Survey confirms parents' fears, confusion over autism

October 3, 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 research.fit.edu/autismconference

Source: Florida Institute of Technology

Explore further: Study offers new clues about why some parents are against vaccinating their kids

Related Stories

Study offers new clues about why some parents are against vaccinating their kids

December 6, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in the U.S. has found a possible new explanation of some parents' reluctance to have their children vaccinated. In their paper published in the ...

High cognitive ability not a safeguard from conspiracies, paranormal beliefs

November 14, 2017
The moon landing and global warming are hoaxes. The U.S. government had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.

Vaccines prevent millions of infections, save billions in costs: CDC

March 3, 2014
(HealthDay)—Childhood vaccines have the potential to prevent 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease among Americans born in a given year, according to a new analysis.

Study links GI symptoms and autism in children

August 5, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Five-year-old Veer Patel was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in October 2010. Typical of children "on the spectrum," he manages best with a rigid, unchanging daily routine. Unfortunately, ...

Vaccine coverage high in U.S., but measles outbreaks a concern: CDC

September 13, 2013
(HealthDay)—Vaccination rates among America's children remain high, despite a serious resurgence of measles among unvaccinated children and adults, health officials reported Thursday.

Another study finds no link between vaccine, autism

April 21, 2015
Yet another scientific study has found no link between autism and the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), according to US research published on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Onions could hold key to fighting antibiotic resistance

January 22, 2018
A type of onion could help the fight against antibiotic resistance in cases of tuberculosis, a UCL and Birkbeck-led study suggests.

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

x646d63
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?
barakn
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.
EmeraldSky33
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.
superhuman
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.
finfife
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.
finfife
not rated yet Oct 06, 2008
A reference for my assertion that MMR never contained thimerosal:

http://www.fda.go...osal.htm
finfife
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."
Velanarris
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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.