Does MMR Cause Autism?
Do MMR vaccines cause autism?
The answer based on current research is NO. The association between MMR vaccines and Autism can be traced to the late 1980s, when it was noticed that there has been an increase in the number of autism being diagnosed. Rates from that time were almost double previous years and individuals started looking at the possible causes of autism. Among the earliest link between MMR vaccines and autism stems from an article done in the UK in 1998. In it, it suggested that the the vaccine introduced a series of events (colon inflammation, release of proteins) that lead to changes in the brain causing autism. In February 2010, that study was retracted after investigation showed that the physician involved in the research was paid by lawyers planning to sue the vaccine manufacturers, and that he himself was applying for an alternate vaccine. The doctor was found to be falsifying results with the intentions of profiting of it. In 2010, the doctor was stripped of his right to practice medicine.
So where does that leave us today? At this point there is one study done in 2002 that suggests MMR vaccines may contribute to autism. However, it methodology is flawed and numerous follow-up studies contradict those results. Since the initial 1998 research, there have been multiple studies (in excess of 12) with a couple done by the CDC that show no link between these vaccines and autism. It is likely that the rise in diagnoses for autism since the 1990s was caused by the change in the criteria needed to diagnose autism and greater awareness of the illness.
Research exploring the possible relationship between MMR vaccinations and autism is ongoing. To date, no scientific linkage has been established. Numerous large, well designed studies fail to support an association between MMR vaccine and autism.
With no clear evidence of an association between MMR vaccine and autism, and numerous studies supporting the lack of association between the vaccine and autism, it is still recommended for children to get their MMR vaccinations. The use of childhood vaccines has led to a significant decline in childhood diseases that had severe consequences. Declining vaccines because of a theoretical risk, places the child at risk of real infections with real consequences. Of note, as a result of the 1998 study, vaccination for MMR declined from 90% to 80%. Over the last five years, the rate of measles in the UK has risen to endemic levels. Luckily, rates of vaccination in the US have not been significantly changing, although there have been local outbreaks.