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Parents Still Fear Autism Could Be Linked To Vaccines, Poll Shows

Posted Oct 07 2008 6:15pm

The first national survey of attitudes toward autism reveals that a small but significant percentage of people still believe the disease is caused by childhood vaccines. The survey of 1000 randomly selected adults was conducted for the Florida Institute of Technology.

Nearly one in four (24 percent) said that because vaccines may cause autism it was safer not to have children vaccinated at all. Another 19 percent were not sure. This at a time when the Centers for Disease Control reports that autism affects one in 150 children born in the United States.

Scientists say there is no evidence linking vaccines and autism, but the lingering fear is leading to fewer parents having their children vaccinated and a growing number of measles infections. The New York Times reported in August that measles cases in the first seven months of 2008 grew at the fastest rate in more than a decade and cases in Britain, Switzerland, Israel and Italy are said to be soaring.

The public’s concern over vaccines stems from a controversial 1998 British study linking autism and the MMR vaccine, which at the time contained the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. The study was later retracted by most of its authors and thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001, but responses to the just-completed survey show the public is still confused.

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