DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Vaccine Not a Risk for AutismFrederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
October 31, 2003 -- Dr, Simon Murch, an author of a report that set off a panic among parents in Britain about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, has publicly urged parents to ignore the media hype and make the logical decision to vaccinate their children. The MMR vaccine is designed to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Measles is a growing risk to children in Britain as parents have shunned vaccinations for fear of autism. The level of vaccinated children in Britain has dropped below 80% while the nation is experiencing more frequent and larger outbreaks of measles.
The decline in immunizations started with a paper published in 1998 in the medical journal The Lancet. The report, coauthored by Dr. Murch, told of 12 previously normal children who suddenly developed gastrointestinal disease and autism. In 8 of the children, the onset of behavioral problems seemed linked in time with an MMR vaccination.
In a letter that will appear in The Lancet tomorrow, Dr. Simon Murch, the second author of the original paper, states that no support has ever been found for the circumstantial association between autism and the MMR vaccine. He urged parents to have their children vaccinated. "MMR immunisation, which should be an easy decision, has become a worrying issue for many British parents," Murch writes.
"Although this situation reflects in part a broader mistrust of official pronouncements, and has been fuelled by media campaigning, it is founded on the misinformed perception that there is ongoing scientific uncertainty. There is now unequivocal evidence that MMR is not a risk factor for autism -- this statement is not spin or medical conspiracy, but reflects an unprecedented volume of medical study on a worldwide basis."
The concern in Britain (and in all countries) is that an "unprotected child is not only at personal danger, but represents a potential hazard to others, including unborn children."
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Reference: Simon Murch. Separating inflammation from speculation in autism. Lancet 262, November 1, 2003.
Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004