Large study finds no connection between MMR vaccine and autism

Finally the verdict is out. A large study has proven conclusively that there is no association between Measles Mumps and Rubella combined vaccine or the MMR vaccine and autism. The results of the landmark study were published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Image Credit: Adriaticfoto / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Adriaticfoto / Shutterstock

Anti-vaccination advocates have publicized and deterred millions of parents from vaccinating their children against these three vaccine-preventable viral infections for the last few decades for fear of their causing autism. This new research proves such fears as baseless. Due to such fears and inadequate vaccine coverage there has been a 30 percent rise in number of cases of measles across the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed anti-vaxxer or anti-vaccination campaigns as one of the top ten health threats in 2019.

The Danish team included over 650,000 children who were followed up and it was noted that the MMR vaccine did not lead to any developmental abnormalities and problems with social skills, communication and interactive capabilities of the children.

The doubts about the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism began after a research paper from discredited former physician Andrew Wakefield in 1998. He had claimed that there was this association without scientific evidence and the theory had been completely disproved later. This new study was another major attempt to substantiate the claim that there was indeed no association between the vaccine and autism.

Lead study author Dr Anders Hviid of the Statens Serum Institute warned parents to not skip the vaccine and said that there remained a risk of resurgence of the diseases like measles if there was inadequate vaccination. The team followed the huge number of children (657,461 children) from birth up to the age of 14. Results showed that around 1 percent of the children (6,517 children) developed autism. The rates of autism were similar among the vaccinated as well as non-vaccinated children, they explained. This means that there was no connection between the vaccine and autism, they write.

The researchers also conducted a key study to disprove the MMR vaccine and autism link in back in 2002. Dr. Hviid said, “That [2002 study] was published in the New England Journal of Medicine 16 years ago, but it hasn’t dispelled this idea that vaccination causes autism. I remember a couple of years ago we even saw Donald Trump in his presidential campaign tweet about vaccines causing autism.”

Dr Saad Omer and Dr Inci Yildirim from Emory University wrote an accompanying editorial saying that it was important that such a large study was carried out to reiterate the safety of the vaccines. “In an ideal world, vaccine safety research would be conducted only to evaluate scientifically grounded hypotheses, not in response to the conspiracy du jour…In reality, hypotheses propagated by vaccine sceptics can affect public confidence in vaccines,” they wrote.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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