Experts rule out MMR connections with autism

Experts conclusively rejected any suggestion that the triple measles, mumps and rubella jab was linked to disorders including autism.

Experts conclusively rejected any suggestion that the triple measles, mumps and rubella jab was linked to disorders including autism.

The Cochrane Review researchers, who analysed 31 studies from around the world, concluded today that there was no credible evidence behind the claims of harm from the controversial MMR vaccine.

Health campaigners will hope this declaration will finally end confusion among parents and boost uptake of the jab in the UK.

In 1998 controversial research claimed that MMR was linked to autism and the stomach disorder Crohn’s disease.

The research by Dr Andrew Wakefield, published in The Lancet, has since been discredited, although many parents are still concerned and vaccination levels remain lower than hoped.

Research published in The Lancet last year concluded that there was no evidence to support a link between the combined vaccine and autism in children.

Now The Cochrane Library – a regularly updated collection of evidence-based medicine databases – has published its own conclusions on the jab, drawing together all the available information from around the world.

Lead author Dr Vittorio Demicheli said: “We conclude that all the major unintended events, such as triggering Crohn’s disease or autism, were suspected on the basis of unreliable evidence.”

After widespread coverage of the negative research on MMR, uptake of the jab plummeted in the UK and in many parts of the country still remains worryingly low.

The most recent statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that uptake of MMR vaccine among two-year-olds in England was 81% in 2004/05 – up from 80% in 2003-04.

This was the first year-on-year increase since 1995-96, when uptake of the jab peaked at 92%.

But MMR vaccination in England still remains well below the level of 95% recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Demicheli said: “Public health decisions need to be based on sound evidence.

“If this principle had been applied in the case of the MMR dispute, then we would have avoided all the fuss.”

The experts pointed out that the success of vaccination programme may have resulted in people forgetting that measles, mumps and rubella are serious diseases that can lead to permanent damage or even death.

They said that in developing nations, where vaccination is less common, deaths from these diseases remains high.

The MMR jab was introduced in the US during the 1970s and is now used in over 90 countries around the world.

The Cochrane systematic review considered all the available evidence from research into the vaccine.

The researchers concluded that there was no credible link between MMR and any long-term disability – including Crohn’s and autism.

They said that MMR was an important vaccine that had “prevented diseases that still carry a heavy burden of death and complications where the vaccine is not used consistently”.

The researchers said that the lack of confidence in MMR had caused great damage to public health.

And they concluded that anyone arguing for or against the use of any therapy needed to make sure that they based their conclusions on carefully collected evidence and “not just on biased opinion, speculation or suspicion”.

Mark Davies, co-chair of the Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group, said: “This review exemplifies what Cochrane reviews are all about.

“For the first time all the evidence that is available on the efficacy and safety of MMR vaccine has been gathered together into one report.”

More information on the review is available by visiting

More in this section

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd