A major new study has reinforced that there is no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, according to The Guardian, in an effort to address growing skepticism toward vaccines, and the measles outbreaks that have recently followed in its wake.
While those findings echo a long-held scientific consensus, the new study conducts analysis on a larger scale than ever before, involving 650,000 children in the Danish population registry, tracked for more than a decade. Over the course of this time 6,517 developed autism, and over 31,000 remain unvaccinated. The researchers did not find a larger proportion of
The team was led by Dr. Anders Hviid, of the department of epidemiology research at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen. The same team published a study in 2002 that was central to initially disproving claims by the gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, who suggested an autism link in 1998.
“That was published in the New England Journal of Medicine 16 years ago, but it hasn’t dispelled this idea that vaccination causes autism,” Hviid says.
The new study, in addition to the larger scale of research, aims to address specific claims from anti-vaccination activists, including whether children are more vulnerable to autism after receiving the vaccine, whether autism occurred more often in children that had received other vaccines in addition to MMR, and whether “clusters” of autism cases occur after vaccination.
“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,” according to the research, which was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
In an editorial included with the paper, Emory University researchers Dr. Saad B. Omer and Dr. Inci Yildirim made a case for why the study was necessary to support an established scientific consensus.
“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 said.
But they also expressed concern that the new study might not be enough, despite its thorough approach to debunking the persistent myths.
“It has been said that we now live in a ‘fact-resistant’ world where data have limited persuasive value. So how do physicians and public health officials debunk the MMR–autism myth?”
They suggest that media coverage on vaccine issues should clearly label unproven claims about vaccines as myths when discussing them, avoid linking to misinformation even if it’s debunked in the text, and focus on the core proven facts instead of aiming to respond to every accusation.
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