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Large Scale Study Finds No Link Between MMR Vaccines and Autism

Posted on March 6, 2019 by All In

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The headlines in the past few months have been dominated by news of measles outbreaks in some parts of the USA as well as in Europe and in the Philippines. This brings up the controversial issue of the anti-vaccination movement and how they are gaining momentum worldwide. Log on to any social media platform and the debate is ferocious and passionate, both sides armed with memes and quotes and ready to rain their ammunition on the opposite camp. 

A Disgraced Physician Who Left A Dangerous Legacy

The first proponent of the anti-vaccine movement is Dr Andrew Wakefield. In 1988, he wrote a paper published in the Lancet, a highly regarded medical journal, proposing a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was subsequently found to be fraudulent and retracted, Dr Wakefield’s conflict of interest exposed and he had his practising license revoked. However the damage has been done and a most damaging legacy left in its wake. 

The anti-vaccine movement grew from here, preying on parents’ fear and distrust of “the Big Pharma”, drug companies which are deemed to be putting poison in the vaccines and harming children. The result of that paranoia is the return of once preventable childhood diseases like measles and diphtheria

Perhaps the worst outcome of this movement is the drop in herd immunity protection. A community needs to have 97% vaccination rate in order to stop the disease in its tracks and protect the most vulnerable ones in the group – infants and those with compromised immunity eg. cancer patients. Without herd immunity, babies and those who are already weak have no protection and are at the highest risk of infection and danger.

Science At Work

Ever since Wakefield’s paper was published, hundreds if not thousands of scientists have tried to reproduce his results but to no success. All their research show that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Vaccine manufacturers have also removed some of the components in vaccines to ensure greater safety. However, anti-vaccine activists stuck to their guns and doubled their efforts to push forward their agendas, creating Youtube channels and taking out  Facebook advertisements to “educate” parents about the dangers of vaccination. In response to the severity of the recent outbreaks, several social media platforms have progressively start to shut down these content providers. 

In light of these events, a Dutch study spanning over 14 years covering more than 650,000 children appears to have laid to rest the debate. In their research, the Dutch scientists found that there is no link between MMR and autism. They went on to describe how children with siblings who were diagnosed with autism were also 7 times more likely to be diagnosed as well, suggesting a strong genetic factor in the developing of this condition. Even in this high risk group, there was still no evidence supporting the link between MMR and autism. 

Furthermore, the scientists found that 5% of the children in the study who were not vaccinated at all were 17% more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who were vaccinated. The authors then concluded that MMR vaccination does not cause autism, neither does it trigger autism in children who are susceptible. They also stated that the MMR vaccine cannot account for the clustering of autism cases after vaccination. 

Choosing Facts Over Fear

With the mounting body of scientific evidence that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, parents can rest assure that they are not endangering their children by providing them with the most basic of protection against diseases. With so much conflicting information out there and communities of anti-vaccine activists preying on parents’ fear, how does one tell fact from myth? Below is a 3-step checklist you can use to determine if the information you are reading is accurate, and it can be applied to other types of news that you may come across:


1) Where

Where did you read the article from? Is it an alternative health or medicine website? Is it from a trusted source such as the Ministry of Health, or a reputable hospital, university or organization? Is the website known for representing facts or merely posting up sensational articles that attract visitors and generating advertising revenue?


2) Who

Who is the author of the article(s)? Do they cite from credible sources? Does the author have the relevant credentials? Does the author have a conflict of interest in writing that article eg. are they selling a product or receiving unusually large amounts of payment for their writing?


3) How

If claims are made in the article, are they substantiated with facts or results of experiments that were carried out properly? For a research study, are the methods used in the study sound, fair or logical? Can other research groups repeat the same study with similar results and conclusions? 

Autism is a condition with various contributing factors, and scientists are working hard to establish the causes to it. To understand more about the condition, do check out our Go-to Guides