How vaccines work and why we thought they caused autism: a simple explanation

how do vaccines work

Vaccines are generally a weak version of a disease-causing pathogen. This version doesn’t cause infection but still resembles the original pathogen enough to trigger the immune system to fight it.

When the weak pathogen is introduced into the body, the immune system produces specific antibodies and a sort of immunological “memory” for the future.

why we thought vaccines caused autism

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and his coworkers published a report that suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may make children more likely to develop autism.

They used 12 people in their study (a super small sample size), there was no control in the design of the study, and conclusions were so wild that the group was forced to retract the paper.

Wakefield was found guilty of deliberate fraud (he picked and chose data that supported his hypothesis, and he falsified facts). He lost his medical license for unethical behavior, misconduct and dishonesty.

Yet, the conclusions tapped into the fears of millions of parents who struggling with the decision to vaccinate.

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