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Autism and Vaccines

Written by Olivia Cerf.

Because the first symptoms of autism are often reported shortly after vaccination, there is a lot of debate about a possible causal relationship.
The ingredients and practices under scrutiny for causality are:


Thimerosal is an antibacterial preservative found in many vaccinations, including some flu vaccines and one brand of the DTaP vaccine. It contains 49% ethyl mercury. Points worth considering are:

  • A 2003 study in Denmark showed that the incidence of autism rose even after Thimerosal was removed from vaccines.1
  • Since 2000, Thimerosal content in vaccines has been phased out, and now exists only in a few vaccines in trace levels. No reduction in incidence has occurred. Some vaccines commonly recomended for children which still contain trace levels of Thimerosal as of 2010 are:
    • Fluzone, multi-dose (.01%)
    • Fluvirin, multi-dose (.01%)
    • Afluria, multi-dose (.01%)2


Mercury, present in the vaccine preservative Thimerosal, is a likely contributor to autism, though it is unknown whether vaccines or other environmental exposure are the actual culprit. Symptoms of mercury exposure and autism are similar, including social impairments, depression, anxiety, and neurosis. In addition to the small amounts found in vaccines, mercury can be found in

  • Polluted air, soil, dust, and water caused by
    • mercury mining and ore processing,
    • coal combustion for power production
    • chlor-alkali industries
  • fish and seafood
    • As of 2009, the most contaminated fish included king mackerel, swordfish, shark and tilefish.
  • common food ingredients such as

Human DNA in the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

In 1979, a new version of the MMR vaccine was introduced that did not contain Thimerosal. The rubella component this new version of the MMR vaccine was propagated in a human cell line derived from embryonic lung tissue, meaning that it contained human DNA. An additional spike in incidence of autism occurred in 1995 when the chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.

Vaccination Schedules

Some doctors and researchers recommend administrating the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines separately, about a year apart from each other. In theory, this would reduce the severity of any side effects while improving the effectiveness of each vaccine.3

A Note on the Immune System and Vaccines

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, clinician and founder of the GAPS diet, does not believe that vaccines cause autism, but rather cause the latent disease to express itself. Because the immune systems of autistic children are almost always compromised due to imbalanced gut flora, they are overwhelmed by the introduction of vaccines. This, in her opinion, may lead to the first symptoms of autism.4


1Madsen, K.M., Lauritsen, M. B., Pedersen, C. B., Thorsen, P., Plesner, A.M., Andersen, P.H. & Mortensen, P. B. "Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data", Pediatrics 3, no 112 (2003): 604–6.

2“Thimerosal in vaccines,”, 31 March 2010,

3Ratajczak, Helen. "Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes—A review", Journal of Immunotoxicology 8, no 1 (2011): 68-79.

4Campbell-Mcbride, Natasha. "Gut and Psychology Syndrome", Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 23, no. 2 (2008): 90-94.

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