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March 2019

Study aims to convince anti-vaxxers of MMR safety

Yet another study, this time involving more than 650,000 children, has confirmed that there is no association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the development of autism.

The authors say it was necessary to carry out the research because of continuing ‘misplaced concerns’. Lead author, Anders Hviid, said: ‘The idea that vaccines cause autism is still going around. The anti-vaxx movement, if anything, has perhaps grown stronger over the last years.’

The study, published earlier this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine involved 657,461 children in Denmark born between 1999 and 2010, and followed from 1 year of age up to August 2013. During more than 5 million person-years of follow up, only 6,517 children were diagnosed with autism and there was no association between diagnosis and vaccination status.

This research strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children – i.e. those with a sibling with the condition, and is not associated with clusters of autism cases after vaccination.

It adds to the massive volume of research that has been carried out to undo the damage to public confidence done by one small fraudulent study that has since been ‘expunged from the medical literature,’ by providing significant additional power and by addressing hypotheses of susceptible subgroups and clustering of cases.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Saad Omer of Emory University, Atlanta, USA wrote that the accumulation of evidence had not ‘won over sceptics so far. It has been said that we now live in a “fact-resistant” world where data have limited persuasive value.’

In the UK, average uptake of the MMR vaccine is 88%, and has been falling over recent years – particularly for the second dose. In the UK, there were 953 measles cases last year, threatening the UK’s ‘measles elimination’ status, while in Europe the number of cases tripled between 2017 to 2018 to 82,596, resulting in 72 deaths.

Hviid A, et al. Ann Intern Med 2019.ePub 5 Mar 2019.