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Posted by on Feb 4, 2009 in Ethics, Infectious diseases, Neuropsychiatry, Pediatrics

Vaccines and Autism: Shooting Down the “Too Many, Too Soon” Argument

Vaccines and Autism: Shooting Down the “Too Many, Too Soon” Argument


In yet another effort to refute the shifting arguments of those who maintain that vaccines cause autism, CHOP physicians Jeffrey Gerber and Paul Offit take on the latest rant of “too many, too soon,” in the February 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

This most recently developed theory of antivaccinationists proposes that simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines somehow affects (overwhelms, weakens, etc) a child’s immune system, which in turn leads to some sort of neurologic effect that triggers autism. The big problem with this theory, as Gerber and Offit rightly note, is that there is no evidence that autism is an immune-mediated (or specifically autoimmune-mediated) disease.

Their counterarguments, with respect to vaccines:

  • They do not overwhelm or weaken even a new infant’s immune systemwhich, although immature, can generate “a vast array of protective responses.”
  • The total immunologic load of currently recommended vaccines (14) is actually much less than that of recommended vaccines administered in 1980 (7)all thanks to advances in protein chemistry and DNA technology.
  • Vaccines actually represent a tiny fraction of the immunologic challenges (eg, all those environmental antigens running around) that a child typically encounters.
  • Vaccines don’t “weaken” the immune system, as evidenced by the equivalent susceptibility to infections* among vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
  • Last, there are no clinical data** to support the idea that spreading out or reducing the number of childhood vaccinations reduces the incidence of autism.

* Non-vaccine preventable.

** And for good reason, because such a study would be unethical.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.