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No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even in High-Risk Kids

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Child vaccination

Credit: CDC

Study after study has found no link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine—or any vaccine for that matter. Yet many parents still refuse or delay vaccinations for their young children based on misplaced fear of ASD, which can be traced back to a small 1998 study that’s since been debunked and retracted [1]. Such decisions can have a major negative impact on public health. With vaccination rates in decline, we’ve recently seen the resurgence of measles and other potentially fatal childhood infectious diseases.

Among the parents most likely to avoid getting their kids vaccinated are those who already have a child with ASD. So, it’s especially important and timely news that researchers have once again found no link between MMR vaccines and ASD—even among children known to be at greater risk for autism because an older sibling has the developmental brain disorder.

In the new study published in JAMA [2], an NIH-funded team, led by Anjali Jain of The Lewin Group, Falls Church, VA and Craig Newschaffer of Drexel University, Philadelphia, analyzed 2001-2012 health insurance claims for more than 95,000 children, ages birth to 5, plus their older siblings. More than 1,900 of the children studied had an older sibling with ASD, which is known to place them at greater risk of being diagnosed with ASD themselves.

Overall, about 1 percent of the children were diagnosed with ASD during the time period studied. The rate was significantly higher—nearly 7 percent—among the children with an older sibling with ASD, but the risk did not increase if they had received the MMR vaccine. In fact, in families that had an older child with ASD, a vaccinated younger sibling was actually somewhat less likely to receive an autism diagnosis.

Current U.S. recommendations call for two doses of MMR vaccine in children at age 12 to 15 months and then again at age 4 to 6. Given the distressing resurgence of measles in California and elsewhere, and this new study showing once again the lack of any connection of MMR vaccine and ASD, it’s more critical than ever that parents protect their children against measles and other infectious diseases by staying current with vaccinations.

The consequences of not vaccinating children are serious: last year in the United States, 668 people contracted measles in 27 states [3]. That’s no small matter because measles can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death. Furthermore, parents have a responsibility not only to their own children, but to the community—it’s only by achieving a very high level of population immunity that outbreaks can be prevented. That’s particularly crucial for those children with cancer and other diseases that cause immunosuppression. They cannot be vaccinated and depend on the so-called “herd immunity” of the community for protection against a potentially fatal infection.

As for ASD, the condition remains a major challenge for scientists and families alike. The latest research is just one part of a much larger effort by NIH and its partners to understand the genetic and environmental risk factors for ASD, as well as to develop more effective pharmacological and behavioral interventions for affected children.


[1] MMR vaccine & autism. American Academy of Pediatrics, April 29, 2014.

[2] Autism occurrence by MMR vaccine status among US children with older siblings with and without autism. Jain A, Marshall J, Buikema A, Bancroft T, Kelly JP, Newschaffer CJ. JAMA, 2015 April 21; 313(15):1534-1540.

[3] Measles cases and outbreaks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), April 20, 2015.


MMRV Vaccine (National Library of Medicine/NIH)

Vaccines Protect Our Kids and Our Communities, Alan Guttmacher, Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, February 11, 2015

Vaccine Benefits (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (National Institute of Mental Health/NIH)

What Are the Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder? (NICHD/NIH)

Anjali Jain (The Lewin Group, Falls Church, VA)

Craig Newschaffer (Drexel University, Philadelphia)

NIH Support: National Institute of Mental Health


  • Laura Henze Russell says:

    One question: were there “basket studies,” i.e. were the children analyzed by genetic variants in methylation? After James S Woods did that for the Children’s Amalgam Trial data which when analyzed as a whole showed safety, he and his team found immediate neurobehavioral deficits and urinary porphyrin changes (evidence of kidney damage) in boys with four gene types (see Woods et al four papers since 2011 in PubMed). I expect similar methylation defects are behind the small number of vaccine injury cases. If this can be proven, and screening done before vaccination, many more people can vaccinate their children with confidence, and those who truly need protection can get single dose vaccines, alternate schedules, or abstain if that is in the best interest of their health. We absolutely need screening and exemptions based on genetic status and ability to clear vs. bind toxins.

    I know this because I became horribly ill from amalgam as I aged. I learned that I have some genetic variants that weaken my methylation pathway. Now I will only get single dose, lower adjuvant flu shots. I also recovered in large part. Separating everyday toxins like mercury, mold and Lyme from those with genetic susceptibilities is the Rosetta Stone for cracking chronic diseases, restoring health and productivity and ability to work and pay taxes, and lowering healthcare, long term care, special education, and other costs.

    Applying Precision Medicine should be done first to medical and dental devices, and to vaccines, for prevention and saving many people from decades and children from both serious infectious diseases and also from lives of impairment, misery and heartache. Chronic diseases are essentially an engineering problem that Precision Medicine can solve today. Cost/benefit analyses show that this is where we should focus now, rather than leading with cancer. Forty percent of the population is estimated to have a methylation defect. We will get the biggest bang for health, and for our research and investment in public health and protection, if we recognize and respect the genetic variability of each individual, rather than sacrifice the most vulnerable to the greater good. We know better than to force feed peanut butter to all children. Materials tolerance and toxicity is more than an allergy, as you know.

    The growing numbers of ill and injured patients and concerned parents will only trust federal agencies again when they earn back our trust. That means putting patients’ and individuals’ health first before industry protectionism, and investigating and putting a stop to fundamental conflicts of interest. Until that happens, all of the studies in the world come down to basically sponsored content, as we have learned the hard way.

    • LeahR says:

      Many can vaccinate WITH CONFIDENCE? This is now 2020 and much more is known about methylation defects and autoimmune damage. Yes, it has much to do with toxins, but it also has to do with the effects on the immune system, which is why so many have claimed a clear association of onset or worsening of autism and autoimmune diseases after vaccines, which artificially trick the immune system. We now know why, but being 2020, so much has been removed from Youtube and Google searches. It is much more complex of an issue than that which you portray. True to a point what you say, but that ALL children should be given single dose viles, with only a single vaccine, and with a before and after detox protocol, while others with known genetic risks, and with the myriad of diseases /conditions known to be closely associated w methylation defects should be able IN ALL CASES to opt out, If you want to talk confidence, let’s start with lifting the “Immunity” from lawsuits to the Big Pharm companies that have ZERO incentive to actually research this subject or to make any efforts to address such vast, catastrophic concerns. Do YOU have an autistic child, with known, significant methylation defects, that you would vaccinate that child “in confidence?” I suspect not. It’s time for this subject to be thoroughly researched before ONE more child or adult suffers with such catastrophic health consequences from vaccine damage. The MMR study that so many tout as being evidence of “debunking anti-vax conspiracy theorists” is a joke. But those who are victims are doing anything but laughing.

  • Ginger Taylor says:

    Increased risk of developmental neurologic impairment after high exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccine in first month of life. Division of Epidemiology and Surveillance, Vaccine Safety and Development Branch, ational Immuni!ation “rogram, #enters for Disease #ontrol and “revention. $%%%. &homas ‘. Verstraeten, (. Davies, D. )u, * DeStefano Background+ #oncern has risen on the presence of the ethylmercury containing preservative thimerosal in vaccines. e assessed the risk for neurologic and renal impairment associated ith past exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccine using automated data from the Vaccine Safety Data link VSD/. VSD is a large linked data0ase from four health maintenance organi!ations in ashington, 1regon and #alifornia, containing immuni!ation, medical visit and demographic data on over 233,333 infants 0orn 0eteen 4%$ and 4%5. ‘ethods+ e categori!ed the cumulative ethylmercury exposure from &himerosalcontaining vaccines after one month of life and assessed the su0se6uent risk of degenerative and developmental neurologic disorders and renal disorders 0eforethe age of six. e applied proportional ha!ard models ad7usting for 8’1, year of 0irth, and gender, excluding premature 0a0ies.(esults+ e identified 9:; children ith degenerative and <539 ith developmental neurologic disorders, and confidence intervals ?#I@ A$.$-9.:/ hen comparing the highest exposure group at $ month of age cumulative dose 9= ug/ to the unexposed group.
    Within thisgroup we also found an elevated risk for the following disorders: autism RR !.”# 9$% Cl & 1.'()1.$*
    , non organic sleep disorders (( =.3, %=> #l A $.;-$=.%C, and speech disorders (( 9.$, %=> $A$.$-2.3/. *or the neurologic degenerative and renal disorders group e found no significantly increased risk or a decreased risk. #onclusion+
    +his anal,sis suggests that high e-posure to eth,l mercur, from thimerosal(containing vaccines in the first month of life increases the risk of suseuent development of neurologic development impairment
    , 0ut not of neurologic degenerative or renal impairment. *urther confirmatory studies are needed.

  • Ginger Taylor says:

    2. Hepatitis B Vaccination of Male Neonates and Autism

    Annals of Epidemiology , Vol. 19, No. 9 ABSTRACTS (ACE), September 2009: 651-680,  p. 659 

    CM Gallagher, MS Goodman, Graduate Program in Public 
    Health, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY 

    PURPOSE: Universal newborn immunization with hepatitis B vaccine was recommended in 1991; however, safety findings are mixed. The Vaccine Safety Datalink Workgroup reported no association between hepatitis B vaccination at birth and febrile episodes or neurological adverse events. Other studies found positive associations between hepatitis B vaccination and ear infection, pharyngitis, and chronic arthritis; as well as receipt of early intervention/special education services (EIS); in probability samples of U.S. children. Children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) comprise a growing caseload for EIS. We evaluated the association between hepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and parental report of ASD. 

    METHODS: This cross-sectional study used U.S. probability samples obtained from National Health Interview Survey 1997-2002 datasets. Logistic regression modeling was used to estimate the effect of neonatal hepatitis B vaccination on ASD risk amongboys age 3-17 years with shot records, adjusted for race, maternal education, and two-parent household. 

    RESULTS:Boyswho received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD (nZ31 of 7,486; OR Z 2.94; p Z 0.03; 95% CI Z 1.10, 7.90) 
    compared to later- or unvaccinated boys.Non-Hispanicwhite boys were 61%less likely to haveASD(ORZ0.39; pZ0.04; 95% CIZ0.16, 0.94) relative to non-white boys. 

    CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys. 

  • Ginger Taylor says:

    3. Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?

    J Inorg Biochem. 2011 Nov;105(11):1489-99. Epub 2011 Aug 23.
    Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA.

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, 828 W. 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L8.

    Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are serious multisystem developmental disorders and an urgent global public health concern. Dysfunctional immunity and impaired brain function are core deficits in ASD. Aluminum (Al), the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant, is a demonstrated neurotoxin and a strong immune stimulator. Hence, adjuvant Al has the potential to induce neuroimmune disorders. When assessing adjuvant toxicity in children, two key points ought to be considered: (i) children should not be viewed as “small adults” as their unique physiology makes them much more vulnerable to toxic insults; and (ii) if exposure to Al from only few vaccines can lead to cognitive impairment and autoimmunity in adults, is it unreasonable to question whether the current pediatric schedules, often containing 18 Al adjuvanted vaccines, are safe for children? By applying Hill’s criteria for establishing causality between exposure and outcome we investigated whether exposure to Al from vaccines could be contributing to the rise in ASD prevalence in the Western world. Our results show that: (i) children from countries with the highest ASD prevalence appear to have the highest exposure to Al from vaccines; (ii) the increase in exposure to Al adjuvants significantly correlates with the increase in ASD prevalence in the United States observed over the last two decades (Pearson r=0.92, p<0.0001); and (iii) a significant correlation exists between the amounts of Al administered to preschool children and the current prevalence of ASD in seven Western countries, particularly at 3-4months of age (Pearson r=0.89-0.94, p=0.0018-0.0248). The application of the Hill's criteria to these data indicates that the correlation between Al in vaccines and ASD may be causal. Because children represent a fraction of the population most at risk for complications following exposure to Al, a more rigorous evaluation of Al adjuvant safety seems warranted.

  • John Z. Evans says:

    Wonderful article. I know of many parents who are holding off on their Immunizations. It is a scary situation for parents to go through. Parents hear of what can happen with immunizations.

  • H.Deverell says:

    Contrary to public opinion and celebrity endorsement there is no scientific link found between vaccinations and autism; there are plenty of research results and medical journals that now support this. The original doctor stating the claim that vaccines were the cause of autism has been banned from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom and the journal he published in The Lancet has since been removed. With so much negative attention focusing directly on the rise of autism diagnoses and vaccines being in the spot light for the blames, it is getting harder and harder to change public opinion. As a direct result people have stopped vaccinating their children against diseases that were considered wiped out because of these vaccines and we are now seeing the consequences. There have been multiple outbreaks across the world of measles, whooping cough and other vaccine preventable disease. More case of measles were diagnosed in January of 2015 than in the entire year of 2014. For people and kids that are not eligible to receive vaccines either for medical reasons or age it is not only scary but it is dangerous. Measles is an air-born disease meaning that it travels through the air and anyone close enough to be infected can. For those that cannot be vaccinated this means that everyday tasks such as going grocery shopping, going to church or school and even going to the doctor’s office can be potentially life threatening. It is time for people to really do their research and realize that not vaccinating children does more harm than good; stop listening to fraudulent research and celebrities, listen to the scientifically proven medical research that proves no link between vaccines and autism exists.

  • Neil says:

    It can be overwhelming for parents to care for a child with autism. Being around others who understand your plight and know about the unique issues associated with autism is a great way to get out and avoid the isolation.

  • uçak bileti says:

    Thanks for the post.

  • Laura Henze Russell says:

    Here is a new study just published in the Journal of Clinical and Cellular Immunology. Science and knowledge are always evolving.

    The causes of autism, of autoimmune, behavioral, cognitive, dermatological, gastroenterological, neurological, psychological and memory, mobility, movement and mental status changes are clearly multifactorial, and different in different individuals.

    There are many, many combinations of genetic, toxic and environmental triggers from gestation to expiration, and they are passed on in utero, in breast milk, and in epigenetics.

    This doesn’t mean we should ignore them. This means we should focus research as a priority for Precision Medicine.

    It also underscores an even bigger need for Precision Devices. The consequences of materials installed 24/7/365 that are not screened for biocompatibility for each person in advance – are profound.

    If the FDA recommends prior screening before use of temporary hair color products, why not for installed devices?


    Background: Autism can occur as a result of a complex interaction between environmental factors and genetic predisposition. Mercury is a neurotoxicant and it is one of the main environmental triggers for autoimmunity. The underlying pathogenic mechanism in autoimmune disorders is the formation of auto-antibodies. Brain specific autoantibodies are elevated in a subgroup of autistic children. We are the first to study the relation between blood mercury levels and the seropositivity of anti-myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) autoantibodies in autistic children.

    Methods: Blood mercury levels were measured, by atomic absorption spectrometry, and serum levels of anti- MBP auto-antibodies were measured, by ELISA, in 100 children with autism aged between 5-12 years and 100 healthy-matched control children.

    Results: Serum levels of blood mercury were significantly higher in autistic children than healthy controls (P<0.001). Increased levels of blood mercury were found in 48% of autistic patients. In addition, 72% of autistic children had positive results of serum anti-MBP auto-antibodies. There was a significant positive association between the elevated levels of blood mercury and the positivity of serum anti-MBP auto-antibodies in autistic children (P<0.001).

    Conclusions: Blood mercury levels were elevated in some autistic children and they were significantly associated with the production of serum anti-MBP auto-antibodies in a group of autistic children. Further research is warranted to determine if the production of brain auto-antibodies is triggered by environmental mercury exposure in autistic children. The possible therapeutic role of mercury chelators in autistic children should be also studied."

  • Naughty Autie says:

    From what I know, the MMR prevents measles and two other diseases. If you don’t get measles, then you’re not at risk of measles encephalitis, and if you prevent encephalitis, you’re preventing a cause of childhood disintegrative disorder. So there ^is^ a link between the MMR and autism, but it’s not that the jab gives rise to autism, it’s that it helps prevent the most devastating (for parents) neurotype on the autism spectrum.

  • Naughty Autie says:

    No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even in High-Risk [sic] Kids.

    Correct. The link is between mercury in vaccines and autism, which is why the rate in 2000 when Thimerosal was removed from vaccines was 1 in 150, and is now 1 in 36 nearly quarter of a century later. Oh, wait…

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