There is no evidence to support a link between the controversial MMR vaccine and autism in children, researchers said on Friday.
The study looked at the medical records of about 5,000 children and concluded that youngsters with autism were no more likely to have had the vaccination than other children.
Concern about a reported link between the combined jab and the disorder led to a drop in parents getting their children vaccinated in the UK.
Will this study influence your attitude towards the MMR vaccine? Would you feel safe in letting your children have the jab? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
The debate over the safety of MMR is going to remain and parents should have the right to choose between the single or the triple jabs. Fortunately, my husband and I are able to afford to pay for the single jabs, but at £100 a go many others won't be able to afford this "luxury".
Danielle, London, UK
All this shows is that the public and the media have absolutely no concept of risk and the scientific method. It doesn't change my belief one iota - in the safety of the vaccine or the stupidity of the general public.
Yet another government cover up. I have a friend with a little boy who was perfectly ok until having MMR. Two weeks later it was like someone had taken him away and left a different child. He is severely autistic and is still unable to speak. My children never had it and I am paying for my grandchildren to have single injections as well.
Adrian Matthews, Horley, Surrey
I got an email from my university (in Scotland) saying there was a mumps outbreak among 18-24 year olds in Scotland and I needed a mumps vaccination. My GP told me that my only choice was MMR and I was more than happy to get vaccinated.
Peter Tweed, Larne, N. Ireland
The safety of the vaccine is not the only issue. I will be giving my son single vaccines and am supported in this by a GP who does not feel the need to bend to government financial incentives and browbeat parents into doing something they are not happy with.
Emma, Bradford, West Yorks
I also work in medical research and entirely support the evidence that MMR does not cause autism. This has happened before with the scare over whooping cough vaccine in the 1970's, which turned out to be baseless and ensure the infection of 400,000 children. People fear what they do not understand.
Paul Beckett, London, UK
Are these the same experts that found no link between BSE and vCJD at first? Or the ones who said vCJD was not transmissible through blood transfusions? The reason we don't just shut up and trust the experts on MMR or GM food, Mike from Hampshire, is that they can be wrong, their research can be faulty, or they can give in to economic vested interests - and it's always us who pay the price! I prefer caution to hindsight.
Shanti, London, England
Twenty years ago, I had the experience of working in a hospital where children frequently died of post-measles pneumonitis. It was not pleasant. MMR means that will never happen again. It has my vote.
Desmond Persaud, Wimbledon, London
Since the MMR jab is now officially safe, when is Tony Blair going to tell us whether Leo was given it?
Colin , Swanscombe, UK
I find the unscientific and political tripe trotted out by some of your contributors quite frightening. Firstly no science is exact and all human intervention carries risk, but so then does non-intervention. We have to go by the best science available and as individuals weigh up the risks. The government has had to do the same and has concluded that its advice to parents is to go for the MMR. Why? Because the overwhelming evidence from studies all over the world, in countries where there is no political axe for newspapers to grind, is that MMR is as safe as you can get. The greatest danger here is that in some communities so many parents will opt out, or go for the riskier single jab programme, that a measles epidemic will develop. The pain, misery and, in some cases, permanent damage caused by measles is far worse than any risk from MMR. In this argument it is no use throwing in emotive anecdotal cases about children who develop autism or Crones disease soon after the 1st. or 2nd. jab. The jabs are given approximately at the time when children often develop first signs of autism anyway. The origins of autism, as far as current research can tell, has a much stronger basis in genetics and family culture. I agree that we should be looking much more closely at the causes and treatment of autism. Meanwhile both our twin sons have had their 1st. MMR jab. We were very nervous because of the media hype. We are now looking forward to their 2nd. jab when they will get full protection against what is a very nasty, sometimes fatal, childhood disease.
Vince, Coventry, UK
I think the public reaction to this shows that fundamentally most members of the public do not understand either risk or scientific method. There is a risk associated with anything, but in this case the risk of a child dying of measles is far higher than any possible risk of developing autism. With respect to scientific method - scientists never guarantee that they are absolutely correct, that is why they develop scientific THEORIES, not facts. It is simply a model that most accurately fits the data that they have at the time, for example Newton's theories of classical physics were the best model that anyone could put together until far more advanced instrumentation allowed the development of relativistic and quantum physics. That doesn't mean Newton was an idiot, lied or "spun" anything. Scientists are not omniscient so don't expect them to be correct all the time.
Mark Davies, London, UK
David Moor says that he "never heard of anyone dying" from measles. Lucky chap! I got severe whooping cough and measles within 2 years. I was at risk of dying from the first and I have severe short sight from the second. I DON'T want my kids to have these risks and I can't agree with those who refuse to vaccinate thereby increasing the risk for all other children. Bring back polio, David Morr, I am sure "robust" children will survive!!
Alex Thurley-Ratcliff, Winchester, England
Why is everyone skirting around the issue? Immunisation is not primarily for the benefit of the child, but for the benefit of society! Individual children must be made to take a slight risk to prevent horrific diseases rampaging through the population. Parents who think it's all about their individual offspring are woefully missing the point.
Al, London, UK
There seems to be a basic misunderstanding of science in most of the comments posted here. What we "know" constantly changes - Hawking changed his mind about black holes recently for instance, and Einstein didn't believe in quantum physics. Our knowledge of biology is actually very limited, so it is absolutely right that some scientists are prepared to question orthodoxy. We have to learn to live in an imperfect world as far as these choices go, and not to blame scientists or governments who generally are trying to do the right thing in public health.
Tim, London, UK
There is no scientifically credible evidence that MMR causes autism. There never has been. There is also no credible evidence that Diana Princess of Wales was bumped off by MI6. Sadly, as some comments on this page highlight, this doesn't stop people believing what they want to believe. The people I blame for this 21st century outbreak of Mad Parent Disease are those who seek to exploit the natural fears of mothers and fathers: the lawyers who took a slice of £15m of the taxpayer funded legal aid in a fruitless pursuit of the vaccine manufacturers and the news organisations that use the story to further their narrow political agenda against the government. Notice the lack of coverage in the Daily Mail yesterday? It was the only paper that didn't report the study on Friday. You can just imagine the scene at the daily editorial meeting. It's now time to move on and add an MMR chapter to the history of modern conspiracy theories.
A full investigation into the possible causes of autism, not just focusing on the MMR, is desperately needed, and this must be 100% objective, i.e. with no commercial or political interest whatsoever. We need to find out why so many children are now genetically susceptible to autism and what the possible triggers are for autism to develop in them. Then we might be able to avoid applying those triggers to the children. The MMR could still turn out to be one of these triggers. The statistics from this latest research were inconclusive because understandably - they did not compare the number of children with a genetic susceptibility to develop autism who had the MMR and then developed autism with the number of children with a genetic susceptibility to develop autism who had the MMR and then did not developed autism.
Linda, Beckenham, Kent
I am the father of an autistic son who had the MMR jab. I don't think MMR was the cause, but I do think there has been an un-scientific witch-hunt against Dr Wakefield (who never said we should not vaccinate our children, but just questioned the MMR vaccine specifically). The way to prove Dr Wakefield wrong was by scientific proof, not by smearing his reputation. The fact that the latter was the chosen approach just makes me suspicious, especially now we have learned of the dangers of the mercury preservatives used in the UK MMR vaccine.
David B. Wildgoose, Sheffield, England
In order for my daughter to go to school she had to have the MMR jab. Our only concern was that as a boy I didn't get measles, mumps or rubella we talked with our family doctor and the public health nurse both of them said that I should get the jab as well. The only side effect from that jab 5 years ago is I'm going bald. I'm sure it must have been the MMR vaccine that did it. I didn't think twice about having my daughter vaccinated. In most cases getting the vaccine is far better than taking a chance on contracting something.
James, Ontario, Canada
The real issue here is that we cannot trust the advice that we are given. Each camp has its vested interests and neither seek to address the facts cleanly. This whole study smacks of a propaganda counter-attack and does nothing to encourage me to get my young son vaccinated.
It is acknowledged that vaccinations carry a small risk of some reaction. This may be minor or severe (as possible with whooping cough vaccine)If you follow a reasonably healthy life-style and are generally in good health and eat healthy food the probability is that you will not catch a disease and if you do you will be robust enough not to die . When I was a child, practically everyone caught measles but I did not hear of anyone dying. Why would I endanger my children by vaccinating them when the odds of them contracting anything serious from which they will be severely damaged or die are infinitesimally low compared to deliberately injecting them with a substance which may cause them harm?
David Moor, Herts U.K.
My grandson was only given the unbundled rubella and mumps vaccine since a blood test showed he already had immunity to measles (possibly from the MMR shot his mother received before becoming pregnant.) Since many women in the USA receive a second MMR in adulthood (due to measles outbreak in college, etc.) I would like to see further research done on MMR immunity levels in children before they get the first shot. It's possible both the pro- and anti- MMR people are correct and the MMR is only dangerous when the child gets a double dose of immunity which compromises his/her fragile immunity system. Unfortunately, with the power of drug companies in the USA, this study will make it nearly impossible to get the unbundled shots.
Damaris Gordon, Pennington, USA
Having two children with autism both suddenly changed from being talkative and social to non speaking, non communicative children hours after catching chicken pox. I suspect we are looking at a viral trigger. Not a cause of autism but initiator.
Mark Baker, Ipswich UK
Autism is a highly genetic and parents may exhibit one or two of the three diagnostic features of autism. An Obsession with the MMR vaccine would meet the third criteria for autism namely, restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities.
David, Dublin, Ireland
It's not about safety, it's about choice. I am fed up with being told that I am stupid because I don't think that this triple jab is 100% safe. I am fed up with an arrogant government that routinely trots out lies and half truths but expects us to believe them over a matter that affects the safety of my child. I am fed up with paying taxes and no-one listening to my concerns. Every parent knows the benefits of immunisation - so why not give us what we want - single jabs! If we can afford a war for oil in Iraq then why can't the government find the money for single jabs? And for your information, my little girl has been immunised, with single vaccines, in France. Money well spent...can I have a tax rebate now ?
The danger with single jabs is that parents will only care about the big illness, measles. The take-up rates for mumps and rubella will go down. Indeed, I suspect most parents of boys would ignore the rubella vaccination completely. This would leave the door open to the spread of a disease that we know causes autism in children.
Ian, Oxford, UK
I have a 7-year-old son with Autism. I believe he exhibited signs of Autism before MMR was given so I don't believe there is a link in my son's case. The government should now be looking at why Autism is reaching epidemic levels and researching for the true cause of this disorder and providing proper specialist education and support for our children that have been affected.
Jane Carey, Croydon
Why when there was a tentative link made connecting autism with the MMR jab people jumped on it. Now when it has been proved in numerous studies across the globe that there is no link people don't believe it. It doesn't make sense to me that people always believe the worse and never the best. Allowing scientists to go on and find out what the actual cause of autism is seems a lot more sensible solution.
Time to move on I feel - the conspiracy theorists have had their day perhaps we need a moratorium on those (and I am one) with little or no background in science pontificating on matters they do not remotely understand! Next stop the GM debate?
Mike, Hampshire, UK
Just because no evidence supports a link between the MMR vaccine and autism does not mean a link does not exist. It is simply that the mechanism has not been found therefore understood yet and thus the evidence in the data is overlooked. You ask, as I have, the parent of a young child whom they have watched develop then suddenly change sometimes within hours of the MMR jab into an autistic child and see what they have to say about a link.
Daz, Basingstoke, UK
How many children who have not had the MMR job are still then diagnosed as being autistic? What is this then blamed on, if the blame can't be put on MMR? I was born with a physical disability that cannot be explained - it wasn't because of drugs, or something my mother did or did not take, there wasn't a full moon, or an R in the month, it just happened, because sometimes it just does. If these parents blaming MMR spent as much energy on supporting their children and campaigning for disabled people's rights, then maybe their children could lead as active and full life as I do!
Pennie Forthem, Uckfield, East Sussex, UK
I'm told that the UK are always last to take up new vaccines and medicines - we let other countries test them on their own people first. If that's the case, and MMR was responsible for autism, then wouldn't the USA and Europe be full of autistic children? As it happens, we are delaying the vaccination of our son until the new 5-way vaccine is available, because we're more concerned that the only cases of polio in the UK in recent years have been due to the vaccination with a live polio culture.
Phil Rogers, Bournemouth
The unpleasant and potentially fatal consequences of measles are well documented, I wonder if Dr Wakefield is prepared to be prosecuted or sued for any cases resulting from the lack of vaccination?
As both a scientist and a football fan I have to say that science reporting in this country's media is about as accurate as football's summer transfer speculation. It's all about circulation and advertising revenue and never about truth. Wild headline grabbing speculation might be entertaining in relation to football but it risks people's lives when in the realm of science and medicine.
Juan Aviles, London
Think about it this way, your child could have the chance of 1 disease or the choice of 3 others, non of which are nice. I study stats but I presume everyone can see the odds for you child are just better with the MMR vaccine.
My son is having his MMR jab on Tuesday. I have no qualms about it's safety, in fact I am relieved that he will be protected against Measles, Mumps and Rubella.
My sons are adults now, but as we lost their brother to cot death our paediatrician was cautious when the youngest came up for vaccination, and advised us to wait a few weeks longer than usual and then space out the vaccines. I think parents are not arguing that their children should not have vaccination, they are questioning whether the combined vaccine is desirable. The medical world justify the new regime only because we are less likely to forget to complete the course if combined jabs are delivered. I question whether this is of value to the children, since so many families would prefer to stagger the vaccines and are being denied the chance, so have no protection at all. We are a cynical couple of generations, if we question the impartiality of "studies" then the government needs to give way, provide the staggered programme parents want, and ensure that all children are protected. We can argue further after that.
Diana, Croydon, UK
I am a parent of two autistic children, one of them was diagnosed 4 years before having the MMR, the other has not had the MMR. I still have no doubt that my children were damaged by multiple vaccination. Ask the government and the medical profession about the mercury preservative Thiomersal and it's safety. I can assure you, they are not so forthcoming with claims of safety. To those of you that seem to believe everything the government and so called medical experts say is true, I have one word...thalidomide. If you are too young to know how that was denied and covered-up, ask your parents!
Garry Maher, London
A friend of mine did not have her daughter vaccinated and she died, age 3, of measles. Her decision not to have the MMR jab was based on all the negative stories put about at the time in the press. It proved to be a fatal mistake.
I think parents are using the MMR as an excuse, some children will have autism and some will not, blaming MMR does not help anyone. If parents have an autistic child and cannot cope then they should have the child taken into care.
This will make no difference at all. The zealots who are convinced MMR causes autism will simply claim its another whitewash. Ironically their obsession with demonising MMR is actually damaging research into the real cause of autism.
It is logically impossible to "prove" MMR is "safe", but a study of 535,544 Finnish children showed no link 2 years ago! This was completely ignored by the media. Vaccination should be compulsory before school entry as it is in the US. Vaccines have done more for the health and welfare of mankind than any other human invention.
If there is truly no link between MMR and autism then Dr Andrew Wakefield's research was flawed. I would find it far more reassuring to see a scientific assessment of Dr Wakefield's work and a description of why the results should be regarded as invalid than more and more other pieces of research suggesting a different conclusion. I still think that the best way to restore public confidence in the MMR jab would be for the Blairs to publish Leo's vaccination certificate - if the Prime Minister has chosen the vaccine with the benefit of information the public does not have then the public will soon accept that it is safe. For as long as this is not done people will, quite reasonably, wonder what the Blairs know that we don't know.
John B, UK
It amazes me how people who would never think of arguing with, say Stephen Hawking, about astrophysics, suddenly decide that they are better informed than the experts in the medical field after reading a few tabloid scare stories.
Rich Smith, Newport, Wales
Autism is a terrible disease and no wonder parents look for something or someone to blame. However, as a scientist the only link I can see that there has ever been between autism and MMR is a correlation in time. A child cannot be diagnosed on the autistic spectrum until they are about two years old, around the same time the MMR is given. Just because it happens at the same time doesn't automatically link those events. Teenagers are more likely than other age groups to get glandular fever. This doesn't mean it's caused by A-levels! I am really sorry if your child has autism, but it is no-ones fault and cannot be prevented. I think it would be even more tragic if children were killed or disabled due to measles, which can be prevented.
The anti-MMR lobby seems to be the same self-obsessed, 'my safety is more important than yours' mob who drive SUVs on school runs and generally behave as though only their baseless opinions, other proven evidence is irrelevant, matters.
Al, W'Ton, UK
Al from W'Ton - As a parent with a very bright 13 month old girl MMR has raised a few concerns for us. My biggest concern is that this government has consistently lied to the public about so much for so long I have no idea which is truth and which is lie? Not immunising is not an option that I wholly agree with, in light of the fact that our daughter caught Whooping Cough at 4 weeks old which resulted in us taking up residence at the hospital.
Russell, Herts, UK
Hmmmm, another money and special interests triumph over the people's health?
Robert Thompson, Chelmsford
I have an 8-year-old son who has aspergers and if making the same decision again I would definitely give him the MMR vaccine. So much harm has been done from this original report, I think stricter guidelines should be made when making research public. There must be compelling and tried and tested evidence to prove the point.
Ellie Washington, Teddington, UK
Well this confirms what I have thought for a long time, that there was no backing to initial link between Autism and the MMR jab. Once again scaremongering has overpowered proper rational thought and scientific findings. And to all those who want Tony Blair to confirm whether or not Leo had the jab, I say 'mind your own business'.
Jim, Bath, UK