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MMR Studies Ranked: 40 possible points per study

The Measles Mumps Rubella ("MMR") is one of 11 licensed vaccines given to American children. The list of licensed vaccines, the year they were added to the schedule, and the doses given to children include:

Year Added
USA Schedule
USA Mandated
Vaccines
Doses
Given USA
1940s Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP) 5
1955 Inactivated Poliovirus (IPV) 4
1971 Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) 2
1990 Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) 4
1991 Hepatitis B (HepB) 3
1995 Varicella 2
1998 Rotavirus (RV) 3
2000 Pneumococcal (PCV) 4
2004 Influenza 7
2004 Hepatitis A (Hep A) 2
2006 Meningococcal (high risk groups only) --
  Total Vaccines to US Children Under 5 36

Whatís interesting to see is that the MMR is only one of eleven vaccines given to American children, and only 2 of the 36 doses children receive. Yet, after studies come out purportedly saying that MMR and autism are not linked, the scientific community states, "vaccines do not cause autism." We ask, "What about the other 34 vaccines?"

To put this another way, it is impossible for any of these studies to ask the right question. Children receive 19 OTHER vaccines before they receive their first MMR vaccine. How can you look at only one vaccine and conclude "Vaccines (including the 10 shots we didnít study) donít cause autism"? Itís impossible.

The reason the MMR is a focus is because of a study published in The Lancet medical journal in 1998. The study, titled Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children, with the lead author Dr. Andrew Wakefield, reached the following conclusion:

"Onset of behavioral symptoms [autism] was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination [MMR] in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another...We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers."

This relatively straightforward conclusion, that the MMR may in fact be related to autism, set off a worldwide controversy and a mini-industry of bogus scientific reports trying to refute the idea that MMR and autism are related. You will see many of the studies below.

To try to simplify presentation, we have kept the studies in the same order we presented them in our previous section, The "14" Studies. The ranking is based on our evaluation of how widely distributed and quoted each study is. Therefore, the studies are not presented in the order of their score.

For more detail on the first three studies, including how they were scored, please click the MORE INFO links below.

  1. score
    1
    "Lack of Association Between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study"
    PLoS One, Mady Hornig, Thomas Briese T, et al. (September 2008)

    Headline:

    This study is intended to refute the Wakefield study mentioned above. However, it made one critical distinction from the Wakefield approach: it didnít recruit for the subset of children with autism who regressed after MMR vaccination. That, combined with a very small sample size, renders the results nearly meaningless. At least the study concedes that children with autism suffer from gastrointestinal issues.

    [ MORE INFO ]

  2. score
    2
    "MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study"
    The Lancet, Liam Smeeth, MRCGP, Eric Fombonne, MD (September 11, 2004)

    Headline:

    Sloppy, very few cases used, and the same issue with the study above: it did not focus on children who had regressed after MMR. May also win the award for most conflicts.

    [ MORE INFO ]

  3. score
    -2
    "Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links With Immunizations"
    Pediatrics, Eric Fombonne, MD (July 2006)

    Headline:

    The worst MMR study ever done? We think so. Used a statistical trick by using MMR uptake data from one city (Quebec City) and comparing it to autism rates in a different city (Montreal). No surprise that it was published in Pediatrics. Study author, Fombonne, is one of the most conflicted researchers we have seen.

    [ MORE INFO ]

  4. score
    1
    "No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism"
    Pediatrics, Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych (October 2001)

    Headline:

    What is it with Eric Fombonne and Pediatrics? This is an older study (2001). Hereís a helpful critique: "What this study set out to do was not to investigate the cause(s) of damage to specific children, but to clear MMR of any complicity. At first sight, it succeeds in the latter, but at closer analysis, it makes numerous unfounded assumptions that considerably weaken the strength of its conclusions. At worst, it demonstrates the central flaw of designing a study hoping to achieve a desired outcome, rather than to investigate a problem. Overall verdict: this study fails to provide any convincing evidence against an MMR/autism link." Complete critique HERE.

    From the The Cochrane Collaboration: "The number and possible impact of biases was so high that interpretation of the results was difficult."

  5. score
    5
    "No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study"
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Hideo Honda, Michael Rutter

    Headline:

    We gave this study our highest score because it appears to actually show that MMR contributes to higher autism rates, even though it is often cited as proof that MMR and autism are unrelated. Please read a full explanation HERE and great slides HERE.

  6. score
    1
    "Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders"
    Archives of Disease in Childhood, Gillian Baird (February 2008)

    Headline:

    By narrowing the criteria for children included in this study, results are virtually meaningless. Read complete criticism HERE.

  7. score
    0
    "Neurologic Disorders After Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination"
    Pediatrics, Annamari Makela, MD (November 2002)

    Headline:

    This "Finnish Study" is thoroughly unhelpful. It used "hospitalizations" as a criteria for finding children with autism. Complete rubbish. A helpful critique HERE.

  8. score
    0
    "Association of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine"
    Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych (July 2003)

    Headline:

    Fombonne again. Weíre not sure why this is cited as "proof" by anyone -- itís simply a review of other studies.