Autism And Vaccines

April is Autism Awareness Month. On this last day of April, I'd like to introduce you to Shannon... ---

I know that, as a guest blogger here, we've probably just met; you don’t know anything about me, and I don’ t know anything about you. But I can tell you one thing I do know about you:

You need to get your kids vaccinated.

If you’re thinking, “Well, of course I’m going to get my kids vaccinated; what kind of parent would risk exposing their kids to nasty diseases and possibly death?” then whew, and thank you for reading this far. Keep on reading if you’re interested in stockpiling information about why your decision is the right one not just for your own family but for everyone’s families.

If you’re thinking, “Vaccinating is a personal decision and it’s not your job to tell me what to do,” or even “Vaccines are toxic and Jenny McCarthy says they cause autism even though now she’s pretending she never said that,” then please know that you've been hoodwinked, and are … putting your kids and other kids as well as tiny babies too young to be vaccinated and kids with compromised immune systems at risk for nasty diseases and possibly death.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what makes you such an expert,” please know this: I’m a parent of an autistic teenager. I was on the front lines during the worst of the autism-vaccine misinformation media muckraking. I even bought into all that autism-vaccine rubbish for a while, even stopped vaccinating my kids for a while back in 2004, because those messages of fear and doubt scared the hell out of me, they sounded like reasonable science at the time, and there was no way in hell I was going to let anyone inject my babies with poisons.

But guess what? It’s not 2004 anymore. It’s ten years later. And during those ten years, autism and vaccines experts (legitimate experts, not self-appointed experts) have amassed a mountain-sized pile of No, in terms of No evidence linking vaccines to autism. Most experts cite these three main points:

  1. The study that claimed the MMR vaccine and autism were linked (and was revealed to be a hoax) and was retracted) involved 12 children. Since then, studies involving more than 14 million children have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism.
  2. Autism is something a child is born with. It is not an injury; it is not acquired.
  3. Autistic traits tend to emerge around the time children get their toddler vaccines. This may make parents think vaccines caused their child’s autism, but it’s a coincidence.

But what if you understand that autism is not something to be scared of, because people like my son are just as human as anyone else (even though they might need more support and understanding than some other people) -- you might still have lingering concerns about vaccines themselves. Because maybe celebrities or Healthy Living gurus insist vaccines are unnatural, and incompatible with living a whole, pure life; or you got chickenpox as a kid and it really wasn't that bad. Well, guess what?

  1. If we relied strictly on “natural,” we’d have hundreds of thousands of kids getting sick, and many of them dying, from vaccine-preventable disease every year. Yes, some people survived unscathed, but thousands and thousands didn't. I’ll take the vaccines and the science, thank you.
  2. Vaccine refusal is a privilege of the vaccinated. Only someone who had never lived through vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks could dismiss vaccines as “dangerous” rather than near-miraculous. In too many countries vaccine preventable-diseases are still rampant, and parents will not hold naming ceremonies until after their babies are vaccinated.
  3. Vaccine-preventable diseases are just a plane ride away. And what do you think is going to happen to an unvaccinated child if they are exposed to a disease they have no “natural” protection against? As is happening more often, now that anti-vaccine “concerns” have led to lower vaccination rates?

If I sound slightly grumpy or anything less than compassionate, please know that’s not my intention. I know it’s really hard to watch a kid, especially a baby, get an injection. I also understand that it can be hard to put doubts about vaccines to rest, once they've been raised. But I have to speak out. I’m OK with bruising some feelings, if it means fewer babies will get sick and die.


Shannon Des Roches ShannonRosa is the senior editor and co-founder of Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, . She has been blogging about parenting, autism, iPads, and vaccines since 20013 at Her writings and interviews have been featured in Family Circle, The New York Times, CNN, BabyCenter, Parents Magazine, and Redbook. She lives near San Francisco with her handsome husband and their three cheeky children.

If you want to know about this subject, please join Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, Ana Beatriz Cholo, Shannon Des Roches Rosa and today at 2 p.m. EST for our #WellnessWed chat on Twitter.