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No link between childhood vaccinations and autism: study

An international review of vaccine data has concluded there is no evidence of a link between childhood vaccinations and autism or autism spectrum disorders.

The comprehensive review led by researchers from the University of Sydney was published in the medical journal Vaccine in April and examined five cohort studies involving more than 1.25 million children, as well as five case-control studies involving nearly 10,000 children.

The cohort and case-control studies revealed no statistical data to support a relationship between childhood vaccination, such as for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, and the development of autism or autism spectrum disorders.

The paper’s senior author Guy Eslick, an associate professor at the Sydney Medical School, said these vaccines were the ones which had received the most attention by anti-vaccination groups.

“This has in recent times become a major public health issue with vaccine-preventable diseases rapidly increasing in the community due to the fear of a ‘link’ between vaccinations and autism,” Eslick said.

There has been much debate about such a link after American celebrity Jenny McCarthy said in 2008 that vaccines triggered her son’s autism, a claim largely based on a research paper that has since been denounced as fraudulent.

Eslick said it was particularly concerning given the fact that there were 11 measles outbreaks in the U.S. since 2000, and New South Wales in Australia also saw a spike in measles infections from early 2012 to late 2012.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases clearly still hold a presence in modern day society, and the decision to opt out of vaccination schedules needed to be urgently and properly evaluated,” Eslick said.

In April, Ontario’s health minister said a recent outbreak of measles in Alberta was a “wake up call” for many parents who didn’t like the idea of vaccinating their children.

Deb Matthews said parents need to understand that it’s perfectly safe to vaccinate their children, which helps prevent the spread of diseases in schools and communities.

“They’re starting to realize now that not immunizing your kids can actually result in their death,” she added.

With files from The Canadian Press