National Disease Surveillance Centre Warns Parents to Ignore Unfounded Vaccine Scare and Get the MMR Vaccine for their Children. Irish Children Should Not Die of Vaccine Preventable Illness

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The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) is alarmed at the recent media reports and subsequent public interest in a theory, which suggest that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in general may be linked to autism. The NDSC holds the belief that the current scientific evidence, which states that since 1988 more than 250 million doses of the MMR vaccine have been given to children with no sudden change in the incidence of autism, does not support this theory.

A recently published study in The Lancet by Dr Brent Taylor(1) provides the best population-based evidence regarding MMR vaccination and autism. The authors identified all 498 known cases of autism related disorders living in certain parts of London and who were born in 1979 or later and correlated the cases to an independent vaccination registry. The results showed:

  • Despite an increase in the number of diagnosed cases since 1979, no jump occurred after the introduction of the vaccine in 1988
  • Children who were vaccinated before 18 months of age were diagnosed with autism at ages similar to children who were vaccinated after 18 months of age, indicating that the vaccination did not result in an earlier presentation of characteristics associated with autism
  • At age two the MMR vaccination coverage among children with autism was nearly identical to vaccination coverage of children in the same birth cohorts in the same London districts indicating lack of overall association between autism and the vaccination
  • In general the first diagnosis of autism or initial signs of behavioral regression were not more likely to occur within time periods following MMR vaccination that during other time periods.

The media reports on the alleged link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism relate to studies conducted by Dr Andrew Wakefield, Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Gastroenterology of the Royal Free Hospital in the UK in conjunction with Professor John O’Leary, Director of Pathology of the Coombe Women’s Hospital in 1998(2).

“The second Wakefield study has not yet been published. It is for this reason that we should not be rushing to conclusions about its’ validity. When it is published it will be examined in light of the many other studies on autism and MMR. The findings must then be set in context. Other researchers will then try and replicate the study to see if the findings hold true” said Dr Darina O’Flanagan, Director of the National Disease Surveillance Centre.

“It would be a disaster if children were to die of vaccine-preventable disease over this unfounded vaccine scare. We join in one voice with the Department of Health, the Irish Medicines Board and the Royal College of Physicians to refute the allegations made about the link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism. Children have a right to expect to be fully immunized and parents and health authorities have a responsibility to see that that right become a reality” added Dr O’Flanagan.

References
1 + 2 http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vacsafe/concerns/autism/autism-mmr.htm (Last accessed May 31 2000)