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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Vaccine Myth Persists

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.

From the Annenberg Public Policy Center:

As measles cases rise across the United States and vaccination rates for the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine continue to fall, a new survey finds that a quarter of U.S. adults do not know that claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism are false.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said there is no evidence linking the measles vaccine and getting autism. But 24% of U.S. adults do not accept that – they say that statement is somewhat or very inaccurate – and another 3% are not sure, according to the survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. About three-quarters of those surveyed say that statement is somewhat or very accurate.

The findings are consistent with those in an APPC survey administered by NORC in October 2018, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The two surveys indicate that a sizable and consistent number of Americans either believe the false connection or do not know what is correct. The false link was asserted by Andrew Wakefield in a 1998 Lancet paper that was subsequently retracted.

“The persistent false belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism continues to be problematic, especially in light of the recent increase in measles cases,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “Our studies on vaccination consistently show that the belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism is associated not simply with reluctance to take the measles vaccine but with vaccine hesitancy in general.”

The new findings are also consistent with APPC surveys in 2021-2023 which did not mention the CDC’s guidance. In these surveys, 9% to 12% thought it was probably or definitely true that vaccines given to children for diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella cause autism, while 17% to 18% were not sure whether that is true or false.

In the latest survey, conducted from April 18-24, 2024, the Annenberg Public Policy Center questioned over 1,500 empaneled U.S. adults about their knowledge of how one can contract measles, its symptoms, and whether medical professionals recommend that pregnant people take the measles vaccine if they have not already done so. See the survey topline.

Bar chart showing persistent false beliefs about autism and MMR vaccination shown in ASAPH survey waves.