One in 4 U.S. parents thinks some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, but even many of those worried about vaccine risks think their children should be vaccinated.
Most parents continue to follow the advice of their children's doctors, according to a study based on a survey of 1,552 parents. Extensive research has found no connection between autism and vaccines.
"Nine out of 10 parents believe that vaccination is a good way to prevent diseases for their children," said lead author Dr. Gary Freed of the University of Michigan. "Luckily, their concerns don't outweigh their decision to get vaccines so their children can be protected from life-threatening illnesses."
In 2008, unvaccinated school-age children contributed to measles outbreaks in California, Illinois, Washington, Arizona and New York, said Dr. Melinda Wharton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen percent of the 140 who got sick that year were hospitalized.
"It's fortunate that everybody recovered," Wharton said, noting that measles can be deadly. "If we don't vaccinate, these diseases will come back."
Fear of a vaccine-autism connection stems from a flawed and speculative 1998 study that recently was retracted by a British medical journal. The retraction came after a council that regulates Britain's doctors ruled the study's author had acted dishonestly and unethically.
The new study is based on a University of Michigan survey of parents a year ago, long before the retraction of the 1998 study. However, much has been written about research that has failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. Mainstream advocacy groups like Autism Speaks strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their children.
"Now that it's been shown to be an outright fraud, maybe it will convince more parents that this should not be a concern," said Freed, whose study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics, released Monday.
The new study is based on an online survey of parents with children 17 and younger.