NEW YORK Nobody likes getting shots, but a 1998 study published in The Lancet gave many parents a reason not to get one particular kind of shot for their children.
The British medical journal published the study, by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, showing that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella caused autism in children. But a recent independent investigation found that Wakefield behaved “dishonestly and irresponsibly,” leading the journal to retract the study.
According to an April 2008 study published in the journal Pediatrics to examine the relationship between U.S. MMR vaccination rates and media coverage of the MMR-autism controversy using data from the National Immunization Survey and research on Lexis-Nexis, MMR vaccination rates following the study’s publication decreased in the United Kingdom from 92% to 73%, with rates as low as 50% in some parts of London. Subsequent outbreaks of measles in that country led to its first measles death in more than a decade.
By contrast, the United States experienced the opposite trend, with MMR vaccination rates increasing from around 90% in 1995 to 92% in 1998 and 93% in 2003 and 2004, despite a slight increase in 2000 in selective non-receipt of vaccinations, meaning that the children received all childhood immunizations except MMR. The study did not find a relationship between the 2000 increase and media coverage.
At present, the U.S. rate of MMR vaccinations for children ages 19 to 35 months remains high, at more than 92%, according to the NIS. Nevertheless, according to some published reports, some regions have low rates of immunizations overall, particularly those with laws that allow parents to exempt their children for personal reasons; at one private school in the San Francisco Bay Area, fewer than half of the students were immunized.