When Is Enough, Enough?

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and 12 other co-investigators published a paper in the prestigious British medical journal, the Lancet, and asserted that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism. The small study of merely 12 children set off a national firestorm in the U.K. and suddenly thousands of British patients were refusing to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. MMR coverage rates dropped from 90% to 70% and in some parts of England, even to 50%. Outbreaks of measles began appearing across England, Scotland and Ireland. By 2003, scientists had concluded that the immunization rates in England were below the level necessary to provide "herd immunity". In short, measles is at risk of becoming a common childhood illness once again. Following Wakefield's MMR study, the scientific community overwhelmingly responded. More than 25 studies in 5 countries were conducted looking at hundreds of thousands of children — both vaccinated and unvaccinated — and the results were the same each time. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. And earlier this month, more than 13 years after Wakefield's original study, our nation's foremost health and medical authority, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), added to the growing body of evidence that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. So now the question is — can we finally move on? Can we accept that the MMR-autism link has been exhaustively studied and disproven? Can we begin to focus our scientific energies on not only finding the true cause of autism but on discovering new vaccines that will save lives? Can we accept the scientific truth that vaccines save millions of lives each year and are in fact, very safe? To those who would continue to argue that there still isn't enough research, I would ask, "when is enough, enough?" How is one study of 12 children enough to convince you when more than 25 studies including hundreds of thousands of children aren't? While Wakefield's study looked at only 12 children, one of the studies conducted in Denmark looked at more than 500,000 children including 100,000 who had not been vaccinated with MMR. The researchers found no association between vaccination and the development of autism. Another study looked at more than 530,000 children and found no difference in the risk of autism between those who received the MMR vaccine and those who did not. Moreover, they found no relationship between the date of vaccination and the development of autism in the autistic children. I could go on and on but the point is that the evidence is overwhelming. Hopefully, it is enough to provide reassurance to parents who may have the slightest doubt about the safety of the MMR vaccine. Because at the end of the day, it is enough for me.