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Media Coverage Did Not Affect Vaccination Uptake

Fewer children immunized with MMR after publication of scientific literature linking it to autism

THURSDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The mainstream news media reporting of academic publications suggesting a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism did not result in a significant drop in uptake of the vaccination. Rather, this temporary drop occurred before the media coverage began, according to a report published in the April 1 issue of Pediatrics.

Michael J. Smith, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed data on national uptake of MMR vaccine from 1995 to 2004, and measured media coverage of the MMR-autism controversy during the same time period.

Whereas as few as 0.77 percent of children in the 1995 cohort received all their vaccinations except the MMR, the number of children who did not receive it rose to 2.1 percent in the 2000 National Immunization Survey at the time when the proposed MMR-autism link was made in academic journals but had not yet been covered in the mainstream media. Before the media began sustained coverage of the MMR-autism story, immunization uptake rates already returned to baseline levels, the researchers report.

"This finding suggests a limited influence of mainstream media on MMR immunization in the United States," the authors write.

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