Read the Science
Literature Reviews: Autism and Vaccines
Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism
The Journal of the American Medical Association
Safety of Vaccines Used for Routine Immunization of U.S. Children: A Systematic Review
MA Maglione, L Das, L Raaen, A Smith, R Chari, S Newberry, R Shanman, T Perry, MB Goetz and C Gidengil,
Pediatrics, Aug 2014
Concerns about vaccine safety have led some parents to decline recommended vaccination of their children, leading to the resurgence of diseases. Reassurance of vaccine safety remains critical for population health. This study systematically reviewed the literature on the safety of routine vaccines recommended for children in the United States.Data sources included PubMed, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices statements, package inserts, existing reviews, manufacturer information packets, and the 2011 Institute of Medicine consensus report on vaccine safety. We augmented the Institute of Medicine report with more recent studies and increased the scope to include more vaccines. Only studies that used active surveillance and had a control mechanism were included. Formulations not used in the United States were excluded. Adverse events and patient and vaccine characteristics were abstracted. Adverse event collection and reporting was evaluated by using the McHarm scale. We were unable to pool results. Strength of evidence was rated as high, moderate, low, or insufficient.Of 20 478 titles identified, 67 were included. Strength of evidence was high for measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and febrile seizures; the varicella vaccine was associated with complications in immunodeficient individuals. There is strong evidence that MMR vaccine is not associated with autism. There is moderate evidence that rotavirus vaccines are associated with intussusception. Limitations of the study include that the majority of studies did not investigate or identify risk factors for AEs; and the severity of AEs was inconsistently reported.We found evidence that some vaccines are associated with serious AEs; however, these events are extremely rare and must be weighed against the protective benefits that vaccines provide.
Vaccines are Not Associated with Autism: An Evidence-Based Meta-Analysis of Case-Control and Cohort Studies
LE Taylor, AL Swerdfeger and GD Eslick,
Vaccine, Jun 2014 17
There has been enormous debate regarding the possibility of a link between childhood vaccinations and the subsequent development of autism. This has in recent times become a major public health issue with vaccine preventable diseases increasing in the community due to the fear of a 'link' between vaccinations and autism. We performed a meta-analysis to summarise available evidence from case-control and cohort studies on this topic (MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, Google Scholar up to April, 2014). Eligible studies assessed the relationship between vaccine administration and the subsequent development of autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Two reviewers extracted data on study characteristics, methods, and outcomes. Disagreement was resolved by consensus with another author. Five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9,920 children were included in this analysis. The cohort data revealed no relationship between vaccination and autism (OR: 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.06) or ASD (OR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.20), nor was there a relationship between autism and MMR (OR: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.70 to 1.01), or thimerosal (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.77 to 1.31), or mercury (Hg) (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.93 to 1.07). Similarly the case-control data found no evidence for increased risk of developing autism or ASD following MMR, Hg, or thimerosal exposure when grouped by condition (OR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.98; p=0.02) or grouped by exposure type (OR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76 to 0.95; p=0.01). Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.
On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes
Smith, M and Woods, C
Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses
Clinical Infectious Diseases
Offit, Paul and Gerber, Jeffrey S.
Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism
Institute of Medicine
Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: A Report of the Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines
Institute of Medicine
Too Many Too Soon?
Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?
Offit, Paul A., Quarles, Jessica, et al.
Immunization Safety Review: Multiple Immunizations and Immune Dysfunction
Institute of Medicine
Cellular Immune Responses in Neonates
S Fadel and M Sarzotti,
International reviews of immunology, 2000
Reduced numbers of lymphocytes and antigen presenting cells have been described as some of the main factors responsible for antigenic tolerance or low responsiveness in neonates. However, by changing the parameters of immunization, such as dose of antigen and frequency of antigen presenting cells we and others have shown that neonates have the option of developing the same variety of immune responses seen in adults. Several aspects of the development of cellular immunity in human and murine neonates are reviewed in this article, with a special focus on the development of T cell mediated responses, from ontogeny to effector function.
International Reviews of Immunology
Fadel S, Sarazotti M.
Neonatal and Early Life Vaccinology
Vaccine, May 2001 14
Preclinical and human vaccine studies indicate that, although neonatal immunisation does not generally lead to rapid and strong antibody responses, it may result in an efficient immunological priming, which can serve as an excellent basis for future responses. The apparent impairment of CD4 and CD8 T-cell function in early life seems to result from suboptimal antigen-presenting cells-T cell interactions, which can be overcome by use of specific adjuvants or delivery systems. Although persistence of maternal antibodies may limit infant antibody responses, induction of T-cell responses largely remain unaffected by these passively transferred antibodies. Thus, neonatal priming and early boosting with vaccine formulations optimised for sufficient early life immunogenicity and maximal safety profiles, could allow better control of the huge infectious disease burden in early life.
The Problem with Dr. Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule
In October 2007, Dr Robert Sears, in response to growing parental concerns about the safety of vaccines, published The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child . Sears' book is enormously popular, having sold >40000 copies. At the...
Offit, Paul A. and Moser, Charlotte A.
Thimerosal and Autism Studies
Neuropsychological performance 10 years after immunization in infancy with thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Tozzi AE, Bisiacchi P, Tarantino V, De Mei B, D’Elia L, Chariotti F, Salmaso S.
Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System
Archives of General Psychiatry
Robert Schechter, MD, MSc and Judith K. Grether, PhD
Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years
New England Journal of Medicine
Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al.
Lack of Association Between Rh Status, Rh Immune Globulin in Pregnancy and Autism
American Journal of Medical Genetics
Judith H. Miles and T. Nicole Takahashi
Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
TM Burbacher, DD Shen, N Liberato, KS Grant, E Cernichiari and T Clarkson,
Environmental health perspectives, Aug 2005
Thimerosal is a preservative that has been used in manufacturing vaccines since the 1930s. Reports have indicated that infants can receive ethylmercury (in the form of thimerosal) at or above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for methylmercury exposure, depending on the exact vaccinations, schedule, and size of the infant. In this study we compared the systemic disposition and brain distribution of total and inorganic mercury in infant monkeys after thimerosal exposure with those exposed to MeHg. Monkeys were exposed to MeHg (via oral gavage) or vaccines containing thimerosal (via intramuscular injection) at birth and 1, 2, and 3 weeks of age. Total blood Hg levels were determined 2, 4, and 7 days after each exposure. Total and inorganic brain Hg levels were assessed 2, 4, 7, or 28 days after the last exposure. The initial and terminal half-life of Hg in blood after thimerosal exposure was 2.1 and 8.6 days, respectively, which are significantly shorter than the elimination half-life of Hg after MeHg exposure at 21.5 days. Brain concentrations of total Hg were significantly lower by approximately 3-fold for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys when compared with the MeHg infants, whereas the average brain-to-blood concentration ratio was slightly higher for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys (3.5 +/- 0.5 vs. 2.5 +/- 0.3). A higher percentage of the total Hg in the brain was in the form of inorganic Hg for the thimerosal-exposed monkeys (34% vs. 7%). The results indicate that MeHg is not a suitable reference for risk assessment from exposure to thimerosal-derived Hg. Knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental toxicity of thimerosal is needed to afford a meaningful assessment of the developmental effects of thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Environmental Health Perspectives
Thomas M. Burbacher, PhD
Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
J Heron and J Golding,
Pediatrics, Sep 2004
There is an established link between exposure to mercury and impaired childhood cognitive development and early motor skills. Thimerosal (also known as thiomersal), a preservative used in a number of children's vaccines, contains ethylmercury (an organic compound of mercury), and there has been concern that this exposure to mercury may be of some detriment to young children. The aim of this research was to test in a large United Kingdom population-based cohort whether there is any evidence to justify such concerns.We used population data from a longitudinal study on childhood health and development. The study has been monitoring >14,000 children who are from the geographic area formerly known as Avon, United Kingdom, and were delivered in 1991-1992. The age at which doses of thimerosal-containing vaccines were administered was recorded, and measures of mercury exposure by 3, 4, and 6 months of age were calculated and compared with a number of measures of childhood cognitive and behavioral development covering the period from 6 to 91 months of age.Contrary to expectation, it was common for the unadjusted results to suggest a beneficial effect of thimerosal exposure. For example, exposure at 3 months was inversely associated with hyperactivity and conduct problems at 47 months; motor development at 6 months and at 30 months; difficulties with sounds at 81 months; and speech therapy, special needs, and "statementing" at 91 months. After adjustment for birth weight, gestation, gender, maternal education, parity, housing tenure, maternal smoking, breastfeeding, and ethnic origins, we found 1 result of 69 to be in the direction hypothesized-poor prosocial behavior at 47 months was associated with exposure by 3 months of age (odds ratio: 1.12; 95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.23) compared with 8 results that still supported a beneficial effect.We could find no convincing evidence that early exposure to thimerosal had any deleterious effect on neurologic or psychological outcome.
John Heron and Nick Andrews, PhD and Jean Golding, DSc
Neurotoxic Effects of Postnatal Thimerosal Are Mouse Strain Dependent
M Hornig, D Chian and WI Lipkin,
Molecular psychiatry, Sep 2004
The developing brain is uniquely susceptible to the neurotoxic hazard posed by mercurials. Host differences in maturation, metabolism, nutrition, sex, and autoimmunity influence outcomes. How population-based variability affects the safety of the ethylmercury-containing vaccine preservative, thimerosal, is unknown. Reported increases in the prevalence of autism, a highly heritable neuropsychiatric condition, are intensifying public focus on environmental exposures such as thimerosal. Immune profiles and family history in autism are frequently consistent with autoimmunity. We hypothesized that autoimmune propensity influences outcomes in mice following thimerosal challenges that mimic routine childhood immunizations. Autoimmune disease-sensitive SJL/J mice showed growth delay; reduced locomotion; exaggerated response to novelty; and densely packed, hyperchromic hippocampal neurons with altered glutamate receptors and transporters. Strains resistant to autoimmunity, C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ, were not susceptible. These findings implicate genetic influences and provide a model for investigating thimerosal-related neurotoxicity.
M Hornig, M
Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Database
T Verstraeten, RL Davis, F DeStefano, TA Lieu, PH Rhodes, SB Black, H Shinefield and RT Chen,
Pediatrics, Nov 2003
To assess the possible toxicity of thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) among infants.A 2-phased retrospective cohort study was conducted using computerized health maintenance organization (HMO) databases. Phase I screened for associations between neurodevelopmental disorders and thimerosal exposure among 124 170 infants who were born during 1992 to 1999 at 2 HMOs (A and B). In phase II, the most common disorders associated with exposure in phase I were reevaluated among 16 717 children who were born during 1991 to 1997 in another HMO (C). Relative risks for neurodevelopmental disorders were calculated per increase of 12.5 micro g of estimated cumulative mercury exposure from TCVs in the first, third, and seventh months of life.In phase I at HMO A, cumulative exposure at 3 months resulted in a significant positive association with tics (relative risk [RR]: 1.89; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.05-3.38). At HMO B, increased risks of language delay were found for cumulative exposure at 3 months (RR: 1.13; 95% CI: 1.01-1.27) and 7 months (RR: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.01-1.13). In phase II at HMO C, no significant associations were found. In no analyses were significant increased risks found for autism or attention-deficit disorder.No consistent significant associations were found between TCVs and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Conflicting results were found at different HMOs for certain outcomes. For resolving the conflicting findings, studies with uniform neurodevelopmental assessments of children with a range of cumulative thimerosal exposures are needed.
Thomas Verstraeten, MD
Association Between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism
A Hviid, M Stellfeld, J Wohlfahrt and M Melbye,
JAMA, Oct 2003 01
Mercuric compounds are nephrotoxic and neurotoxic at high doses. Thimerosal, a preservative used widely in vaccine formulations, contains ethylmercury. Thus it has been suggested that childhood vaccination with thimerosal-containing vaccine could be causally related to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.To determine whether vaccination with a thimerosal-containing vaccine is associated with development of autism.Population-based cohort study of all children born in Denmark from January 1, 1990, until December 31, 1996 (N = 467 450) comparing children vaccinated with a thimerosal-containing vaccine with children vaccinated with a thimerosal-free formulation of the same vaccine.Rate ratio (RR) for autism and other autistic-spectrum disorders, including trend with dose of ethylmercury.During 2 986 654 person-years, we identified 440 autism cases and 787 cases of other autistic-spectrum disorders. The risk of autism and other autistic-spectrum disorders did not differ significantly between children vaccinated with thimerosal-containing vaccine and children vaccinated with thimerosal-free vaccine (RR, 0.85 [95% confidence interval [CI], 0.60-1.20] for autism; RR, 1.12 [95% CI, 0.88-1.43] for other autistic-spectrum disorders). Furthermore, we found no evidence of a dose-response association (increase in RR per 25 microg of ethylmercury, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.90-1.06] for autism and 1.03 [95% CI, 0.98-1.09] for other autistic-spectrum disorders).The results do not support a causal relationship between childhood vaccination with thimerosal-containing vaccines and development of autistic-spectrum disorders.
Journal of the American Medical Association
Anders Hviid, MSc
Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data
KM Madsen, MB Lauritsen, CB Pedersen, P Thorsen, AM Plesner, PH Andersen and PB Mortensen,
Ugeskrift for laeger, Sep 2004 13
Kreesten M. Madsen, MD
“Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: Lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association”
P Stehr-Green, P Tull, M Stellfeld, PB Mortenson and D Simpson,
American journal of preventive medicine, Aug 2003
In 1999, concerns were raised that vaccines containing the preservative Thimerosal might increase the risk of autism and/or other neurodevelopmental disorders.Between the mid-1980s through the late-1990s, we compared the prevalence/incidence of autism in California, Sweden, and Denmark with average exposures to Thimerosal-containing vaccines. Graphic ecologic analyses were used to examine population-based data from the United States (national immunization coverage surveys and counts of children diagnosed with autism-like disorders seeking special education services in California); Sweden (national inpatient data on autism cases, national vaccination coverage levels, and information on use of all vaccines and vaccine-specific amounts of Thimerosal); and Denmark (national registry of inpatient/outpatient-diagnosed autism cases, national vaccination coverage levels, and information on use of all vaccines and vaccine-specific amounts of Thimerosal).In all three countries, the incidence and prevalence of autism-like disorders began to rise in the 1985-1989 period, and the rate of increase accelerated in the early 1990s. However, in contrast to the situation in the United States, where the average Thimerosal dose from vaccines increased throughout the 1990s, Thimerosal exposures from vaccines in both Sweden and Denmark-already low throughout the 1970s and 1980s-began to decrease in the late 1980s and were eliminated in the early 1990s.The body of existing data, including the ecologic data presented herein, is not consistent with the hypothesis that increased exposure to Thimerosal-containing vaccines is responsible for the apparent increase in the rates of autism in young children being observed worldwide.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Paul Stehr-Green, DrPh, MPH
Thimerosal and Autism?
Karen Nelson, MD
Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: A descriptive study
ME Pichichero, E Cernichiari, J Lopreiato and J Treanor,
Lancet (London, England), Nov 30 2002
Thiomersal is a preservative containing small amounts of ethylmercury that is used in routine vaccines for infants and children. The effect of vaccines containing thiomersal on concentrations of mercury in infants' blood has not been extensively assessed, and the metabolism of ethylmercury in infants is unknown. We aimed to measure concentrations of mercury in blood, urine, and stools of infants who received such vaccines.40 full-term infants aged 6 months and younger were given vaccines that contained thiomersal (diptheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, and in some children Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine). 21 control infants received thiomersal-free vaccines. We obtained samples of blood, urine, and stools 3-28 days after vaccination. Total mercury (organic and inorganic) in the samples was measured by cold vapour atomic absorption.Mean mercury doses in infants exposed to thiomersal were 45.6 microg (range 37.5-62.5) for 2-month-olds and 111.3 microg (range 87.5-175.0) for 6-month-olds. Blood mercury in thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds ranged from less than 3.75 to 20.55 nmol/L (parts per billion); in 6-month-olds all values were lower than 7.50 nmol/L. Only one of 15 blood samples from controls contained quantifiable mercury. Concentrations of mercury were low in urine after vaccination but were high in stools of thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds (mean 82 ng/g dry weight) and in 6-month-olds (mean 58 ng/g dry weight). Estimated blood half-life of ethylmercury was 7 days (95% CI 4-10 days).Administration of vaccines containing thiomersal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants. Ethylmercury seems to be eliminated from blood rapidly via the stools after parenteral administration of thiomersal in vaccines.
Michael Pichichero, MD
Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine and Autism Studies
Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior
Environmental Health Perspectives
Early Exposure to the Combined Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Y Uno, T Uchiyama, M Kurosawa, B Aleksic and N Ozaki,
Vaccine, May 2015 15
This case-control study investigated the relationship between the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) onset, and early exposure to the combined Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal consumption measured from vaccinations in the highly genetically homogenous Japanese population.Vaccination histories at 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months from birth were investigated in ASD cases (189 samples), and controls (224 samples) matching age and sex in each case. Crude odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated to determine relationship between MMR vaccination and ASD. The differences in mean values of the thimerosal dosage between cases and controls were analyzed using an unpaired t-test. MMR vaccination and thimerosal dosage were also investigated using a conditional multiple-regression model.There were no significant differences in MMR vaccination and thimerosal dosage between cases and controls at any age. Furthermore, the ORs (95% CIs) of MMR vaccination and thimerosal dosage associated with ASD in the conditional multiple regression model were, respectively, 0.875 (0.345-2.222) and 1.205 (0.862-1.683) at age 18 months, 0.724 (0.421-1.243) and 1.343 (0.997-1.808) at 24 months, and 1.040 (0.648-1.668) and 0.844 (0.632-1.128) at 36 months. Thus, there were no significant differences.No convincing evidence was found in this study that MMR vaccination and increasing thimerosal dose were associated with an increased risk of ASD onset.
January 3, 2015
Remembering How to Fight Measles
New York Times
Paul A. Offit, MD
How to Think About the Risk of Autism
New York Times
Sam Wang, Ph.D.
Lack of Association Between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study
Hornig M, Briese T, Buie T, Bauman ML, Lauwers G, et al.
Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Archives of Disease in Childhood
Gillian Baird, F.R.C.Paed.
Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links With Immunizations
E Fombonne, R Zakarian, A Bennett, L Meng and D McLean-Heywood,
Pediatrics, Jul 2006
The prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders has increased in recent years. Links with the measles component of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the cumulative exposure to thimerosal through other vaccines have been postulated.The purpose of this work was to estimate the pervasive developmental disorder prevalence in Montreal, Canada, in cohorts born from 1987 to 1998 and evaluate the relationship of trends in pervasive developmental disorder rates with: (1) changes in cumulative exposure to ethylmercury (thimerosal) occurring through modifications in the immunization schedule of young children and (2) trends in measles-mumps-rubella vaccination use rates and the introduction of a 2-measles-mumps-rubella dosing schedule during the study period.We surveyed 27749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools from the largest Anglophone school board. Children with pervasive developmental disorders were identified by a special needs team. The cumulative exposure by age 2 years to thimerosal was calculated for 1987-1998 birth cohorts. Ethylmercury exposure ranged from medium (100-125 microg) from 1987 to 1991 to high (200-225 microg) from 1992 to 1995 to nil from 1996 onwards when thimerosal was entirely discontinued. Measles-mumps-rubella coverage for each birth cohort was estimated through surveys of vaccination rates. The immunization schedule included a measles-mumps-rubella single dose at 12 months of age up to 1995, and a second measles-mumps-rubella dose at 18 months of age was added on after 1996.We found 180 children (82.8% males) with a pervasive developmental disorder diagnosis who attended the surveyed schools, yielding a prevalence for pervasive developmental disorder of 64.9 per 10000. The prevalence for specific pervasive developmental disorder subtypes were, for autistic disorder: 21.6 of 10000; for pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified: 32.8 of 10000; and for Asperger syndrome: 10.1 of 10000. A statistically significant linear increase in pervasive developmental disorder prevalence was noted during the study period. The prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in thimerosal-free birth cohorts was significantly higher than that in thimerosal-exposed cohorts (82.7 of 10000 vs 59.5 of 10000). Using logistic regression models of the prevalence data, we found no significant effect of thimerosal exposure used either as a continuous or a categorical variable. Thus, thimerosal exposure was unrelated to the increasing trend in pervasive developmental disorder prevalence. These results were robust when additional analyses were performed to address possible limitations because of the ecological nature of the data and to evaluate potential effects of misclassification on exposure or diagnosis. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination coverage averaged 93% during the study interval with a statistically significant decreasing trend from 96.1% in the older birth cohorts (1988-89) to approximately 92.4% in younger birth cohorts (1996-1998). Thus, pervasive developmental disorder rates significantly increased when measles-mumps-rubella vaccination uptake rates significantly decreased. In addition, pervasive developmental disorder prevalence increased at the same rate before and after the introduction in 1996 of the second measles-mumps-rubella dose, suggesting no increased risk of pervasive developmental disorder associated with a 2-measles-mumps-rubella dosing schedule before age 2 years. Results held true when additional analyses were performed to test for the potential effects of misclassification on exposure or diagnostic status. Thus, no relationship was found between pervasive developmental disorder rates and 1- or 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella immunization schedule.The prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in Montreal was high, increasing in recent birth cohorts as found in most countries. Factors accounting for the increase include a broadening of diagnostic concepts and criteria, increased awareness and, therefore, better identification of children with pervasive developmental disorders in communities and epidemiologic surveys, and improved access to services. The findings ruled out an association between pervasive developmental disorder and either high levels of ethylmercury exposure comparable with those experienced in the United States in the 1990s or 1- or 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations.
Eric Fombonne, MD
MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study
L Smeeth, C Cook, E Fombonne, L Heavey, LC Rodrigues, PG Smith and AJ Hall,
Lancet (London, England), Sep 2004 11-17
Concern that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination might cause autism has led to a fall in vaccine coverage. We investigated whether MMR vaccination is associated with an increased risk of autism or other pervasive developmental disorders.We did a matched case-control study using the UK General Practice Research Database. Cases were people born in 1973 or later who had first recorded diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder while registered with a contributing general practice between 1987 and 2001. Controls were matched on age, sex, and general practice.1294 cases and 4469 controls were included. 1010 cases (78.1%) had MMR vaccination recorded before diagnosis, compared with 3671 controls (82.1%) before the age at which their matched case was diagnosed. After adjustment for age at joining the database, the odds ratio for association between MMR and pervasive developmental disorder was 0.86 (95% CI 0.68-1.09). Findings were similar when restricted to children with a diagnosis of autism, to those vaccinated with MMR before the third birthday, or to the period before media coverage of the hypothesis linking MMR with autism.Our findings suggest that MMR vaccination is not associated with an increased risk of pervasive developmental disorders.
Liam Smeeth, MRCGP
September 11, 2004
Association of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine
K Wilson, E Mills, C Ross, J McGowan and A Jadad,
Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, Jul 2003
To systematically review the evidence for and against the existence of an association between autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.We conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to identify all controlled epidemiological articles examining for an association between ASD and the MMR vaccine. We extracted data from the articles on the characteristics and objectives of the study as well as evidence of an association.Twelve articles met the inclusion criteria. One study found no difference in the rates of ASD and the MMR vaccine in children who were vaccinated and those who were not. Six studies examined for evidence of an increase in ASD associated with an increase in the MMR vaccine coverage, none of which showed evidence of an association. Four studies examined if a variant form of ASD was associated with the MMR vaccine, none of which showed evidence of an association. Eight studies attempted to determine if there was a temporal association between developing ASD and receiving the MMR vaccine. Of these, 1 study identified an increase in parental concern in the 6-month period following vaccination with MMR in one of its analyses. The results of all other studies showed no association between ASD and the MMR vaccine.The current literature does not suggest an association between ASD and the MMR vaccine; however, limited epidemiological evidence exists to rule out a link between a rare variant form of ASD and the MMR vaccine. Given the real risks of not vaccinating and that the risks and existence of variant ASD remain theoretical, current policies should continue to advocate the use of the MMR vaccine.
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
Kumanan Wilson, MD, MSc, FRCP
Neurologic Disorders After Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination
A Mäkelä, JP Nuorti and H Peltola,
Pediatrics, Nov 2002
The possibility of adverse neurologic events has fueled much concern about the safety of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccinations. The available evidence concerning several of the postulated complications is controversial. The aim of this study was to assess whether an association prevails between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, and autism.A retrospective study based on linkage of individual MMR vaccination data with a hospital discharge register was conducted among 535 544 1- to 7-year-old children who were vaccinated between November 1982 and June 1986 in Finland. For encephalitis and aseptic meningitis, the numbers of events observed within a 3-month risk interval after vaccination were compared with the expected numbers estimated on the basis of occurrence of encephalitis and aseptic meningitis during the subsequent 3-month intervals. Changes in the overall number of hospitalizations for autism after vaccination throughout the study period were searched for. In addition, hospitalizations because of inflammatory bowel diseases were checked for the children with autism.Of the 535 544 children who were vaccinated, 199 were hospitalized for encephalitis, 161 for aseptic meningitis, and 352 for autistic disorders. In 9 children with encephalitis and 10 with meningitis, the disease developed within 3 months of vaccination, revealing no increased occurrence within this designated risk period. We detected no clustering of hospitalizations for autism after vaccination. None of the autistic children made hospital visits for inflammatory bowel diseases.We did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, or autism.
Annamari Makela, MD
No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism
E Fombonne and S Chakrabarti,
Pediatrics, Oct 2001
A link has been postulated between measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and a form of autism that is a combination of developmental regression and gastrointestinal symptoms that occur shortly after immunization. This hypothesis has involved 3 separate claims: 1) that there is new phenotype of autism involving regression and gastrointestinal symptoms, 2) that this new variant is responsible for the alleged rise of autism rates, and 3) that this phenotype is associated with biological findings suggestive of the persistence of measles infection. We tested the first of these claims. If this new "autistic enterocolitis" syndrome had some validity, then 1 or several of the following 6 predictions should be supported by empirical data: 1) childhood disintegrative disorder has become more frequent, 2) the mean age of first parental concern for autistic children who are exposed to MMR is closer to the mean immunization age than in children who are not exposed to MMR, 3) regression in the development of children with autism has become more common in MMR-vaccinated children, 4) the age of onset for autistic children with regression clusters around the MMR immunization date and is different from that of autistic children without regression, 5) children with regressive autism have distinct symptom and severity profiles, and 6) regressive autism is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms and/or inflammatory bowel disorder.Three samples were used. Epidemiologic data on 96 children (95 immunized with MMR at a median age of 13.5 months) who were born between 1992 and 1995 and had a pervasive developmental disorder diagnosis as reported in a recent UK survey (post-MMR sample) were compared with data from 2 previous clinical samples (1 pre-MMR [n = 98] and 1 post-MMR [n = 68]) of autistic patients. All patients were assessed with the standardized Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI), allowing rigorous comparison of age at first parental concerns and rates of regression across samples. Reliability was excellent on ADI scores, age of parental concern, and developmental regression. Furthermore, data on bowel symptoms and disorders were available in the epidemiologic survey from both pediatric and parental sources, and immunization dates were obtained from computerized records.The prevalence of childhood disintegrative disorder was 0.6/10 000 (95% confidence interval: 0.02-3.6/10 000); this very low rate is consistent with previous estimates and is not suggestive of an increased frequency of this form of pervasive developmental disorder in samples of children who are immunized with MMR. There was no difference in the mean age at first parental concern between the 2 samples exposed to MMR (19.3 and 19.2 months) and the pre-MMR sample (19.5 months). Thus, MMR immunization was not associated with a shift toward an earlier age for first parental concerns. Similarly, the rate of developmental regression reported in the post-MMR sample (15.6%) was not different from that in the pre-MMR sample (18.4%); therefore, there was no suggestion that regression in the developmental course of autism had increased in frequency since MMR was introduced. In the epidemiologic sample, the subset of autistic children with regression had no other developmental or clinical characteristics, which would have argued for a specific, etiologically distinct phenotype. Parents of autistic children with developmental regression detected the first symptoms at a very similar age (19.8 months) to those of autistic children without regression (19.3 months). Moreover, the mean intervals from MMR immunization to parental recognition of autistic symptoms were comparable in autistic children with or without regression (248 vs 272 days; not significant). In the epidemiologic sample, gastrointestinal symptoms were reported in 18.8% of children. Constipation was the most common symptom (9.4%), and no inflammatory bowel disorder was reported. Furthermore, there was no association between developmental regression and gastrointestinal symptoms (odds ratio: 0.63; 95% confidence interval: 0.06-3.2; not significant), and only 2.1% of the sample experienced both problems, a rate that did not exceed chance expectations.No evidence was found to support a distinct syndrome of MMR-induced autism or of "autistic enterocolitis." These results add to the recent accumulation of large-scale epidemiologic studies that all failed to support an association between MMR and autism at population level. When combined, the current findings do not argue for changes in current immunization programs and recommendations.
Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych