Today, most U.S. families have less worry about deadly childhood infections, largely due to vaccines.
And while research has shown the safety and effectiveness of routine childhood vaccines, the multitude of information and opinions available to today’s parents can lead to confusion.
A recent study looked at more than 590,000 children who did not have autism, alongside 3,729 children with autism, and their siblings.
Researchers found that among children ages 4-6, children with autism and their younger siblings were significantly less likely than their peers to receive the full schedule of pediatric vaccines.
Veena Ahuja, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the research, but said that vaccination safety is a question that often comes up when consulting the parents of young children with autism.
She said refusal to vaccinate often is sparked by misinformation on the internet, but sometimes parents worry about vaccine safety, simply because of timing.
According to Ahuja, typical signs of autism, such as lack of eye contact and delayed speech, begin to show between the ages of 18-24 months. And because this is also the same time period when children are receiving vaccinations, it’s easy for parents to worry that there may be a connection.
But, she said, this isn’t the case, and that while there is an understandable concern — as every parent just wants what’s best for their child — there is no science that supports a link between the vaccines and an autism diagnosis.
In fact, Ahuja said not having a child vaccinated poses a much greater threat to their well-being.
“All of the vaccines that we use are created for diseases that could be deadly,” she said. “We always have to keep that in mind — this isn’t a vaccine to keep your child from getting a small rash or something that’s not going to be a big deal — these are vaccines to help prevent your child from dying from a disease that used to kill hundreds and thousands of children in the past before we used these vaccines.”
Vaccines work best when everyone who is able to, receives them. Some children who have compromised immune systems cannot receive them, so getting those around them vaccinated helps protect these children from disease as well.
Ahuja said the bottom line is that vaccines are safe and should be taken on time for all children to keep them safe. If parents have questions, it’s best to ask an expert so that they have all the facts.
“We recommend really talking to your pediatrician,” she said. “Have an honest conversation about your concerns. Let your pediatrician explain the science behind the vaccines so that you can make the best decision based on the most recent and most important information.”
— Submitted by Cleveland Clinic News Service