Donald Trump was a strong believer of vaccines causing Autism. His views have been widely publicized, through his favorite medium, Twitter. Speaking publicly multiple times, he is actually perpetuating the notion of a link/relationship which has been scientifically proven to be untrue.
Autism controversy, no link between aluminium in vaccines and Autism, researchers criticized
There was a recent study published here on ScienceDirect which linked some components of vaccines as a factor which is related to the development of Autism like behaviors in mice. However, that study could potentially be removed from the journal after multiple other scientists and researchers discovered fake data, coupled with an incorrect study design, methodology and analysis.
Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic of the University of British Columbia hinted that certain elements in vaccines (such as aluminium) could trigger immune responses and spark off the growth of Autism. Both of them have been trying to prove a relationship between the toxic effects of aluminium in vaccines and the development of Autism but many other studies published found no such proof. Their unwavering crusade continues, but with increasingly harsher criticisms from the community (peers, experts and even the WHO). In actual fact, the WHO even denounced the research done by Shaw and Tomljenovic in 2012, labeling them “seriously flawed“, citing the work that has been done by FDA to verify and confirm that there are no harmful effects of having aluminium in vaccines, supported by robust clinical trials and epidemiological evidence.
Constant repeated criticisms in the community targeted at the researchers
3 years after being called out by the WHO, criticisms erupted again, with prominent scientist and researcher, David Juurlink who is the head of the division of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center questioning the inferences which both Shaw and Tomljenovic drew. Just one year after in 2016, the study by the pair of researchers was pulled and fully revoked from the medical journal, Vaccine. The study was however, published after revisions in the journal, Immunological Research.
The new study (link above) has drew additional and fresh criticisms, with a range of issues such as inaccurate statistical analysis method, incorrect survey design, unsound assessment of gene activity being called out. One particular noteworthy point was that research for the study was funded by private foundations which question the safety of vaccines.
Who is right, and is there really a link between Autism and vaccines?
The sad truth is that with so many opinions and perspectives, there is still no reasonable and solid evidence that either party is right. Many studies have been done, some supporting Shaw and Tomljenovic, and others going against them. One quality which is quite respectable in this pair of researchers is their commitment to continue research despite some major criticisms and voices from the community, and even WHO.
While there are certainly some gaps in their study, and some careless omissions, it takes significant courage to continue research in the face of so much animosity. That in itself, shows their determination to uncover the medical truth. On that note, we are inspired by this story. One particularly somber comment made by Shaw was “But, much like other medical interventions, vaccines are not completely safe for all people, nor under all circumstances“.
The human body is one of the most complex topic in modern sciences, and perhaps one day, a universal cure can be realized. Until that happens, we need more scientists and researchers who are not afraid to question prevalent beliefs. It might turn out to be for naught, but it could also be potentially rewarding in advancing medical sciences.