In the great vaccine debate, the root of many anti-vaxers’ arguments is a small, outdated (and since detracted) 1998 study that suggested the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. And while medical journals and professionals have also tried to convey that this study was bogus and completely unable to prove a cause-and-ffect connection between vaccines and autism, parents everywhere are still resisting vaccines for this unsubstantiated fear.
But now, a new study confirms that the association between MMR vaccine and autism is just a very destructive myth.
For the study, published in the April 21 issue of JAMA, Anjali Jain, M.D., and colleagues analyzed a sample of over 95,000 children who had older siblings either with or without ASD. (The fraudulent 1998 study had a sample size of just 12.) Analyzing the health information of 95,727 subjects revealed that 994 were diagnosed with ASD during followup — that’s 1.04% of subjects. Of children who had an older sibling with ASD, 6.9% were diagnosed themselves; 0.9% who did not have an older sibling with ASD ended up being diagnosed.
Of the children whose siblings did not have ASD, 84% received the MMR vaccine at 2 years, and 92% had received it by age 5. The children whose older siblings had ASD were vaccinated at a lower rate: 73% at age 2 and only 86% by age 5. According to background information, parents with an autistic child are more likely to skip vaccinating their younger children, for fear that both the greater genetic risk and the assumed risk of vaccine will surely cause ASD.
When all was said and done, the researchers found that the rate of vaccination was not associated with an increased risk of ASD, at any age. The authors explained:
“We … found no evidence that receipt of either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD. As the prevalence of diagnosed ASD increases, so does the number of children who have siblings diagnosed with ASD, a group of children who are particularly important as they were undervaccinated in our observations as well as in previous reports.”
In English: Siblings of kids with ASD are getting vaccinated at lower rates, for no legitimate reason. The more kids who aren’t vaccinated, the more likely we are to have public health crises, like the measles outbreak this year, which could be completely avoided if everyone followed vaccination schedules recommended by scientific studies and medical professionals. We can only hope that as more of these studies make it into the public consciousness, parents will vaccinate their children to keep them — and each other — safe.