Survey confirms parents' fears, confusion over autism

Oct 03, 2008

The first national survey of attitudes toward autism reveals that a small but significant percentage of people still believe the disease is caused by childhood vaccines. The survey of 1000 randomly selected adults was conducted for the Florida Institute of Technology.

Nearly one in four (24 percent) said that because vaccines may cause autism it was safer not to have children vaccinated at all. Another 19 percent were not sure. This at a time when the Centers for Disease Control reports that autism affects one in 150 children born in the United States.

Scientists say there is no evidence linking vaccines and autism, but the lingering fear is leading to fewer parents having their children vaccinated and a growing number of measles infections. The New York Times reported in August that measles cases in the first seven months of 2008 grew at the fastest rate in more than a decade and cases in Britain, Switzerland, Israel and Italy are said to be soaring.

The public's concern over vaccines stems from a controversial 1998 British study linking autism and the MMR vaccine, which at the time contained the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. The study was later retracted by most of its authors and thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001, but responses to the just-completed survey show the public is still confused.

Florida Institute of Technology commissioned the survey, which asked specifically about the link between the preservative and autism. Nineteen percent of the respondents agreed with the statement "Autism is caused by a preservative once found in childhood vaccines." An additional 43 percent were not sure, meaning fewer than half (38 percent) of the respondents believe no link exists between the vaccine and autism.

Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that the cause of autism is unknown, according to Florida Tech Assistant Professor of Psychology Celeste Harvey. More than three in four respondents (76 percent) to the national survey agree with the statement: "At this time, scientists don't know exactly what causes autism."

"Fear of the unknown, coupled with anxiety over the growing incidence of the disease, may be leading people to draw their own conclusions," said Harvey.

The first national survey of the public's knowledge and understanding of Autism was conducted for the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Fla. The survey includes responses from 1000 men and women, 21 years old or older, randomly selected from throughout the nation. The poll has a plus or minus 3.1 percent confidence interval at a 95 percent level of confidence. The telephone interviews were conducted between August 1 and August 29 by GDA Education Research, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

In addition to asking whether a link exists between autism and childhood vaccines, the survey explored people's knowledge of the disease, their exposure to people with autism and their support for early intervention programs. More results of the survey will be released at the Institute's 2008 Autism Conference on Friday, Oct. 3, in Melbourne. More information can be found at

Source: Florida Institute of Technology

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User comments : 8

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3.5 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2008
I asked my doctor for a list of ingredients in the vaccine she was about to inject in my child and she could not produce a list. How should i feel about that?
3 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2008
I think you should have felt suspicious and angry and denied the vaccine, increasing the risk of your child contracting a fatal disease on the off-chance that the vaccine company had slipped arsenic, plutonium, and Limburger cheese into the vaccine.
not rated yet Oct 03, 2008
The simple fact that the doctor cannot produce a list of the ingredients does not mean that anything harmful is in the vaccine. Nor does it mean that there is a pharmaceutical company cover-up. Maybe it just means that no one else has ever asked, so she didn't think to obtain an ingredients list. I think it's best to save suspicion until it's really necessary.
not rated yet Oct 04, 2008
Yes, I think parents have the right to know, although its not so much doctor's fault or anyones bad will.

The whole controversy over vaccines is relatively new, those are one of the best things ever produced by the medicine, not many things changed the world for the better like vaccines did.

You can deny the vaccine for the time being, write down its name and company and then google it, you can also try emailing the company or asking the doctor to obtain the ingredient list. Then when you know whats in it have it given to your child.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2008
"The public's concern over vaccines stems from a controversial 1998 British study linking autism and the MMR vaccine, which at the time contained the mercury-based preservative thimerosal."

No. The MMR vaccine has NEVER contained thimerosal.

The hysterias over vaccines in the U.S. and the U.K. have different origins and trajectories. The U.K. scare was touched off by the study mentioned (Wakefield, et al.). It was all about measles virus from the vaccine infecting and damaging the gut.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2008
A reference for my assertion that MMR never contained thimerosal:

not rated yet Oct 06, 2008
Florida Institute of Technology subsequently corrected the 3rd paragraph to read:

"The public's concern over vaccines stems from a controversial 1998 British study linking autism and the MMR vaccine. Other childhood vaccines at the time contained the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. The British study was later retracted by most of its authors and thimerosal was removed from nearly all childhood vaccines in 2001, but responses to the just-completed survey show the public is still confused."
not rated yet Oct 08, 2008
In the US the FDA requires ingredient lists for every packaged food available.

Even water bottles have to have a nutritional label, and it's just water. The fact doctors cannot produce a list of ingredients in vaccinations that have been in common use for years is rather disturbing whether they're harmful or not.

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