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Immunizations and Autism: A Review of the Literature

  • Asif Doja (a1) and Wendy Roberts (a2)

Because of a temporal correlation between the first notable signs and symptoms of autism and the routine childhood vaccination schedule, many parents have become increasingly concerned regarding the possible etiologic role vaccines may play in the development of autism. In particular, some have suggested an association between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine and autism. Our literature review found very few studies supporting this theory, with the overwhelming majority showing no causal association between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine and autism. The vaccine preservative thimerosal has alternatively been hypothesized to have a possible causal role in autism. Again, no convincing evidence was found to support this claim, nor for the use of chelation therapy in autism. With decreasing uptake of immunizations in children and the inevitable occurrence of measles outbreaks, it is important that clinicians be aware of the literature concerning vaccinations and autism so that they may have informed discussions with parents and caregivers.


Plusieurs parents s’inquiètent que des vaccins puissent jouer un rôle étiologique dans le développement de l’autisme à cause d’une corrélation temporelle entre les premiers signes et symptômes décelables de l’autisme et le calendrier vaccinal. Une association entre le vaccine contre la rougeole, les oreillons et la rubéole et l‘autisme a été suggérée. Cette revue de la littérature a retrouvé peu d’études à l’appui de cette théorie, la très grande majorité des études ne démontrant pas d’association entre ce vaccine et l’autisme. On a d’autre part émis l’hypothèse d’un lien causal possible entre le thimerosal, un agent de conservation, et l’autisme. Là non plus, nous n’avons pas trouvé de données convaincantes à l’appui de cette hypothèse ou du traitement par chélation dans l’autisme. Avec la diminution du taux d’immunisation chez les enfants et l’apparition inévitable d’épidémies de rougeole, il est important que les cliniciens soient au courant de la littérapture portant sur la vaccination et l’autisme afin qu’ils puissent en discuter en connaissance de cause avec les parents et les soignants.

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Corresponding author
Division of Neurology, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, 401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8L1, Canada
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