The Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) Vaccine: Health 101

Is there a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism? Should I be concerned?

Despite persistent rumors, there is no scientific evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

In 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a very small study (it only included 12 kids) in a British medical journal, The Lancet. The study claimed that children developed autism soon after they received the MMR vaccine. The theory: The measles portion of the shot causes inflammation that may lead to brain damage and trigger the onset of autism. In early 2010, The Lancet retracted the research and in January 2011, an editorial in the British Medical Journal publicly denounced Dr. Wakefield's research as "fraudulent" and revealed that he "falsified data" by tampering with the research results to give the vaccine bad publicity. At the time of his study, Dr. Wakefield had been involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine and would have gained money if he'd won, making his research an obvious conflict of interest. Today, most scientists believe that parents may mistakenly blame the MMR vaccine for causing autism because early autism symptoms tend to first show up between 12-15 months, which is around the same time the vaccine is administered. But major groups of experts -- including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine -- agree that the MMR vaccine has not had any effect on autism rates.

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