The notion that vaccinations somehow cause autism in children has long been debunked, but the conspiracy theory continues to exist on the Internet and has created growing segment of parents who refuse to get their children vaccinated, especially with the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella).
While the exact cause of autism is unknown, children who have older autistic siblings are more likely to develop autism themselves.
However, a new study has found that siblings of children with autism were not more likely to have autism if they were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, compared to unvaccinated siblings of autistic children, noted NBC News.
The rate of autism among the siblings who got vaccinated was actually lower than the non-vaccinated kids.
The study was led by Dr. Anjali Jain of The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The Lewin Group website states, "The Lewin Group is an Optum company, a wholly owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. We're editorially independent but through partnerships with Optum we can tap into a vast body of data and resources."
According to the study in JAMA, the children who got the MMR vaccine were between birth and 5 years old.
Dr. Jain told TIME:
Our study confirmed that in kids with older siblings who we know are at increased risk of developing autism themselves, those kids are being vaccinated less, but in the kids who did develop autism who were vaccinated, there was no increased risk from the vaccine compared to kids who did not get the vaccine.
We may not understand what is causing autism in these kids or families. There could be a host of both genetic and environmental factors. But we are able to look at the vaccines themselves and show there is no association with autism.
(Note: The image of the child being vaccinated above was not part of the study.)