The MMR-Autism Controversy: Did Autism Concerns Affect Vaccine Take Up?

5 Jun

A presentation will be made at the 4th Biennial Conference of the American Society of Health Economics June 10-13 in Minnesota, entitled: The MMR-Autism Controversy: Did Autism Concerns Affect Vaccine Take Up?. The study reviews data from the National Immunization Survey from 1995 through 2006.

According to Science Daily, the study will report:

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the controversy, Chang found that the higher a mother’s education level, the less likely a child was to receive an MMR vaccination. In other words, college-educated mothers were less likely to have their children vaccinated than were non-college education mothers. This may be due to the fact that more educated mothers have better access and/or more quickly absorb medical information available in the media.

The researcher found that the decline in vaccination rates began with the now-retracted 1998 Lancet paper by Andrew Wakefield, and that it has had impact on uptake rates for vaccines in addition to MMR:

She also found that the controversy, begun with the publication of research (later discredited) linking the MMR vaccine to risks for autism in “The Lancet” medical journal, seemingly had a spillover effect to other vaccines — such as polio or other measles-containing vaccines — likely as a result of concern for safety over the MMR controversy.

While this involves a lot of correlation discussion, I can’t help but point out another correlation: the same group that are less likely to receive MMR vaccination (children of mothers with higher education levels) are more likely to have been diagnosed with autism.

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8 Responses to “The MMR-Autism Controversy: Did Autism Concerns Affect Vaccine Take Up?”

  1. Science Mom June 6, 2012 at 00:07 #

    This may be due to the fact that more educated mothers have better access and/or more quickly absorb medical information available in the media.

    I’m so tired of this trope; it adds false validity to bad choices. The anti-vaxxers use this constantly to show how “educated” they are and other college-educated women feel as though it becomes an imperative to show off their education by following suit and racking up “mompetition” points. The fact is, is that these are not hard science-educated women for the most part. They are no more qualified to parse scientific literature than I am at parsing comparative literature.

    • Chris June 6, 2012 at 05:23 #

      I get saddened when many of those mothers are engineers. Apparently the hard science they got was squashed by their “I engineer, I know all” attitude.

      That was something I had until my son’s medical issues hit me with a clue by four.

  2. William Kuhles June 6, 2012 at 03:41 #

    Correlation does not equal causation…~-snicker-~

    • Sullivan June 6, 2012 at 04:32 #

      +1 snicker

  3. Patty June 6, 2012 at 19:11 #

    Vaccine rates fall after the “one” study? A simple pubmed search will provide you with over 540 papers on “autism vaccines”. There are over 150 studies on “thimerosal (mercury in vaccines) autism” alone.

    • Sullivan June 6, 2012 at 23:54 #

      Just to be clear on what your point is, Patty,

      it isn’t *just* Mr. Wakefield’s bad paper. It’s all those other papers that helped scare people? Can I assume you are not a supporter of the vaccine-causation notion, then?

      To paraphrase Science Mom, when did the first thimerosal paper come out? When did the drop in vaccine uptake start? My guess is that the drop started between 1998 and the first thimerosal paper.

  4. Science Mom June 6, 2012 at 20:51 #

    @ Patty, most of those are studies generated in response to the mercury brigade’s rant about thimerosal after Wakefield’s now retracted study was published and MMR vaccination nose-dived in the UK first and then the US. The remainder of studies that find a correlation are dodgy special-interest group funded pieces of drek that have been drowned out with criticism and better, more rigorous studies that cannot find any correlation.

  5. Marielaina Perrone DDS June 8, 2012 at 05:42 #

    There is an easy way to end this debate. Have the drug companies go back to the individual vaccine. That is the defining factor here among many parents. Separate out the vaccine and see vaccination rates in thse groups normalize.

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