Mayo Clinic physician: Mistaken fear of measles shot has 'devastating' effect

August 30, 2011

More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States already this year and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe, a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback. The reappearance of the potentially deadly virus is the result of unfounded fears about a link between the measles shot and autism that have turned some parents against childhood vaccination, says Gregory Poland, M.D., of Mayo Clinic. In the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com), Dr. Poland urges doctors to review extensive scientific research that has found no connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

Fears about the MMR vaccine were sparked in 1998 by researcher , M.D., in the The Lancet (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01406736). Dr. Wakefield's study was later found fraudulent by the British General Medical Council and the paper was retracted. Even so, suspicions about the vaccine -- as well as its additives such as thimerosal -- have persisted, gaining steam with the public through celebrity advocates and widespread media coverage.

"A rising portion of the population is deciding not to immunize their children because of this controversy, and these children are now susceptible to the measles (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/measles/DS00331) virus," says Dr. Poland, Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

"The results have been devastating," Dr. Poland says. "The campaign against the vaccine has caused great harm to public health across multiple nations, even though it has no scientific basis. There have been over 20 studies, spanning two decades, conducted in several countries. Not one has found scientific evidence of a connection between and MMR vaccine."

remains the most contagious infectious disease humans can get. It kills roughly three of every thousand people infected. Due to the vaccine's effectiveness and successful immunization programs worldwide, indigenous cases of the disease had been eliminated in the U.S. and on track to be eradicated, similar to smallpox.

Dr. Poland recommends that doctors, patients, and the media become educated about the research on the research that already has been conducted and help rectify the misinformation. A major report released by the Institute of Medicine last week supports Dr. Poland's claims of no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/autism/DS00348/DSECTION=causes).

"Just as significantly," he adds, "we need to direct appropriate and significant funds to determine what's really causing autism in our children."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Antibody found that fight MERS coronavirus

July 28, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found a MERS neutralizing antibody—a discovery that could perhaps lead to a treatment for people infected with the virus. In their paper published in Proceedings ...

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.