In 2005, when I read Robert F. Kennedy’s Rolling Stone article about the supposed link between autism and Thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) found in childhood vaccines, I was deeply concerned. I send copies of that persuasive and detailed article to several friends. New evidence strongly there is no link, however. Even more than the epidemiological studies, consider this observations, as reported by Discover Magazine:
[A]lthough thimerosal is no longer present in any recommended childhood vaccines save the inactivated influenza vaccine—and hasn’t been, beyond trace amounts, since 2001—no one is hailing the end of autism. “If you thought thimerosal was related to autism, then the incidence of autism should have gone down,” Harvard’s McCormick explains. “And it hasn’t.”
Given that we haven’t been injecting our children full of Thimerosal since 2001, we should be seeing a significant decrease in autism (if the anti-Thimerosal crowed were right). We aren‘t seeing any decrease in rates of autism, however. This lack of correlation seems compelling to me. As indicated in the Discover article, there are many reasons for getting your young children vaccinated.
The CDC estimates that thanks to vaccines, we have reduced morbidity by 99 percent or more for smallpox, diphtheria, measles, polio, and rubella. Averaged over the course of the 20th century, these five diseases killed nearly 650,000 people annually. They now kill fewer than 100.
There is now one less big reason for refusing to do get your children vaccinated: There is no link between the Thimerosal used in childhood vaccinations and autism. As reported by the Discover article, however, the urban legend prevails that Thimerosal causes autism.