I came across the below infographic that shows increasing vaccinations and autism diagnosis rates over time. This implication of this infographic is that as vaccination rates go up so does autism. I want to know if this infographic is in any way valid but have throught of a number of related questions as well.

  1. Is the number of vaccinations by year correct?
  2. Are the autism rates by year correct?
  3. Is there any validity in the connection being made?
  4. Does anybody know where these numbers may come from?
  5. Are there other factors that may be changing the rates?


enter image description here

Essentially is this infographic in any way valid or is it completely made up?

  • Supposing it is, why is that interesting? tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations Oct 12, 2016 at 21:22
  • 2
    regarding point 3: it's a duplicate. there is no link between vaccinations and autism.
    – tim
    Oct 12, 2016 at 21:28
  • 7
    As for #5--note how while autism diagnoses are skyrocketing it doesn't look like autism rates. Rather, they are cases that previously were being diagnosed as retardation. Oct 12, 2016 at 22:01
  • 1
    Points this infographic declines to factor in: Over the past three decades, medical and psychological science has made tremendous strides in diagnoses - just because back in '83 there were fewer autism cases diagnosed doesn't mean they weren't there. Oct 17, 2016 at 7:37
  • 1
    All of this hinges on the assertion that ASD can be triggered in a previously healthy individual by outside factors (other than actual traumatic brain injury). There is no evidence to support such an assertion. While the root cause of autism is unknown, there is evidence to support the theory that it's an inherited genetic trait (it tends to run in families, if one identical twin is affected then the other twin is very likely to also be affected, etc). nhs.uk/Conditions/Autistic-spectrum-disorder/Pages/Causes.aspx
    – GordonM
    Oct 17, 2016 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Number of Vaccinations

These figures are approximately correct for 1983 and 2008 (but not for 2013) and seem to be based on CDC recommendations.

The numbers are likely taken from the vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC. You can see all available schedules starting from 1994 and additionally from 1989 and 1983 here.

The schedule from 1983 lists 11 vaccines total until the child is 16 years old. If we use a broad definition of the term "baby" that includes 4-6 year olds, we would get 10 vaccines as listed in the image.

The schedule from 2008 lists 39 vaccines total until 4-6 years old, 3 of which should only be given to high-risk groups, giving us the 36 from the image.

The schedule from 2013 lists 37 vaccines total until 4-6 years old (not including vaccines for high risk groups). This does not fit with the number given in the image.

Autism Rate

It's not quite clear to me where the autism rates come from. Here are figures by the CDC. They contain the 1 in 88 and 1 in 150 figures, but for different years. Maybe the makers of the image adjusted the year.

I have no idea where the 1983 figure comes from, but it's pretty meaningless anyway because of changing diagnostic criteria.

Link between vaccines and autism

There is none.


To summarize and answer your specific questions:

Is the number of vaccinations by year correct


are the autism rates by year correct


Is there any validity in the connection being made


Does anybody know where these numbers may come from

The CDC, most likely.

Are there other factors that may be changing the rates

Changing diagnostic criteria for autism over time tends to increase the observed prevalence of autism, and more medical knowledge increases the amount of recommended vaccines.

There are several potential explanations for an increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs including better analytic tools, better identification and screening methods, changes in diagnostic criteria, increased awareness among parents and clinicians, and changes in the availability of services. Source: Evaluating Changes in the Prevalence of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)

  • 2
    Have you a reference for the last line?
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 12, 2016 at 23:21

Is there any correlation?

Yes. We both increased the vaccine schedules (thus administering more vaccines) and improved our understanding and diagnostic abilities of autism, as well as somewhat relaxed the criterion (thus diagnosing more autism).

Does that imply causation?


Spurious Correlation

  • 2
    Like the directness/brevity while also including relevant sourcing. Oct 18, 2016 at 21:15
  • It won't be the last. Guaranteed. Oct 19, 2016 at 13:27
  • I, personally, never purchase Ice Cream for fear of being attacked by a shark.
    – SGR
    Oct 27, 2016 at 14:27
  • 1
    It is depressing that only one type of suicide can cause an advance in science ... Oct 5, 2019 at 10:08

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