Large Study Finds — Once Again — that Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

There is no increased risk of autism from common childhood vaccines, another large study has found.

Seventeen years after a significant study examined the relationship between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR, and autism, researchers have again determined that children who receive the vaccines are not at a higher risk of developing autism.

“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 researchers wrote in the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, from the American College of Physicians.

The research comes as anti-vaxxers continue to rally against vaccines because they believe they cause autism, despite significant scientific research to the contrary and assurances from the Centers for Disease Control about the safety of vaccines. Over the last year, there has been a 30 percent increase in measles cases worldwide and deadly outbreaks in areas with large amounts of unvaccinated children. In January, the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy — the “reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability” — as one of the top threats to global health in 2019.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data from 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010. During that time, 6,517 of the children were diagnosed with autism, but the chance of developing autism was no higher for those who got the MMR vaccinations and those who did not.

Additionally, there was no increased risk of autism for children who got the MMR vaccine and were also members of other subgroups — siblings of children with autism, children with other risk factors for autism and children who received other childhood vaccinations.

The researchers said that they conducted this study after their 2002 study on the same topic — published in the New England Journal of Medicine — because of the continued vaccine hesitancy.

“The idea that vaccines cause autism is still around despite our original and other well-conducted studies,” Anders Hviid, the study’s first author and an epidemiologist at the Staten Serum Institute in Copenhagen, told NPR. “Parents still encounter these claims on social media, by politicians, by celebrities, etc.”

In an editorial accompanying the study, Hviid and his fellow researchers added that the “fraudulent” belief that vaccines lead to autism was due to a false and “subsequently retracted” study from 20 years ago that theirs and other research has since debunked. But the misinformation led to a significant decrease in vaccinations.

“Despite substantial limitations, the study received wide publicity, and the claims published in the article contributed to damaging confidence in the safety of the MMR vaccine, leading to a sharp drop in vaccination rates in the United Kingdom and, possibly, in other countries,” the editorial states.

Hviid said he hopes that the facts presented in their study will assure parents that “MMR does not cause autism,” as he told NPR.

“Parents should not avoid vaccinating their children for fear of autism,” he said.

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