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Nearly Half of Americans Still Suspect Vaccine-Autism Link
Date:1/21/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Just a slim majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- think vaccines don't cause autism, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found.

Conversely, 18 percent are convinced that vaccines, like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, can cause the disorder, and another 30 percent aren't sure.

The poll was conducted last week, following news reports that said the lead researcher of a controversial 1998 study linking autism to the MMR vaccine had used fraudulent research to come to his conclusion.

The poll also found that parents who have lingering doubts about the vaccine were less likely to say that their children were fully vaccinated (86 percent), compared to 98 percent of parents who believe in the safety of vaccines.

Still, the percentage of fully vaccinated children remains high, at 92 percent, the poll found.

"This sounds like a cup half-empty/cup half-full story," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. He noted that while the number of people who believe in a connection between vaccines and autism is "only 18 percent," that nonetheless translates to "millions and millions and millions of people, and it's clear that in some cases that has led them to not vaccinate their children."

Vaccine safety has been a major concern for many parents since the publication of the 1998 study, led by now disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield, which concluded that the MMR vaccine caused autism. The journal that originally published the study, The Lancet, has since retracted the paper and Wakefield was recently barred from practicing medicine in Britain.

In recent weeks, another leading British medical journal, BMJ, has published a series of articles purporting to expose deliberate fraud by Wakefield in his handling of the research that served as the basis for the 1998 study.

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