- Repetitive behavior (running around, arm flapping)
- Language skills (limited vocabulary of word approximations, one statement and reply conversations)
- Social skills (less reciprocal eye contact, less interest in peers)
As the title of this post suggests, I do not believe my son's autism was caused by vaccines. There are plenty of parents - and more importantly, virtually all medical researchers* - who would agree, but the vaccines-cause-autism side makes lots of noise. Lots. Huge media platforms such as Oprah and The Huffington Post have given widespread circulation, if not credence, to this mistaken theory.
As a result, vaccination rates are decreasing, and in some populations very steeply. Some communities are in danger of losing their herd immunity. Measles is currently spreading in England as a result of a disreputable study that claimed autism was caused by the MMR vaccine.
The most mainstream version of the vaccination causation theory is Dr. Robert Sears' (the famous Dr. Bill's youngest son) book and website, The Vaccine Book. (I feel dirty just linking to it. Thank goodness there aren't any "vaccine-friendly doctors" in Minnesota yet.)
He doesn't dive head first into crazy territory, but his Alternative Vaccination Schedule is dangerous just the same. By making it sound sensible to doubt the safety of vaccines, even by just promoting a slower schedule, he is undermining public confidence in the entire vaccination regime. This is a serious public health risk.
For anyone interested in really diving into this subject in depth, the blog Science-Based Medicine has posted a thorough take-down of Dr. Robert Sears.
* I should have said virtually all of the most respected researchers. See UPDATE II.
UPDATE: Orac himself has posted on Dr. Bob Sears. He still might not be in the crazy zone, but he is speaking at a conference full of crazies. The issue with people like Dr. Bob is that they have convinced themselves that they aren't anti-vaccine. The really believe what they are selling.
UPDATE II: I subscribe to Psychology Today's The Autism Spectrum blog. The latest post is Vaccines and Autism take 2. The author, Lindsey M. Olberman, while rejecting the theory that vaccines cause autism, has been extremely cautious about the specifics on the margins. Now, she has come out more confidently against the anti-vaccine crowd's agenda:
Prior to this meeting, when asked (and I do get asked very frequently) what I think about the autism/vaccine debate, I would always say "there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, but that for some children, it may be that vaccines either make their disorder worse or initiate a process that they were already at risk for." But now I have a slightly different perspective. At this meeting Dr. Eric Fombonne spoke about the numerous (and I mean numerous) epidemiological studies that have been done that show that children who have vaccines and those that don't, have the same risk of developing ASD.Posts from other authors I found on Psychology Today's site include: Vaccines do not cause autism and How the quack industry harms autistic children.
Though it is true that you will find support for both sides of the vaccine debate, you need to look at the credentials of the people on both sides and realize that fame and number of times these people have been on TV does not make them experts in the field.
I said in my earlier post that you can ask your pediatrician to space out the vaccines so the child's immune system doesn't have to deal with all of them at once. I was actually corrected by a immunologist who said that actually the immune system can better develop resistance when the shots are all given together. So, actually you are not helping your child by spreading them out.
UPDATE III: Science Based Medicine has created a great resource for Vaccines and Autism information.