The life-saving MMR vaccine does not lead to autism, researchers have once again confirmed.
Anti-vaxxers have peddled the dangerous myth for almost 25 years, after a now debunked study suggested there was a link between the two.
But scientists have once again shot the controversial theory in the foot, by analysing data from more than 650,000 children given the jab.
The findings, by Danish experts, come amid soaring rates of measles across the world, with cases spiking by 50 per cent in the space of a year.
Andrew Wakefield, the now-disgraced doctor who led a retracted 1995 study that wrongly linked the MMR jab to autism, has reportedly been with supermodel Elle Macpherson, 51, for over a year and is said to be ‘infatuated’ with her
MMR protects against measles – a highly contagious viral infection which can prove deadly – as well as mumps and rubella.
The number of children in the UK having MMR vaccinations – which are given free by the NHS in the UK – has been falling for years.
The World Health Organization has already this year declared anti-vaxxers as one of the top 10 threats to global health, alongside pollution and climate change.
Researchers at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen looked at every child born in Denmark to Danish-born mothers between 1999 and 2000.
WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an injected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.
Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.
The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading.
Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.
In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.
Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious.
‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.
‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’
Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.
Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
Ukraine saw 30,000 more cases of measles in 2018 than it did in 2017, while Brazil had more than 10,000 people diagnosed compared with none at all the year before
In hope of spelling an end to the autism fears, they wanted to prove whether or not the MMR vaccine does increase the risk for the spectrum disorder in children.
The children were followed-up age one and until 2013 – when some of the youngsters in the study were 14.
WHICH VACCINES SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY THE AGE OF 18?
Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.
Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:
Eight weeks old
- 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal (PCV)
- Meningitis B
12 weeks old
- Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus
16 weeks old
- Third dose of 6-in-1
- Second doses of PCV and men. B
One year old
- Hib/meningitis C
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Third dose of PCV and meningitis B
Two to eight years old
- Annual children’s flu vaccine
Three years, four months old
- Second dose of MMR
- 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diptheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough
12-13 years old (girls)
- HPV (two doses within a year)
14 years old
- 3-in-1 teenage booster for diptheria, tetanus and polio
Source: NHS Choices
Around one per cent of the children went on to develop autism, which affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
The team found no significant difference in rates of autism between children given the MMR jab and those who weren’t.
And there was no increased risk of autism for those children deemed to be at a higher risk because their sibling is already on the spectrum.
The researchers, led by Dr Anders Hviid, published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine – a scientific journal.
Dr Hviid and colleagues wrote in the publication: ‘We found no support for the hypothesis of increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination.’
Scientists around the world are still trying to get to the bottom of what causes autism, which strikes around one in 100 people.
Currently, the medical community believes the disorder could be caused by a mixture of genes and environmental factors, such as being exposed to alcohol in the womb.
The Lancet published a study in 1995 which showed children given the MMR jab were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
As a result, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, dipping below the 80 per cent mark in the UK at the height of the fears.
Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, publically described the research as ‘fundamentally flawed’ in 2004 – nine years after it was published.
Dr Horton alleged that Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist behind the paper, was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The prestigious medical journal finally retracted the paper in 2010.
Just three months after his paper was pulled, Wakefield was banned from practising medicine in Britain by the General Medical Council.
In 2011, the British Medical Journal conducted a damning probe into the findings of Wakefield’s original study.
Its investigation found only two of the 12 children included developed autistic symptoms after being vaccinated – as opposed to the eight Wakefield claimed.
The study comes after figures in September revealed the number of children being given the MMR vaccine has fallen for the fourth year in a row.
Infants are expected to have their first dose before their second birthday. But only 91.2 per cent of children across England had met the target in 2018.
The number was down from 92.7 per cent in 2014 – the highest level of the past decade years – and from 91.6 per cent in 2017, NHS Digital data revealed.
Measles is more contagious than Ebola and, although it usually clears up on its own within a couple of weeks, can cause deadly complications like meningitis and pneumonia
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004, the editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practising medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.