At this point in time no one knows the exact cause or causes of autism. What we do know is that the number of children diagnosed with autism has continued to rise in recent years. Most experts believe that is due to better diagnosis, better reporting, and wider, broader definitions of autism.
One of the most publicized theories on the subject dealt with childhood vaccinations – Do they cause autism? This began when a small study in England of 12 children was published in 1998 that claimed there was a link, or cause, between autism and a combination of childhood vaccines. The vaccine is known as MMR, or measles, mumps, and rubella.
Another factor, thimerosal, was also presented as a possible reason for childhood autism. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that is / was used to prevent fungal contamination. Some people claimed that thimerosal was the source or cause of autism in children. After many studies the scientific community is comfortable in claiming that there is no causation effect. However, to be on the safe side this compound has been eliminated from almost all vaccines except some flu vaccines in the USA. Denmark phased out thimerosal years before the United States and they have not seen any affect on the incidence of autism.
Another argument that has been presented is that children receive “too many vaccines too soon.” This theory has also been the subject of studies and has been found to lack validity.
There have been many scientific studies since 1998 and the vast bulk of them do NOT show any relationship between vaccinations and childhood autism. Although some parents feel it is best to NOT vaccinate their children, most doctors think that is a very bad idea. In those cases the children are much more susceptible to childhood diseases such as whooping cough, measles, rubella and other diseases which can be lethal. It is important to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. Many pediatricians are now delaying and spreading out vaccinations as much as possible to mitigate the fear that some parents have.