The 2004 Institute of Medicine report, Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism, is probably the most authoritative study on the topic of the MMR vaccine and autism to date (20141022). If you visit the CDC website and go to Vaccine Safety, you can quickly find their page on the MMR vaccine – here. They conclude their statement on its side effects with this paragraph, which includes a reference to the 2004 report:
Signs of autism typically appear around the same time that children are recommended to receive the MMR vaccine. Some parents might worry that the vaccine causes autism. Vaccine safety experts, including experts at CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism. In 2004, a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that there is no link between autism and MMR vaccine, and that there is no link between autism and vaccines that contain a preservative called thimerosal. In 2011, another IOM report rejected a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
(The 2011 IOM report (link) devotes only 5 pages (145-148, 153) to explaining their continuing rejection of a causal link for autism. While they make brief prima facie cases for the rejection conclusion that summarize five epidemiological studies, their argument for rejection of studies tending in the other direction are simply authoritarian assertions absent even a prima facie case. In what they call “Mechanistic Evidence” considerations, they summarily reject several studies tending to show a causal relationship. Nothing in these pages considers the claims and arguments of the many who do see a significant correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism. In short, this section of the 2011 report is of no value to a serious student of the issue. It is an argument from authority.)
As the 2004 IOM report is still the most authoritative argument against any causal link between MMR vaccination and autism, I have studied it with some care. Page 22 references nine “controlled observational studies” that examined the association between MMR and autism and consistently showed evidence of no association. It also references 2 studies showing the contrary, but dismisses them as characterized by serious methodological flaws. And it is “based on this body of evidence” that “the committee concludes that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.”
Thinking it my duty as a parent and grandparent to study that body of evidence for myself, I procured the first one (all nine listed here) and went to work:
DeStefano F, Bhasin TK, Thompson WW, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Boyle C. 2004. Age at first measlesmumps- rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. Pediatrics 113(2):259-66.
About this study, it turns out, there is much of interest. For the layman it is an excellent introduction to the difficulties of penetrating the barriers to understanding that the current mode of scientific writing presents.
For the doctor/scientist as well as the layman, it should make clear the degree to which we are all dependent on authority when it comes to much of what we think. This appears when we compare the eagerness with which the 2004 report accepts the methodology of this study with the cavalier readiness with which the 2011 report rejects it. (Elaboration here.)
Most significantly interesting is the fact that one of the five authors of the paper (Thomnpson WW in the above bibliographic entry) has stated publicly via his attorney (and at present privately to a congressional investigating committee) that he and his colleagues deliberately cooked the books on the statistics in the report in order to hide a disturbingly strong association between the MMR vaccine and African-American boys with autism. Since he and at least three of his colleagues hold significant positions at the CDC itself when last I checked (20150414) –
Coleen Boyle serves as Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC.
Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, MD, is a Medical Epidemiologist and Chief of the Developmental Disabilities Branch.
Dr. DeStefano is the Director of the Immunization Safety Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). –
the claim that these people colluded among themselves to hide and otherwise misleadingly state the results of their study tends to confirm the recent assertions by Robert F Kennedy, Jr that the CDC is "hopelessly corrupt and dysfunctional."
I have an elaboration with external links on this whistle blower here.
I hope to have an elaboration available of those difficulties as I encountered them in the near future. Twain was certainly right about statistics.