In the JournalsPerspective

Additional CDC data rule out vaccine-autism link

Even as the number of vaccines administered to children grows, children are not at an increased risk for developing autism, according to study findings published online.

Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, compared vaccination histories and antigens of 256 children with autism and 752 children who did not have autism.

“The aOR (95% CI) of autism spectrum disorder associated with each 25-unit increase in total antigen exposure was 0.999 (0.994-1.003) for cumulative exposure to age 3 months, 0.999 (0.997-1.001) for cumulative exposure to age 7 months, and 0.999 (0.998-1.001) for cumulative exposure to age 2 years,” the researchers wrote. “Similarly, no increased risk was found for autistic disorder or autism spectrum disorder with regression.”

DeStefano and colleagues said their findings are particularly timely, given that a recent survey found that parents’ top vaccine-related concerns included administration of too many vaccines during the first 2 years of life, administration of too many vaccines in a single doctor visit, and a possible link between vaccines and learning disabilities, such as autism.

“This study is the first to evaluate the issue of ‘too many vaccines too soon’ and the development of autism. The study found no relationship between the amount of vaccine antigens received during the first 2 years of life and the development of autism,” DeStefano told Infectious Diseases in Children.

The researchers said they hope their research will help to reassure parents that the recommended vaccination schedules are safe.

Disclosure: DeStefano reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, can be reached at fdestefano@cdc.gov.

Even as the number of vaccines administered to children grows, children are not at an increased risk for developing autism, according to study findings published online.

Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, compared vaccination histories and antigens of 256 children with autism and 752 children who did not have autism.

“The aOR (95% CI) of autism spectrum disorder associated with each 25-unit increase in total antigen exposure was 0.999 (0.994-1.003) for cumulative exposure to age 3 months, 0.999 (0.997-1.001) for cumulative exposure to age 7 months, and 0.999 (0.998-1.001) for cumulative exposure to age 2 years,” the researchers wrote. “Similarly, no increased risk was found for autistic disorder or autism spectrum disorder with regression.”

DeStefano and colleagues said their findings are particularly timely, given that a recent survey found that parents’ top vaccine-related concerns included administration of too many vaccines during the first 2 years of life, administration of too many vaccines in a single doctor visit, and a possible link between vaccines and learning disabilities, such as autism.

“This study is the first to evaluate the issue of ‘too many vaccines too soon’ and the development of autism. The study found no relationship between the amount of vaccine antigens received during the first 2 years of life and the development of autism,” DeStefano told Infectious Diseases in Children.

The researchers said they hope their research will help to reassure parents that the recommended vaccination schedules are safe.

Disclosure: DeStefano reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, can be reached at fdestefano@cdc.gov.

    Perspective
    Paul A. Offit

    Paul A. Offit

    In what has become a game of Whack-A-Mole, the paper by DeStefano and colleagues addresses the third hypothesis regarding the relationship between vaccines and autism.

    First, Andrew Wakefield and coworkers claimed that the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR; M-M-R II, Merck) vaccine caused autism: a contention now refuted by 12 well-controlled studies. Then, concern shifted to thimerosal, an ethylmercury containing preservative used in several vaccines given to infants. Seven studies have now clearly refuted the thimerosal hypothesis. Finally, concern about vaccines and autism settled on the fear that children were receiving too many vaccines too soon.

    The first paper to address this issue showed no relationship between the number of vaccines received in the first year of life and the development of autism (Smith MJ. Pediatrics. 2010;125:1134-1141). The study by DeStefano advances the findings of the previous study in that it looks not only at the number of vaccines received but at the number of immunological components contained in those vaccines; again, finding no relationship between vaccines and autism. Taken together, these studies should reassure concerned parents that although the cause or causes of autism remain unclear, one thing that has become clear is that vaccines aren’t to blame.

    • Paul A. Offit, MD
    • Infectious Diseases in Children Editorial Board

    Disclosures: Offit reports no relevant financial disclosures.