Importance of the MMR Vaccine and Autism
Vaccinations and Autism
The “MMR” stands for measles, mumps and rubella.
The vaccine is a mixture of the three live viruses administered to children and was developed to reduce the pain and fear children feel when dealing with multiple shots.
The purpose of the vaccine is obviously to prevent children from contracting measles, mumps and rubella.
The MMR vaccine is normally administered in two different doses. The first dose is given to children who are close to the age of one. The second dose is administered around age 4 or 5 in preparation for entering school.
The purpose of the second dose is like insurance for people who might have failed to develop virus immunity after the first shot but are almost sure to develop it the second time around.
Children With Autism
The prevalence of children with autism continues to climb. Teaching children with autism symptoms remains a major challenge for many schools. Autism and vaccines have received increased attention.
A recent report by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reviewed information from 14 states and found that approximately 1 in - 150 children, 8 years of age have Autism Spectrum Disorder. There is no national or Military registry so true prevalence is unknown but it is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
Protecting Children Through Vaccination
Before MMR was routinely administered to young children, outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella were common. At one time contracting measles was just part of growing up but all three viruses can cause sickness and even permanent physical damage or brain damage in severe cases. There are also documented cases of death resulting after contracting one or more of these viruses.
Pregnant mothers who contract rubella can pass the virus to their fetuses causing miscarriage, birth defects or developmental problems.
The US Center for Disease Control reports that without the MMR vaccine almost every American would once again contract measles. Before the vaccine there were 450 deaths a year attributed to measles. The MMR also prevents 1 in 20 people from contracting mumps and prevents rubella epidemics that could number victims in the tens of thousands. Most cases today of measles, mumps or rubella are brought into the country by travelers or foreign visitors.
MMR and Autism
There are really no alternatives to MMR except to get 3 separate shots on different days as was done before the MMR was introduced. Only the vaccine can prevent contraction of these viruses.
Though the vaccine has been instrumental in preventing outbreaks of these serious illnesses, it has not been without controversy. The major issue has been parent claims the MMR vaccine caused children to become autistic. There have been documented cases of children who appeared to be developing normally only to develop autism after receiving the vaccine. In these cases the claim was the children regressed in their development.
There have been studies conducted with the first possible evidence of a link between MMR and autism published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998. But the vast majority of research here and in the UK has refuted there is a link. The theory was that the 3 viruses combined with the Thimerosal vaccine caused neurological damage.
Recently a special US vaccine court issued 3 rulings that clearly stated the MMR vaccine was not at fault for causing autism in the children of 3 different families. On February 12, 2009 the US Court of Federal Claims panel sided with the scientific research that indicated the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. The panel members are called special masters.
The cases were the following: US Court of Federal Claims
• Cedillio v. Secretary of Health And Human Services Case No. 98-916V
• Hazlehurst v. Secretary of Health and Human Services Case No. 03-654V
• Snyder v. Secretary of Health and Human Services Case No. 01-162V
Despite these rulings and the research belying a link, some parents still claim the MMR vaccine is unsafe.
Thimerosal In Vaccines
Over the past several years, because of an increasing awareness of mercury levels in thimerosal and its wide usage in vaccines that had been added to the infant immunization schedule, concerns about the use of thimerosal in vaccines and other products have been raised.
Thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine
In most cases health insurance will cover the cost of the MMR. The US government offers a program called Vaccines for Children which provides free vaccines to qualifying families. But there have many cases where health insurance would not cover the cost of care for autism even if parents suspected MMR was the cause.
Tracking the most current information on the MMR vaccine is not difficult. I recommend checking the following sites regularly for updated information on the MMR and other vaccines. They both offer a wealth of information.
• Center for Disease Control - Vaccines
• Food and Drug Administration – Vaccine Safety and Availability
• Health Resources and Services Administration - National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The MMR vaccine has prevented millions of virus outbreaks, deaths and/or biological damage. Like any injection you receive, there is always a risk of complications but the risk is small and unproven in the case of the MMR.
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