A new study has investigated the hypothesised link between the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
The myth that vaccinations can cause autism in children continues to cause concern and challenge vaccine uptake, but the vaccine isn’t associated with an increased risk of autism, even among kids who are at high risk because they have a sibling with the disorder, the Danish study suggests.
The researchers studied more than 650,000 babies in a decade-long study and found that there was “no increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination”, a fact which “was consistently observed in subgroups of children defined according to sibling history of autism, autism risk factors (based on a disease risk score) or other childhood vaccinations, or during specified time periods after vaccination.”
In fact, the report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine claimed that children who got the MMR vaccine were 7% less likely to develop autism than children who didn’t get vaccinated.
Kristine Macartney, director of the Australian Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, told SBS News: "One of the strengths of the study was that it was the largest single study to date in the world on this topic. The most important thing to say from this study, and from the almost dozen other studies, is that it's not vaccines.
"Vaccines do not cause autism, in fact they prevent serious infections that actually in turn can cause brain damage.”
The myth began in a sensationalist 1998 paper in which Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor, attempted to make the link based on a study of just 12 children.
The study was retracted in 2010 but the anti-vaccine movement, which stems hugely from this one paper, is still threatening to undo decades of work to prevent or limit the damage caused by measles as cases worldwide soared nearly 50% in 2018.