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Vaccination Myth Regarding Autism Persists Among Many Parents

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Advocates against vaccines appear to be convincing parents of children with autism to skip getting their childhood shots, including younger siblings who don’t have the condition, a new study suggests

Ousseny Zerbo, a postdoctoral fellow with the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center at KP Northern California, in Oakland, and study author, says this means “children with autism spectrum disorder, and their siblings, may be at greater risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

There is a bigger risk, too, because of herd immunity, CBS News reports. Zerbo said, “In order to disrupt the chains of infection in a population, a large portion of the population needs to be immune to the infection. A higher vaccination rate can break those chains of infection. This is why it is important for a large proportion of the population to be vaccinated.”

Vaccine skeptics continue to believe that there is a link between childhood immunization and higher autism risks, which have been thoroughly debunked. Zerbo said,

We know through numerous scientific studies that there is no association between childhood vaccination and the incidence of autism spectrum disorders.

But despite this, Zerbo’s team found “large disparities in vaccination rates between children with and without autism spectrum disorders, as well as between their siblings.”

The researchers looked at over 590,000 children born in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state between 1995 and 2010 who were not autistic. They compared their records to 3,700 children who had autism, and tracked vaccination histories.

Among children ages four to six, the researchers found that kids with autism were “significantly less likely” to receive the complete range of recommended vaccines, compared to other children. Siblings of children with autism also showed “significantly lower” vaccination rates across all ages.

Zerbo said, “Our next steps in this research will be to better understand why parents of children with autism may be hesitant to vaccinate them and their siblings.”

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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