The article reports:
The latest salvo against vaccinations came courtesy of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro. At a joint appearance this week, Kennedy offered $100,000 to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women, with a specific call out to concerns about mercury. De Niro was there to lend his endorsement and a patina of Oscar-winning gravitas.
Both men have an unreliable history when it comes to their views about vaccinations. Kennedy’s reference to mercury alludes to thimerosal, a preservative once used in vaccines, which he has long maintained can lead to autism. (It doesn’t.) A meeting earlier this year between then President-elect Donald Trump (who has hair-raising views of his own about vaccines) and Kennedy caused grave concern within the medical community, myself included. Kennedy claimed Trump asked him to helm a commission on vaccine safety (even though the United States already has a vaccine safety commission), but it has yet to materialize.
I found the following on Wikipedia (I am posting it because of the references):
A population-based study in Olmsted County, Minnesota county found that the cumulative incidence of autism grew eightfold from the 1980–83 period to the 1995–97 period. The increase occurred after the introduction of broader, more-precise diagnostic criteria, increased service availability, and increased awareness of autism. During the same period, the reported number of autism cases grew 22-fold in the same location, suggesting that counts reported by clinics or schools provide misleading estimates of the true incidence of autism.
Barbaresi WJ, Katusic SK, Colligan RC, Weaver AL, Jacobsen SJ. The incidence of autism in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1976-1997: results from a population-based study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(1):37–44. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.1.37. PMID 15630056.
- Barbaresi WJ, Colligan RC, Weaver AL, Katusic SK. The incidence of clinically diagnosed versus research-identified autism in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1976–1997: results from a retrospective, population-based study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008;39(3):464–70. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0645-8. PMID 18791815.
I am not a doctor and don’t know if vaccinations cause autism. I do know that America has almost entirely eliminated measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, and tetanus.
The article in The Washington Post further reports:
Conversely, a growing body of evidence suggests brain differences associated with autism may be found early in infancy — well before children receive most vaccines. Changes in the volume of certain brain areas found by MRI may help predict autism in infants with an older sibling who has the diagnosis, according to a recent study in the journal Nature. Other studies have found that alterations in brain cell development related to autism may occur before birth. These findings are clearly inconsistent with vaccines as a cause of autism.
But none of this emerging research seems to have dampened the fires burning within the anti-vaccine movement. I could resurrect Edward Jenner and Jonas Salk for joint TED talks about the benefits of vaccination, and somehow I doubt it would make any difference at this point. Despite Kennedy’s disingenuous plea for evidence of safety, it’s not evidence he really cares about. If it were, he could find more than enough for free.
Before we stop vaccinating our children, maybe we should look at some of the other factors that might be involved in the increase of autism. There are still a lot of things I don’t understand about how the human brain works.