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With a measles outbreak currently spreading in Washington and New York, old rumors about the MMR vaccine are starting to pop up online.
One story recently resurfaced after it was shared in a Facebook group called "Vaccine Resistance Movement: VRM Updates & News From The Trenches."
It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We found the article misleads readers about information related to the potential adverse side effects of the MMR vaccine, which is used against measles, mumps and rubella.
The center of the "courts confirm" claim comes from a 2012 finding of an Italian court that linked a child diagnosed with autism to the MMR vaccine the child received a year earlier.
The court relied heavily on the now retracted and discredited 1998 Wakefield MMR Lancet paper, which was deemed scientifically and ethically flawed because of deliberate fraudulent conduct. Wakefield’s medical license was later revoked. In several subsequent studies since, scientists have not been able to show any association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The court also heard the testimony of one doctor, Massimo Montinari, who was hired by the child’s parents and known to encourage parents to avoid giving their children vaccinations.
Montinari also wrote a book on how vaccines cause autism and touted an autism "cure" that he allegedly created, Forbes reported. In 2017, he was reportedly suspended for six months due to a lack of scientific evidence that his method, for which patients are said to have paid thousands of euros, was effective.
The alternativenewsnetwork.net story also claimed vaccine "courts" in the United States are paying off families whose children experience adverse side effects after being vaccinated in an attempt "to buy their silence."
But this court is actually a long-standing mechanism called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), which was established on Oct. 1, 1988, to evaluate vaccine injury claims. It was borne out of the The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 after a series of lawsuits threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce U.S. vaccination rates, possibly causing a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.
"Most people who get vaccines have no serious problems, but like any medicine, they can cause side effects – most of which are rare and mild," the program’s website says. "In very rare cases, a vaccine can cause a serious problem, such as a severe allergic reaction. In those instances, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) provides individuals with an opportunity to file a petition or claim for financial compensation."
In regard to autism specifically, after thousands of parents had filed claims under VICP that alleged vaccines had caused their children’s autism, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims created an Omnibus Autism Proceeding — similar to a class-action lawsuit — to resolve them.
Three special masters were appointed to evaluate three test cases from the group. Ultimately, the court denied compensation and ruled that evidence presented in the cases did not prove a link between autism and certain early childhood vaccines, MMR included.
In a statement shortly after the release of the decisions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement saying, "Hopefully, the determination by the Special Masters will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism."
A years-old story claims courts have "quietly confirmed" the MMR vaccine causes autism.
The story relies heavily on a 2012 Italian court case, which was based on a retracted and discredited 1998 study. It also incorrectly suggests that U.S. "courts" are quietly paying off families for vaccine-linked autism cases. In fact, the well-known National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has evaluated vaccine injury claims since 1988.
A link between autism and vaccines has been disproved by court proceedings and several scientific studies. The story misrepresents the relevance of court rulings and provides obscure examples and sparse evidence.
It is Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, Feb. 14, 2018
Alternative News Network, Courts Quietly Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism, May 29, 2017
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Measles Cases and Outbreaks, Accessed Feb. 9, 2019
Trueactivist.com, Courts Quietly Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism, August 2013
Forbes, Court Rulings Don't Confirm Autism-Vaccine Link, August 2013
United States National Library of Medicine, CMAJ, Lancet retracts 12-year-old article linking autism to MMR vaccines, Feb. 4, 2010
PolitiFact, No, the FDA didn't hide information linking vaccine to autism, Dec. 19, 2017
Journal of American Dental Association, Vaccine hesitancy and unfalsifiability, July 2015
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism, Accessed Feb. 11, 2019
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Vaccines and Autism, May 7, 2018
Association for Science in Autism Treatment, Autism and Vaccines: The Evidence to Date, Accessed Feb. 11, 2019
Health Resources & Services Administration, National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, Accessed Feb. 11, 2019
UScourts.gov, Omnibus Autism Proceeding, Accessed Feb. 11, 2019
Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, US court rejects vaccines-autism link, Feb. 12, 2009
CNN, Vaccines didn't cause autism, court rules, Feb. 12, 2009
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