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Saturday, July 15, 2023

Debunking Myths About Vaccines, Autism, and the Amish

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

CLAIM: A new, comprehensive study has found zero cases of Amish children with cancer, diabetes, autism or other serious medical conditions and few deaths from COVID-19 because Amish people don’t get vaccinated.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There’s no new research supporting the claims. Experts who study Amish communities say most members have some level of vaccination and that research has shown significant deaths from COVID in the communities. They also say studies have documented cases of autism, diabetes and cancer among the Amish, albeit at lower rates in some cases than the broader population and for reasons that are unrelated to their vaccination status.

THE FACTS: Social media users are pointing to Amish communities as proof that vaccinations not only don’t work, but are harmful to our health.

Braxton Mitchell, an epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has also studied Amish communities, said autism does occur among members, despite claims suggesting otherwise.

But he said it is a challenge to gather reliable data on the subject because autism and other related conditions require clinical assessments and expert diagnosis, which Amish families may not seek out.

Indeed a 2010 paper from the International Society for Autism Research found autism was less prevalent in Amish communities than the U.S. overall, but that further study was needed to determine how “cultural norms and customs” played a role in the numbers.

In 2021, Diane Boone reported on RFK Jr. at The Lancaster Patriot:

Kennedy mentioned that when he was involved in creating a film about mercury in vaccines, the film crew interviewed a doctor in Lancaster who ran a huge clinic, and the doctor stated that they did not see autism in the Amish community. The CDC, Kennedy said, has declared that the difference in autism rates among the Amish compared to the rest of Americans is because “the Amish are genetically different than the rest of us.” He argues that those in power will do everything they can to make the Amish vaccinate, since “it is a thorn in their side that there is a group of people in this country who are not chronically ill and who people like myself can point to them and say, ‘What about the Amish?"