Vaccination Choices for Families with Autism
Updated: November 2011
Authors: The TACA Physician Advisory Board - Dr. Bob Sears, M.D. & Dr. David Berger, M.D.
Families affected by autism face some tough decisions regarding vaccination, not only for their child with autism, but for other children in the family as well. TACA supports informed consent and parental choice for all aspects of medical care for minor children. While TACA cannot ultimately tell you what to do, there are some important factors that we want you to consider as you make an informed decision in consultation with your personal physician:
1. Use Thimerosal/Mercury free vaccines!! Mercury was removed from the majority of vaccines in 2002/2003. The injectable flu vaccine is the only routine childhood vaccination that currently has a large dose of mercury (12 to 25 micrograms per dose). Some companies make mercury-free flu vaccines as well. Some older versions of the plain tetanus vaccine and diphtheria/tetanus vaccine in large 10-dose bottles are preserved with mercury, but these vaccines aren’t used in the routine schedule. A few vaccines have a trace amount of mercury (less than 1% of what is in a flu shot), such as plain tetanus and diphtheria/tetanus vaccines in small single-dose vials and the Tripedia brand of DTaP vaccine. But overall, the only vaccine on the routine pediatric schedule that has the full dose of mercury now is certain brands of the flu shot.
- The most up-to-date resource that discloses which vaccines still contain ethylmercury is this list from John’s Hopkins: http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/thi-table.htm
2. Do not vaccinate newborns. Most newborns are offered the hepatitis B vaccine on the day of birth to protect against this sexually-transmitted infection. Unless a mother or father is a carrier of hepatitis B (about 1% of the U.S. adult population is Hep B positive), a newborn baby has little to no risk of contracting this blood-born and sexually-transmitted infection. Consider delaying this vaccine until a later age to avoid possible side effects of fever, lethargy, poor feeding, and irritability which can be alarming symptoms for a newborn baby.
3. Avoid re-immunization with a vaccine after a previous severe reaction, as subsequent reactions can become worse. Severe reactions to watch for include extreme inconsolable crying for three or more hours, high fever (104 or higher), extreme lethargy, seizures, or other neurological symptoms.
4. Make sure your child is healthy at the time of vaccination.
- If your child is ill at the time that a vaccination is due, wait until he is fully recovered. It is best to wait two weeks after the child is well and 100% back to normal, as well as waiting two weeks after the last dose of antibiotics if they were given, prior to proceeding with vaccinations.
- If your child is suffering from moderate to severe allergies (moderate to severe skin rashes, sinus and respiratory allergies, or active asthma), has an active neurological disorder (such as uncontrolled seizures or autism), chronic diarrhea, or any type of active inflammatory condition, consider delaying vaccines until these are under control. Children who are fighting such chronic medical conditions may be more susceptible to unwanted effects of vaccines.
5. Consider delaying vaccines in children diagnosed with (or suspected of having) autism, asthma, moderate to severe allergies, other inflammatory disorders, etc. Children with such disorders maybe more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals and heavy metals, and vaccines may pose some extra risks to these children.
6. Give immune boosters before and after vaccines. Vitamin A, C, and D and probiotics may improve immune function and assist the immune system in processing vaccines. They may also decrease the risk of vaccine reactions. Talk with your health care provider or review one of the resources provided below for more information.
7. Consider following an alternate vaccine schedule. Vaccination isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. Parents who are concerned or confused about vaccines can choose to spread the vaccines out, limit the number of vaccines given at one time, or delay certain vaccines until a later age. Aluminum, a metal that is added to about half of the routine childhood vaccines, has some controversy surrounding it, and alternative vaccine schedules are one way to limit the amount of aluminum during the early years of a child’s life. The resources listed below offer alternative vaccine recommendations.
8. Do not give a vaccine if allergic or sensitive to any of its components.
9. Consider checking vaccine titers before doing booster doses. Children are recommended to receive booster doses between 15 and18 months and prior to kindergarten. Some kids, however, will still have plenty of immunity from their infant vaccines and may not need these boosters. A blood test (called a titer) can be done prior to the boosters to see if they are really needed, and some of the boosters may be delayed for several more years if the titer tests reveal good immunity.
10. Understand your state vaccine laws. Vaccines are not mandatory in most states. Only West Virginia and Mississippi have mandatory vaccine laws; in these two states a person can only decline vaccines for medical reasons and with a medical exemption from a doctor. In all other states, parents can delay or decline vaccines for religious reasons, and in about 20 states parents can decline vaccines simply for personal reasons. Even though schools will post vaccine requirements for admission, such requirements are only absolute in West Virginia and Mississippi. You can find up-to-date state vaccine law information at the following website: http://www.nvic.org/Vaccine-Laws/state-vaccine-requirements.aspx
TACA is for informed consent and parental choice when it comes to any medical decision. Parents should use every tool available to them and detailed discussion with their child’s doctor to outline the right choices for their family.
These recommendations are based on great books for all parents/grandparents/caretakers:
- Make an Informed Vaccine Decision for the Health of Your Child: A Parent's Guide to Childhood Shots by Mayer Eisenstein, MD, JD (paperback, January 2011)
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinationsby Stephanie Cave, MD (paperback, 2010)
- The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Sears Parenting Library), by Robert Sears, MD, FAAP, (paperback, updated 2011)
- Evidence of Harm, (2007) by David Kirby
Disclaimer: Talk About Curing Autism general information of interest to the autism community. The information comes from a variety of sources, and TACA does not independently verify any of it. Nothing should be construed as medical or legal advice. Always consult with your child’s doctor regarding his or her individual needs. TACA does not engage in lobbying or other political activities.