Flu Shots in Pregnancy May Increase Autism Risk

jamaThe Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study entitled, Association Between Influenza Infection and Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Whispering Down the Lane
Health News from NPR, Fox News, Medscape.com and even the American Academy of Pediatrics echoed each other, claiming the paper offers proof of the flu vaccine’s ‘safety’ when given during pregnancy.

Do these reporters really read the research? I reviewed the same literature, and decided that the title of this post should highlight the opposite position.

Results
1. “…maternal influenza infection during pregnancy was not associated with increased autism risk.”
If a pregnant woman gets the flu, the child is considered safe from the standpoint of developing ASD. This is not necessarily supported by other research (1 , 2, 3, 4), but this finding provides some level of comfort.

2. “There was a suggestion of increased risk of autism spectrum disorders among children whose mothers received an influenza vaccination during their first trimester…”
At the earliest time in gestation, many women may not be aware of a pregnancy, which might be risky, if they receive the ‘shot’. Fudge factor: “…the association was statistically insignificant after adjusting for multiple comparisons, indicating that the finding could be due to chance.”

3. “Our findings do not call for vaccine policy or practice changes but do suggest the need for additional studies.”
Is that explanation supposed to make that make families feel more comfortable about this issue? How about this? One of the principle authors “…received research grant support from GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, Merck, Pfizer, Protein Science, MedImmune, and Novartis.”

Other literature
Research demonstrating effectiveness of the vaccine, especially in the face of a specific epidemic is the principle motivation for the recommendation to vaccinate in pregnancy. The publications from the beginning of this century have demonstrated efficacy and safety for the mother and the baby. Previous studies have also shown an increase in small or preterm infants associated with influenza during pregnancy.

However, there is a lack of research regarding ASD outcome when flu vaccine is administered, and pharmaceutical industry funding is ubiquitous.

The flu shot is not recommended for children under the age of 6 months. It is advocated for pregnant women. So, it’s OK if you are a fetus? The use of acetaminophen for a fever, which is certainly a known complication of ‘shots’, has been identified as a possible contributor to ASD.

Conclusion
Whose interests are being served by the widespread use of these vaccinations? For the very old or infirm, it seems a reasonable option. Concerning the immunocompromised, even if herd immunity could be achieved (~90% vaccinated), that would only cover only a handful of the possible viral pathogens that exist – with new ones popping up every day.

The product generates billions of dollars for the drug makers. Money used to fund studies, such as these, needs to come from completely independent sources.

The present study indicates a slightly increased risk of autism from a flu vaccination given early in pregnancy. Since there is less evidence that the flu, itself, leads to significant developmental disorders, it appears that more information needs to be made available in the face of the modern autism epidemic.

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