A recent peer-reviewed paper that autism rates have tripled, and you just know some people will blame vaccines. But this paper doesn't link autism to vaccines, it just says that the rates have tripled in the New Jersey and New York metropolitan areas.
I wish I didn't have to write about these types of articles, especially since there is no link between vaccines and autism — it is considered settled science.
Let's take a look at this paper, and once more, remind the reader that nearly all peer-reviewed papers show that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
In a paper published on 26 January 2023, Josephine Shenouda, DrPH, MS, Department of Pediatrics, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and colleagues, using a cross-sectional study design, data from 2000 to 2016 active autism spectrum disorder (ASD) surveillance among 8-year-olds residing in the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Area were analyzed to determine ASD prevalence with and without intellectual disability (ID).
Using CDC estimates of autism rates that are based on a combination of formal medical diagnoses and records from schools and healthcare providers, the authors estimated the number of children who have been identified as having autism spectrum disorder by age 8.
Here are some of the key results:
- the researchers found that 1 in 54 children had been diagnosed with autism by age 8 in 2016, compared to 1 in 150 in 2000. That is effectively a tripling of the incidence of ASD diagnoses in this particular cohort.
- 8-year-olds diagnosed with autism who don't have ID rose more sharply than the share of those who do — a fivefold increase from 2000 to 2016.
Why the increase in ASD diagnoses?
The study's analyses did not examine why there might be such a dramatic increase in diagnoses of ASD.
The most likely reason for the increased diagnoses is that doctors have gotten better at identifying cases of autism without intellectual disability — in other words, children with average or above-average IQs who display characteristics of autism, like impaired social skills, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty communicating.
Since there is no laboratory test that provides a definitive diagnosis of ASD, the diagnosis is often subjective, based on the observational skills of physicians, parents, teachers, and others. We have become more cognizant of ASD, so we have become more aware of it in children which means that the tripling of ASD diagnosis may have nothing to do with external factors, just better education of those who observe it.
Of course, there may be some environmental triggers that have caused an increase in the incidence of ASD irrespective of improved diagnostics. We just don't know what that might be, although we do not know what it isn't.
Vaccines do not cause autism
The only reason why I have to waste my time debunking the link between vaccines and autism is a result of the fraudulent work by Mr. Andrew Wakefield, one of the biggest charlatans that we've seen in medicine.
That being said, there are over 160 peer-reviewed scientific articles that completely dismiss any link between vaccines and autism. As I said, this is settled science, and if any anti-vaxxer wants to "unsettle" the science, then they should bring robust clinical or epidemiological evidence that there is a link. And they haven't.
All the anti-vaxxers, such as James Lyons-Weiler and Christopher Exley, have done is invent imaginary mechanisms for how vaccines might be linked to ASD without actually providing us a femtogram of evidence that there is a link. In determining whether correlation (that 3X more children are diagnosed with autism) is causation (that vaccines did this), they are going about it all wrong. They have never shown correlation let alone causation.
There might be a reason for increased diagnoses of ASD, but we know that reason is not vaccines. But like I keep saying, bring real clinical or epidemiological evidence that has been published in a respected, peer-reviewed biomedical journal, and I'm willing to read it and change my mind. I'm not holding my breath.
- Shenouda J, Barrett E, Davidow AL, Sidwell K, Lescott C, Halperin W, Silenzio VMB, Zahorodny W. Prevalence and Disparities in the Detection of Autism Without Intellectual Disability. Pediatrics. 2023 Jan 26:e2022056594. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-056594. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36700335.
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