About a decade ago, many American parents began to worry about how many vaccines their children were receiving. Some worried that the high number vaccines would put too much stress on an infant’s immune system. Others worried because a 1998 British study proposed a link between the Measles vaccine and autism.
On Friday, the United States Centers for Disease Control released new findings that should ease those anxieties.
The findings, which appeared online today in the Journal of Pediatrics, found no connection between infant vaccinations and autism development. The study featured 256 children with an autism spectrum disorder and 752 children without an autism spectrum disorder. The children were matched based on age, sex, and health insurance plan.
The study revealed that children with and without autism disorders were exposed to identical levels of antigens - the substances in vaccines that stimulate the immune system to produce infection-fighting antibodies. The study focused on antigen exposure rather than the number of vaccines given because antigen exposure provides a more precise measure of immune system activity caused by vaccines.
Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the CDC’s immunization office and lead researcher for the study, spoke on the study’s findings.
“This should give more reassurance to parents,” he said.
A recent study shows that about one-third of U.S. parents think their children are receiving too many shots within their first two years of life, and that the shots could contribute to autism development.
Dr. DeStefano added that infants are constantly battling many more antigens encountered naturally than ones they are exposed to through vaccines. “Most infants can handle exposure to many antigens,” he said.
The study also found that an infant’s antigen exposure during their first two years, seven months, and three months of life was not correlated to the development of an autism disorder. Additionally, there was no connection between autism risk and the amount of vaccine antigens administered on any one day.
"This provides evidence that concerns about immune system overstimulation are unfounded," Dr. DeStefano said.
It should be noted that the 1998 British study proposing a link between vaccines and autism has since been retracted. When taking this and the CDC’s latest findings into account, parents should feel much more comfortable about following a pediatrician’s vaccine advice for their children.