Receipt of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), even in children already at a higher risk for ASD, according to a new study published in JAMA.

Anjali Jain, MD, of the Lewin Group in Falls Church, VA, and colleagues reviewed data on 95,727 children who have older siblings with and without ASD from an administration claims database associated with a large commercial health plan. Children were eligible if they were continuously enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years of age from 2001–2012 and had an older sibling continuously enrolled for at least six months from 1997–2012. MMR vaccine receipt between birth and 5 years of age and date of administration of the trivalent MMR (or the last-administered component of monovalent vaccines) were also assessed.

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About 2% of the children had an older sibling with an ASD diagnosis and approximately 1% of children received an ASD diagnosis during follow-up. In the children who had an older sibling with ASD, 6.9% were also diagnosed with ASD vs. the 0.9% diagnosed with ASD that had unaffected siblings. The MMR vaccination rate (one or more doses) for the children with unaffected siblings was 84% at age 2 years and 92% at age 5 years; the MMR vaccination rates for children with older siblings with ASD was 73% at age 2 years and 86% at age 5 years. No association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk was observed among the study participants, regardless of whether the older siblings had an ASD diagnosis.

While these results may not be applicable more diverse populations with reduced access to healthcare services, the findings from this study emphasize previous research indicating no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD, even in children already at higher risk.

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