Celeste McGovern joins Rob Dew and Owen Shroyer to discuss the first ever study comparing the health levels of vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
Preterm birth, vaccination and neurodevelopmental disorders: a cross-sectional study of 6- to 12-year-old vaccinated and unvaccinated children
Anthony R Mawson
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Jackson State University, 350 West Woodrow Wilson Avenue, Jackson, Mississippi 39213, USA
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS 39213, USA
Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS 39213, USA
Brian D Ray
President, National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), P.O. Box 13939, Salem, OR 97309; USA
From about 8% to 27% of extremely preterm infants develop symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, but the causes are not well understood. Preterm infants receive the same doses of the recommended vaccines and on the same schedule as term infants. The possible role of vaccination in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) among premature infants is unknown, in part because pre-licensure clinical trials of pediatric vaccines have excluded ex-preterm infants. This paper explores the association between preterm birth, vaccination and NDD, based on a secondary analysis of data from an anonymous survey of mothers, comparing the birth history and health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated homeschool children 6 to 12 years of age. A convenience sample of 666 children was obtained, of which 261 (39%) were unvaccinated, 7.5% had an NDD (defined as a learning disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder), and 7.7% were born preterm. No association was found between preterm birth and NDD in the absence of vaccination, but vaccination was significantly associated with NDD in children born at term (OR 2.7, 95% CI: 1.2, 6.0). However, vaccination coupled with preterm birth was associated with increasing odds of NDD, ranging from 5.4 (95% CI: 2.5, 11.9) compared to vaccinated but non-preterm children, to 14.5 (95% CI: 5.4, 38.7) compared to children who were neither preterm nor vaccinated. The results of this pilot study suggest clues to the epidemiology and causation of NDD but question the safety of current vaccination practices for preterm infants. Further research is needed to validate and investigate these associations in order to optimize the impact of vaccines on children’s health.