Bioethics Blogs

No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even in High-Risk Kids

Credit: CDC

Study after study has found no link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine—or any vaccine for that matter. Yet many parents still refuse or delay vaccinations for their young children based on misplaced fear of ASD, which can be traced back to a small 1998 study that’s since been debunked and retracted [1]. Such decisions can have a major negative impact on public health. With vaccination rates in decline, we’ve recently seen the resurgence of measles and other potentially fatal childhood infectious diseases.

Among the parents most likely to avoid getting their kids vaccinated are those who already have a child with ASD. So, it’s especially important and timely news that researchers have once again found no link between MMR vaccines and ASD—even among children known to be at greater risk for autism because an older sibling has the developmental brain disorder.

In the new study published in JAMA [2], an NIH-funded team, led by Anjali Jain of The Lewin Group, Falls Church, VA and Craig Newschaffer of Drexel University, Philadelphia, analyzed 2001-2012 health insurance claims for more than 95,000 children, ages birth to 5, plus their older siblings. More than 1,900 of the children studied had an older sibling with ASD, which is known to place them at greater risk of being diagnosed with ASD themselves.

Overall, about 1 percent of the children were diagnosed with ASD during the time period studied. The rate was significantly higher—nearly 7 percent—among the children with an older sibling with ASD, but the risk did not increase if they had received the MMR vaccine.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.