Safety concerns triggered a reluctance or refusal by some parents to have their children vaccinated. Anxiety about vaccines has been mounting since a 1997 study erroneously connected certain vaccinations to autism, a disorder that affects psychological development in young children.
A paper on the study was published in a 1998 edition of The Lancet, a British medical journal. The paper was later discredited because of serious flaws and falsified data. Andrew Wakefield, the British surgeon who published the study, lost his medical license. The Lancet retracted the paper in 2010, but many parents had already accepted the misinformation and vaccination rates began to decrease.
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In 2013, a measles outbreak in Wales was blamed on the reduction of measles vaccination rates in the area because of the paper. According to Newsweek
, a measles outbreak in the U.S. in 2014-15 saw the highest number of cases since the disease was declared eradicated with more than 600 cases in 2014.
Since the publication of the study, several other major studies have been conducted, showing no connection between vaccines and autism. Research revealed that children develop symptoms of autism before receiving the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. According to PublicHealth
, evidence suggested that autism might develop before a child is born.
The study reported in the Wakefield paper only involved 12 children. The British Medical Journal published a study in 2002 that examined 473 children and found no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Another review published in the New England Journal of Medicine the same year found no link after analyzing the data from 537,303 children in Denmark. More than 80 percent of the children had received the MMR vaccine. A meta-analysis of 10 studies on some 1.2 million children found no autism-MMR vaccine links, according to an article published in ScienceDirect
, a journal for vaccine information, in 2014.
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There have also been false reports that vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough cause sudden infant death syndrome. These reports surfaced because cases of the syndrome occur at the same age children usually receive vaccinations. The occurrences of sudden infant death are coincidental, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The benefits of vaccines for childhood illnesses outweigh any risks. Negative reactions are usually temporary following vaccination and may include such discomfort as soreness or mild fever. Serious reactions occur rarely, but symptoms are monitored and examined carefully.
The dangers of avoiding vaccines include contracting serious or fatal diseases. Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis. Other vaccine-preventable diseases can cause death.
This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.
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