‘………By MICHELLE DIAMENT February 9, 2015
Amid concerns about measles, the nation’s largest autism advocacy group has updated its stance on vaccines and autism, but remains mum on whether it will fund further studies on the issue.
Autism Speaks revised its policy on immunizations in a statement published on its website last week.
“Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated,” reads the statement from Rob Ring, the group’s chief science officer.
The language replaces a four-paragraph statement on the issue which had been in place since April 2013. The organization’s previous position also strongly encouraged parents to vaccinate but said “it remains possible that, in rare cases, immunization may trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic condition.”
The shift in Autism Speaks’ position comes as the nation grapples with a resurgence of measles. The illness was considered to be eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but 102 cases were reported in 14 states from California to New York in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most of those affected were not vaccinated, health officials say.
Concerns sparked by a 1998 study suggesting a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine have led some parents not to immunize their children. However, the study has since been retracted and the theory widely discredited by medical experts.
“The updated statement was issued this week to reiterate the importance of vaccinations in light of the measles outbreaks,” CJ Volpe, a spokesman for Autism Speaks, told Disability Scoop on Friday.
As recently as 2010, Autism Speaks affirmed its commitment to funding research examining a possible link between autism and vaccines even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.
Volpe did not respond to questions about whether Autism Speaks continues to fund research on vaccines. A search of the organization’s online grant database indicates that the group most recently funded a study looking at vaccines and autism, among other issues, in 2011.
Nonetheless, Autism Speaks’ Strategic Plan for Science outlining the group’s priorities for the years 2013 to 2017 continues to make mention of vaccines.
“Autism Speaks is funding studies on the underlying biology of autism, including studies to better understand medical and genetic conditions that are associated with autism that could potentially be linked to adverse responses to immunization,” the strategic plan states.