The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, does not increase the risk of autism, researchers in Denmark report in a new study.
In the late 1990s, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a now-retracted study claiming to have found a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine. It was later revealed that he faked some of his data, and Wakefield can no longer practice medicine, but his report is still fueling the anti-vaccination crowd, which maintains a link exists.
The Danish study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, specifically focused on criticisms from people who think vaccinations are dangerous. The researchers looked at children who have a sibling with autism and those with older parents, for example, to see whether some kids are more likely to be diagnosed with autism following an MMR vaccination, The Guardian reports.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Overall, the study followed 657,461 children, 6,517 of whom were diagnosed with autism over the decade-long study; 95 percent of the children received the MMR vaccine. The team found that children who were given the MMR vaccine were 7 percent less likely to develop autism than kids who did not get vaccinated, and that kids who did not receive any vaccinations were 17 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than kids who did get them.
They also determined that kids with autistic siblings were roughly seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who did not have that family connection. Dr. Anders Hviid of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, the study's lead author, made it clear that that vaccines should not be skipped due to fear of autism. "The dangers of not vaccinating includes a resurgence in measles, which we are seeing signs of today in the form of outbreaks," he told Reuters.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.