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Are vaccines safe?
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The claim of a link between vaccines and autism

There is a persistent claim that vaccines can cause autism.
Health Warning Misleading


For accurate information on the efficiency of vaccines, consult the WHO website.[1]

The Argument

Autism rates among children in the US have soared from 1 in 10,000 children in the 1980s, to 1 in 110 today. The number of vaccinations children receive has also risen sharply since the 1980s from 10 to 36.[2] In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper in which he studied the link between vaccinations and autism in children. He looked at 12 children who were showing signs of autism in their development. In his study, he found that eight of the twelve had begun displaying these symptoms just days after receiving the MMR vaccine designed to protect the child against measles, mumps and rubella. The paper insinuated that the MMR vaccine could be to blame.[3] The paper quickly gained significant attention, fuelling many people’s fears that vaccines were not safe. There are cases where the US “vaccine court” has paid out millions of dollars to families of children suffering from autism, suggesting that it has knowledge of the link between vaccines and autism. The cases were “unpublished” meaning that much of the information surrounding the payouts have been withheld from the public.[4]

Counter arguments

The findings of the study were immediately disproved and the research found to be fraudulent. Most of Wakefield’s co-authors withdrew their support due to the conclusions he had drawn. An investigation found that the families in the study were part of legal action against the vaccination manufacturer, and Wakefield had been funded by their solicitors to provide supporting evidence. The sample size was too small for any conclusions and the General Medical Council struck off Wakefield from the register so he could no longer practice medicine due to the fraudulent way data was presented and the ethical implications of the study. They found him guilty of dishonesty, the "abuse" of developmentally delayed children by giving them unnecessary and invasive medical procedures, and acting without ethical approval for his research. Mercury is no longer used as a preservative in vaccinations but autism rates continue to rise remain the same, despite tests indicating that the children inoculated today have only traces of Mercury in their blood (levels far below what the EPA considers safe). Autism support and research groups all refute Wakefield’s dangerous study. Despite the medical journal that had published the article retracting it, the debunked study continues to be cited by anti-vaxxers.



[P1] Vaccines cause autism. [P2] Therefore, they are not safe.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] There is no evidence of a link between autism and immunisation. The one study was quickly proved fraudulent - funded by a class action suit against a pharmaceutical company. Autism tends to be first noticed around the age that immunisations are given so a causal link was made where there is none.

Further Reading

Editorial (2011). Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent British Medical Journal, 342 doi: Eggertson L. (2010). Lancet retracts 12-year-old article linking autism to MMR vaccines. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 182(4), E199–E200. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-3179


This page was last edited on Monday, 23 Mar 2020 at 14:45 UTC

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