According to some lay groups, the nation is experiencing an autism epidemic a rapid
escalation in the prevalence of autism for unknown reasons. However, no sound scientific
evidence indicates that the increasing number of diagnosed cases of autism arises from
anything other than purposely broadened diagnostic criteria, coupled with greater public
awareness and intentionally improved case finding.
Read the article “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” by Heyworth (2011), and write a two
page summary explaining the reasons why the public perceives vaccinations to be the cause
of the increase in autism.
If you are having trouble finding the article, consider searching for the author rather than
the title in the
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center database. To better help you, the reference is
Heyworth, K.K. (2011). Vaccines do not cause autism. Ed. Haugen, D., & Musser, S.
Detroit: Greenhaven Press. Retrieved from the Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center
NOTE: Although you are welcome to state your personal opinion on this topic, please
discuss this article using the scientific theories covered in this unit.
Vaccines do not cause autism: Heyworth, K 2011
The controversy in vaccination is related with ethics, morality, safety and effectiveness of
the drug. Contrary to increasing public perception of vaccines as the main cause of autism,
scientific evidence with regard to vaccinations indicates that there are many benefits derived
from immunizations. Prevention of death and suffering that arise from serious infectious diseases
outweigh the consequences of immunization. Opponents of vaccinations have long argued that
vaccines are ineffective, dangerous and a violation of religious ethics or individual rights. These
perceptions and arguments had some people and communities neglecting the use of vaccination.
This has subsequently led to the increased outbreak of infectious diseases that would have
otherwise been preventable. This paper is a summary of Heyworth’s (2011) article “Vaccines do
PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON AUTISM 2
not cause Autism” on why the citizens have continued to perceive that vaccination is the cause of
increased autism disorders among children.
According to Heyworth (2011), many people in US have a perception that vaccines are
the main cause of autism. The author has also in this article explained on what happens when
parents refuse to immunize their kids against serious diseases such as rubella, mumps and
measles. The rate of vaccination in the America has however, remained to be stable in the last
ten years. In fact by 2012, around 76% of children in the state that were aged 19-35 months had
passed through all their vaccination shots. However, that is still below the government’s goal of
ensuring that at least 80% of children receive vaccination. There are some regions of the country
where parents are avoiding immunization of their children, delaying some shots or skipping
some of them altogether. Among the issues cited as some of the reasons for doing so includes:
philosophical exemptions of state laws that require each child to be vaccinated before beginning
schooling and religious principles. This has consequently led to the increased outbreak of serious
infectious diseases. Majority of these diseases which includes: pertussis, mumps, whooping
cough measles, and haemophilus influenzae had been virtually cleared out by these vaccines.
However, the standpoint with regard to immunization has been with regard to increased
perceptions that vaccinations are the main cause of autism among children. There are many
parents in US who are convinced that vaccination is harmful to their kids (Though this aspect has
no scientific basis). From their concerns, autism happens to be the main cause of worry for most
of such parents. The perception is also related with the issue that at present, children now get
twice the number of vaccines they used to get some twenty years ago. In addition, these kids can
receive more than 20 injections just in their first birthday. According to such parents, the
PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON AUTISM 3
increased vaccination and injections is among other factors to blame for increased rate of autism
disorder in these children.
The strong public perception that vaccines do cause autism according to Heyworth, are
fuelled by some unproved findings from some researchers. For instance, a gastroenterologist
from Britain, Wakefield Rew presented in the Lancet, a study of 12 children which related
rubella, measles, mumps and vaccine combinations with intestinal problems which he believed
resulted into autism disorder. It was just the following year after the release of such results when
the AAP conducted public awareness that most vaccines offered to children contained
thimerosal, a mercury preservative. Though the warnings did not link the preservative to Autism
directly, it claimed that the presence of thimerosal in the vaccines theoretically led to the children
being exposed to a neurotoxin and autism above the safe limits. Further, there were also
recommendations that the preservatives be removed from the vaccine components. The
hypothesis in the vaccine and autism link was further strengthened and led to the increased
public perception against vaccination when a popular actress McCarthy Jenny went public that it
was vaccines, which caused autism on her son. She vividly pointed out at the Opra Winfrey
Show the heartbreaking detail of her son’s demise from autism. McCarthy’s incident led to
anxiety among the public concerning the effects of vaccines to kids.
Ever since Wakefield Andrew introduced his infamous study back in 1998, the
controversy surrounding vaccine -autism has been growing. However, though scientists have
worked hard to find the relation of autism to childhood vaccination, they have not been able to
find any of such links. This has made Wakefield research to be retracted. The vaccine-autism
debate is an illustration that public health programs are mostly underlined by reliance on
scientific opinions. However, what is most forgotten in this case is the fact that scientific
PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON AUTISM 4
opinions may not be an effective strategy to persuading the public. As Heyworth continues to
articulate, the scientific and political mismanagement of the conflict between the vaccination and
autism perceptions as well as a refusal to acknowledge the social context of the circumstances
have created more conflicts in this arena. In addition to these, it has also created a potency that is
far beyond what scientific opinions could guarantee.
PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON AUTISM 5
Heyworth, K.K. (2011). “Vaccines do not cause autism” Ed. Haugen, D., & Musser, S.