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US institute backs MMR safety record

26th August 2011

Another team of researchers in the United States says there is no evidence linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism.

Vaccination1

But the scientists have expressed frustration with the continuation of the debate over a link, which they say has now been repeatedly disproved.

The chairwoman of the investigating panel assembled by the US Institute of Medicine, Ellen Wright Clayton, said that the team had concluded that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.

A measles epidemic in Europe has prompted a warning by health experts to parents that they should ensure their children receive the MMR vaccine.

In France, 7,000 cases of measles have been reported since January.

However, health authorities in the UK recently said that 40 children died after routine vaccinations, which include MMR, while 2,100 more suffered a serious reaction.

Concern over MMR was sparked by a controversial report by Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet in 1998, which linked the vaccine to autism. Wakefield has since been struck off the medical register after being found guilty of "serious professional misconduct."

Clayton said that the evidence that MMR did not cause autism was "overwhelming," as the group had looked at more than 1,000 peer-reviewed articles on vaccine safety.

However, the panel did say that problems can arise as a result of the chickenpox vaccine, even years after it is received.

Research has shown that the virus used in the vaccine can reawaken from its dormant state if people later have a compromised immune system, as is seen in cancer patients, for example.

In such cases, the virus, which can live dormant in nerve cells for decades, can give rise to pneumonia, meningitis or hepatitis later in life.

However, this is even more likely to happen to people who became infected with varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox.

In older people, shingles is an unfortunate manifestation of the longevity of varicella zoster.

The Institute's review came at the request of the US government, amid hopes its strong reputation would lay to rest suspicions on the part of parents and advocacy groups for good.

Anyone injured by a vaccine in the United States has been barred from suing vaccine manufacturers, and instead must approach the government directly for compensation.

Pressure groups have long campaigned for autism to be added to the list of possible side-effects of vaccination, which currently focuses on seizures, inflammation, fainting, allergic reactions and temporary joint pain.

Parents' group still say that there is not enough scientific research available into the side-effects of vaccines.

According to Sallie Bernard, president of SafeMinds, a group that contends there is a link between vaccines and autism, more and more vaccines are being given to children without adequate safety trials.

 


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