Read the Science: Autism and Vaccines

Beyond the Autism/Vaccine Hypothesis: What Parents Need to Know about Autism Research

A decade ago most researchers agreed that we needed to study vaccines in relation to autism. We had to reconcile the fact that the number of vaccines children were receiving was increasing, and at the same time, the number of children who were being diagnosed with autism also was on the rise. Fortunately this was a question that could be studied – and answered – by science. We looked at children who received vaccines and those who didn’t, or who received them on a different, slower schedule. There was no difference in their neurological outcomes. Multiple studies have been completed which investigated the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination in relation to autism. Researchers have also studied thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, to see if it had any relation to autism. The results of studies are very clear; the data show no relationship between vaccines and autism. Read the studies themselves below and browse our recommended reading list.

Making the CASE for Vaccines

Click here to read and download our guide to talking about vaccines.

Read the Science

Literature Reviews: Autism and Vaccines

Vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella in children 
Cochrane Database Systematic Review
April 2020

The science of vaccine safety: Summary of meeting at Wellcome Trust
February 2020

Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study
PDF available here
Annals of Internal Medicine
March 2019

Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism
The Journal of the American Medical Association
April 2015

Safety of Vaccines Used for Routine Immunization of U.S. Children: A Systematic Review
August 2014

Vaccines are Not Associated with Autism: An Evidence-Based Meta-Analysis of Case-Control and Cohort Studies
June 2014

On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes
Smith, M and Woods, C
June 2010

Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses
Clinical Infectious Diseases
Offit, Paul and Gerber, Jeffrey S.
February 2009

Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism
Institute of Medicine
May 2004

Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: A Report of the Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines
Institute of Medicine

Vaccines in infancy and Autism:  Too Many Too Soon?”

Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?
Offit, Paul A., Quarles, Jessica, et al.

Immunization Safety Review: Multiple Immunizations and Immune Dysfunction
Institute of Medicine
February 2002

Cellular Immune Responses in Neonates

International Reviews of Immunology
Fadel S, Sarazotti M.

Neonatal and Early Life Vaccinology
Siegrist CA.

The Problem with Dr. Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule
Offit, Paul A. and Moser, Charlotte A.
January 2009

Thimerosal and Autism Studies

Neuropsychological performance 10 years after immunization in infancy with thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Tozzi AE, Bisiacchi P, Tarantino V, De Mei B, D’Elia L, Chariotti F, Salmaso S.
January 2009

Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System
Archives of General Psychiatry
Robert Schechter, MD, MSc and Judith K. Grether, PhD
January 2008

Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years
New England Journal of Medicine
Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al.
September 2007

Lack of Association Between Rh Status, Rh Immune Globulin in Pregnancy and Autism
American Journal of Medical Genetics
Judith H. Miles and T. Nicole Takahashi
May 2007

Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
Environmental Health Perspectives
Thomas M. Burbacher, PhD
April 2005

Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
John Heron and Nick Andrews, PhD and Jean Golding, DSc
September 2004

Neurotoxic Effects of Postnatal Thimerosal Are Mouse Strain Dependent
Molecular Psychiatry
M Hornig, M
June 2004

Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Database
Thomas Verstraeten, MD
November 2003

Association Between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism
Journal of the American Medical Association
Anders Hviid, MSc
October 2003

Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data
Kreesten M. Madsen, MD
September 2003

“Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: Lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association”
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Paul Stehr-Green, DrPh, MPH
August 2003

Thimerosal and Autism?
Karen Nelson, MD
March 2003

Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: A descriptive study
The Lancet
Michael Pichichero, MD
November 2002

Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine and Autism Studies

Autism occurrence by MMR vaccine status among US children with older siblings with and without autism
April 2015

Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior
Environmental Health Perspectives
February 2015

Early Exposure to the Combined Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder
January 3, 2015

Remembering How to Fight Measles
New York Times
Paul A. Offit, MD
March 2014

How to Think About the Risk of Autism
New York Times
Sam Wang, Ph.D.
March 2014

Lack of Association Between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study
PLoS One
Hornig M, Briese T, Buie T, Bauman ML, Lauwers G, et al.
September 2008

Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Archives of Disease in Childhood
Gillian Baird, F.R.C.Paed.
February 2008

Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links With Immunizations
Eric Fombonne, MD
July 2006

MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study
The Lancet
Liam Smeeth, MRCGP
September 11, 2004

Association of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
Kumanan Wilson, MD, MSc, FRCP
July 2003

Neurologic Disorders After Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination
Annamari Makela, MD
November 2002

No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism
Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych
October 2001

Autism and Other Vaccines

Maternal Influenza A(H1N1) Immunization During Pregnancy and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Offspring : A Cohort Study
Annals of Internal Medicine
October, 2020

Prenatal Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis Vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorder
October 2020

Association Between Influenza Infection and Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder
JAMA Pediatrics
January, 2017

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy in Autism Families

Beliefs about causes of autism and vaccine hesitancy among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder
September 2020

Parental attitudes and decisions regarding MMR vaccination during an outbreak of measles among an undervaccinated Somali community in Minnesota
October 2020

Vaccine Hesitancy and Attributions for Autism among Racially and Ethnically Diverse Groups of Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
Autism Research
October 2020

Interpreters’ knowledge and perceptions of childhood vaccines: Effect of an educational session
January 2020

Confirmatory bias in health decisions: Evidence from the MMR-autism controversy
Journal of Health Economics
March 2020

Autism and Vaccines in the Media

A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Outbreaks of Vaccine-Preventable Disease
From the producers of the PBS-NOVA special “Vaccines—Calling the Shots.”

On January 21st, 2011, Dr. Paul Offit was on The Colbert Report speaking about his new book, “Deadly Choices: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.” Click Here to Watch the Interview.

On September 9, 2014, ASF President Alison Singer was on The Leonard Lopate Show to talk about the risks of not vaccinating. Click here to listen to the program.

What’s Next?

If we ask the same questions we’ll get the same answers. We’ve asked the autism vaccine question over two dozen times and each time we get the same response: no relationship. We need to move on. We need to invest in studying genetics, the brain structures of children with autism, and environmental factors that may be playing a role.

Downloadable Materials

Below are three fact-sheets prepared by physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They are excellent resources to distribute at events.

Below are two tables prepared by the initiative Every Child By Two. These tables summarize the major procedures and conclusions of the most recent studies regarding autism and Thimerosal, as well as autism and the MMR vaccine.