TOLEDO It is perhaps the most divisive part of the anti-vaccine movement. The claim that vaccines cause autism. Yet the even as it's been debunked several times over in multiple studies over multiple years in multiple countries, the myth persists and continues to cause concern for some parents.
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The CDC is clear that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing Autism Spectrum Disorder. That includes a CDC study from 2013 that looked at 8 vaccines given to children and adults. The CDC reports that "With rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe."
Melissa Hadley works as an autism therapist at the ProMedica Toledo Children's Center for Autism and has a 6-year old son who has been diagnosed with Autism. Both in work and personally, Melissa says she firmly believes that Autism is not caused by vaccines. "There is just no scientific evidence that would link the two events of vaccination and Autism," says Hadley.
Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Tim Valko, MD says he treats hundreds of patients with Autism, "Vaccines do not cause autism, they don't," says Valko. Valko points to the research that started the controversy to begin with back in 1997. This was a study published by Andrew Wakefield who was a doctor at the time. The paper has been completely discredited over the years, "the studies were all false, they were all made up. They were flawed in multiple multiple different ways," says Valko. Wakefield went on to lose his medical license and the study was erased from all medical literature because of the ethical and factual flaws. "It was all about making money in the process he was considered an expert witness so lawyers paid him to go to court to sue pharmaceutical companies who were making these vaccines," says Valko.
Despite that, Valko says he still gets questions and has to counsel parents that vaccines are not the cause of autism. The strongest evidence he says points to genetics, "It's going to be the way genetics between the mom and dad line up," says Valko. However there is still no one answer to what causes Autism and researchers are still looking for it.
Parents like Melissa say they can see why the element of fear plays so strongly into the struggle over autism's cause. "Speaking as a parent of a child with autism you sometimes want to know why it's easier to think that there's a direct reason. It just seems like it's one of those things that it's easier to believe than grasping that there just isn't an answer right now."