Fact Check: Vaccines Are NOT Linked To Autism; Science Shows No Causation

Fact Check

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: Vaccines Are NOT Linked To Autism; Science Shows No Causation Disputed

Are vaccines definitively linked to autism? No, that's not true: While some people believe this to be the case -- and are spreading their belief online in advance of release of vaccines to battle COVID-19 -- it remains just that, belief. Peer-reviewed and replicated medical research shows no causation between vaccines and autism. There is also no evidence that a vaccine has been rushed to market to fight the novel coronavirus, even though many were developed under President Trump's Operation Warp Speed. The Trump administration program infused pharmaceutical companies with money to quickly develop a vaccine. Vaccine makers have announced positive tests, but none had been approved for the general public by the Food and Drug Administration at the time of writing.

The claim can be found in a post (archived here) published to Instagram by user ali.zeck on November 20, 2020. The meme, an embed of a tweet by Maj Toure, states:

Vaccines are linked to autism. Any entertainer telling you to take a RUSHED vaccine doesn't know what the f**k they're talking about. Stop listening to bought and paid for entertainers."

Here is what the post looked like at the time of this writing:

And here is the original tweet from Maj Toure, the founder of crowd-funded Black Guns Matter:
The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected medical science journals, published a study in which eight doctors, doctorates and others studied whether there was any causal relationship between vaccines and autism.
They studied all children born in Denmark over an eight-year period beginning in January 1991. The authors then revisited these children in December 1998, and found "strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism."
One part of the study reads:
This study provides three strong arguments against a causal relation between MMR vaccination and autism. First, the risk of autism was similar in vaccinated and unvaccinated children, in both age-adjusted and fully adjusted analyses. Second, there was no temporal clustering of cases of autism at any time after immunization. Third, neither autistic disorder nor other autistic-spectrum disorders were associated with MMR vaccination. Furthermore, the results were derived from a nationwide cohort study with nearly complete follow-up data."
MMR vaccines work against measles, mumps and rubella. In fact, study after study have shown similar results. The latter study, from Vaccine, the journal of vaccinology, in 2014, includes these highlights:

There was no relationship between vaccination and autism (OR: 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.06).

There was no relationship between vaccination and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) (OR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.20).

There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and MMR (OR: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.70 to 1.01).

There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and thimerosal (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.77 to 1.31).

There was no relationship between [autism/ASD] and mercury (Hg) (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.93 to 1.07).

Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.

Science Feedback, also a fact-checking site, has written many debunks of popular -- but scientifically false -- claims of a causal link between vaccines and autism. Find their work here.

As for the posts' claims that vaccines were "RUSHED," there is no evidence to support the claim Operation Warp Speed's coordination of agencies to reduce bureaucratic slowdowns will result in an unsafe COVID019 vaccines. First, the FDA has yet to approve any vaccine against COVID-19, as stated on the administration's "Frequently Asked Questions" page here.

At least three vaccines -- one by Moderna, another by Pfizer and a third by AstraZeneca -- have, respectively, been shown to be 95%, 95% and up to 90% effective. All are seeking FDA authorization, but that has yet to happen as of the time of writing this article.

The FDA has stringent protocols for approving vaccines to ensure safety and has pledged it will not sacrifice safety to speed a vaccine to market.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Eric Ferkenhoff

Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.

 

Read more about or contact Eric Ferkenhoff

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