Can vaccines cause autism?

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Occasionally people question whether the measles-mumps-rubella combination (MMR) vaccine causes autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental condition, usually resulting in difficulties with social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours or interests.

While we’ve come to understand a lot about autism in recent years, scientists still aren’t completely sure of the cause.

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teacher and child

When a child gets a life-changing diagnosis, parents often feel a strong need to know why this happened.

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When there’s no clear answer, frustration, confusion and guilt may lead them to a conclusion that lacks evidence.

While the exact causes of autism are still unknown, we do know that vaccines aren’t responsible.

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How can we be so sure?

Large-scale studies have definitively shown that rates of autism in vaccinated children are the same as those in unvaccinated children.

The biggest study was conducted on 537,303 Danish children, 18% of which had not received the MMR vaccine. It found that unvaccinated children were just as likely to develop autism as those who had been vaccinated. (1)

The results of this study were also combined with nine other studies, collating medical information on more than 1.3 million children around the world. The larger study again concluded that vaccination could not be the cause of autism. (2)

There was also a study of 300,000 Japanese children, which showed that removing the MMR vaccine from the childhood vaccination program did not reduce rates of autism. (3)

The debunked study of just 12 children that fuelled early misconceptions about autism is now infamous.

Read more about what causes autism and what doesn’t.

Get the real truth and make an informed decision…

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Is there research we can rely on?


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Who can you trust? 

What’s true and what isn’t?


  1. Madsen, KM. et al. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism. New England Journal of Medicine 2002;347:1477-1482
  2. Taylor, LE. et al. Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Vaccine 2014;32:3623-3629
  3. Honda, H. et al. No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2005;46:572-579.


young woman in the know

The stories linking autism and vaccines are harmful to people living with ASD and their families.

While some cases of autism are severe, many people with autism experience only mild differences from the ‘average’ person. In fact, many people with autism go on to achieve both ordinary and extraordinary things. 

By keeping this in perspective, you can help people living with autism feel accepted and included. It’s better to base your opinions and decisions on facts, not fears.

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This website answers the questions parents ask about vaccines. It’s clear and
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The University of Queensland is a world-class research and teaching institution.

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