Another set of studies has debunked the previously discredited study linking MMR vaccination to risks of autism and is now widely accepted as the primary cause of people’s fear toward immunization through vaccines.
The study that was published in 1998 first described that Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine can cause autism to children with high risks of the disease.
The study has since been discredited and its author, Andrew Wakefield, has since been stripped of his license to perform his medical profession. Nonetheless, the publication of his study has caused a substantial drop in global vaccination rates as people are afraid of exposing their children to risks of autism.
“Measles outbreaks are not uncommon in Europe and the United States, and vaccine hesitancy or avoidance has been identified as a major cause, ” authors of the new study debunking Wakefield’s results said.
But, the damage has been done. Clearly, a lot of people does not feel safe with vaccines, and it is taking a toll on global public health.
Many criticized the results of studies debunking Wakefield. They argue that while the results of the research could be accurate in the population level, results could be different in isolated cases, especially to children who have higher risks of autism.
According to the authors of the present study, another common argument is that the vaccine is “associated with a regressive form of autism, leading to a clustering of cases with onset shortly after MMR vaccination.” They argue that this time-sensitive interaction might not have been picked up in some of the previous work.
The team of new scientists is set out to overturn these arguments and debunk them one by one. This week they published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers, from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, took data from a Danish population registry. In all, they had access to data from 657,461 children; of these, 6,517 received an autism diagnosis during the 10-year follow-up.
The researchers have compared autism risks in children who have received the MMR vaccine versus those that were unvaccinated. Their results revealed that no increased risk could be associated with the MMR vaccine, even I’m children with higher risks of autism – debunking the first argument above.
The factors that the scientists considered in determining the risk of autism are having a sibling with an autism diagnosis, low birth weight, maternal age, paternal age, and smoking during pregnancy.
The authors conclude:
“[O]ur study does not support that MMR vaccination increases the risk for autism, triggers autism in susceptible children, or is associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”
Further analyses of the data revealed that there is also no links between autism and vaccination even those that are not MMR.
One of the study’s main strengths is the large number of individuals included in the analysis. As the authors write, the study’s size allowed them to conclude that “even minute increases in autism risk after MMR vaccination are unlikely.”
The study was published along with an editorial written by Saad B. Omer and Dr. Inci Yildirim from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
With an air of frustration, the authors write, “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.”
The editorial sets a rather bleak tone, stating, “It has been said that we now live in a ‘fact-resistant’ world, where data have limited persuasive value.”
Typically, MMR vaccines that give protection against measles, mumps, and rubella, is given to children in two doses, the first when the kids are around one year old, and the second is anytime between 18 months and when they start school.
However, in some cases, people weren’t vaccinated on that schedule. For example, anyone born between 1970 and 1996 likely would have received only one dose of the MMR vaccine, since the second dose method wasn’t added until 1996. There are also all the people whose parents chose not to get them vaccinated.
Measles, which was declared an eliminated significant public health threat in the United States for two decades, has re-emerged in the Pacific Northwest and other states where vaccination campaigns are not reliable and parents have broad leeway over whether to vaccinate their children.