by Theresa Waldron, author of http://www.healthsnark.com
Anti-vaccine groups have been speaking out since the late 1980s against the many vaccines recommended for infants and children to prevent childhood infectious diseases. One-third of parents say they are concerned about the safety of vaccines, and one in 10 refuse or delay to vaccinate their children out of those concerns.
One of the most vocal of their worries is that vaccines are linked to autism, and that the standard 28 vaccines recommended for children from birth to age six are excessive and harmful. In fact, some anti-vaccine groups such as Generation Rescue go so far as to claim that autism is a common “side effect” of vaccines.
But in a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at the medical records of 256 children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 typically developing children who received standard vaccines from birth to age two. They wanted to see if the number of “antigens” present in the vaccines, which stimulate the body to produce antibodies to fight infection, had any correlation with the children’s risk of autism. Some anti-vaccine groups believe that the vaccine antigens are too strong for young children’s immune systems, thereby making them more susceptible to autism.
Do Children with ASD Receive more Antigens?
The researchers wanted to see if perhaps children with ASD were receiving more antigens than children without ASD. They evaluated the total antigen numbers in both groups of children by adding the number of different antigens in all vaccines each child received in one day, as well as all vaccines each child received up to 2 years of age. The researchers found that the total antigens from vaccines received by age two, or the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD.
There is a contention by anti-vaccine groups that because children receive more vaccines than in previous years, they are being exposed to more antigens, and that this is what is causing autism rates to rise. Actually, current vaccines have more targeted antigens, so fewer of the antigens need to be used to be effective now than in previous years. The current vaccine schedule does recommend more vaccines now than in the late 1990s. But the maximum number of antigens by age two in a currently vaccinated child is 315 compared to several thousand in the late 1990s.
The idea that an infant or young child’s immune system is fragile and can’t handle antigens and other “immunologic stimuli,” is simply not true, the authors conclude. Babies are naturally exposed to many viruses and antigens in their everyday world.
“The possibility that immunological stimulation from vaccines during the first one or two years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well-supported by what is known about the neurobiology of ASDs,” they write.