Mistaken fear of measles vaccine has devastating effect
More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States this year, and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe – a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback. The reappearance of the potentially deadly virus is the result of unfounded fears about a link between the measles shot and autism that have turned some parents against childhood vaccination.
In the September 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, physician Gregory Poland urges doctors to review extensive scientific research that has found no connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
Fears about the MMR vaccine were sparked in 1998 by researcher Andrew Wakefield in the British medical journal The Lancet. The British General Medical Council later found Wakefield’s study fraudulent and retracted the paper. Even so, suspicions about the vaccine – as well as its additives such as thimerosol – have persisted, gaining steam with the public through celebrity advocates and widespread media coverage.
Dr. Poland, who is Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, said:
A rising portion of the population is deciding not to immunize their children because of this controversy, and these children are now susceptible to the measles virus. The results have been devastating. The campaign against the vaccine has caused great harm to public health across multiple nations, even though it has no scientific basis. There have been over 20 studies, spanning two decades, conducted in several countries. Not one has found scientific evidence of a connection between autism spectrum disorders and MMR vaccine.
Measles remains the most contagious infectious disease humans can get. It kills roughly three of every thousand people infected. Due to the vaccine’s effectiveness and successful immunization programs worldwide, indigenous cases of the disease had been eliminated in the U.S., and measles was on track to be eradicated as smallpox was.
Poland recommends that doctors, patients, and the media become educated about the research that already has been conducted and help rectify the misinformation. A major report released by the Institute of Medicine last week supports Poland’s claims of no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism
Just as significantly, we need to direct appropriate and significant funds to determine what’s really causing autism in our children.
Bottom line: In the September 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Gregory Poland urges doctors to review extensive scientific research that has found no connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Reported cases in the U.S. and Europe indicate that measles – once on the verge of eradication – is making a comeback. Fear of the vaccine was sparked by the fraudulent research of Andrew Wakefield, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, and later retracted by the British General Medical Council.