The anti-vax movement peaked in 2002, maybe in 2003. There are several different lines of evidence that point in this direction. I recently presented just two of them: Google News Archive articles matching "autism vaccines" relative to "autism" articles, and VAERS report submissions. Additionally, Sullivan over at LB/RB has put forth a graph of cases before the US vaccine court.
It's not surprising that such easy-to-confirm observations would hit a nerve with some people. Commenter MJ took issue with my methodology, at first claiming that as more autism articles are written, the word "vaccines" would tend to become rare in them, and later claiming that Google News Archive does not have the right bias for this type of analysis. None of this made any sense to me, and you can read the exchange in comments.
Then MJ wrote a post in response to my analysis where, evidently, MJ has come up with a reproduction (not repetition) of my prior result. You can see MJ's graph (which I copied with "fair use" in mind) on the right.
MJ takes comfort in the fact that newspaper articles matching the word "neurodiversity" are quite uncommon, relatively speaking. But see – and I doubt MJ doesn't realize this – that's a comparison of apples to oranges. Articles matching "autism vaccines" are about a public health issue, one that is bound to interest all kinds of readers. They are articles about court cases, studies, etc. Articles on neurodiversity are about an ideology, which reporters might not cover simply because they don't see a payoff in covering it.
If you're going to compare them, it obviously only makes sense to compare trends, not absolute article counts. MJ's scaling obviously doesn't allow us to see a trend, so I've produced the following graph.
It's an entirely different pattern. (Note that since article counts are relatively small, there's bound to be more noise in these series.)
One More Thing
Regarding VAERS, MJ says:
As for VAERS, it wasn't meant to do this sort of tracking nor is it an accurate measure of all children who had a reaction to a vaccine - especially for controversial relationships like autism.
I didn't look at a measure of "reactions" – and it's not clear if reports with "autism" as a symptom are even valid. I looked at submission counts. These are clearly a valid proxy of new parents recruited into either an anti-vax mindset or vaccine litigation.