Does the MMR vaccine put my child at greater risk for autism?
Paul Offit, infectious disease expert
There's clear evidence that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine does not cause autism. Autism – a serious developmental disorder that causes problems in communication, social interaction, and behavior – has been on the rise since the 1970s, and, by some estimates, now affects 1 in 110 children in the United States. No one knows what causes the condition or why it's becoming more prevalent, so parents are understandably alarmed.
Concern about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism began in 1998, after the British medical journal The Lancet published a study connecting the vaccine with autism. The researchers were investigating the theory that intestinal problems like Crohn's disease can result from viral infection and can contribute to the development of autism. The study was very small, however –only 12 children participated – and has since been repudiated by several of the original researchers and retracted by The Lancet.
In 2004, a much larger study in The Lancet compared 1,294 children with autistic spectrum disorders with 4,469 unaffected children and concluded that the MMR vaccination doesn't raise the risk of autism or other autism spectrum disorders.
Since then, a number of other studies have compared the incidence of autism among children who received the MMR vaccine and those who didn't, and they have concluded that autism isn't more common in vaccinated children. Numerous reputable scientific studies involving hundreds of thousands of children have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Most experts think that autism may be at least partly genetic, and point out that there's no plausible way for a vaccine to trigger it. After all, there's no known connection between autism and measles, mumps, or rubella. It doesn't make sense that a vaccine would cause a condition that the disease itself doesn't cause, since a vaccine is essentially a symptomless infection.
Incidentally, the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that some people believed might be linked with autism. Six studies have now examined the relationship between thimerosal and autism and have concluded that thimerosal-containing vaccines do not cause autism either. In any case, thimerosal has been removed from all childhood vaccines except the flu vaccine, so it's no longer a concern.
I had so much fear with every shot my daughter got, because everyone put so much pressure on them and how the thought their children were effected but I had to say would I be more upset at myself if she got sick with one of those and died or MAYBE became autistic and would have a difficult time trying to teach her right from wrong
mother to a 14mos old daughter and 14week old son