claiming that the MMR vaccine induced autism.

The paper was later declared “fraud" by England’s General Medical Council, but it sparked a heated debate about the vaccine’s safety that continues to this day.

The study only focused on 12 children, but it gained a lot of attention because the number of children diagnosed with the disorder was rapidly increasing at the same time.

The findings of the paper prompted other doctors to conduct their own studies into the MMR vaccine’s connection to autism. There were at least 12 follow-up studies conducted. There is still no proof that the vaccine induced autism.

Additionally, an investigation into the 1998 report revealed a number of flaws in the way it was performed. It was finally retracted by the journal that published it. As a result, the findings were no longer supported by the publication.

The General Medical Council revoked Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s medical licence in 2010 after declaring that the paper was not only based on bad science, but also on intentional deception and falsifications by the head researchers. Wakefield was paid more than £435,000 by a lawyer searching for a connection between the vaccine and autism, according to investigators (equal to more than a half-million dollars).

Thimerosal Controversy

A year after the British report, concerns about a potential correlation between vaccines and autism turned away from MMR and toward a substance used in some children’s vaccines. Thimerosal was the chemical name, and it contained mercury. This is a metal that, at high concentrations, is toxic to the brain and kidneys. Thimerosal was used by physicians to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi in vaccines.

There was no indication that the trace amounts contained in the medications were harmful. Nonetheless, it was removed from the majority of children’s vaccines in 2001, at the request of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Public Health Service.

To determine if thimerosal was associated with autism, researchers analysed children who received thimerosal-containing vaccines. They contrasted them to children who did not receive vaccines. The CDC funded or performed nine separate studies on thimerosal and autism. It discovered no relation.

Additionally, autism diagnoses increased after vaccine manufacturers removed thimerosal from nearly all childhood vaccinations. (Today, trace quantities of it exist in diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines such as DTaP and DTaP-Hib.)

All Vaccinations Combined

Additionally, researchers investigated whether any of the vaccines needed prior to the age of two contributed to the development of autism. In the first 15 months of life, children received 25 shots. Some people feared that receiving all those shots at such a young age would result in the development of autism, but this has not been proven.

However, the CDC compared groups of children who received vaccinations according to the prescribed schedule to those who received vaccines late or not at all. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of autism between the two groups.

In 2004, the Institute of Medicine’s Immunization Safety Review Committee published a report on the issue. The group reviewed both existing and unpublished research on vaccines and autism. It published a 200-page study concluding that there was no evidence linking vaccines to autism.

Nonetheless, studies continue to be conducted on the issue. In 2019, the largest research to date examined nearly 660,000 children over an 11-year period and discovered no correlation between the vaccine and autism.

All references and sources used in this article are linked below.


Referenced on 14/4/2021

  1. Indian Journal of Psychiatry: “The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud.”
  2. Offit, P., and Moser, C., Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction, Columbia University Press, 2011.
  3. American Journal of Medical Genetics: “Comorbidity of Intellectual Disability Confounds Ascertainment of Autism: Implications for Genetic Diagnosis.”
  4. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: “Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism.”
  5. The Lancet: “Retracted: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular Hyperplasia, Non-specific Colitis, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children.”
  6. BMJ: “How the Case Against the MMR Vaccine Was Fixed.”
  7. CDC: “Thimerosal in Vaccines,” “Toxic Substances Portal – Mercury.”
  8. American Academy of Pediatrics: “The Childhood Immunization Schedule: Why Is It Like That?”
  9. The Journal of Pediatrics: “Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism.”
  10. Annals of Internal Medicine: “Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism" 16 April 2019
  11. United Kingdom National Health Service: “Ruling on doctor in MMR scare" Friday 29 January 2010 

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