MMR vaccine does not cause autism, even in those most at risk

Posted on March 11, 2019

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There has been much commotion regarding the association between vaccines and autism that has been ongoing for decades. This was sparked by a study conducted by Andrew Wakefield published in 1998 that documented a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. However, subsequent studies conducted have provided strong evidence to discredit such findings, and these results have been consistently replicated.

Despite the numerous studies done to debunk this associations, vaccination rates have not returned to the level required to adequately protect children from diseases since the initially plummet that followed the panic from the initially findings. Additionally, it has been reported that vaccine hesitancy and avoidance have been identified as major causes measles outbreak being common in both Europe and the United States. This draws a concern that despite such vast research, there are still a handful of individuals that are not convinced of the safety of the MMR vaccine, though this comes as no surprise as scare stories are hard to forget and we often adopt a ‘safe than sorry’ approach to things. This was thus, the motivation to once again conduct a study investigating the link between MMR vaccine and autism, to further provide and publish high-quality evidence in hopes to fully eliminate the fears surrounding vaccines.

One of the main criticisms people have of the studies previous conducted, was that the association of MMR and increased risk of autism might have been absent at a population level, but it might still be present for children who may already be at an increased risk of the condition such as those with a sibling diagnosed with autism. Additionally, a common argument is that the vaccine associated with the regressing form of autism and that this time-sensitive interaction might have been overlooked in previous studies. These were the main issues the team of scientist and researchers set out to address in the current study. They used a pool of data from a longitudinal study comprising 657, 461 children of which 6517 was diagnosed with autism at the 10-year follow-up.

A comparison was made between autism rates in children who had received the MMR vaccine and in those who did not. Consistent with previous findings, there was no increased risk associated with the vaccine, even in children who were already at a higher risk of developing the condition. This included children with siblings with an autism diagnosis, low birth weight, increased maternal and paternal age, and smoking during pregnancy. These researchers even went a step further to analyse other forms of vaccines and again, no associations were found with autism. With the large pool of data used for this study, these researchers could confidently conclude that even minute increases in autism link after MMR vaccinations are unlikely.
Despite such strong evidence, the mere discussion of a potential association has contributed to hesitations regarding vaccinations. It has been said that we now live in a ‘fact resistant’ world, where even scientific data have limited persuasive value. It appears it would take more than just numbers to change the minds of people, but this study does provide further high-quality data to cement the lack of association between MMR vaccine and increased autism risk.

Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from Medical News Today

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