Autism is a behavioral disorder that now affects one in every 110 kids in the US. For a long time, some parents have worried that vaccines could be a cause, but a new investigation shows that may not be true.
As a naturopathic doctor, Tamara Cullen sees a lot of young families in her Fremont practice who worry about a link.
"Parents have concerns about the additives in the vaccines and how they're prepared as well as doing so many of them at the same time," says Cullen.
In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in the Lancet medical journal linking the MMR vaccine typically given to infants around their first birthday to autism. Now it turns out it was all a lie.
According to a new investigation in the British Medical Journal, five of the 12 children in the study had developmental problems before they were vaccinated and three children didn't have autism at all.
“It's very disappointing," says Dr. Wendy Stone with the University of Washington Autism Center. “It's damaging to people who were misled. Vaccinations are very important. They protect children from very damaging harmful diseases."
Dr. Wakefield lost his medical license over the scandal, but defended his work while attending a vaccine conference in Jamaica.
"I'm not going to go away. These children are real; the experts that are here at this meeting know these children are real. They’re growing in number," says Wakefield.
Even though the research has been debunked, some people remain concerned about a vaccine-autism link.
"Autism is a multi-factorial disease and there is a possibility that vaccines are implicated in Autism," says Dr. Tamara Cullen.Dr. Wendy Stone says the latest research indicates the real cause is likely a combination of genetics and exposure to chemicals not found in vaccines.
The UW Autism Center is taking part in a national study surveying the families of 100,000 children with autism from birth to age 21 to better identify a cause. The center also is identifying new treatment methods to reduce symptoms of the behavioral disorder.