It’s understandable that parents of children with autism, like parents of children with any developmental problem, want to know what caused it–and often want to know who’s to blame. Unfortunately, in the case of autism and childhood immunizations, a combination of greed, bad logic, and outright lying by some unscrupulous “investigators” has created a situation in which innocent parents have come to believe that evil vaccines caused their children’s autism.
It’s not true. Yet, like many errors, it’s become ingrained in some peoples’ minds–largely because of three factors. First, it gives parents someone to blame and gets them off the hook with relatives. If it’s caused by vaccines, they don’t have to consider the known causes, including genetics. Second, it makes a huge profit for those who promote the vaccine hypothesis and offer goods and services to ameliorate the supposed damage done by the vaccine. And third, there’s the profit motive: if autism were caused by vaccines, then suing vaccine manufacturers (and now, the government because it’s taken over the liability) could make a lot of money for lawyers and parents alike.
To understand why the vaccine hypothesis is wrong requires some history as well as good science.