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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vaccines, Autism, and the Amish: Snopes Weighs In

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.   Antivaccine activists claim that the Amish do not vaccinate, and that there is no autism among them.  At Snopes, Alex Kasprak debunks both assumptions:
A 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics surveyed 1,000 Amish parents about their vaccination habits. Of the 359 people who responded:
68% stated that all of their children had received at least 1 immunization, and 17% reported that some of their children had received at least 1 immunization.
These rates are lower than the national average, but to claim that the Amish do not vaccinate their children is false, as a majority of them do vaccinate to some degree.
Furthermore, researchers have documented many cases of autism amongst the Amish populations. Researchers from the University of Miami and Vanderbilt University interviewed 1,899 Amish children from two prominent Amish communities in Holmes County, Ohio and Elkhart-Lagrange County, Indiana. In a 2010 presentation to the International Society of Autism Research, they stated:
Preliminary data have identified the presence of ASD in the Amish community at a rate of approximately 1 in 271 children using standard ASD screening and diagnostic tools although some modifications may be in order. Further studies are underway to address the cultural norms and customs that may be playing a role in the reporting style of caregivers, as observed by the ADI. Accurate determination of the ASD phenotype in the Amish is a first step in the design of genetic studies of ASD in this population.