The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Vaccines: Separating Fact From Fear - Is There a Link Between the MMR Vaccine and Autism?
Parent: Recently, we saw a television news report about something that really stuck in my mind, which was the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Why wouldn't it just be safer to separate the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine instead of giving it to a child all at once?
Paul A. Offit, MD: This is a very emotional issue. And it springs from a report that came out of the United Kingdom in 1998. And this was a report of 12 children that had neurodevelopmental delay, eight of whom had autism. And in all eight children, these investigators found that there were intestinal disturbances. And in addition, all eight children had recently received the combination measles, mumps, rubella vaccine known as MMR. And so they wondered whether or not the vaccine was actually causing the autism. So to answer the question, a study was done. It was done by Brent Taylor. It was done in 1999. And what Brent Taylor did was he looked at not eight but 498 children with autism who either had or had not received the MMR vaccine. And what he found was that children with autism were no more likely to have received the MMR vaccine or to have received it recently than other children. The strength of any scientific observation is that it be reproduced. That's important. And that observation has now been reproduced twice; Once again in the United Kingdom, a second time in California with the same result. MMR vaccination does not cause autism.
To completely answer your question, "Why not separate the MMR vaccine into its three component parts?" There is no evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism, therefore, there is no reason to separate that vaccine into its three component parts. And the downside of doing that, one, is that you are giving children three shots when they only really need to have one. Two, is there will be a period of time, if you space out those shots when those children will be susceptible to those, you know, diseases for which you haven't given them that initial shot.