Autism and MMR vaccine- A myth busted. Another study discrediting the vaccine theory of Autism

As the rate of ASD rises worldwide, parents and professionals are trying to find causes that induce autism in children. With the influence of anti-vaccine activists and celebrity alike, claiming that children developed autism following an immunization shot, with no scientific evidences, parents are giving in to emotions and fears. Their concerns on environmental factors such as vaccines causing autism are legitimate although totally unfounded and false.

  1. Where does this myth come from?

The vaccine theory suspected to be responsible for autism development is centered on three main factors:

  • the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • the thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing preservative in some vaccines
  • a large number of vaccines currently administrated to infants and toddlers

In 1998, a British study published in The Lancet by Dr Wakefield, described autism symptoms in eight children within a month after receiving a MMR shot. The author postulates that MMR causes intestinal inflammation by damaging the intestinal lining, which allows the entrance of proteins into the bloodstream and will ultimately attack the brain. This study lacking several controls and supporting data was then totally discredited.

Thimerosal is suspected to be toxic to the central nervous system. But MMR, like all live vaccines, does not contain this component. Furthermore, despite the absence of data suggesting harm from quantities of ethylmercury contained in vaccines, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service recommended the immediate removal of mercury from all vaccines given to young infants in 1999.

A new theory emerged and proposed that too many vaccines overwhelm or weaken the immune system. Vaccine represent a fraction of what a child’s immune system is exposed on a daily basis. Indeed, we have all complained about our kids getting sick every other week (runny nose, sore throat, fever), especially when they are in day care, exposed to virus and infected up to six times a year.

Vaccines do not weaken a child’s immune system but infection with vaccine-preventable disease could induce a sensitivity and predispose a child to infections with other pathogens.

  1. No connections between MMR vaccine and Autism confirmed in high risk population

For the past 16 years, over 20 epidemiologic studies have shown that MMR vaccine is not associated with autism development (1-3). In particular, Uno and collaborators found that neither MMR vaccine administration nor the number of vaccines injections were associated with an increased rate of new-onset autism (4).

The latest study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association go a step further by investigating the potential connection between MMR vaccines and Autism in children who are at higher risk for developing autism because of an older sibling affected by the disorder (5). By sharing genetics with their older autistic sibling, this population group is more prone to develop autistic behaviors.

The study including almost 100 000 children (insurance claim from a large commercial health plan) with at least one older sibling (healthy or autistic in 2.01% of cases) found that toddlers vaccinated against MMR don’t have an increased risk of developing autism whether or not there are autistic children among the siblings.

Many parents of autistic children claimed that MMR shot made their symptoms much worse despite a lack of scientific evidences. Although the latter study does not investigate that point, we cannot rule out the possibility that immunization, in specific cases with underlying genetic predispositions or autoimmune diseases, could trigger the onset of autism symptoms.
Unfortunately, concerns about MMR safety in family with an autistic child has led to a significant decrease of vaccination among younger siblings as reported lately.

This work confirms that causes leading to Autism do not occur during the first few years of a child but take place earlier. This strengthens our theory at Braverman Reproductive Immunology:

“Genetic predispositions to autism are unraveled in utero by a maternal systemic inflammation during pregnancy resulting from an infection or autoimmune diseases and ultimately lead to an impairment in fetal neurodevelopment.”


  1. Farrington CP, Miller E, Taylor B. MMR and autism: further evidence against a causal association. Vaccine. 2001; 19(27):3632–3635
  2. Mrozek-Budzyn D, Kie1tyka A, Majewska R. Lack of association between measlesmumps- rubella vaccination and autism in children: a case-control study. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010; 29(5):397–400.
  3. Smeeth L, Cook C, Fombonne E, et al. MMR vaccination and pervasive developmental disorders: a case-control study. Lancet. 2004; 364(9438): 963–969.
  4. Uno Y, Uchiyama T, Kurosawa M, Aleksic B, Ozaki N. The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines and the total number of vaccines are not associated with developmentof autism spectrum disorder: the first case–control study in Asia. Vaccine. 2012; 30(28):4292– 4298.
  5. Jain A, Marshall J, Buikema A, Bancroft T, Kelly JP, Newschaffer CJ. Autism occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and without Autism. JAMA. 2015 Apr 21; 313(15):1534-1540.
  6. Diamond B, Honig G, Mader S, Brimberg L, Volpe BT. Brain-reactive antibodies and disease. Annu Rev Immunol. 2013; 31:345-85.
  7. Singer HS, Morris C, Gause C, Pollard M, Zimmerman AW, Pletnikov M. Prenatal exposure to antibodies from mothers of children with autism produces neurobehavioral alterations: A pregnant dam mouse model. J Neuroimmunol 2009; 211: 39–48.
  8. Martin LA, Ashwood P, Braunschweig D, Cabanlit M, Van de Water J, Amaral DG. Stereotypies and hyperactivity in rhesus monkeys exposed to IgG from mothers of children with autism. Brain Behavior Immunity 2008; 22: 806–816.
  9. Pardo CA, Eberhart CG. The neurobiology of autism. Brain Pathol 2007; 17: 434–447.
Categories: General News, Autism
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