Many parents are asking if there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The questions are out there so I am going to try to help people find the answers.
Does or can the MMR vaccine cause autism?
The Answer: NO
Then why are we hearing about them together so much recently?
The Answer: The short answer is irresponsible journalism. The long answer includes multiple factors, the news loves to pick up stories that will draw big reactions, more people are speaking publically about their children’s autism, many parents of autistic children have a hard time comprehending how this happened to their child and try to think back to what happened near the onset of the disease, MMR vaccines are given at the same age that many children begin expressing symptoms, and the most recent thing to draw attention to this theory is a couple celebrity moms of autistic children have come forward in support. While I cannot understand the plight of a child with autism’s mother, I can understand their desire to blame something. The problem is this theory holds no scientific weight and gives mothers a scapegoat. The theory of a link between autism and MMR vaccination is widely held, the problem is it is held mainly by parents not doctors, and parents make better news stories.
Do some researchers believe there is a link?
A researcher Dr. Wakfield is the only person to suggest a link. So all this hoopla is over a paper he published in 1998. He believes that the vaccine leads to gut inflammation which leads to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that might cause developmental disorders including autism. It was only based on 25 kids and large based on what their parents not doctors thought. Of the 12 researchers on his team, 10 have come forward to denounce the research.
Is there any proof of a link between autism and MMR vaccines?
Here is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s official explanation:
Autism is a developmental disorder. Children with autism usually have trouble communicating verbally and non-verbally and experience difficulty interacting socially. The media reported that there was a link between MMR and autism following the publication of a paper by Dr Wakefield, in The Lancet (a medical journal) in 1998.
Dr Wakefield’s theory was that the MMR vaccine might lead to gut inflammation, which decreases the amount of vitamins and nutrients that children can absorb. As a result, he suggested, this might cause developmental disorders such as autism. This theory was based on two studies involving 25 children. Dr Wakefield’s study was of poor quality because it included only vaccinated children and was based primarily on what parents could remember. Parents understandably are more likely to link changes in behaviour with memorable events like vaccination.
A number of much better designed studies, involving large numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, have tested this theory. These studies have concluded that there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism. The best study looked at autism and MMR vaccination in all children born in Denmark over a number of years. No link was found.
In March 2004, 10 of the 12 researchers who worked with Dr Wakefield published a retraction in the Lancet stating that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.12
Here are some links that I think will clarify even more for you the importance of MMR vaccination in children and the infeasibility of a link between the vaccine and autism.
Quack Watch: A site the debunks medical myths in lay terms
Statistical Research in Japan: The rate of autism continues to rise after Japan stops giving the MMR vaccine and switches to administering each of the single dose vaccines separately (due to a problem with one of the components that they were fixing).
Global Research: This is a more technical explanation, it links out to papers from all around the world showing there is no link.
National Institute of Health: A counter point to the feeling “aren’t the diseases protected by MMR mild compared to the lifelong problem of autism”
Take Home Message?
There is no reason to believe there is any link between autism and the MMR vaccine. In countries where the rate of people getting the MMR vaccine has declined, autism rates have either stayed the same or increase, and the incident of mumps, measles and rubella have increased, particularly measles which can be fatal. The diseases have the potential to be eradicated worldwide if there is concerted effort and global immunization. But like all vaccines, allergies and immune problems can alter the effects (not to cause autism or any other developmental disorder). So you should always talk to your doctor for his or her opinion specifically related to your child’s medical health. Just remember no matter how emotionally convincing, you should be taking doctor’s not upset mother’s advice when it comes to your child’s health.