Nokyoung Xayasane
November 09, 2012

Flu Vaccine Controversies: Can the Flu Shot Cause Autism and Disability? (VIDEOS)


The flu season is in full swing. A lot of people are getting their flu vaccinations in health clinics, doctor’s offices and hospitals. And, although there is no scientific evidence that the flu vaccine can make you sick, controversies around flu vaccines still exist.

Besides the worries that the flu vaccine may actually give you the flu, there have been some other heavily debated issues. The two main concerns have been autism and neurological disorders.

A case for autism?

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The main spokesperson for Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccination movement, has been actress Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy blames childhood vaccinations for her son Evan’s autism (although it’s now believed that he was misdiagnosed and actually has Laudau-Kleffner syndrome). The foundation is highly controversial, because it links autism and neurological disorders to childhood vaccinations.

Those who are in the anti-vaccination group blame thimerosal, which is a mercury preservative found in vaccines that were produced prior to 2000, for the issues they allege vaccines cause. However, thimerosal has never been used in vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella, though it is still used in diptheria shots, hepatitis B and flu shots.

There has been no scientific evidence that flu shots cause autism, although, anti-vaccination rhetoric is still popular.

International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) and the Institute for Medicine in the U.S. have stated that “the alleged adverse health effects from thimerosal in vaccines has never been substantiated.”

To date, research has shown that “there is no link between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism or other behavior disorders.” The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) shares the same view.

Can the flu shot cause neurological disorders?

Closely linked to the autism concern is the case of Desiree Jennings, who began experiencing a neurological disorder 10 days after getting the flu shot. She was diagnosed with dystonia disorder, which is marked by jerky movements, uncontrollable muscle spasms and impaired speech.

Jennings blamed the flu shot for her rare disorder. Some argue that her symptoms were a hoax. The doctor who diagnosed her stated that the symptoms may be psychogenic (originating from her mind and not from physiological effects).

It seems that she is now recovering after receiving treatment from the controversial Dr. Rashid A. Buttar. The former Red Skins cheerleader was put into contact with Dr. Buttar through Jenny McCarthy’s foundation Generation Rescue.

Many people question his actions and are trying to restrict the his medical license.

As with autism, many blame thimerosal for causing or triggering neurological disorders. Thimerosal is a mercury based perservative, and it is true that large quantities of mercury can damage the brain and the kidneys.

However, methylmercury is the culprit for this damage and vaccines do not contain methylmercury, but rather ethylmercury. These two forms act differently within the human body. The Public Health Agency of Canada states, “Ethylmercury is eliminated more quickly and is less likely to reach toxic levels.” Also, there is only a small amount of this preservative in flu vaccines and it has not been known to cause harm.

Should I get the flu shot?


It’s clear that the issue of flu vaccines is hotly debated. Each camp has their own strong opinions about the vaccine’s potential side effects. It should be made clear that the link between vaccinations and neurological and behavioral disorders has not been proven.

Some people experience soreness at the injection site and others have reported low grade fevers. Ultimately, the decision to get the flu shot is up to you.

For more information about the flu vaccine, check out Flu Vaccine: Smart or Scary.

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