Report rejects childhood vaccines as a cause of autism

A pivotal report issued today by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) rejects childhood vaccines as a cause of autism. The findings, based on reviews of current scientific evidence, are a significant affirmation of vaccine safety, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "For most parents, today's report should assure them of the safety of vaccines," said AAP President Carden Johnston, MD. "There's no doubt we must find the causes of autism, but we need to target other more promising research areas.

The Academy supports aggressive research into the causes, treatment and prevention of autism." The IOM report can be added to numerous other scientific reviews and studies that came to the same conclusion using the latest data: neither vaccines, specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, nor thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was in some childhood vaccines, cause autism.

In 1999, the AAP and the U.S. Public Health Service called for vaccine manufacturers to remove thimerosal from vaccines in response to a desire to reduce, where possible, the exposure of the population to all sources of heavy metals including mercury. Although there was never evidence of toxicity from the use of ethyl mercury-containing thimerosal used as a preservative in some childhood vaccines, reducing child exposure to mercury in any form was considered important.

Today, vaccines routinely given to young children are either completely free of thimerosal or have only trace amounts. The now-routinely recommended influenza vaccine for healthy children ages 6 months to 23 months, a population at increased risk of flu-related hospitalization, does contain smaller amounts of thimerosal but is also available in limited supplies without thimerosal as a preservative.

Manufacturers are working to remove thimerosal from those flu vaccines containing the preservative. The AAP recommends infants and children be vaccinated to protect them from 12 vaccine preventable diseases. This year, the AAP began recommending the flu vaccine for healthy children ages 6 months to 23 months, a population at increased risk of flu-related hospitalization. "Parents shouldn't kid themselves. Diseases like measles haven't disappeared," Dr. Johnston said. "They are kept at bay through widespread vaccination. At any time, an unvaccinated child could contract one of these dangerous and life-threatening diseases.

This report will help parents make an informed decision to fully immunize their children." The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 57,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org

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