Quarter Of Americans Still Believe False MMR Jab Autism Link, Despite Total Lack Of Evidence

Quarter Of Americans Still Believe False MMR Jab Autism Link, Despite Total Lack Of Evidence

Survey data from a nationally representative panel of US adults has revealed that a quarter still do not accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that there is no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine – or MMR jab – and autism. This is one conspiracy theory that’s proving exceptionally hard to shake off, despite the wealth of verifiable data disproving it. And, it’s having real-world consequences.

“The persistent false belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism continues to be problematic, especially in light of the recent increase in measles cases,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson in a statement. Jamieson is director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), which conducted the survey.

In 2024 alone, there have been 11 identified outbreaks of measles in the US, with a total of 146 reported cases across 20 states as of May 30. The overall trend across the world in recent years has been concerning, with cases almost doubling between 2022 and 2023.

Its reputation as a “childhood disease”, and the fact that many parents and even doctors may be unfamiliar with measles due to the effectiveness of the vaccines, leads some to dismiss it as mild – this could not be further from the truth. Whilst lots of kids do make a full recovery from this highly contagious infection, it can and does have life-altering, even fatal consequences for some.

This is exactly why the development of the first measles vaccine in the 1960s was such a landmark moment in medicine. A few years later, it was combined into a shot with vaccines against mumps – which causes swelling of glands near the face, and whose complications can lead to infertility – and rubella, an illness that’s often mild but is particularly dangerous during pregnancy.

So successful was this vaccine that the USA officially eliminated measles in 2000, meaning there was no naturally circulating virus within the country. But just a few years earlier, the seeds were sown of a controversy that continues to threaten hopes of widespread measles eradication, and has affected confidence in vaccines stretching way beyond the MMR.

Andrew Wakefield and the MMR/autism scare

In 1998, a group of British scientists and doctors led by Andrew Wakefield published a now-infamous study, based on which Wakefield alleged there could be a link between MMR vaccination and autism in children.

The paper has since been retracted by publishing journal The Lancet – but it took 12 years for that action to be taken, and in the intervening time elements of the press had a field day reporting on Wakefield’s false claims.

So much fear was stoked that parents began to mistrust the MMR – and vaccines altogether, in many cases – and immunization coverage began to drop, leaving a generation of kids improperly protected against these diseases.

Wakefield has now been thoroughly discredited, the science in his paper deemed fraudulent, and has lost his license to practice medicine. Numerous large-scale studies have found repeatedly that there is no evidence of any link between the MMR and autism.

The unshakeable myths around the MMR

Sadly, as they say, mud sticks. The furore stoked by Wakefield’s comments on the now-retracted research, and the anti-vaccine activism he has been a vocal supporter of since, have led to widespread, generalized vaccine hesitancy that threatens to undo years of medical advancement.

The new data from the APPC show just how persistent these beliefs can be. Over 1,500 US adults were questioned about their knowledge of how measles spreads, what its symptoms are, and the recommendations around vaccination. 

It’s up to us to ensure that fraudulent data from a retracted paper published by a discredited former physician, which has been debunked many times over, does not continue to jeopardize this progress.

A majority understood how the disease spreads, although 22 percent incorrectly thought it can be passed on through unprotected sex. Very few people understood that someone can be contagious before the characteristic rash appears. Fewer than four in 10 respondents could name the particular complications that can arise if a pregnant person is infected with measles.

Only 12 percent of respondents were aware that medical professionals do not recommend that pregnant people receive a measles vaccine, since it is a live vaccine and could pose a risk to the developing fetus. This is all the more reason why vaccination in childhood, ensuring widespread community coverage, is so important.

And importantly, 24 percent of respondents did not accept as true the assertion that there is no link between the MMR and autism. A further 3 percent were unsure. These findings are consistent with a similar survey carried out in 2018.

There is a demonstrable association between belief in the false MMR-autism link and general antivaxx beliefs. “Our studies on vaccination consistently show that the belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism is associated not simply with reluctance to take the measles vaccine but with vaccine hesitancy in general,” Jamieson explained.

Measles is a preventable disease for those privileged enough to have easy access to vaccinations. Recent estimates say vaccination has saved 154 million lives over the last 50 years. This is a staggering achievement.

It’s up to us to ensure that fraudulent data from a retracted paper published by a discredited former physician, which has been debunked many times over, does not continue to jeopardize this progress.

Topline survey results are available here.

Source link



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.