Published just days after the Commonwealth Government announced parents who choose not to vaccinate their children “conscientious objectors” will no longer be granted childcare benefits, new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals there is no link between the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Although data is yet to link MMR with an increased ASD risk, many people, including high profile American actress, model and former wife of Jim Carey, Jenny McCarthy have been vocal about the MMR vaccine causing autism in children, and hence, opposed vaccination.

Much of the speculation around the MMR vaccine’s link to autism emanates from the 1990’s – a time when new autism websites, including Unlocking Autism (which has since been shut down) were launched and research released by former British surgeon, Dr Andrew Wakefield citing a link between autism and MMR vaccination.

Dr Wakefield’s 1998 paper has since been exposed as one of the most fraudulent research papers ever produced to date. The paper’s claims were discredited in 2004, following an investigation by Sunday Times reporter, Brian Deer, which led to a financial expose of Dr Wakefield and a subsequent withdrawal of support from many of Wakefield’s colleagues.

Despite this, many parents have remained cautious about the MMR vaccine, continuing to believe its unfounded link to autism.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on April 21, 2015, entitled Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism, involved a US examination of a cohort of 95,727 children, 994 of whom were diagnosed with ASD, and 1,929 of whom had an older sibling with ASD.

The JAMA research findings revealed no link between MMR vaccination and increased risk of autism at any age, even when children were deemed to be at high-risk.

It also found that children who had an older sibling with ASD were less likely to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.

Among those children with an older sibling living with ASD, vaccination rates (identified by the study) were 73 per cent at two years, and 86 per cent at five years, compared with 84 per cent at two years and 92 per cent at five years respectively, for children who had no older siblings with ASD.

The research concluded, In this large sample of privately insured children with older siblings, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.”