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EDITORIAL: Vaccine study another shot in the arm

Daily Oklahoman - 3/13/2019

March 13-- Mar. 13--It may be wishful thinking, but perhaps vaccine skeptics -- and there are a good number in Oklahoma -- will give consideration to a new study that again confirms there is no link between these childhood vaccines and autism.

Researchers crunched data taken from 657,461 children born in Denmark to Danish-born mothers between 1999 and 2010. Of those, 6,517 were diagnosed with autism over the next decade -- but researchers found there wasn't an increased risk among those who received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine when compared with those who hadn't gotten vaccinated.

In addition, researchers found no increased risk among subgroups of kids who might be unusually susceptible to autism, such as those who had a sibling with the disorder. Results of the study were published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In an email to National Public Radio, the study's lead author, epidemiologist Anders Hviid of the Staten Serum Institute in Copenhagen, put it bluntly: "MMR does not cause autism."

Yet that myth continues to circulate, nearly a decade after the claim by British doctor Andrew Wakefield was refuted. And, children continue to get sick because their parents choose not to get them vaccinated. In the first two months of this year, 206 measles cases were confirmed in the United States -- that's more than in all of 2017.

Oklahoma is among the states where parents can cite medical, religious or other reasons in deciding not to get their children vaccinated. Efforts at the Legislature to strengthen Oklahoma's law have failed. Meantime, the percentage of children entering kindergarten with the MMR vaccine has fallen in the past decade from 97.3 percent to below 93 percent. Health experts say about 95 percent coverage is needed to prevent epidemics.

A few lines from this new study are worth mentioning:

--"We found no support for the hypothesis of increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination in a nationwide unselected population of Danish children; no support for the hypothesis of MMR vaccination triggering autism in susceptible subgroups characterized by environmental and familial factors; and no support for a clustering of autism cases in specific time periods after MMR vaccination."

--"We previously addressed this issue in a similar but nonoverlapping nationwide cohort study of 537,303 Danish children. Reassuringly, the main results are similar between the 2 studies, which supports the internal and external validity of both."

--"A main reason that parents avoid or are concerned about childhood vaccinations has been the perceived link to autism. Our study adds to previous studies through significant additional statistical power and by addressing hypotheses of susceptible subgroups and clustering of cases. ... our study does not support that MMR vaccination increases the risk for autism, triggers autism in susceptible children, or is associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination."

Parents, please take note.

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(c)2019 The Oklahoman

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