The MMR Vaccine and Autism
“The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has been postulated to cause a form of autism characterized by regression and bowel symptoms, and onset occurring shortly after vaccination. It is also claimed that, as a result, there has been a dramatic increase in autism prevalence. These hypotheses have now been tested in a number of epidemiologic studies…none has found any evidence of the existence of a phenotypically distinct form of autism in children who received the MMR vaccine or of a clustering of onset symptoms in children who are autistic after receiving the MMR vaccine. There is no proof that the overall risk of autism is higher in children who were vaccinated with MMR or of an increase in autism prevalence associated with the use of the MMR vaccine. No epidemiologic evidence suggests an association between MMR vaccination and autism. Moreover, epidemiologic evidence against such an association is compelling.” (Miller, 2003)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is also well worth a visit for information on why the MMR vaccine is necessary, what the risks are and who should and should not get vaccinated. Also have a look at their Vaccine Misconceptions page.
The paper Vaccine Concerns is a must-read. Also see Thimerosal and autism and the Report From the 2000 New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations Conference (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/e84.full).
Update, February 2010: The journal The Lancet has officially and fully retracted the 1998 paper that suggested that the MMR vaccine may cause autism. Even before this dramatic step, 10 of the 13 authors had retracted their involvement in the paper because of the flawed methods that it used. Unfortunately, many people are still wary of vaccines, and vaccination rates have dropped while measles outbreaks have risen.