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Autism and Vaccinations

Gabriel and Courtney Brandrup at this years state special olympics held in Ames, Iowa at ISU. Photo by Megan Brandrup

Gabriel and Courtney Brandrup at this years state special olympics held in Ames, Iowa at Iowa State University. Photo by Megan Brandrup

By Megan Brandrup

The idea vaccines can be linked to autism is a fairly new idea. The first time this issue was presented was in 1998, in the medical journal, “The Lancet.” The original report stated there was a link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination, usually given to infants, and how it leads to autism.

This theory was later debunked by many medical professionals. However, a link was later found between autism and having high levels of mercury in the body. Mercury, was a trace element in many childhood vaccines, but were later reformulated to remove thimerosal (a common preservative in vaccines). With these changes the debate subsided for a while.

A main reason this issue is still being debated has a lot to do with the ever growing autism rates, and the lack of an explanation for what is causing it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 1 in 68 Americans have some form of autism. The CDC also estimates 1 percent of people in the world have a disorder on the autism spectrum.

Autism has become something more Americans have become familiar with. With every 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is likely most individuals directly know someone who is affected by autism.

I have a personal connection to autism. My younger brother Gabriel was diagnosed with autism at age three. Now a teenager, Gabe has faced many challenges and hardships trying to lead a normal life and cope with the struggles of having delayed social skills. Courtney Brandrup, Gabriel’s mother, and my own, has always believed there is a definite connection between vaccines and autism.

“He was a normal and happy baby until he was vaccinated. After that, he was never the same,” said Brandrup. Courtney believes mercury levels in ones body can be directly linked to the development of autism. “Having such high levels of mercury in your body has got to be a factor. I don’t know how anyone could be completely able to function on a normal level with that much toxicity in your blood,” said Brandrup.

Today, the CDC still holds to their original message that vaccines, or any ingredients in the vaccines, do not cause autism. On the CDC’s website they say, “Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD.”

They use a 2011 study by the Institute of Medicine to back up their claim. The study concluded that every childhood vaccination was completely safe and none of the ingredients could be linked to ASD.

A 2013 CDC study added to the research showing vaccines do not cause ASD. This study analyzed the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The study concluded these antigens did not, in fact, lead to the development of ASD.

In my opinion, I believe there is still more research needed in order for a verdict to be reached. However, no matter how much evidence you present, people will always believe what they want to believe. I don’t think a unanimous opinion will be reached until an actual cause has been found. I do however believe the idea of mercury levels in one’s body may affect whether or not they develop ASD. I believe it also has a lot to do with the individual and their tolerances to certain vaccines and the chemicals used in these vaccines.

Autism is something many people are still trying to understand. “Just because Gabriel has autism, it does not mean he is different,” said Brandrup. “It just means it takes him longer to adjust in certain situations.”

Until the cause of autism is found, many who have not taken a side about ASD will be unsure of what to believe and uncertain of who’s word they should trust.