A population-based study of measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism

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  • Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen, Center for Epidemiologisk Grundforskning, AU, Denmark
  • Anders Hviid, Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark., Denmark
  • Mogens Vestergaard
  • Diana Schendel
  • Jan Wohlfahrt, Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Denmark
  • Poul Thorsen, Denmark
  • Jørn Olsen
  • Mads Melbye, Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark., Denmark
  • The Danish Epidemiology Science Centre
  • Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine
It has been suggested that vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a cause of autism.

We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all children born in Denmark from January 1991 through December 1998. The cohort was selected on the basis of data from the Danish Civil Registration System, which assigns a unique identification number to every live-born infant and new resident in Denmark. MMR-vaccination status was obtained from the Danish National Board of Health. Information on the children’s autism status was obtained from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register, which contains information on all diagnoses received by patients in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics in Denmark. We obtained information on potential confounders from the Danish Medical Birth Registry, the National Hospital Registry, and Statistics Denmark.

Of the 537,303 children in the cohort (representing 2,129,864 person-years), 440,655 (82.0 percent) had received the MMR vaccine. We identified 316 children with a diagnosis of autistic disorder and 422 with a diagnosis of other autistic-spectrum disorders. After adjustment for potential confounders, the relative risk of autistic disorder in the group of vaccinated children, as compared with the unvaccinated group, was 0.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24), and the relative risk of another autistic-spectrum disorder was 0.83 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.65 to 1.07). There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination,
or the date of vaccination and the development of autistic disorder.

This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe New England Journal of Medicine
Pages (from-to)1477-1482
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2002

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