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Feb 10

Vaccines and autism: why science communication matters

By Carolyn Dudko, WSU Vancouver Neuroscience student

Do vaccines cause autism? This has been an ongoing debate between mothers of autistic children and doctors and researchers. Mothers claiming that after their children received their MMR vaccines, autistic characteristics began developing. Wakefield and colleagues came out with a study claiming that vaccines do in fact cause autism. In an argument against him, multiple experiments were carried out. Gerber and Offit carried out one of these experiments analyzing medical information of children in multiple countries. Their results showed that there was no correlation between vaccines and autism, neither the MMR sequence, thimerosal, nor the amount of vaccines administrated in one sitting led to autism. Gadad and colleagues carried out an experiment in which they attempted to induce autism like symptoms in macaque monkeys. Administration of vaccines to the monkeys did not cause autistic behavior or autistic brain characteristics in the monkeys.

Numerous studies were carried out confirming that autism is not caused by vaccines, millions of dollars invested in confirming a fact that is already known. The question that I ask myself is, was it necessary to carry out so many experiments and studies to confirm that vaccines don’t in fact cause autism? And how many more studies need to be carried out to prove that vaccines aren’t the culprit? Far too much research is conducted on the vaccine and autism debate and not enough on other factors that could be the cause of autism. The energy and money funding vaccine research should be invested in finding what prenatal, genetic, or environmental factors lead to autism and how can we treat and prevent autism.

Despite the evidence provided by researchers, mothers still do not believe or trust the evidence being provided and demand more. Celebrities are being trusted more than the scientists conducting the experiments. With such an outcry from parents, funding is more likely to be given to research concerning vaccines and autism than to research exploring other causes for autism. The science community needs to reach out and better communicate their findings to the public, needs to make their research more accessible and easily understandable. By getting their findings out perhaps more support and funding for further autism research can be achieved.

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