Vaccines do not cause autism. That was part of the message Wednesday during a symposium held at the University of North Florida.
Doctors and researchers from a world-renowned research center in Atlanta gathered on the Southside to educate local doctors about the latest scientific studies associated with autism.
The reality is, though, that many parents are still refusing to vaccinate their babies and toddlers out of concern the shots will cause the disorder.
If you Google the worlds vaccine and autism, you will likely be inundated with testimonials from some parents who are convinced their perfectly health baby developed autism because of something in the vaccine.
Dr. Celine Saulnier, the clinical director for the autism program at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, addressed those lingering concerns Wednesday.
"So the whole association between vaccines and mercury, thimerosal, the number of vaccines, is just unfounded," Saulnier said. "However, we want to make sure vaccines are safe. There have been worldwide studies. We know there are absolutely no associations of vaccines and autism. We should really be focusing our attention on what does cause autism and what doesn't."
What causes autism?
"We know it's genetically based. We know it's neurodevelopmental. We know it is unfolding over the first year of life," Saulnier said. "There are lots of studies of our own from Marcus Autism Center showing the earliest signs in the first six months of life, far before vaccines are given to babies. So I really think we need to focus on the science that is coming out right now."
Saulnier said parents should not delay or separate their vaccines because research suggests they're not the cause of autism.
"If it's a fear out of an association with autism then I say no, there is no reason to have that fear," Saulnier said. "But absolutely speak to your pediatrician about a vaccine schedule that is best for your child."
Saulnier said the myth about the cause of autism came from a study done in England several years ago suggesting there is a link between the disorder and vaccines. It spread like wildfire on the Internet, but has since been disproved. The doctor who conducted it has been discredited.
While no one knows yet what causes the disorder, there is new research that has identified signs of autism within the first months of life. For details about those signs, go to the autism center's website, Marcus.org.