Autism and MMR vaccines – still not linked

Autism and MMR vaccines – still not linked

A new study was published recently that showed, once again, that there is no link between autism and MMR vaccines. Are we still wasting good research dollars on showing that there is not one single link between autism and MMR vaccines (to prevent mumps, measles and rubella)? Apparently, we are going to do this until the evidence is literally the size of a mountain.

Despite the fraudulent claims of one MrAndy Wakefield, there is simply no evidence that vaccines are related to autism. Moreover, when we have gone looking, there is evidence that that autism is totally unrelated to vaccines.

And it’s more than just me yelling this loudly. Orac says soScience Based Medicine says soEmily Willingham says so. Oh I know, these are all bloggers, which isn’t real science–except, like me, whatever they write is actually linked to real science in the form of peer-reviewed studies. And we all conclude that there is simply not one shred of evidence to support the implausible hypothesis that autism and MMR vaccines are linked.

By the way, the CDC agrees with all of us. And they’re really smart people–Ph.D.’s, MD’s, and other public health specialists, whose backgrounds are in relevant areas of medicine like immunology, virology, epidemiology, microbiology, and so many other fields of research.

So despite overwhelming tons of evidence that vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, do not cause or are completely unrelated to autism and autism spectrum disorders, the loud noise from the antivaccine cult continues. Using false balanced “debates” to pretend that there is actually some sort of scientific discussion about this point, some news reports will often make you think that there are really two sides to this story. But there isn’t. There’s one side with real science, and the other side with, well, nothing.

One more study


Over 100 studies have found that various childhood vaccines, including MMR, do not cause autism or are not related to autism. However, there was one possible link between vaccines and autism that had not been thoroughly dismissed–it was hypothesized that immunizations could cause autism in a small group of children who already had other potential risk factors for developing autism.

That possibility was ruled out by new research recently published in JAMA.

A study of over 95,000 children found that infants and toddlers known to have an elevated risk of autism showed that there was no difference in likelihood of being diagnosed with autism between those vaccinated with MMR and those who were not. Additionally, the rate of autism diagnosis was the same for high risk children after the MMR vaccination as those who were vaccinated and had no family history of autism.

This study hunted for, and failed to find, any link between autism and MMR vaccines in children with an older sibling who had been diagnosed with the disorder. This finding further solidifies the conclusion that autism and MMR vaccines are not linked. This further rejects the belief that vaccines are causal to or even correlated with autism.

The authors of the study could not make a more clear and concise conclusion:

In this large sample of privately insured children with older siblings, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.

In an accompanying editorial in JAMA, Dr. Bryan H. King, an autism specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, who was not involved in the new research, stated that:

Could it be that if all the requisite genetic and other risks are present, MMR can lead to the development of autism? If so, the population in which there might be such a signal would be families already affected by autism.

The age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the severity or course of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and now the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.


TL;DR version

Here is one more study that shows that autism and MMR vaccine is unrelated. A groundbreaking study that provides overwhelming evidence that the MMR vaccine does not increase the risk of autism even in kids who have high risk factors for autism.

But it probably doesn’t matter to the true believers in the antivaccine cult. It wouldn’t matter if I provided evidence from a million different articles. They want to believe despite the overwhelming high quality evidence. And this is sad.

Vaccines do not cause autism.

Key citation:

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!
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  • David Doran

    Minor point. Perhaps disorder would be a better word than disease here: “This study hunted for, and failed to find, any link between autism and MMR vaccines in children with an older sibling who had the disease.”

    • Fixed. But disorder and disease are exactly alike in medical terms. We tend to use “disorder” for psychiatric conditions, and diseases for almost everything else, but they are functionally equivalent words in medicine. There’s a stigma to the word, “disease” so it has evolved to usually mean infections. So we’ve even messed up a perfectly useful medical condition that was once called “metabolic disease” and is now called “metabolic disorder.” The reason for the change was lame, so you see why I use them interchangeably.

      But again, I get the point, but I don’t like the point.

    • Diddly doo

      Why would ‘they’ find a link – it is not in there interests

  • Lemongrass

    Went lurking on some anti-vaccine forums to see the reaction from the anti-science crowd to the study and saw these responses on to the study. They really will grasp at anything to deny the overwhelming evidence against a connection.

    “This study only goes to age 5.
    The study itself admits that the average age for an ASD diagnosis is 4 – which means some people with an ASD diagnosis are diagnosed after age 5.

    We know that the average age for Aspergers diagnosis (which is 11% of the ASD population) is over age 6.…cid=ss6302a1_w

    I suspect large portions of the ASD population were not captured due to the five-year old cut off.”

    And this:

    “Chances of older sibling with ASD being male? 80%

    Sex of younger sibling is 50/50 male female.

    Shouldn’t they have matched genders to get accurate data?

    If 80% of older sibling were male, then 80% of younger sibling studied should have also been male – to rule out rather large gender issues.”

    • Those aren’t major points. In a huge retrospective cohort study like this one, they control various factors like race, gender, ethnicity and other factors in an attempt to mirror the general population. But when you’re talking about nearly 100,000 data points, it’s hard to imagine any bias being introduced. So the answer of matching the genders is irrelevant in this size of study. They were looking for risk, and they looked at it from different directions, and could not see an increase of risk. Big numbers, like 100,000, allow one to look at the data in different ways.

      Not to be too critical, but you’re conflating a randomized clinical trial with epidemiological studies. In a clinical trial, with much smaller numbers, you try to do some matching of your population. But in an epidemiological study, you have so many data points, you can look at it in different ways.

      Moreover, looking at the age cut-offs, why would you go longer, if it’s already been a few years since the last MMR booster? It’s ridiculous to make a temporal causality after that much time.

      The amateurs who try to take down this study without actually understanding what a cohort study is and how to do relative risk statistics is laughable. They’re throwing up strawman arguments. Not impressed by them.

      • Lemongrass

        Great points.

        One minor quibble with this part:

        “Finally, looking at the age cut-offs, why would you go longer, if it’s already been a few years since the last MMR booster? It’s ridiculous to make a temporal causality after that much time.”

        Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t the second dose of MMR given at 4 in the US? If so, stopping at age 5 would only be a year after the second dose.

        • Again, why would that matter? How could one possibly show any type of causality, independent of real, known causality, after one or two years? Every single scientist with any hint of credibility would laugh at data that showed something two years after the vaccination. Moreover, since plausibility, that is, some physiological chain of events that lead from vaccination to autism, has never been described in a way that would make sense.

          So, if you say looked up to 10 years old, way past the date that most cases of ASD are diagnosed, how would you separate confounding factors like age itself, genetics, diet, second hand smoke (I’m inventing stuff of course), etc. etc. The longer the time passes since the hypothesized causal event, the more confounding factors must be examined, and the less chance of finding a temporal causal association.

          You’d probably need 2-3 million patients (expensive) just to identify a 5% change in risk. And even then, it will be covered up by significant noise of random events.

          If there were a change in risk, 1-2 years is more than sufficient.

    • One more thing. There are over 100 decent studies and close to 1000 above average studies that show absolutely no correlation between vaccination status and autism. None.

      This adds onto the pile. These idiots who think there is a link are just frankly delusional.

    • Raphaël Khoury

      is autism even related to gender in any way??

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        I think it is slightly more prevalent in males

  • Ben Fairbanks

    I’m glad that another big study confirms that vaccines do not cause autism, even in a subset of children with a potential genetic predisposition towards ASD. But it bothers me that this study was considered necessary in the first place when the hypothesis upon which it was predicated had no empirical or theoretical basis. How much money was spent to study something, the inevitable conclusions of which we literally never had reason to doubt? Talk about opportunity cost. Maybe that money could have been spent developing vaccines for the bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistant infections.