MMR vaccine and autism: no evidence of association

Health Technology Advisory Committee
Record ID 32003000454
Authors' objectives:

This report aims to assess the links between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the development of autism in children.

Authors' results and conclusions: Recently, there has been public interest in a theory that suggests the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, may be associated with autism. In a 1998 UK study of 12 children with autism, an initial observation linking autism and MMR vaccine was reported. Several epidemiological studies investigating whether the MMR vaccine may be causally associated with autism have been undertaken. The British Committee on Safety of Medicines, Taylor, et al., and an analysis on data from California and Finland have concluded that evidence does not support the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine, or any combination of vaccines, causes the development of autism, including regressive forms of autism. The benefits of being vaccinated greatly outweigh the risk of contracting the disease being vaccinated for. However, while vaccines may be effective, they are not without possible side effects. The risk of having an adverse reaction from a vaccine is far less than having serious consequences from an infectious disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracks any unusual epidemiological trends associated with vaccine safety. Federal monitoring supplies public health professionals with the information they need to ensure the safest strategies of vaccine administration. While the U.S. is experiencing record low cases of vaccine preventable diseases, the viruses and bacteria that cause them still exist. Diseases that have a low prevalence or have been eliminated in the U.S, are still common in other parts of the world and can easily be imported into the U.S. Persons not vaccinated are at high risk for contracting and transmitting a disease. Prior to vaccinations, infectious diseases were extremely prevalent and brought devastating levels of permanent injury and death to countless individuals in the U.S. Measles, mumps, and rubella are all serious, contagious diseases, which spread rapidly, especially in populations that are not immune. The CDC has stated that if vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella were to stop, the number of cases would return to the pre-vaccine levels. Autism is a complex, life-long, developmental disorder that has no cure. Experts believe genes control early brain development and that two genes, identified as HOXA1 and HOXB1, may be the underlying factors in a large number of autism cases.
Authors' recommendations: There is no scientific evidence that supports the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine, or any combination of vaccines, causes the development of autism. Both the CDC and the British Committee on Safety of Medicines found no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Authors' methods: Review
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2001
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: United States
MeSH Terms
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Child
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine
Organisation Name: Health Technology Advisory Committee
Contact Address: Queries should be referred to the Minnesota Department of Health (
Copyright: Health Technology Advisory Committee
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.