Not only does the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine not raise the risk of autism in children, but it doesn't even raise the likelihood of autism in children at a higher risk of the disorder.
Parental concern over the potential health risks of vaccines seems to have risen sharply in recent years. The notion that measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shots could lead to autism in children has swayed many to prevent their kids from getting vaccines — but a new study aims to end these concerns once and for all.
This latest study, headed by Danish researchers and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, examined 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010 including 6,517 kids who were diagnosed with autism.
The study found that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine even in those children who have a higher risk of developing the disorder.
“Parents should not skip the vaccine out of fear for autism,” said the lead author of the study, Dr. Anders Hviid of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen. “The dangers of not vaccinating includes a resurgence in measles which we are seeing signs of today in the form of outbreaks.”
To his point, anti-vaxxers have been a leading cause behind the measles outbreaks across North America in recent weeks. Most recently, a Vancouver father who chose not to vaccinate his children instigated a measles outbreak that spread through three separate schools in the area.
Furthermore, the study found that the five percent of kids who weren’t vaccinated were 17 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who were vaccinated.
“The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination,” the paper concluded.
Indeed, even kids with autistic siblings who were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than those without a family history of it were not at a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with autism after they were vaccinated.
Measles, a contagious virus that can result in pneumonia, and encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain, and in some cases even death, can be spread after its visible symptoms disappear. The virus is also capable of living on surfaces an infected person coughed or sneezed on for up to two hours.
The paper claimed that a mere five percent reduction of MMR vaccines could triple the total cases of measles in a community.
Most importantly, the research team was adamant that this study wasn’t intended to disprove the alleged correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism, but that this research merely suggests the widely-held belief that vaccines increase the risk for the spectrum disorder are scientifically unfounded.
The paranoia of parents, the paper suggested, may also have its roots in the fact that vaccines are recommended during the same timeframe that autism usually presents itself — in early childhood, between one to six years of age. This, of course, doesn’t prove causality, though it can certainly appear so.
Some have traced the paranoia back to a 1998 paper that claimed there was a direct connection between the spectrum disorder and the medical vaccine standards preventing the breakout of diseases. That paper was ultimately retracted, NBC reported — yet doubts continued to linger.
“Any myth should be clearly labeled as such,” said Dr. Saad Omer of Emory University in Atlanta, the co-author of an editorial accompanying the study. “Even in the face of substantial and increasing evidence against an MMR-autism association, the discussion around the potential link has contributed to vaccine hesitancy.”