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Health & Pregnancy

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MMR Vaccine Is Safe

Experts Say Benefits Are Proven, Risks Are Not

Addressing the Controversy continued...

"The time relationship is a difficult one. Autism very commonly becomes apparent in the second year of life, and that's when you're giving MMR," says Katz, who also helped develop the measles vaccine now used worldwide.

"These are epidemiological studies. That is, they are looking at large numbers of children and sorting out the numbers who develop autism and who did or didn't have the [MMR] vaccine," says Katz. "That's fine from the point of view of statistics and numbers, but those who are convinced that MMR has something to do with autism need the scientific proof."

That's why Katz says several studies are being organized and are underway by the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that will address those issues more fully. But he also points out that no other research has been able to duplicate the findings of the Wakefield study, despite several attempts.

Kathleen Stratton, PhD, senior program officer in the division of health promotion and disease at the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, says sorting out the scientific facts about the safety of vaccines in a practical way that parents can understand is one of the biggest challenges researchers face.

"We would love to know how to say it better," says Stratton. "For some people, the scientific glass is always half empty."

Stratton says healthcare providers should prepare parents and explain what is known about the benefits and possible risks of vaccination before their baby is born.

"There is not a debate about the benefits of these vaccines. There is uncertainty about many of the risks," Stratton says.

Katz and Stratton spoke at a briefing today on vaccine safety sponsored by the March of Dimes.

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