MMR is an abbreviation for measles, mumps and rubella – three childhood illnesses up until the mid-1970s.
According to the NHS, “Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious, common conditions that can have serious complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness. They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.
Vaccines are available for each of these diseases. However, in the 1980s they were combined into a single “three-in-one” MMR shot. It is referred commonly as MMR II vaccine, which is a live virus vaccine for vaccination against MMR and deemed fit for purpose as is highly immunogenic and generally well tolerated.
When is the MMR given?
The first MMR vaccine is given to children as part of the routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday. They’ll then have a booster dose before starting school, which is usually between three and five years of age.
How safe is the MMR vaccine?
The vaccine manufacturer – Merck, the US Centre for disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) adverse event database, and numerous peer-reviewed studies from around the world, link the MMR vaccine to several debilitating ailments, including
- Encephalitis (Brain Inflammation), neurological disorders, learning disabilities, Guillain-Barre syndrome (paralysis) and muscle incoordination.
- Optic neuritis (with partial or total blindness), deafness, arthritis, myelitis, spontaneous bleeding and blood clotting disorders.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, meningitis, diabetes, autism, immune system disorders and death.
Severe adverse reactions – including brain damage, nerve damage, immune system damage, allergic reactions, seisures, convolutions, Guillain-Barre syndrome, sensory impairments, bowel disorders, blood disorders, diabetes and autism – have been linked to the MMR vaccine.
In line with the aforementioned risks, there has been some controversy about the link between MMR vaccinations and autism following a study published in the Lancet in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that his initial findings appeared to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. However, Andrew Wakefield’s work has since been completely discredited. Subsequent studies during the last eight years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease. He is to be struck off his medical register.
The General Medical Council (GMC) found Dr Andrew Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct over the way he carried out his controversial research. His 1998 Lancet study caused vaccination rates to plummet, resulting in a rise in measles – but the findings were later discredited. The GMC ruled in January Dr Wakefield had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting his research, but under its procedures the sanctions are made at a later date.
The case did not investigate whether Dr Wakefield’s findings were right or wrong, instead it focused on the methods of research.
Let us try to understand what Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Co tried to achieve, apart from the unethical research behaviour, in their researches and how his new book Callous Disregard attempts to address his findings. Most of the core ideas embodied here are taken from ThinkTwice, a global vaccine institute.
Profile of Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Andrew J. Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath, is an academic gastroenterologist. He received his medical degree from St. Marys Hospital Medical School (part of the University of London) in 1981, and pursued a career in gastrointestinal surgery with a particular interest in inflammatory bowel disease. He has published over 130 original scientific articles, book chapters, and invited scientific commentaries.
Dr Andrew Wakefield is adamant that complaints by parents, whose children were victims of the adverse effects of the MMR vaccine , has been key towards his research.
Many parents report that their perfectly healthy children became autistic after receiving the MMR vaccine. The affected children were developing normally, then regresses after receiving the triple virus-shot, losing their previously acquired skills.
A 2009 online survey published in the journal Paediatrics says that 54 percent of parents are worried about serious adverse effects caused by vaccines, and 25 percent of parents believe that vaccines can cause autism. The study addresses a public health risk, “The choice to not vaccinate has repercussions beyond one’s own child. Not only can your child become infected with a disease such as the measles, but you can spread the disease to others in the community. ” Vaccine proponents deny that MMR can cause autism, and some of the studies appear to confirm this claim. However, some of the studies and other evidence clearly confirm an MMR-autism link. He argues in his book, Callous Disregard, Autism and Vaccines – The Truth behind a Tragedy:
The success of vaccination programmes requires the willing participation of consumers. Key to any success, therefore, is public confidence in the scientists, doctors and policy makers (including industry) that shape these programmes. In turn, the key to that confidence is a safety first vaccine agenda. Those whose priority is safety first are not anti-vaccine.
How can MMR cause autism?
Dr. Andrew Wakefield was the first scientist to explain how MMR can cause autism. In the 1950s and 1960s (before MMR), researchers noted that young children who were simultaneously exposed to two or more viral infections (measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox) had a greatly increased risk of developing autism.
Dr. Wakefield realised that if a child who is exposed to two or more wild viruses at the same time is at increased risk of autism, then a child who is injected with three live viruses at the same time via the MMR vaccine is equally at risk for autism, if not more so. A possible explanation for the link between MMR and autism, if there is, is as follows:
A young child exposed to 1 viral disease (measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox) usually recovers. If the child is exposed to another viral disease weeks or months later, once again, recovery is expected. A young child exposed to 2 (or more) viral diseases at the same time is at increased risk for adverse complications, including autism. The MMR vaccine contains 3 viruses. Children vaccinated with MMR are exposed to three viral diseases at the same time.
Why are the 3 vaccines combined?
In a study published an article in the Spring 1992 Journal of Anthroposophic Medicine entitled “The Immunization Campaign Against Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Coercion Leading to Uncertainy: Medical Objections to a Continued MMR Immunization Campaign in Switzerland,” it was concluded that the mandatory, mass vaccination with MMR vaccine was ineffective and dangerous.
When 180 Swiss doctors analysed 320 scientific works from around the world, they concluded that there is no medical foundation for combining measles, mumps and rubella into a single shot.
The 3 vaccines – measles, mumps and rubella – are combined for convenience, not safety or efficacy. That is, the child receives one shot – MMR – instead of three.
Are 3 separate shots better?
Dr. Wakefield proposed separating the measles, mumps and rubella from the three-in-one MMR shot – the way they were in the 1970s prior to being combined – and giving them individually over the course of several weeks or months.
Dr. Wakefield’s solution would protect against the risk of autism, while satisfying immunisation recommendations.
However, parents should realise that the individual measles, mumps and rubella vaccines can cause severe adverse reactions as well. These are also listed by the vaccine manufacturer and documented in numerous studies.
NB: Every vaccine includes a package insert that tells the doctor (and the parent lucky enough to see one) all about the vaccine, including its description, ingredients, purpose, contraindications (under what circumstances one should not have the vaccine), and side effects.
Most of the studies conducted to date refuting the possible link between the MMR and autism are inconclusive in the way that studies are looking for abnormal antibodies or abnormal reactions to the vaccine, and when none are found they say there is no link. A very intriguing argument as to whether the studies that have been done so far to check this possible link are valid could be summed up as:
Just because a child does not have an abnormal reaction to the vaccine does not mean that the stabilizer or some other of the many hundreds of chemicals that are in the vaccine or the vaccine itself did not do some kind of brain damage that causes autism. It amazes me that we have a double standard for the pharmaceutical industry from that of disease and illness. For instance, lung cancer was found to be higher among cigarette smokers than among non-cigarette smokers, therefore smoking cigarettes was found to lead to lung cancer. This in itself does not provide the scientific conclusive proof that smoking causes lung cancer, it only provides evidence that smoking and lung cancer may be linked. Autism goes up in percentage among the population as the number of vaccines goes up (introduced to children), and autism is higher in the group of people who vaccinate their children than it is in unvaccinated children. Yet they will not apply the same analogy to vaccines and autism that they did to smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. Why not?
SIDs and Vaccines
In their studies, Scheibner and Karlsson explained the link between SIDS and vaccines, in a similar way the MMR vaccine is being linked to autism by some:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Autism and “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (and many other physiological and neurological complications) are currently epidemic throughout the world. SIDS occurs among babies who have suffered a physical insult to their vulnerable bodies because of routine vaccinations. Once Scheibner and Karlsson had proven to themselves the causal link between vaccines and SIDS and had appropriately analyzed and documented their findings, they submitted their work to the medical community for peer review. Rather than attempt to duplicate their work or alter public health policy to protect infants, the majority of the medical community’s members chose to protect the interests of vaccine manufacturers. In 1988 the Japanese government began recommending that children not be vaccinated until age two. SIDS has returned to Japan since the government now recommends vaccinations be administered at three months.
Doubts are arising as to whether vaccines, in particular children’s, are the once promised holy grails of medicine. Even though the possibility of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism could be totally wrong as most studies to counteract the Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s research state, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to discredit the latter’s stance. If the world does not fully understand the effects of autism, how is it possible to back-trace its cause? If health regulating bodies do not know what causes autism, then it is not plausible to definitively say there is no link between vaccines and autism.