Facing the facts about the MMR vaccine

When is it time to say “enough”? As Barack Obama settles into the White House, I am hoping that his new surgeon general, widely expected to be CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta, will decide that with one particular issue, the time has come.

The MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – vaccine is safe. There have been several large-scale studies making this clear. None showed an increased association with autism, which became a big fear among parents in much of the western world, in the wake of the publication of a tiny, flawed research study in The Lancet in 1998.

Measles deaths fell worldwide from an estimated 750,000 in 2000 to 197,000 in 2007. This is thanks to a concerted campaign, run by the Measles Initiative (founded by Unicef, the UN Foundation, the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US), which included mass immunisation of children.

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