As a pivotal paper linking childhood vaccinations to autism is discredited, a new study finds no evidence that the measles vaccine—given alone or as part of a combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine—increases the risk of autism in children. The study appears in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (www.pidj.com), published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy.
The early online publication appears in the wake of the recent announcement that the editors of The Lancet had retracted a controversial 1998 article suggesting that vaccines contributed to autism risk. That paper—which alarmed parents worldwide and led to sharp drops in measles and MMR vaccination rates in some places—has since been debunked amidst allegations of ethical and scientific misconduct.
Autism Risk Isn't Higher after Measles Vaccination, Polish Data Show
In the new study, a team led by Dorota Mrożek-Budzyn, Ph.D., of Jagiellonian University Collegium Medicum, in Krakow, Poland, compared 96 Polish children with autism to a carefully matched set of 192 children without autism. Statistical techniques were used to look for any relationship between measles vaccination and the development of autism.
The results showed no evidence that children receiving measles vaccine—alone or as part of the MMR vaccine—were more likely to develop autism. This was so after adjustment for known risk factors for autism, including the mother's age and education, length of gestation, medications during pregnancy, and the child's condition after birth.
Vaccinated children were actually less likely to develop autism—especially those receiving the MMR vaccine. The researchers suspect this may reflect some other unmeasured factor affecting the children's health status. "For example," they write, "healthcare workers or parents may have noticed signs of developmental delay or disease before the actual autism diagnosis and for this reason have avoided vaccination."