Research Retraction Breaks Link Between Autism and MMR Vaccine, Says UAB Neurologist

The Lancet, a premier British medical journal, today retracted a study published in 1998 that drew a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and increased incidence of autism. Alan Percy, M.D., professor of pediatric neurology and medical director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Civitan International Research Center, said the retracted study’s findings long have been questioned by the scientific community.

February 2, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Lancet, a premier British medical journal, today retracted a study published in 1998 that drew a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and increased incidence of autism. Alan Percy, M.D., professor of pediatric neurology and medical director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Civitan International Research Center, said the retracted study's findings long have been questioned by the scientific community.

"Over the years, study after study had found no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism," said Percy. "This was of particular concern since the 1998 study was often cited by parents as a reason to not vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine."

According to The Lancet's Web site, "It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were 'consecutively referred' and that investigations were 'approved' by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record."

The retraction should alleviate fears for parents over the safety of the MMR vaccine, Percy said. "It underscores the safety and efficacy of vaccines, whether the MMR or others, and should restore the public's confidence in vaccines' ability to ward off these very serious illnesses."

Percy said today's events also should reaffirm confidence in the scientific reporting system. The system of publishing scientific findings in peer-reviewed journals does work, he said, and today's retraction serves as a reminder that scientific findings must be repeatable before they are accepted as scientific fact.

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