The measles vaccine saves lives. And it does not cause autism.
The researchers and medical professionals who have been trying for years to convince parents of those truths just got what ought to be enough evidence to end the misinformation campaign that’s threatening the health and safety of increasing numbers of American children.
Researchers in Denmark have published a major paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine with findings of a massive study of data on more than half a million Danish children born over the span of a decade. Their findings are clear: There is no link between the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella and autism.
But then, this latest data simply bolsters what earlier research has shown. Epidemiologists have been telling us since at least 2010 that there is no link. That year, a British medical tribunal found that Andrew Wakefield, a former gastroenterologist, had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” as the lead author of a study claiming to have found a link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
Wakefield lost his right to practice medicine in the United Kingdom, and the Lancet, the medical journal that had published his “study” in 1998, fully retracted it as false, saying the editors had been deceived. There were reports that Wakefield had “undisclosed” financial interests in making his claims.
And yet, the damage that started with Wakefield’s initial study continues to spread. Here in the U.S., where he moved in 2004, there’s an alarming resurgence in measles cases. There are six outbreaks right now, with Washington state especially hard hit.
In recent days, there have been two congressional hearings into the problem of falling vaccination rates and the surge in measles cases.
The problem is particularly frustrating because it is so unnecessary. Vaccines had all but eradicated measles in the U.S. by 2000.
Before a vaccine was introduced in 1963, measles killed 400 to 500 Americans each year, mostly children, sent many more to hospitals and left many with lasting problems including blindness and neurological damage.
That doesn’t have to happen again. But the anti-vaccine movement that started in part because of Wakefield has picked up steam recently. Like so many things in American society, the fear and rumors are spread on Facebook and other social media.
Ironically, probably one reason the anti-vaxxer movement has swayed so many people is because the vaccines for childhood diseases have been so successful. Most of today’s parents have never experienced the damage they can do.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT