Is the MMR Vaccine Connected to Autism?

The MMR vaccine is a 3-in-1 vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella – all of which are potentially serious diseases.

The MMR is one of the recommended childhood immunizations and is given in a series of shots. The first shot is given when the child is 12-15 months old. The booster shots are given before a child enters school at 4-6 years old.

The MMR should not be given to anyone with an allergy to eggs, gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. Nor should it be give to anyone with a weakened immune system.

For over ten years there have been numerous claims that the MMR vaccine has a correlation with autism. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, parents are pushing for research into a possible link between autism and childhood vaccination.

Autism – a serious developmental disorder that causes problems in communication, social interaction, and behavior – has been on the rise since the 1970s. The cause of autism remains a mystery, with most scientists believing that it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Though it is common to hear about MMR possibly leading to autism, finding published studies to back that assertion is difficult.

The original study that drew concern about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was published in 1998 in the British medical journal, The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues. The study was very small – only 12 children participated – and it has since been reversed by some of the original researchers and retracted by The Lancet. 

A few years later, Paul Shattock, a pharmacist and director of the Autism Research Unit at Sunderland University performed some research in this field. He also had a personal connection to this work being a father of an autistic child. 

One of his popular studies, that had not been published, surveyed 4,000 parents of children with autism and found that 10% of parents attribute their child's autism to the combined MMR vaccine. In addition, Shattock states that these children shared distinctive symptoms that made them stand out in comparison to other children with autism- they suffered from bowel problems, had differences in the chemicals found in their urine, had an abnormal gait and were friendlier than other autistic children. 

Both Andrew Wakefield and Paul Shattock hypothesize that the combination of all three live viruses in the MMR vaccine could overload the immature immune systems of some toddlers who have a genetic or immunological predisposition to this.

Shattock stresses the need for further studies on the topic, "the numbers here are quiet small so any connection does not show up in epidemiological studies," he said. Shattock is not anti the MMR vaccine. "Nobody has suggested that MMR is the only factor in the rise in autism cases. We are pro vaccine, but it needs to be done sensibly."

Since Wakefield’s study has been retracted and Shattock’s research has never been published, it’s hard to make a claim. More studies need to be done and published immediately.

More than anything throughout the years there has been an overwhelming amount of individual accounts arising that connect MMR and autism.

Barbara Loe Fisher is a parent of an autistic child and president of the National Vaccine Information Center – a nonprofit educational organization founded by parents whose children were injured or died from vaccination.

She states that some cases of regressive autism could be linked to the MMR vaccine. Regressive autism is a sudden developmental downturn in children who had been previously developing normally. Her belief is based on Paul Shattock’s research.

Celebrity Jenny McCarthy has been one of the most vocal advocates for parents of children with autism. She has been labeled as anti vaccine because she believes there could be a correlation with MMR and autism. But rather than eliminating vaccines all together, she has some valid points on precautions to ensure that your child is safe from negative side effects.

Clearly not every child will get autism from the MMR vaccine but there are some with weaker immune systems, she says. She believes that kids need to be tested to make sure their immune systems are strong enough to handle the vaccines. She also says rather than having six shots per visit, why not have one shot per visit. These are simple tips that can go a long way.

It’s a very tough decision for parents on whether or not to give the MMR vaccination to their kids. Some people are anti vaccination as a whole because of side effects, some vaccinate fully to protect their kids from potentially harmful diseases and the others fall somewhere in between. Wherever you fall, just make sure to do the research on both sides and follow your intuition as much as possible.







8 Comment(s)

  1. Trevor, please have a look at the work of Cdn researcher Dr. Shiv Chopra.  see his website: 

    Dr. Chopra has been a regular speaker at several Total Health Conferences in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  As well you might be able to access more information as to the Canadian effort to expose the risks of vaccinations & studies that may have been published since the British Medical Society ones that you have mentioned above by contacting or searching the editorials of preventative  health Dr. Zoltan Rona, at
    … looking forward to seeing the other comments on this issue.

    K. Brooks | Reply

  2. It's important to remember that the signs of autism only become noticeable at around the age that MMR is given. It is very very likely that people who think MMR "gave" their children autism are incorrectly tying the two events together. Correlation does not imply causation.

    deb | Reply

  3. Have you thought of asking any of various Autistic self-advocacy organizations about this subject?
    Also check out the Jenny McCarthy Body Count:

    Jim Sinclair | Reply

  4. Jim, good suggestion.
    Deb, great point- depending on the individual case there may or may not be a correlation.

    admin | Reply

  5. I agree that correlation does not always imply causation, but it may sometimes if there is proof to back it up. There is an interesting bit of information I read in the book Fast Food Nation listed somewhere in the exhaustive list of endnotes that mentioned a study where they found that when thimerosal (mercury-based preservative for vaccines) was first used, that was when autism showed up, the FIRST time ever in the entire history of mankind! Also, in one of Jenny McCarthy's recent books, there is a chart from a physician who specializes in this health issue that lists certain symptoms of autism and they are EXACTLY the same symptoms as found in mercury poisoning. Since there is a 100% correlation (not counting for other autistic symptoms not listed in the book), between the two, there is no significant difference, which is very important in scientific research. This sounds very much like there being a correlation that most likely does strongly imply causation. To link cause and effect without proof may show a logical fallacy, (though not necessarily since the proof may not have been totally found, though it may still exist), but when there is strong evidence, then it is no longer a logical fallacy. This link is not totally proven, but logically it does make sense and there is a strong implication, even if not fully proven, since implication is when someone has an idea about something, not always proven, but it may be proven to be true with further strong evidence. –Medical Researcher

    Green | Reply

  6. Besides, there are safer ways to increase antibodies against disease organisms instead of vaccination. Vaccinations often have harmful additives that can cause illness or on rare occasions, even death. (These even have been shown on the CDC website.) They also may use weakened disease organisms, which in a person with a weakened immune system, as from tension or a cold or some other stressor, may develop into a full-blown illness, and this has been recorded on several occasions. There is a method to increase antibodies to particular pathogenic microorganisms, which is found in homeopathy, called nosodes. A small amount of purified organism is given to an individual, who then develops the antibodies, without the harmful side effects of toxic additives and also lessens the chance of developing the disease itself since the organisms are dead, not weakened, so they cannot replicate inside the human body. The other way to help prevent developing diseases is to use various methods of naturally increasing the immune system, such as obtaining enough sleep, dealing with stress, eating healthy foods, taking herbs, exercising and so forth. With this two-pronged approach, it should help more people be able to not get these diseases, which is better than only working on the immune system, where there is a danger of exposure to disease organisms, and someone's immune system may still be compromised. It is also better than relying on vaccines that have harmful toxins from the additives and the weakened pathogenic microorganisms themselves, and yes much, much safer! –Medical Researcher

    Green | Reply

  7. Not to say there couldn't be other possible causes of autism, the evidence shows that there is a strong causal link between mercury and autism at least in some cases. Time will tell what these other things are, through further research in this vital area of concern. –Medical Researcher

    Green | Reply

  8. All thoughtful comments. I agree that it is possible that the MMR vaccine can be falsely blamed in some instances. I believe the key is in identifying what shape the child's immune system is in before vaccination and looking at their history (frequent illnesses, frequent use of antibiotics due to infections, etc…) to determine whether or not to vaccinate. When they can test for a suppressed or compromised immune system, Dr.s may just find that the okay's they are giving parents to vaccinate their children are wrong. By following this vein of thought and research, maybe someone will get somewhere on determining the root cause of this neurological disorder and how to successfully treat or prevent it. Either way it is highlly complex. I have a son (6 years) with ASD. The medical and public health profession needs to get past this MMR backlash in protecting its collective interest. An important question to answer in these cases is - what is the antecedent prior to the onset of ASD symptoms where it pertains to vaccinations. It's not a witch hunt on the MMR – parents just want answers and are trying to find whatever safe interventions possible to help their children. The incidence of ASD is increasing.
    The only documentd/researched proven intervention that the governemnt funds (very limited basis) is IBI therapy (Canada).

    Reigs | Reply

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