Autism and vaccines are not correlated in 1.3 million child study

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If you were paying attention to this website over the past couple of weeks, you’d know that the actor Robert De Niro has come out as a vaccine denialist – he thinks that autism and vaccinations are somehow linked, despite the robust and broad scientific evidence that they are not correlated.

The return of this zombie manufactroversy, and De Niro’s involvement, arises from the inclusion of the anti-vaccination fraudumentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy, at the Tribeca Film Festival. And if you’re unfamiliar with the fraudumentary, it is from the cunning swindler, Mr. Andy Wakefield who attempted to “prove” that autism and vaccinations are linked, by inventing a so-called CDC whistleblower incident and other outright lies. If you are interested, you can read about this movie here, here, and here.

I cannot say this enough – if you know nothing more than just the basics about autism and vaccinations, then your education about it should start with Mr. Wakefield who perpetrated one of the greatest scientific frauds in the history of mankind (and that’s not an exaggeration).

Mr. Wakefield published a paper, subsequently withdrawn by the highly respected medical journal, Lancet, that blamed the MMR vaccine (vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella) for causing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Brian Deer, a respected journalist at the medical journal, BMJ, wrote extensively about Wakefield’s despicable deceit which you can read herehere, and here. Basically, Deer uncovered the massive fraud by Wakefield, which included things like working for attorneys who were suing MMR manufacturers and trying to patent his own version of the measles vaccine. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Wakefield from unsuccessfully suing Deer and BMJ several times.

As a result of Wakefield’s disinformation, some of the most dangerous outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can be laid at the feet of Wakefield, as parents started to refuse to vaccinate their children against these diseases. And of course, billions of dollars, money that could have been spent on actually treating and assisting children with ASD, was spent to investigate this claim, with over 100 peer-reviewed papers completely dismissing and debunking any link between any vaccine and any type of autism.

Let me make this abundantly clear– the vaccines cause autism myth has never been supported by real science even when we looked hard for evidence.

Autism and vaccinations – huge meta review

I wanted to look at one of the best scientific studies to date regarding any links between autism and vaccinations, even though it’s nearly two years old. It should slam the door shut on De Niro’s ignorant commentary about vaccines, and any possibility that Wakefield ever spoke truthfully about the relationship between vaccines and autism.

The research, published in the journal Vaccine, is a meta-analysis of five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9920 children. As I’ve written before, meta-analyses are the basis, the deep foundation, of the scientific consensus, and they are the highest quality scientific evidence available. This study is like a gigantic clinical trial because it rolls up the highest quality data from those millions of subjects to develop solid conclusions.

So what did the authors find?

  • There was no relationship between vaccination and autism (OR: 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.06).
  • There was no relationship between vaccination and ASD [autism spectrum disorder] (OR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.20).
  • There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and MMR (OR: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.70 to 1.01).
  • There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and thimerosal (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.77 to 1.31).
  • There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and mercury (Hg) (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.93 to 1.07).
  • Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.

OR is a statistical term, odds ratio, which provides us with the chances that one property, vaccination, is associated with another, in this case, autism.

An odds ratio of around one means there’s no effect or no correlation. As the number gets larger than 1.0, then there is statistical evidence that there is an association. On the other hand, OR much less than 1.0 indicates a negative association.

The findings here, most of which were substantially below 1.0, indicate that not only is there no association between autism and vaccination, but one could hypothesize that vaccination reduces the risk of autism.

This is real science, Robert De Niro. Robust, high quality, huge numbers evidence.

Autism and vaccinations

The TL;DR version

Let’s repeat what the authors of the study wrote:

Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.

This was a powerful, large, and well-analyzed meta-review. It takes all of the evidence and data that had been developed previously and rolled it up into one huge cohort and clinical trial. And once again, we find that vaccines don’t cause autism.

This isn’t just 12 children, like what Wakefield used in his discredited and retracted research. This is a powerful epidemiological meta-review that completely refutes the link between autism and vaccinations – I hope that anyone considering not vaccinating their child sees this and understands that it’s pretty close to being all you need to know about whether there is a link.

Vaccines save lives. Get your children vaccinated.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2014. Because of the power of this substantial study and Robert De Niro’s tacit support of Wakefield’s fraudumentary, I decided to re-publish it with a more complete analysis of the original study. This is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful studies into a potential link between autism and vaccinations, and it says there isn’t a link.

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!