#AccessibleAcademia Autism & Vaccine Hesitancy


Nothing About Us Without Us

Full paper here: https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.derby.ac.uk/doi/full/10.1002/aur.2339

Who: Chang & Kochel

Journal: Autism Research

Published: May 2020

Title: Vaccine Hesitancy and Attributions for Autism among Racially and Ethnically Diverse Groups of Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study


There is no link between autism and vaccines.

This misconception comes from a disproven and retracted paper

by Wakefeild et al (1998). However, this paper lead to the development of the anti-vaxx movement. Measles was declared eradicated in the year 2000; in the year 2019 the USA had its highest rate of measles since 1992 due to anti-vaxx movements. People often cite preventing autism as a reason for refusing vaccines.

This study wanted to see if there was any link between vaccine hesitancy and beliefs about the cause of autism in different ethnic groups of parents of autistic children.

In the general population, 9%-15% of parents are vaccine hesitent; 29% of parents of autistic children are vaccine hesitient.

57% of Non-Hispanic Asian parents were vaccine hesitant

50% of Non-Hispanic Black parents were vaccine hesitant

50% of multiracial or “other” parents were vaccine hesitant

43% of Hispanic/Latinx parents were

vaccine hesitant

23% of Non-Hispanic White parents were vaccine hesitant

In this study, there was an overall rate of vaccine hesitancy of 28.9%, with parents of colour being significantly more hesitant (48.1%)

than white parents (22.8%).

There may be a number of reasons for this, including:

  • distrust of healthcare systems, government, and health-related directives due to previous personal and group discrimination
  • differences in beliefs about what causes autism

All parents who were hesitant were more likely to perceive their child’s autism as related to factors within their control, such as vaccines, accident or injury, birth stressors. All parents who were not hestiant perceived their childs autism as due factors outside of their control, such as differences in brain structure.

It appears that hestitant parents exhibit omisson bias, believing that the potential risk associated with getting a vaccine (autism) is worse than the risk of not getting the vaccine (measles).

It is important to find out where hesitant parents are getting their information about vaccines and autism from, and targeting misinformation.

Thinking Critically:

This research was conducted in Texas, USA. What impact might this have on the findings? Are results likely to differ in different places, e.g. countries with universal healthcare, or countries which don’t politicalise the receiving of vaccines

This research had a very small sample of non-white participants. White participants made up 76% of the population. Larger non-white samples are required in future.

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