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News > Science and Tech

No Link Between Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine and Autism: 11-Year Study

  • Lauren Durbin, aged 10 months, is given an MMR injection by Sister Sian Owen at the Paediatric Outpatients department in the UK

    Lauren Durbin, aged 10 months, is given an MMR injection by Sister Sian Owen at the Paediatric Outpatients department in the UK | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 March 2019

A medical study with all children born in Denmark in an 11-year time frame concluded that there is no link between MMR vaccines and autism.

A nationwide cohort study of all Danish-born children between 1999 to 2010 concluded that the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not increase the risk or trigger autism, according to a new scientific paper published on the Annals of Internal Medicine Tuesday. 

WHO Reports 50% Increase in Worldwide Measles Cases

The study was conducted on 657,461 children born in Denmark from 1999 through Dec. 31, 2010, with a follow-up from one year of age and through August 2013. The authors obtained funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation and Danish Ministry of Health and databases from the Danish Civil Registration System.

Their objective was to analyze the hypothesized link between the MMR vaccine and autism as “it continues to cause concern and challenge vaccine uptake,” the authors explain. During the 14-year follow-up, only 6,517 children were diagnosed with autism. Comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated children it was clear that there is no risk for autism or triggering the disorder in susceptible children with cases of family history.

This disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by repetitive behaviors, and problems with social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication. Based on epidemiological studies conducted over the past 50 years, the prevalence of autism appears to be increasing globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

However, it was in 1998 that the hypothesized link between the MMR vaccine and autism appeared. The British medical journal, The Lancet, published a controversial paper in which a group of researchers from the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine of London reported on 12 children with developmental delay, eight of whom were diagnosed with autism within four weeks of receiving the MMR vaccine.

Twelve years after publishing said study, that turned thousands of parents around the world against the MMR vaccine, the same medical journal retracted its findings. In a statement published on Feb. 2010, it said that it is clear that “several elements” of the 1998 paper “are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.”

It is for this reason that this new Danish investigation comes at a crucial moment as the anti-vaccine movement (anti-vaxxers) keeps gaining momentum around the world, especially in Europe. According to the WHO, measles cases in that region tripled between 2017 and 2018 to 82,596 - the highest number recorded this decade.

“It is unimaginable that we have deaths because of measles – children dying because of measles. We promised that by 2020 Europe would be measles-free,” European Union’s health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis told the Guardian in 2018. 

In February 2019, this trend had its effects in Latin America when an unvaccinated French boy reintroduced measles to Costa Rica, five years after that country was free of the disease. The parents of the boy are anti-vaxxers. 

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