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Autism

Can Vaccinations Cause Autism?

02/17/2009

Question:

I have a 2 year old boy who has been receiving vaccinations on a regular basis.   However, I recently have read about a possible link between vaccinations and autism and am concerned for my son's health.  

Is there a real link between Vaccines and autism?  Is Autism a condition present at birth or can it be diagnosed at any age? 

My son is on track intellectually, playing with toys, and trying to communicate.  He can count from 1-20 and knows the alphabet.  He smiles at me and my husband but is not overly affectionate.   Whenever I ask him to give me a kiss he does, but he never does it on his own. My son is also anxious around strangers. He seems to be scared and insecure when people are around him.  He doesn't play with other kids or smile at strangers.  Could all this be a sign of autism? 

Answer:

More research is needed regarding causes of autism. Although there is clearly a genetic predisposition, genes are only expressed through interaction with the environment, which could include the increased frequency and variety of vaccinations (among other things). However, vaccinations have not been proven to be part of the causal chain at this time, and they are lifesaving for the whole population.

At the current state of scientific knowledge, the risk of not vaccinating appears greater than the risk of vaccinating. However, it is not clear that all vaccinations need to be given as early as they currently are. You could discuss with your son's doctor the possibility of delaying some of them for a few years.

Regarding your observations of your son, you could obtain an evaluation regarding the possibility of autism at any child psychiatric, child neurological, or developmental/behavioral pediatric clinic. Ohio has two university centers of excellence in developmental disorders (Nisonger Center in Columbus and the University of Cincinnati), and every large city has some kind of specialized autism facility. Your child's doctor could refer for evaluation. Many centers have research studies in which a free evaluation can be obtained as part of the research assessments.

For more information:

Go to the Autism health topic, where you can:

Response by:

L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University