Study destroys link between vaccination and autism

Faith Castro
March 6, 2019

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.

The study is yet another piece of evidence to debunk claims by anti-vaxxers that vaccinations are unsafe and can leave children with life-long challenges. The children were followed-up again at ages one and 14.

Yet the myth of a link between vaccines and autism continues to be used by anti-vaccine activists, who have been blamed for the ongoing measles outbreaks across the United States.

"We felt that it was time to revisit the link in a larger cohort with more follow-up, which also allowed for more comprehensive analyses of different claims such as the idea that MMR causes autism in susceptible children", Hviid said.

Groups on social media have spread false messages linking vaccines to autism - and as a result, rates of measles have risen, experts have said.

"Autism is equally prevalent amongst the children who had received the MMR vaccine and the total of 31,619 children who were not vaccinated".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines autism as a developmental disability that is caused by differences in how the brain functions, and has long said studies show there is no link between autism and vaccines.

Denmark has always been on the forefront of vaccine-autism research. In 2011, The Lancet retracted the study after an investigation found that Wakefield altered or misrepresented information on the 12 children who were the basis for the conclusion of his study.

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Currently, there is a concerning increase in measles cases in Europe and the US, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

"Parents should not skip the vaccine out of fear for autism", lead study author Dr Anders Hviid told Reuters.

The findings show the vaccine does not increase the risk of autism, lending new statistical certainty to what was already medical consensus.

Will this new, comprehensive data set be enough to sway those on the anti-vaccine side?

Around the world, measles cases increased by 48.4% between 2017 and 2018, according to UNICEF calculations from World Health Organization data.

Every year, 1.5 million children around the world die from diseases which can be prevented with vaccines - and so-called "anti-vaxxers" contribute to this.

"I think people need to realize that a choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice".

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