By David Kirby (Click HERE to read and comment on the HuffPo version of this post.)
“The science is largely complete. Ten epidemiological studies have shown MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism; six have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause autism.”
-- Dr. Paul Offit, “Autism’s False Prophets”
“16 studies have shown no causal association between vaccines and autism, and these studies carry weight in the scientific industry.”
-- Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC Today Show Medical Editor
Conventional wisdom holds that the autism-vaccine question has been “asked and answered,” and that least 16 large, well-constructed epidemiological studies have thoroughly addressed and debunked any hypothesis that childhood vaccination is in any way associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders.
But there are several critical flaws in such an oversimplified generalization, and they are rarely given close examination by public health experts or members of the media.
To begin with, it is unscientific and perilously misleading for anyone to assert that “vaccines and autism” have been studied and that no link has been found. That’s because the 16 or so studies constantly cited by critics of the hypothesis have examined just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient. And the studies themselves have critical design flaws and limitations.
The current US childhood immunization schedule calls for 28 injections with 11 different vaccines against 15 different diseases by two years of age. Of those 11 vaccines, only the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) shot has been studied in association with autism, (although a CDC study of an MMR-plus-chickenpox vaccine did show that the risk for febrile seizures in infants was doubled.)
Meanwhile, those 11 vaccines contain scores of ingredients, only one of which, thimerosal, has ever been tested in association with autism.
It is illogical to exonerate all vaccines, all vaccine ingredients, and the total US vaccine program as a whole, based solely on a handful of epidemiological studies of just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient. It is akin to claiming that every form of animal protein is beneficial to people, when all you have studied is fish.
Now, a new study has shown that giving Hepatitis B vaccine to newborn baby boys more than triples the associated risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder.
An abstract of the study was published in the September, 2009 issue of the respected journal Annals of Epidemiology. In it, Carolyn Gallagher and Melody Goodman of the Graduate Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University Medical Center, NY, wrote that, “Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD compared to later- or unvaccinated boys.” The authors used U.S. probability samples obtained from National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 1997–2002 datasets.
The conclusion states that: “Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys.”