The anti-vaccination trend continues to grow, but now a new study confirms that there’s no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In other words, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of children being diagnosed with autism or trigger the condition in children who are susceptible to the health condition.
The new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at over 650,000 children to prove its efficiency. To determine if if there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, the researchers used data from population registries on children born between 1999 and 2010 in Denmark. Through August 2013, a total of 657,461 children were included in the study. Aside from the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, scientists also considered whether the children had siblings diagnosed with autism and other risk factors like age of the parents, preterm birth and low birth weight.
Researchers said 95% of the children included in the study received the MMR vaccine, and 6,517 were diagnosed with autism. The study suggests the MMR vaccine didn’t increase the risk of autism in children who didn’t already have other risk factors for the condition. The researchers also concluded that there was no link between the MMR vaccine and autism in children who were already at risk for the condition.
“This idea that vaccines cause autism is still around and is still getting a lot of exposure in social media,” lead study author Anders Hviid of Statens Serum Institut in Denmark told CNN.
With social media influence growing in recent years, anti-vaccine groups have become prominent on the internet, encouraging parents not to vaccinate their children due to fears that vaccines could cause autism. To make things worse, many celebrities support the ideology of not vaccinating children as a way to prevent autism, which has been influencing even more people to do so. This is why Hviid and his team wanted to provide firm scientific evidence that there’s no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Dr. Paul Offit of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who wasn’t involved in the study, told CNN that the best move the team made through the study was to include children who were already at risk of developing autism before they had the vaccine.
“At this point, you’ve had 17 previous studies done in seven countries, three different continents, involving hundreds of thousands of children,” Offit said. “I think it’s fair to say a truth has emerged.”
The myth promoting the anti-vaccination movement began in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield published a controversial study in the medical journal The Lancet. A law firm that was preparing to sue the manufacturers of the vaccine paid him to conduct that study, and he ended up losing his medical license in 2010. The Lancet retracted the study in 2011 after an investigation found that Wakefield had misrepresented the information on the 12 children who participated in the study. However, the myth has now gone too far, and anti-vaccine activists are being blamed for the current measles outbreak across the U.S., according to CNN.
“I think we are at a tipping point,” Offit said. “I think people need to realize that a choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice. It’s a choice to take a greater risk, and unfortunately right now, we are experiencing that greater risk.”