Is there a link between autism and the MMR vaccine? Several studies have been performed to see if the two are somehow connected; the bulk of the evidence suggests that a link does not exist. Although placebo-controlled studies could provide a more conclusive answer, these studies could be considered unethical. Therefore, more education and understanding are called for as researchers continue their search for the cause of autism.
Does the MMR Vaccine Cause Autism?
The MMR vaccine (officially known as M-M-R® II) is used to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. Despite evidence to the contrary, many parents believe that there is a strong link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
The Wakefield Study
One small study published in 1998 sparked the entire debate about the possibility of the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This study involved only 12 children (far too few to make any meaningful generalizations about the causes of autism). In this study, the researchers suggested that the MMR vaccine caused bowel problems, which then led to autism.
The study has been criticized for many different reasons, and 10 out of the 13 original authors have formally retracted the study's interpretation that there is a link between the vaccine and autism.
However, the Wakefield study provided something that so many parents and healthcare providers were desperately searching for -- a possible cause for autism. Best of all, this was a preventable and controllable cause.
Further Research on Autism and MMR
As with any scientific hypothesis, the possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism needed much more scientific evidence (in the form of larger and better designed studies) before it could be rejected or supported. Several studies were undertaken; this was a relatively easy hypothesis to study, and there were several different ways to study it.
Overwhelmingly, the larger studies suggested that there was no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Over the years, even more data has been collected and even larger studies have been done. The bulk of the evidence suggests that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine (December 23, 2008). CDC Web site. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/updates/mmr_vaccine.htm. Accessed October 12, 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MMR and autism fact sheet. CDC Web site. Available at: http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/MMR_VaccineAutismFacts.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2009.
Institute of Medicine (IOM). Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Washington, DC: National Academies Press;2004.
Dr. Bob Sears. Vaccines and autism: what can parents do during this controversy? (September 7, 2009). Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-bob-sears/vaccines-and-autism-what_b_279745.html. Accessed October 12, 2009.
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