A new government report has found no connection between autism and the MMR vaccine (designed to protect against measles, mumps and rubella). "The MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn't," Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, chair of the group of scientists who wrote the report for the Institute of Medicine, told The New York Times.
The scientists reviewed more than a thousand studies to understand the risks posed by vaccines and found that they are generally safe, and serious side effects are rare. But the scientists did find evidence of health risks in some cases. The Boston Globe explained:
Of the 14 vaccine-associated side effects backed by solid evidence from studies, most were mild and temporary. The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine can cause febrile seizures in infants, which look scary to parents but vanish quickly and do not cause brain damage. It can also cause a rare form of brain inflammation in some people with severe immune system problems.
In a minority of patients, the chickenpox vaccine can cause infections with the varicella virus, leading to chickenpox or shingles, as well as pneumonia, hepatitis, and meningitis, the committee found, though most of these cases also occurred in people with immune system problems.
Six vaccines, including ones against chickenpox, flu, and tetanus, can cause anaphylaxis - a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction - in those who are allergic. Some injections can cause fainting or temporary arm muscle inflammation.
Some parent groups criticized the vaccine report. From The New York Times:
Sallie Bernard, president of SafeMinds, a group that contends there is a link between vaccines and autism, said the latest report from the Institute of Medicine excluded important research and found in many cases that not enough research had been done to answer important questions.
"I think this report says that the science is inadequate, and yet we're giving more and more vaccines to our kids, and we really don't know what their safety profile is," Ms. Bernard said. "I think that's alarming."
But Clayton of the Institute of Medicine panel said, "We looked at more than a thousand peer-reviewed articles, and we didn't see many adverse effects caused by vaccines. That's pretty remarkable."
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