Vaccines cause autism.
Or at least that is what we hear day in day out, splashed across the internet from groups of people who fail to grasp the essence of peer review science.
How can we engage with a community who view ‘science’ with such outright suspicion? With name calling, conspiracy theories, natural immunity, and a recent survey saying that scientific pro-vaccine messages don’t work, what can the scientific community do to show the world that there is no vaccine-autism link?
We’ve decided to play the antivaccine mob at their own game. If a mere correlation is enough to show vaccines cause autism, then there are alot more things in the world to be worried about:
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The number of vaccines given to young children has risen substantially over the last two decades. During the same period, the number children diagnosed with autism has increased substantially, with the CDC just a few weeks ago increasing the likely hood of autism from 1-in-88 children to 1-in-68.
The bizarre thing is, even if we step away from the science behind vaccine safety, there still is not a case to be made. The CDC note that the number of children diagnosed with autism varies from 1-in-175 children in Alabama, to 1-in-45 children in New Jersey. The funny thing is that Alabama’s vaccine coverage for children between 19-35 months is 10.17% higher than New Jersey’s coverage.
The divergence between Alabama and NJ in terms of autism diagnoses vs. vaccine coverage suggests that the number of autism diagnoses rises regardless of vaccinations. A better explanation for this exponential increase in autism diagnoses is that it is cultural. It is a feature of our ever changing approach to medicine and our changing environments.
From rising levels of child neglect, to improved screening methods, or changes in the definition of autism. Many of these things can account for rising autism levels, as well as the apparent 400% increase in mental health problems amongst the US population, or the increasing number students labelled with dyslexia.
The moral of the story: correlation is not causation.